Sunday, November 01, 2015

Beautiful fall, wonderful practice

It is a gorgeous fall day here at high altitude living. The sky is turquoise and there is a snow mantel on the mountain.  Yesterday I went for a nice hike with friends and then came home and sat in meditation. This is the wonderful practice of the title. Over the years my Zen practice has deepened and mellowed, although there are fierce moments.  Quite a few if at am to be honest. Anything we really want to do requires effort.  Almost nothing comes easily, but effort feels good, like taking a long hike in the crisp autumn air.   Meditation is called practice because we are always coming back to it.  Ever changing in nature,  yet nothing is to be gained.  It is the paradox of Zen practice, keep doing it, expecting nothing.
Life is full and satisfying. I am working with female inmates at the jail, working on radical responsibility and self acceptance. I am learning so much from the insiders and am grateful for the time to be of service. As Tsoknyi Rinpoche is about being of help, service and love.
Check out the So Simple Minestrone.....creating delicious and nourishing meals easily, so there is more time to be of service.

Monday, February 10, 2014

SouthEast Asia

I just returned from SE Asia, traveling to Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.  My experiences covered an incredible range of emotions, perceptions and experiences.  These are lands of enormous history dating back to millennia.  It is not so easy to grasp the complex relationships of countries, borders and hill tribes.  As westerners, there is so much that is beyond our surface grasp and requires considerable study to understand the cultures.
The temples and spiritual cultures, whether Buddhist or Hindu, sometimes intertwine.  The remarkable temples, largely created by monarchs are breathtaking in beauty and sheer size.  Many are part of Unesco sites that have many nations cooperating in large scale restoration projects.  Many sites are beyond help monetarily and condition. At Angkor, while the Khmer Rouge did not damage the temples,  but the restoration projects stopped for a decade or more and all restoration documents destroyed making the task so much more difficult.
There are so many wonderful web sites that can describe the incredible adventure I travelled.  So, I am recording some of my impressions.
SE Asia is young...over 70% of the populations are under 30.  In Viet Nam, most of the population does not remember the American war, as it is called there.  My generation, especially men, is largely absent as the personal sacrifice to rid their country of 1st the French and then the Americans was enormous. Just being in places that formed so much of my late teens and 20's : Ha Noi, Da Nang, Khe Sanh, Hue, Hoi An, Mekong river, Hanoi Hilton sent me into a swirl of emotions and memories.  For me, just being in Viet Nam was a healing experience and strengthened my commitment to non-violence and peace.
In Cambodia, most everyone has personal experience with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  Very few really survived, but to see the expansion of  tourism and commerce was interesting.  While in Thailand , I witnessed 2 enormously wealthy factions trying to steer the population in which ever direction most benefited the personal wealth over the good of the country. The current Thaksin regime is insanely corrupt, stealing billions.
All these countries are poised for growth and I hope they will learn from Western mistakes but it is
not heading in that direction.   Pollution is massive, air unfit to breath, massive pesticide use, filthy rivers, little or no public transport.  I hope that within this area of the world are organizations that have the funding and the expertise to help these ancient cultured navigate the rapid growth and urbanization.
Absolutely macro is a site about healthy living and lifestyle.  My menu choice is primarily vegan,but this proved impossible on the journey.  Meat was the main food source, vegetables given almost no thought.  There is heavy use of oil.  Most of my meals were some type of stir fried vegetable, usually fried spring rolls and white rice.  I had a few great meals in restaurants of ex- pat chefs, so I know the ingredients are available.   The best local meals were Pho at Pho 2000 in Saigon, where an excellent veggie pho is available and the superb curries of Thailand, especially the massuman.
Please visit, but take care of yourself by preparing take along food and a hepa mask.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Journey with Hepatitis C

I have been thinking about writing this blog for a long time.  I was finally spurred forward by a conversation, just yesterday, with some macrobiotic colleagues about the intersection of macrobiotics, Asian medicine and Western medicine.

