Nourishing the whole of who we are, I believe, is the path to vibrant longevity. Our body is our vehicle that needs to be healthy and in harmony to give us peak performance to live a life of purpose. Taking care, nurturing, loving and being an impeccable steward of my own body helps me to be fully awake and present to grow spiritually and live a meaningful, purposeful life.
That is why it’s my philosophy that food is a central, sacred focal point in one’s life. Particularly when people are striving for expansion and growth, their receptivity it is enhanced if all their senses are awakened – and that clarity happens when a body is continually nourished with pure, organic, natural whole foods.
Healthy food is the common thread in my life’s storyline. I have had the honor to journey through life’s experiences, studying about food. I found that preparing food, with family and friends, with intention, and stewardship, nourished me to my core. It is the act of connecting to the larger life, which we are all experiencing, that gives rise to greater intimacy and a sense of community. We become nourished together in many ways.
My Life’s Journey: The Essentials
My life gave rise to the person that I am today. This journey revealed the principles of Essential Cuisine – the practice I created that profoundly connects me to my body, my soul, my consciousness, my will, my inspiration and the larger community in which I thrive. The steps I took to create this unique practice are as much a part of the ingredient list as the coconut oil and flax seeds…
As a mom to a young boy with allergies, I found that food played a huge role in my son’s health, holding the key to his drippy nose, itchy eyes, emotional outbursts, and his ability to focus.
As a young mother, wife and working woman, I dieted again and again, and then I, too, became ill.
Seeking better food options for my son, I became a strong advocate for healthier school lunches through my work with EarthSave International.
Wanting to help reshape a responsible dietary future, I initiated my own organization, Spirit In Action.
Trekking across South Dakota’s Black Hills, I spread a message of hope and healing through healthier food choices.
After honing my culinary skills, I published books and produced DVDs that became the basis for my online dietary program as “Chef Teton.”
Aging gracefully, I continued to realize how my own food choices impact my health and vitality, especially throughout menopause.
Eliminate any one of the experiences that led me to creating Essential Cuisine and, like leaving the pumpkin out of the pumpkin seed oil, you’d have a completely different result and flavor.
I have 30 years experience as a health, wellness, and spiritual coach. My experience has kept me on the forefront of awakening to our potential as a human being. In my experience, awakening comes through many channels; excellent food, environmental awareness, movement and body care, spiritual practices, and growing our consciousness to a place of peace and connection to our source.
Continual awakening requires the deep work of searching for the beliefs that no longer serve us, beliefs, which have created many of our day-to-day patterns. Once we find those that do not support us, we must discard them. Next we can set new intentions and practices in place that serve to form new patterns to fulfill our dreams. The body, mind and soul movement is accurately titled as wholeness includes the stewardship of them all. The benefits are enormous and serve to provide a vibrant practice of what I call Essential Cuisine from Seed to Soul.
The foods you eat, the thoughts you think, the love you give yourself, and the strength and health of your body, your vessel to serve in this life – all of this in integral to living well. And that’s why I believe in eating and living well as a spiritual practice.
It all starts in the kitchen…. Eating is a daily necessity to survive. I also believe it’s a spiritual necessity to thrive. Food is the seed to help you bloom physically, mentally and spiritually into your higher self. As I like to say, from Seed to Soul.
Saying Grace – Gratitude for the Journey
This is my only life and my only body. I want to live the privilege given to me in the highest form and in the best way I can. I want to be vibrant enough to show up for what life brings me, and what I can bring to it. I want to be fully awake and present to God, myself, my family and my community. To achieve this, I must keep my body in the best condition possible. I love taking care of her like she is my prized possession, because she is.
My best teacher has been my own body, mind, and soul. As a health and spiritual junkie, so to say, my being, which I fondly call “My Girl” has taught me that none of us are the same, and therefore, different techniques and practices serve us uniquely.
My intention is to serve and inspire you to awaken to your own deep and meaningful stewardship of yourself and your beautiful purpose in this life.
The only thing better than education and experience is RESULTS. I live in a healthy, vibrant and happy 70-year-old body. I got this way with trial and error, rise and fall, and ultimately the practices I teach. My clients have done the same. I was born to study, experiment and teach. As a study addict for the body, mind, and soul growth for 40 years, I have stayed current, as we have awakened to new science, culinary techniques, physical awareness, movement and spiritual practices. And, the truth is, I am not done yet. I continue to discover new practices and evolve while I live in my aging body.
