VegFest 2021

Today was my first time going to a local vegan festival called VegFest. Even though I’ve been vegan for nearly a decade now, I somehow never managed to make it out there. I’m so glad I finally went though. It was so much busier than I could have ever anticipated. There had to be thousands of people crammed into the span of a few blocks. There were over 40 local vendors selling all kinds of things from plants and art to baked goods and bourbon. I don’t even want to calculate how much money I spent. There were a lot of things I wasn’t even able to try because the lines were too long or they sold out before I had a chance to stop.

I highly recommend attending any vegan festivities in your area. New vegans could definitely benefit from discovering what type of vegan options there are in their area. Experienced vegans can benefit from the uplifting atmosphere of being surrounded by like-minded people and seeing just how much support the vegan movement actually has. Even in more vegan-friendly areas, it can feel like a lost cause at times. There is nothing more inspiring than gathering together with your community to celebrate.

It’s really crazy for me to think about how far veganism has come in just my small area. There used to be hardly any options for me in the grocery stores or at restaurants. If I wanted to eat a dish that was even moderately tasty I had to put in all the time and effort to make it myself. Now being vegan is easier than ever.

I used to get it when I was first transitioning if people told me veganism was just too difficult for them. It was a big adjustment in a society that catered to carnism alone. Now I’m shocked that anyone can still use that excuse. With the Impossible Burger at Burger King, dozens of different vegan ice creams in the supermarket, and hundreds if not thousands of other perfectly incredible replacements for anything you could possibly desire, how could you still ask a vegan, “so what do you eat?” or “I could never give up x or y.” Hell, even the dinky little road side ice cream shop in the middle of nowhere has nondairy options now!

Even though I can no longer hold out hope that veganism will save the earth, it can still save the animals from enduring unnecessary suffering in the short time that we have left here with them. I am so grateful to be have been reminded today that there are so many other people in this world that are fighting to end that senseless pain.

Sublime Surrender

Breathing in
I taste the thick sweetness
of summer air
breathing out
A shimmer of satisfaction
ripples through me

Enveloped in a world
so miraculous and perfect
humbled by the chance 
to simply be
my soul sings sweetly along
with the heartbeat of existence

So much beauty to behold
the many layers of this life
an endless spiraling 
inwards and outwards
far past infinity
incomprehensible complexity

Unfurling like a flower
to the sunlight
my innermost essence
opens to encompass
the vast vibrations
of this earth

Five superpowers called senses
ten fingers, ten toes
a body that heals and grows
a brain that questions and creates
at one with all there is
but also somehow separate

How sublime it is to surrender
to the deep knowing in our bones
that stardust inside of us
that says, "all is well"
that tells us, "have faith,
and you will find all you seek" 


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Vegans & Parties

This weekend I went to two different summer parties with the people I work with. One was with my coworkers from the Child Advocacy Center and one was with my yoga studio friends. It used to be a bigger deal to go out to restaurants and parties and other social events when I was first finding me vegan footing. Now I don’t really give it a second thought. I’m used to either ordering a garden salad or bringing my own party favors when I go out. What I did find interesting was the distinctly different experiences I had at these two parties this weekend.

Since I began working at my new job, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how accepting and considerate of my veganism my coworkers have been. Despite the popular trope that vegans “love to tell you they’re vegan” I actually usually keep it hidden from new people I meet for as long as I can. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it or anything. Talking about it just usually ends up turning into an invitation for all the age old vegan questions. “Where do you get your protein? What do you eat? Can you eat eggs? Do you eat fish?” Etc. etc. It’s quite exhausting. I quickly got tired of dispelling common myths and teaching everyone I met about my diet. But when my friends at work found out, they didn’t seem shocked and horrified like most people. They were great. They were respectful and a lot of them even told me how great it was that I was vegan.

At my work party, I came with a bag of food to eat and share, assuming I wouldn’t have much available there. It was a fondue party after all. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. There were two giants vegan dishes (pasta salad & a quinoa dish) as well as hummus. All were labeled very clearly too! It honestly nearly brought tears to my eyes. I had never felt so respected and well taken care of at a party before. (Plus I made chocolate chip cookies that everyone ate up immediately, not even noticing they were vegan.)

Now I must have gotten a little cocky after that party on Saturday. I didn’t really expect my veganism to even come up at the annual studio picnic I went to yesterday. I’ve known these people for years now and I thought we’d gotten past the question and answer stage. Unfortunately it was immediately brought up when I offered tabouli to everyone. To be fair I guess that’s not an ideal dish to offer since not many people even know what it is. I only know because I’m Greek and my grandmother used to make it, not because I’m vegan. Anyway, I digress, it seemed like quite a bit of my time there was just spend explaining veganism and nutrition to everyone. I got all the classics. “Where do you get your protein?” That one always kills me. I also had people acting upset that the impossible burger wasn’t “healthy.” Well yea, neither is a regular burger. It’s a junk food replacement, not a health food. Someone even told me, “It’s great being vegan works for your body. I don’t think it would work for my body.” What the hell does that even mean? Haven’t heard that excuse before.