I am Hepatitic C positive, or at least I was.  I probably got infected in the early 1980's.  I remember a very short period of time when I was so exhausted by even the slightest exertions that I could not make it to work, fell asleep on the subway and missed alot of classes I had been looking forward to taking in cranio-sacral therapy,  Around this time I started seeing an MD that practiced acupuncture.  I had a full panel of blood tests and he said nothing unusual showed up.  Years later I resourced those tests and saw mildly elevated liver enzymes.  While this should have set off some warning, there was, at this time, no test for Hep C.  In fact, if it did get diagnosed, it was called non A-non B.  This MD thought I had chronic fatigue syndrome since nothing showed up on the tests, common for CFS.  Within a few short months of acupuncture treatments, my fatigue totally went away and I felt really well. Note that Hep C produces severe flu like symptoms, including fatigue, but that these symptoms pass and life goes on.  We had thought that I was cured of CFS by acupuncture.

Also, in the early '80's, I found my way to macrobiotics, or at least my version of macrobiotics.  Ever since I was a teenager I had wanted to be  vegetarian.  The motivation for this was confounding since it was completely different from the dietary habits of anyone in my family.  I was motivated in part by animal rights and also by the severe health issues of almost my entire family.  Recently I connected with an aging 2nd cousin who could not believe that I do not have diabetes, since everyone in the family did!  I understood almost nothing about vegetarianism outside of reading a few books and so I became a "junk food lacto ovo vegetarian".  I slipped in and out of vegetarianism for years, partly because I had huge cravings, partly because I did not know how to cook and mostly because I did not understand the philosophy of right eating.
asssssssssssssssssssssssssssssswWhen I moved to NYC I was mostly lacto ovo vegetarian with occasional fish meals.  Wonderfully, NYC has always offered some fine macrobiotic and vegan dining options and I noticed that whenever I ate at the Cauldron or Souen or , there was another great one in the West Village, I felt balanced, clear and really energetic.  I searched for macrobiotic teachers and found both Joshua Rosenthal and then Denny Waxman.  I studied hard, learned how to cook and eventually taught cooking and built a counseling client base.

By the late 80's, I was seeing a great MD for regular check ups.  When my first tests with him showed abnormal liver enzyme levels he went on to  run the Hep C panel ( for now it had an official name and diagnosis) and I am very grateful that he had some initial experience with this diagnosis in the early days.  When the test came back positive I could not believe it.  I had been dealt a death sentence.  In these early days there was no viable treatment and the first specialist I saw pretty much had me giving up and thinking about transplants.  I was  feeling well, exercising, developed a spiritual practice and eating macrobiotically. I believed that I could cure Hep C naturally.  New York City has incredible resources.  In short order, I found a world renowned liver specialist and a gifted DOM.  The liver specialist took a wait and see attitude, as the treatment at that time was a toxic combination of Interferon and Ribavirin that was not terribly effective for my particular genus of Hep C. Since he developed the protocol, he should know.  The advice was to eat healthy, keep stress levels low and wait for a new treatment.  As an aside, the new treatments were not right around the corner, but over 20 years away.  I also found Dr. Nigel Dawes, DOM, who was practicing with Japanese herbs.  He put me on Honso 09, or sho saiko to.  Years later I found out that Memorial Sloan Kettering was experimenting with sho saiko to for liver disease.  I stayed on sho saiko to for 15 years, I think.

As I was moving to New Mexico, I had my NYC liver specialist perform a biopsy.  Actually I was talked in to it, because I was curious.  He was insistent on having the biopsy, as many people were now suffering serious consequences and dying of Hep C  He felt it important to "stage" me and offer the toxic treatment if called for.  My liver enzymes were now normal, which I attributed to macrobiotics and sho saiko to, but I had the elevated viral load.  The specialist was amazed that the biopsy showed  absolutely no cirrhosis or other ill affects of Hep C.

Yearly blood tests showed an increasing viral load.  I knew this was a deadly disease, but now I also knew that macrobiotics and sho saiko to were just part of the picture.  There was still no treatment that I was willing to risk,  The latest, a combination of ribavirin, interferon and another drug has raised the cure rated dramatically, but with 48 weeks of treatment it was still making patients really sick.  Sadly, I have no kind words to say about the liver specialist in Santa Fe who essentially yelled at me and tried to force me take the new treatment.