Instructor Laguna Beach Culinary Arts (all cooking methods: Team Building In The Kitchen)
Certified Raw Food Chef
Body Ecology Diet
WSET Wine Certification
Regular guest food columnist in Healthy Living Magazine
VP BOD: Hawaii Farmers Union - Haleakala Chapter
Spiritual/Personal Growth/Team Building/Yoga
Certification for The Work of Byron Katie
The Art of Council: Ojai Foundations, CA
As a pipe carrier and ceremonial leader in the Lakota traditions, I have organized and led several retreats and community actions for social and environmental change
Certified Ropes Course Facilitator
200 Hr Yoga Teacher Certification Course
Whole Brain Functioning
Expert in Longevity Nutrition & Culinary Methods
Lecturer: Nutrition/Culinary Arts/Personal Growth/Longevity/Motivational (click here for more information on speaking engagements)
Classes: Nutrition and Culinary Education
Author of books and DVDs:
Essential Cuisine- Raw Cooked & Cultured. 6 DVD set
A La Oils e-book
Executive Supervising Chef for Retreats: specializing in retreats with spiritual, yoga and self growth content and local green cuisine.
Produced Cooking Shows
Food Stylist specializing in local green cuisine
A LOOK INSIDE MY LATEST BOOK
To learn more about my life and the experiences that have shaped me into this place of being able to serve you, I invite you to read this excerpt below from my upcoming book, “Eating As A Spiritual Practice – My Journey From Seed to Soul.”
The Seedling Sprouts: My Journey To Becoming a Foodie
Dieting was my first conscious relationship with what I ate and how food affected my body’s size. Getting fat was out of the question! I often remarked to friends, “It’s a good thing I am vain, as it keeps me fairly healthy.” Little did I know then, that food could satisfy vanity’s appetite beyond my body weight. At age 20, I kept my weight gain at the recommended 20 pounds during my pregnancy and was back in my bikini within six weeks after giving birth. Even so, it took many more years for me to discover that certain foods could actually reverse the signs of aging, create glowing skin, increase joint flexibility and promote a flowing digestive system, while providing me with a spiritual buffet of meaning and service.
As a mom to a young boy with allergies, I found that food also played a huge role in my son’s health, holding the key to his drippy nose, itchy eyes, emotional outbursts, and his ability to focus. As a young mother, wife and working woman, I dieted again and again, and then I, too, became ill. I often turned to medicine for answers; however, I typically found more answers in the foods I consumed. Sadly, I repeatedly threw caution to the winds and reverted to what was convenient and popular in my then current lifestyle.
In my 40’s, I made a radical shift to a raw ‘living’ food diet and maintained that diet for two years. The education that fueled this radical shift is what catapulted me into a new culinary awakening and life purpose – and it was all about food. Lucky me. The more I prepared living foods, learned the value of cultured foods, and began incorporating a broader variety of whole cooked foods into my daily regimen, the more my body changed, and my world as I knew it – especially around food – also changed, radically and profoundly. For the very first time, I felt connected – to food, to my body, and to nature and the Earth. Finally, I was satisfied after meals! Cravings were gone. Any excess weight fell off my body with virtually no effort. People commented that I looked years younger. The best part was that I was in love with my own body, life and lifestyle. My dieting days were over. Denial gave way to pleasure. Control gave way to freedom. Vanity gave way to grace. Confusion about and deprivation from “fattening” foods gave way to a sense of abundance that revolved around vital and rich foods that came directly from the Earth. Every meal became a nourishing pleasure, and I began honoring my body for the sacred gift it gave me to live this life.
Growing The Human Garden
During the mid 90’s, I began a new career in what I now fondly call ‘foodie activism.’ I joined EarthSave International, founded by author, John Robbins (Diet For A New America and Healthy at 100), leading a program to get healthier foods into our nation's schools. My newfound purpose had manifested into a great job and I was thrilled to be a part of such a powerful and worthy project. During my six-year tenure with Robbins and a team of committed health and environmental professionals, I learned even more about the profound effect of our individual and collective food choices. I came to understand how our current industrial food production contributes significantly to global warming, ground water pollution, deforestation, top soil depletion, and desertification, while depositing poisonous, disease-producing chemicals into our air, water and soil (largely due to conventional animal and chemical agricultural practices). When I saw how our government policies, school lunch menus, and corporate marketing contributed to the rising epidemic of life-threatening diseases for our youth and their parents, I was shocked. As I looked toward our future, I saw trouble.
I saw trouble, too, because I was living the nightmare of being the single parent of a drug addict. My son, Jason, a sensitive soul, whom I nursed through childhood allergies, was driven to drug addiction through much of his adolescent and adult life. I was obsessed with finding solutions to his dilemma, since conventional drug rehabilitation did little to heal his ravaged body and soul, and restore his physiological balance and sanity.
Surrounded by health professionals in my new job, I found answers through studies and case histories that proved the pivotal role food plays in addiction and recovery of any kind. My mission to save my son failed until his personal loss became great enough to fuel his own recovery. His ravaged soul healed with time, his body healed through food.