I was so disappointed that my fellow yogis were the ones that made me spend my time at this party lecturing and justifying my lifestyle. They all seemed to be much more defensive than my work friends. It’s interesting to observe the way different people react to my veganism. It says a lot about a person. What I’ve seemed to notice is that the more in line with vegan principles someone already is, the more threatened they seem to be by me. Not always, but a lot. Ahimsa or non-harming is one of the main principles of a yogic lifestyle. Of course that can be interpreted different ways by different people, but obviously veganism is the way I interpret it. I think veganism is quite threatening to some people. They hear you saying you’re better than them even when you’re not. They feel attacked and become hostile towards you. It’s a visceral reaction brought on by the cognitive dissonance within their own minds. They see the value in veganism and know that it aligns with their beliefs, yet they aren’t ready to give up their current habits. The discomfort that creates is then a problem that the vegan catalyst is blamed for subconsciously.

Whatever you opinions of veganism are, I just want to point out that it’s not polite to put a vegan on the spot with endless questions, especially at a party. I went there to have fun, not to answer questions that are quite frankly boring and irritating to me at this point. I used to think that it was a great opportunity to educate people and even though I didn’t really enjoy doing so, I tried my best to answer everything adequately. After being vegan for nearly a decade now and hearing the same questions from the same people again and again, I see it a bit differently. I don’t think most people really care what your answers are. They are just asking questions to make conversation. If they truly had any interest in the answers to those questions, they could have just googled it and gotten a much more comprehensive and helpful explanation.

One of the questions I always get is: “what do you miss most?” They are expecting it to be a “food.” But honestly I miss fitting in better, being able to blend into the crowd. The social ostracizing it the hardest part. It’s practically the only difficulty that still has stayed with me after all these years as a vegan.

24 garden party ideas to transform your backyard for celebrations | Real  Homes

Self Care Summer

The other day, my best friend told me that she has declared summer 2021 as self care summer. This really made me happy to hear and inspired me to make my own summer about taking better care of myself too. After finally reaching the tentative ending of an extremely tough year fraught with isolation, neuroticism, sickness, and stress in 2020, I think we are all feeling a bit frazzled and out of touch with our higher selves. In order to balance that out, it will be nice to spend this year, especially the summer months, coming back home to ourselves.

It felt like the first half of 2016 was the last time I really had my shit together. I was really getting deeper into my yoga practice. I was eating super healthy plant based meals. I had my own apartment for the first time and was working my first full-time job. I started doing HIIT workouts. I was hanging out with my friends regularly. For the first time in my life I was really feeling good about myself. Then my ex came back into my life briefly and blew that all to hell in a matter of months. Since then I’ve been struggling just to get myself grounded again.

2020 was probably one of the worse years of my life. As I’m sure it was for a lot of people. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a more unhealthy place mentally. I still haven’t fully recovered from all the bad habits I cultivated during that year. My new relationship has really lit a fire inside me for self improvement though. Yet it’s somewhat different than the self improvement I’ve been passionate about in the past. I guess I shouldn’t really even call it self “improvement.” It’s more like self love and self acceptance.

In the past, my goals were always focused around improving myself so I would be more desirable to others. I wanted to live a healthy balanced life, not for myself, but so that I could attain some ideal, unrealistic body and self image. I still have a lot of the same goals all these years later, but this time there are different intentions behind them. This time around I want to focus on how my body feels rather than how it looks. I’m ready to start doing the work to get myself back to a better place mentally.

I’ve set up so many artificial barriers for myself. When I’m allowed to eat, what I have to do every day, and in what order. I’ve created a prison within my own mind. It sounds silly to say, but when I remember that I can actually do whatever I want it feels so liberating. I’d almost forgotten that my life doesn’t have to be this way. I’m working on keeping that truth close to my heart. I want to reconnect with this beautiful body of mine and treat it with compassion and respect. I don’t need to have each and every moment of my day planned out. Sometimes it’s okay to just sit in stillness and enjoy being alive.

I want to work on being more present in my day to day life and actually get excited about being alive again. There was a time when I thought the things I’m doing now would make me happy, and maybe they did for awhile. But nothing in life remains the same for long. These habits are no longer serving me, and even though I don’t know what will happen if I let them go, I know I can handle it. And so can you. So here is your official invitation to a summer of self care. Let’s raise our frequencies together.

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Syrupy Sweet Summer Days

Bird songs, bright light
suddenly you're awake again
tangled sheets, stale sweat 
peeling yourself from the bed

Another lazy day
mornings spent alone
sipping coffee in sweet silence
a busy evening beckons

Little love notes exchanged by phone
a small secret in your hands, in your heart
syrupy sweet summer days
the earth is alive again

You are alive again
along the river's edge
shin deep in cool memories
the overlapping layers of life

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

Visualization

I have recently become very interested in visualization. I’ve heard about the benefits of using it in meditation mainly. I’d like to start learning more about it. Even just daydreaming is apparently beneficial. I used to daydream a lot when I was younger. I don’t know when I stopped doing that. Maybe it was once I had been let down one too many times as a teenager. I began fearing my daydreams, thinking I was just getting my hopes up, setting myself up for disappointment. But now I think I did myself a disservice in viewing it that way.