Miraculously, I found my way to SouthWest Cares, a  speciality clinic for HIV that was moving in to HCV treatment.  Because of the respect that clinic director Dr. Trevor Hawkins has in the medical world, his clinic is able to be a center for advanced clinical trials.  Dr. Hawkins will not do trials that he does not believe will have benefits for the clients of the Center.  I had been reading about a particularly interesting set of trials from Gilead pharmaceuticals, combining Sofosbuvir and another drug in a non-interferon, non-ribavirin protocol of 12 weeks.  SouthWest Cares was a part of these trials.  I went thru extensive tests and although my viral load was increasing, I still was in good shape in all other respects.  Interestingly, sho saiko to was specifically mentioned in the protocols as on the prohibited list.  For me this was a clue that it was very effective, but ulitmately could not rid the body of the virus.

I believe that I had kept the highest level of health possible, in the face of 30 years of Hep C, because of macrobiotics, meditation and sho saiko to.  This combination kept me in the best physical and mental condition where I could be accepted into the Gilead trial.  Several weeks ago, I received my 12 week post treatment results.  The virus is undetectable in my body, as it has been since week 2 of the trial.  The results are called a "cure", with extremely minimal chance of return.  The combination I took should be on the market in 2015.

I owe my current state of health, free from the Hep C virus, to macrobiotics, Asian medicine and Western medicine.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Dry, Dry Summer

Santa Fe summers are getting much more dry.  We have not had any real moisture since late winter.  Sadly the squirrels, rabbits and birds are very hungry.  It is very difficult to grow any veggies this year or any perennial with a flower.  Today my friend Karen and I are installing a cover for my raised bed.  I am hoping that I can grow some kale and collards, which are absolutely divine freshly picked.  The happy news is that our evenings are quite cool, making for a sweet restful sleep every night.

So it is time for dishes which satisfy and yet keep the kitchen cool.  Just recently I attended the SouthWest Regional leader's meetings of Slow Food USA.  I am pleased to be on the Executive Board of our local chapter.  Our hosts served us remarkable local foods including a dish of farro and native beans.  Native beans can be sourced via:  They sell many heirloom varieties but I particularly like the teppary or Anasazi beans in this month's dish.  A new chapter is Slow Food Navajo Nation.  Two representatives joined us.  They are churro ranchers.  Churro is the native sheep in the Navajo community.  While I do not eat meat, churro is critical to the Nation providing food, clothing and income.

On another note I wanted to mark the passing of James Gandolfini.  I so enjoyed and respected his body of work.  Those of us who were Soprano fans noted his diminishing health, from heavy breathing to extreme facial color.  I was more alarmed when I saw him in last year's Not Fade Away when the earlier signs of his condition became more pronounced.  I say this not to disparage James Gandolfini, but to urge all of us to take personal responsibility for our health and lives.  An interview with a leading doctor on one of yesterday's talk shows laid the blame on genes.  We are, assuredly, born with the genes inherited from our parents' conditions.  The genes lay in waiting, to be triggered, or not, by our choices in life.  Smoking, drugs, alcohol, inappropriate sexual behavior, activity and food are the triggers that open the doors to already weakened genes.  It may not be possible to escape our diminishing food and environmental qualities, but we can strengthen our conditions by making good choices and keeping the doors to weakened genes locked.  It is time for our medical community to join Drs. Campbell, Esselsyn, Barnard, Lipman  and MacDougall in discussing the benefits of a healthy plant based diet.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Welcome Spring

...with a damp wet snow.  You know it is Spring in Northern New Mexico when we get a snowy blast that usually freezes the buds on the fruit trees.  I am mostly ok with this as the blooms still arrive on the trees in a glorious display.  I have apple, cherry and plum trees.  Last year I froze so much plum jam, I will probably not need any more for another year.  I have a great recipe for freezer jam for those of you who are not fond of canning.  The recipe ( which I used on apricots and plums in 2012) worked brilliantly.  It does call for a smidge of sweetener, so I used agave.  I realize that agave is not all its cracked up to be, but the rare and occasional use I do not believe is so harmful.  Small amounts of agave also do not set off my sugar cravings.  :)  Brown rice syrup is too heavy for the freezer jam and I am concerned about the arsenic in brown rice, so I am staying away from the highly concentrated forms like the syrup.  Feel free to connect with me at if you would like the recipe for freezer jam.