Before me, time and again, lay evidence of the role food and nutrition plays in mental, physical and emotion health and how it could dramatically improve our quality of life. It took years, as my son matured and my knowledge grew, for me to see the connection between poor childhood nutrition and drug addiction, illiteracy, and mental and emotional illness. Now, with the wisdom gained from past mistakes, all of us can connect the dots and see how our lifestyle choices create our present state of affairs. Those choices will continue to affect our collective future if we do not make changes today.
Once I acquired the knowledge that our food choices represent one of the largest keys to personal and environmental sustainability, I became even more committed to inspiring people to recognize the consequences of their food choices.
My Life Purpose: Journey Into Earth Body Ecology
As I immersed myself in a new food culture, I found profound benefits in the mental and emotional state of those people who embraced a whole food diet. Those who connected to the larger role of food lived a lifestyle laced with intimate connections, harmonious relationships and healthy bodies. Their lives were filled with more joy, success and peace of mind than those disconnected from the source of their food. This realization surfaced so powerfully that it became the theme of my work and developed into a curriculum called “Earth-Body Ecology.”
The curriculum of Earth Body Ecology treats the human body as an ecosystem, like the Earth, where all functions depend upon one another and work together to sustain overall health. There is little difference between the state of the air, water and soil of Earth and the condition of the breath, blood and tissue of our own bodies. Earth’s oceans and waterways contain some of the same elements as the blood flowing through our arteries and veins. About 70 percent of the Earth is salt water, as is the composition of the human body.
With my new awareness of how our Earth’s ecosystems tick, and how they mirror our own body’s systems, I moved to an even deeper level of stewardship and profound intimacy with food that far surpassed the former attraction of my own health. I could see how we, as a culture, need to connect to the fundamental humility of our bodies and the vital role the environment plays in our lives.
Hard to relate? It was for me, at first. But, the more I learned, the more something clicked inside of me… and then, I got it: what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. Likewise, what we do to ourselves, we do to the Earth. The bounty of foods, grown organically from a healthy Earth, holds the key to an agricultural practice and culinary lifestyle that will fuel us to thrive. Foods eaten from the Earth, with little or no processing, are what nourish us, heal us and please us the most. The Earth gives us everything we need, if she has clean water, rich soil and a respectful farmer. Chemical agriculture, along with the factory and fast foods we continuously ingest, are the culprits wreaking so much havoc within our health care system and causing insurmountable diseases and addictions within our bodies. That’s not all. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is responsible for depriving us of a priceless commodity, the potential held in each one of our individual bodies.
Connecting the Pieces – The Kids Got It!
With my first book, the Healthy School Lunch Action Guide, I traveled endlessly to schools across the country, educating students, parents and school administrators about the profound effect our food choices have, both physically and environmentally. Our goal was to inspire food service directors to offer a plant-based meal option, and for students to actually choose it! How can we expect kids to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole foods if we don’t serve them?
Initially, Food Service Directors defended their food, telling us that when they offered healthier options, the kids would not eat them. We said, let us talk to them. Using that Earth-Body curriculum that placed food in the larger societal and agricultural context, we found kids became motivated toward the healthier choices. They cared about the environment, and caring for it through their food choices made more sense to them than the study of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Even though we inspired the students, school economic infrastructures and corporate interventions hindered the progress needed to create change with consistency and staying power. The demands of my constant travel and lecturing were strenuous. In addition, I suffered the heartbreak of a son in trouble. I drove myself hard, wanting to help parents see the connection of food choices to their children’s health. I had to keep myself fueled and I needed to do it simply. It was also important for me to practice what I preached, so I got creative and learned to prepare the foods I loved – easily. As a result, my culinary skills blossomed.
Let’s Talk Food
During my activism years, the mid 90’s, I was a vegetarian. “But, you look so healthy for a vegetarian,” people often remarked. You see, at the time, many vegetarians looked either washed-out and malnourished, or washed-out and heavy. Like other Americans, many vegetarians sought a low-fat diet and dined on lots of starchy, factory-processed foods. I would answer those who complimented me by saying, “It’s because of the oils.” Basically, I was referring to the ‘good fats’ I was consuming, from carefully milled, cold-pressed organic oils, rich in Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Among other things, EFAs (like Omega 3s), promote radiant skin and hair, strong nails, a sharp mind and emotional stability. I relished meals of avocados, nuts and seeds, garnished with high quality olive and flax oil, coconut and pumpkin seed oils and butters. I also dined on tons of veggies, whole grains and legumes. I credit all those ‘healthy’ fats with creating my healthy glow, as well as making all my veggie dishes spectacular. I was enjoying a combination of organic raw and cooked foods, from the Earth, while I bypassed what I call the “pseudofoods,” from the factory – nutritionally devoid foods that are over-processed (and over-valued by our society).
