Food. If you want to know something about me then all you have to do is think about food. All my life I have been fascinated with food and this fascination has led me down all kinds of paths, and opened up all kinds of practical, philosophical, ethical and spiritual questions. It started with curiosity when I was little. In my family it was a sign of strength to have a good appetite so I wanted to try everything. My Dad would bring back animals that he had hunted for us to eat, a dear or a rabbit or a duck, and sometimes I would watch the deer being dressed out, or peer into the pails of innards……..when we were at the dinner table I would ask my mom – what’s this? And she might say, that’s the heart of the deer honey, or, that’s a kidney, or, that’s the part that went over the fence last….. none of this bothered me – it was all amazing….to be pondered and wondered at…… that deer’s heart was becoming me and I understood that somehow…. now I can see I was being fed that wonder as well as the flesh of those animals.
But that curiosity I mentioned can also be cruel – I remember pulling the legs off spiders, amazed that all the parts would keep moving even after they were separated from each other…..and I discovered that my baby brother would eat dirt if I fed it to him, and he probably would have eaten worms too if my Mom hadn’t caught me before I got them into his mouth.
Luckily for my brother, a shift occurred when I was six or seven, it was the experience of empathy. From then on I couldn’t stand seeing living things suffering needlessly, whether out of ignorance or cruelty. I started to think about life and death, suffering and happiness. In my kid brain I tried to make sense of life. I never spoke about this to anyone but I had these experiences of the interconnectedness of all things… and I came up with something called the Jello Theory. I had decided that the reason it was so hard to grasp the experience of Oneness with my mind was because visually there was so much space around everything, but if I filled that space up with jello, I, and anyone else, could see how everything was connected to everything else and how even the waving of a hand would create ripples that would reach the other side of the world.
When I was 15 I became a vegetarian – perplexing my hunter-gatherer family. But I couldn’t rationalize eating meat any more. Then two things happened that would change my life – my Mom became ill with MS, and my little sister died of liver cancer. I started to question what a healthy diet was. I experimented with giving up sugar, going vegan etc….sometimes convincing my friends to go along with me, all the while living what was a “normal” teenage life at the time – drinking, trying drugs and eating junk food. There was this one moment when my best friend and I had just eaten a half package of Oreos and suddenly realized that they were not vegetarian – they had lard in them! We were not prepared for moral challenge of that moment! I had some awareness and sensitivity, and lots of ideas and ideals, but they weren’t amounting to good health or higher consciousness!
At the age 21 I discovered Macrobiotics and found out that MS could be cured with a macrobiotic diet – I talked my Mom into coming to Boston with me so she could be cured while I studied at the Kushi Institute. I was in heaven, my Mom was not. It was my first explicit recognition that food and consciousness are intimately connected. No matter how “good” the food was for her, my mom was not ready to give up her life and her identity, to adopt a macrobiotic lifestyle. Even though she had made big improvements in her health by eating macrobiotically, the food wasn’t enough, something deeper was missing. She went back to her old way of life. A couple of years later she came out of remission and ended up in a nursing home at 48 years of age….. just a few years younger than I am now. This was a huge blow to me – I started to wonder – what makes us change and grow? How does our experience of consciousness help or hinder our ability to change, and, does changing in practical ways, like changing our diet, help us to change consciousness?
The thing that ultimately helped me understand these questions and and took them way beyond anything I could have imagined, was meeting my spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen in 1990. As a teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment Cohen has a profound interest in absolutely anything and everything to do with consciousness and it’s evolution. I have been a student of Cohen’s for 20 years now, but between 1996 and 2010 I was the also head chef at EnlightenNext’s international headquarters right here in the Berkshires. During this time I had the opportunity to cook for Andrew and a large group of people that are interested in evolving consciousness more than anything else. It was the perfect petri dish for finding the best fuel for a life of daily meditation and high intensity collective spiritual inquiry. It would be impossible to fully convey the learning process in these few lines but being in that spiritual cauldron led me to a deeper understanding of how we change, what truly nourishes us and how we nourish the life process we are all united in. It has also given me the confidence to start my business, Kosmic Kitchen, with the intention of catalyzing a change not only in the ways we eat and think about food, but in the way we understand our responsibility in this world as conscious human beings.
I started out on a food journey and found out it was a spiritual journey. The next 50 year leg has just begun.