In a week I receive the Soto Zen precepts in the Peacemaker order of Bernie Glassman.  I will be offered these precepts in a lovely ceremony at Upaya by Roshi Joan Halifax.  I have been studying hard and making the rokusu was just about the hardest task I have ever done.  As I study Zen Buddhism more deeply, I realize how closely in alignment Zen is with Macrobiotics.  Zen is part of the middle path  of Buddhism as  Macrobiotics is the middle path of healing.  In Macrobiotics we always moving toward or away from health and working with our mind/body/spirit to stay balanced.  In Zen, sitting is always , for me, a challenge to tame the wild horses of my mind.  By sitting, I actually hear the noise I create every single moment of my day...leading me toward or away from stillness.

There is a new recipe on my site.  I changes a meat recipe to create a most delicious lentil stew with east Indian flavors.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Solstice: Creating Change

The solstice presents us with an opportunity for growth and change.  The shortest day of the year ( in the north) beckons us to draw inward and explore our values and purpose in life.  We are about to explode, naturally, toward the Spring which will ask us to begin to manifest what we have internally created during the more yin, winter months.

What does moving inward mean?  For me it is long quiet walks or hikes in the crisp air.  I am fortunate to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I can walk out in the cold night air and view the star show above me, the constellations bright in their orbits.  I inhale the light of the universe and accept my connection to all.

Inward for me means an excellent opportunity to meditate without the pull of a thousand things.  It is dark in the early morning, it gets dark early so my active hours are limited by the availability of sun.

What do I want to manifest in the coming year that I can work with right now?  For each of us it will be different.  Strengthening my macro practice, by working with new clients, teaching myself new recipes and exploring with a deeper understanding the universal truths that Macrobiotics offers.

This year I was fortunate to become certified as a Food For Life Instructor by Dr. Neal Barnard's Physician's Committe for Responsible Medicine.  While very closely aligned with macrobiotic principles, the FFL program has great appeal to professional organizations and their clients/workers/patients using well researched class materials.  I will be delving into all the great materials I was given so that I can take this to a wider audience in 2013.

I have also been preparing to accept the Precepts at the Upaya Zen Center in March.  I have been very busy over the last many months preparing and sewing the elements for this occasion.  I find the Zen practice to be in almost perfect alignment with my macrobiotic practice.  I feel the strands of my life being woven into a coherent pattern,

With gratitude and a deep bow,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Late summer wind down

Ah the late summer here in New Mexico.  The fruit is ripening on the trees and I have already canned some delicious apricots ( ok that was mid-summer).  End of summer is tricky.  The daytime weather is warm, but the evenings cool considerably.  We still feel like eating lightly cooked dishes, but as the evenings cool it is time to fuel the body with warmer dishes.  Since the fruit is ripening enjoy, but do not overindulge.  The sweetness can cause some buildup leading to the end of summer cold and respiratory problems.

The 5th season, which we are in now reflects sweetness and highlights the stomach and pancreas organs.  It is a short season and we will soon barrel into fall, which absolutely governs your intestines and your lungs.  The more gently we make this entry into the shorter days critically affects our strength.  What I mean by more gently is, enjoy the sweet flavors of fruit harvest, but notice that butternut and kabocha squash are making their way back to the stores.  Use sweet vegetables in lightly cooked stews now, in your nishime, in sweet vegetable jam, in teas.

Did you get that last breath of summer congestion.  Try the Black Soybean Tea.  It really works.  Twice a day!   I'll have it posted in the recipe section shortly. You will see your congestion break up and your lungs feel less stressed.