Even though I now see that daydreaming is perfectly healthy and can be a positive, mindful practice, I still have lingering negative feelings attached to it. When I think about daydreaming, I am thinking about imagining things that haven’t actually happened or things that might happen in the future. Visualization can include daydreams, but it is distinct in the sense that you can also visualize places you’ve been, people you know, even things you have felt. For instance, yesterday during my short meditation, I was unable to settle my mind enough to focus on my breath. Instead I decided to picture myself seated on my favorite giant rock along the river. I went through every detail of what it felt like when I was there in the past and put myself back in that mental space. Allow me to take you there with me for just a moment.

It is summer. The smooth surface of the heavy stone beneath you is cool despite the warm air all around. You breathe in. The air is thick and soft. You breath out. You feel a gentle breeze pass over you. You hear it rustling the lush green leaves that surround you in this private place. Mixing with bird songs in the distance and the crisp collision of the waves against the bank, it creates a symphony that sends shivers down your spine. The earth is breathing too. It has its own soothing rhythm. Even with your eyes gently closed, you know it is very bright out. The sunlight creates a reddish hue on the backs of your eyelids instead of the blackness that usually resides there. You can feel the prickling heat of the rays against your skin, your shoulders, your cheeks, your open palms.

Wasn’t that pleasant to read? Did you feel the sun? Did you hear the rustling leaves, the waves? Isn’t it amazing how vividly our minds can reproduce these things for us wherever you are? I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and joy as I visualized this beautiful summer day that I nearly wept. I don’t have much experience with visualizations like this. Apparently they can get even better and more detailed with regular practice. I enjoyed that meditation so much that I even went through a catalogue of moments like that in my memory as I fell asleep last night. One that I was particularly struck by was the memory of a day last summer.

I try to practice my yoga outside whenever I can. It would probably even be nice to do in the snow, but I can never get myself to overcome my hatred of the cold to try. I have a big backyard and usually have my cat and dog outside with me as I do my daily practice in the shade of a big tree near the rusty orange creek that runs along the road behind my house. If it’s rainy I will sometimes still do my practice outdoors, just under my small covered porch. It’s just big enough for my yoga mat, and it’s a little slanted towards one side, but I like to think it’s a nice challenge for my balance. Last night the memory of one of those days practicing on my porch as the warm rain fell hard just a few feet away took my breath away. What a beautiful moment! A moment that was just for me. A moment that I can return to whenever I want. I let the sound of that far off rain soothe me to sleep.

It made me wonder how many other sweet simple moments I have stored somewhere inside my head. I had never really thought to look for them before. I am excited to start searching. I also want to start actively collecting these moments. When I discover myself in one of them, I want to practice using mindfulness to store as many of the small details as I can so that I will be able to reproduce it for myself later on. This life is so strange, isn’t it? I’ve inhabited this mind for over 27 years now and I am still discovering new ways to use and enjoy it. Do you practice visualization? What kinds of things do you like to visualize?

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Take Yourself on a Date

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A year or so ago, I read a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The purpose of this book is to help you to get in touch with your creative side and become a better writer/artist/musician etc. While I am not sure if I have really gained any ground with my creativity, many exercises from this book have helped me to find peace and comfort from myself. One particular exercise is a weekly self-date. I don’t often find the time for this every week, but when I do it is always extremely uplifting and rejuvenating. 

It can be hard to get up and go do something by yourself, at least it is for me. However, learning to love the time you spend with yourself can be very beneficial. Get to know yourself. Make yourself feel special by going and doing something just for your own pleasure. I can honestly say, the first date I took myself on was the best date I have ever been on. I generally go somewhere out in nature, because that is where I would enjoy being taken on a date, but you can take yourself shopping or even to a concert. Maybe there is a restaurant that you have always wanted to try out.

One of the most wonderful parts of these self-dates for me is that I always seem to find something wonderful. On the first few, I stumbled upon beautiful chunks of glass and a snail shell. (I have always loved snails.) On the more recent one, I took myself to a gorgeous field near my gym to pick some flowers to press as a decoration for my apartment. In the middle of the path, I found the charming little yellow and white daisy you see in my hand. It was the only one like that that I saw all day. These silly little things always make me feel like I am headed in the right direction.

It is important to know that you can have wonderful experiences even if you are all alone. Spending time with yourself is a wonderful treat that everyone should find the time for every now and again. So take yourself on a date, my friend. Let me know how it goes and follow my blog for more positivity and veganism.

Stay peaceful, little dears. ❤