Of course, the next question was, ”But, how do you do it?” It seemed that what was a simple dish for me – steamed Swiss chard topped with ground sesame seeds, a little tamari and flax seed oil – was an inspiration to others. Gradually, what began as a survival skill for me became a gourmet gift that people craved. Following my tenure with EarthSave in 1998, I began preparing recipes for celebrity retreats. People raved about the food, saying, “I’ve never eaten such fresh, rich and satisfying food.” They told me it was the first time they enjoyed eating vegetables, and it was all because of those tasty sauces and rich dressings. They filled their plates high and told me they never felt stuffed. They commented that their digestion improved. No one gained weight; those who needed to lose weight dropped the pounds, just as I had. “What’s in that dressing?” they demanded to know. “I could just drink it!” That's when I realized how starved people are for nourishment – the kind of nourishment one can only get from whole, fresh foods from the Earth.
Thinking back to my school touring days, I remembered how my lectures enlightened and inspired students and parents to change their diets. Now, I was preparing food that people seemed to love. They were inspired by the information, they enjoyed the food and they seemed, on the whole, to have a genuine desire to create healthy habits. These experiences made me think that our culture’s health was on the upswing, but nutrition-related disease statistics proved otherwise.
What’s Really Going On Here?
Today, the Standard American Diet is acknowledged to be a major cause of disease and death. Most people have heard the danger warnings about eating certain foods and listened to health professionals recommend a whopping five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Even so, none of it has sufficed to motivate people to adopt a healthy dietary practice. Why?
“Healthy food” is expressed in a virtual all-you-can-eat buffet of diets that claim to be "the ONE" we need to achieve the energy, beauty and vitality we so desperately crave. This dietary smorgasbord includes: vegetarian and vegan diets, the Blood Type Diet, Raw ‘Living’ Food Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Mediterranean Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Maker’s Diet, and an overabundance of others from doctors and nutritionists claiming theirs is ‘the ONE true way.’ While there is a lot of fluff out there, by way of dietary advice, there also exist many doctors, researchers and food pioneers steering us toward more functional foods and serving us up a variety of facts, studies, recipes and diets full of integrity. With all this information around, you would think we would be convinced and on our way to healthy food heaven. But instead, so many of us are still confused – perhaps even overwhelmed.
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Though food has been my study and part of my own life purpose, I will admit to having lived in a state of nutritional confusion many times. As I experienced an aging body, my health challenges increased and I found myself experimenting with nutritional protocols to keep my bones strong, alleviate my allergies, keep me focused, and give me the energy for a full life. Health pioneers have been my teachers, my guides and my mentors as I searched for answers along the way, but my own body has been my best teacher.
My dietary changes - some out of necessity and some just for fun - fueled me to finally creating a dietary practice that includes many aspects of the above-mentioned diets. When sick, my drive came out of desperation. But, it was my soul that drove me to create a practice that supports my lifestyle. The search and creation was driven by the absolute respect I have for the treasure given to me in this lifetime – my body.
People desire to make a meaningful contribution with their lives. I know I did and do still. My purpose was first manifested through my service to teaching about food and working in schools. I found value in connecting people to the larger world of their environment through the study of health and agriculture.
Later in my life, an even deeper purpose arose in me, out of complete devotion to my own body and being – a call I had to address, so that I could continue to serve others to my full potential. If our purpose is to serve God, then how can we deface the very thing God gave us with which to live this life? If we treat our bodies poorly, we are abandoning our God-given potential. How can we serve God, our children, or our communities in the best way? The answer came, for me, when I embraced an attitude of complete reverence for the gift of life and set a goal to become an impeccable steward of my own body, our environment, and all life on Earth. There is no better way to say it.
This is my only life and my only body. I want to live the privilege given to me in the highest form and in the best way I can. I want to be vibrant enough to show up for what life brings me, and what I can bring to it. I want to be fully awake and present to God, myself, my family, and my community. To achieve this, I must keep my body in the best condition possible. I love taking care of her like she is my prized possession, because she is. If you are passionately craving a spiritual connection and meaningful purpose in your life, perhaps you, too, could adopt this state of reverence. You'll be giving yourself the respect you deserve, and the respect God deserves by including yourself and all life within your purpose.
This attitude is the seed of my personal motivation. I have had the honor to journey through life’s experiences, studying about food. I found that preparing food, with family and friends, with intention, and stewardship, nourished me to my core. I know it will do the same for you. It is the act of connecting to the larger life, which we are all experiencing, that gives rise to greater intimacy and a sense of community. We become nourished together in many ways.
Like most journeys, there is no clear, definitive end to my own. I am still on a path of discovery. Laced with challenges and insights that reveal how the human garden is grown, I can see more clearly now that we reap, sow, grow and maximize our God-given potential according to the choices by which we live. What is clearer to me than ever, is that this single act of reconnecting to what really matters, and merging our seed and our soul has to start now.
And it starts in the kitchen.