Posts Tagged ‘Art of Living’

Re-visiting Vegetarianism: A dishy tale of nutritious noshing

In Living a Life Off-Center on January 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I am a true omnivore. I like almost any dish you can lay out in front of me. It’s rare that I shy away from any kind of food, be it exotic or normal. I love vegetables, fresh fruits and I also love steaks, pork and chicken adobo, all kinds of sushi and even cheetos. I am grateful for all the food I have consumed and will consume for the rest of my life. Now, after this glutton-like confession why oh why, would I even think of re-visting Vegetarianism, and why re-visit? Especially after starting my blog with that omnivore line.

Health reasons. People around me, those only slightly older, and scarily enough younger and even much younger are dropping like flies. When I was growing up, heart attacks were “reserved” for people in their 60’s-80’s (my grandfather died at 92 from his first heart attack) and now they’re hitting my peers in their 30’s. Lifestyle diseases are the new norm, scarily enough, and I attribute this to food intake that is loaded with meats (poultry included) that have been injected within an inch of their lives with growth hormones and other toxic substances. I also re-took Part 1 of The Art of Living (AOL) course where my teacher, (a graduate of Agriculture and Farming) explained that she saw exactly how much “enhancement” went into the our local game. What took 60 days for a chicken to grow to slaughter size was reduced to 30. You can only imagine what chemical cocktail came in that supermarket-bought winged creature.

One of the commitments during the three day AOL course was to go vegetarian. To you other Pinoys out there that doesn’t mean you can eat seafood 😉 . We all agreed (although some grumbled) to go through the next 72 hours turning our noses up at our usual Filipino meat-laden feasts.

Potstickers bursting with green goodness from Corner Tree Cafe

The first day was relatively easy for me, as I munched on a lot of fresh fruit that day to cleanse my system. If I got really hungry I grabbed some raw almonds and enjoyed their crunchy texture and sweet taste. That day also brought me back to a distant memory of when I was in Highschool and I actually decided to become a vegetarian for a year. Don’t ask me how that happened, even I can’t remember what took over me that day I turned my back on all the foods I usually ate.

Kofta "meat" balls with tomato sauce over organic brown rice at Corner Tree Cafe

I honestly don’t know how I lasted that long during those days, especially since veggy options were relegated to monggo (mung beans) and some pretty nasty tasting vegetables. Going to a restaurant and asking for something vegetarian meant “chicken or fish”.  As that was over 20 years ago you’d think that perception has changed, sadly in Manila,(and worse in most of our provinces) you will still come across the same misinterpretation; although now they think it’s “I can eat fish”. After about 12 mos. of struggling with unimaginatively cooked greens or having to sorrowfully pick the veggies out from a meaty dish drowned in sauce, I caved. How it happened is actually funny (in my opinion) but I’d rather not share that here right now.

Spinach Spanakopita to snack on

This tale of greener eating doesn’t end unhappily since in the last five years  more restaurants and even food delivery services have sprouted in the Metro that offer real vegetarian fare. Corner Tree Cafe, Edgy Veggy, Wabi-Sabi, EchoMarket to name a few, and even the menu options in establishments have expanded. Of course many Vietnamese, Japanese and Indian Restaurants have always had veggy choices on offer but they’re not for everyone’s tastes.

Cheese please in Paneer Makanwalla

The second day of vegetarian living found me and my friends at Corner Tree Cafe were we were heartily surprised with a scrumptious lunch of teriyaki tofu steak, kofta in tomato sauce over rice, tofu burgers and sinigang na miso. I thought wistfully to myself, wow, if this restaurant had been around when I was in HS my cook could have gotten a bit more inspired as I would have taken her home some of the dishes to try!

Tofu rice: A new kind of comfort food for the carb-loving from Edgy Veggy

On the third and final day of our AOL course, we were all asked to bring something vegetarian to share for our lunch. The smell alone of the food as it was being brought in was excruciating, so fragrant and yet not overwhelming. By the time we finished our last meditation  I was the first one (as usual) at the buffet table. Among all the dishes I thoroughly enjoyed the tofu rice care of Edgy Veggy-I am a rice queen for sure, oh and a pasta princess and bread baroness-yes carbs are my best friend. I also had salad, paneer, spring rolls and enjoyed all the different flavors erupting in my mouth. The rest of the day I felt satisfied and full and my body had a lot of energy.

Spicy eggplant salad with shallots from Azuthai

Dinner that night found me with some other foodie friends at Azuthai on Pasay Road. Being respectful of my plated preferences they compassionately ordered dishes that I could eat. The tastiest among them was the eggplant salad. I swear, it was so good, I thought it actually had fried pork in it! The proprietor of Azuthai just laughed when I said this and said that absolutely no meat went into its making. Delicious!

I am realistic and know that I will probably fall of the vegetarian wagon one of these days.  Although I have been practicing Meatless Mondays for almost a year, the call of the steak will eventually make me answer it. No matter, vegetarianism will always welcome me back as a beloved prodigal omnivore daughter again and again, and again. 😀

Clear your body and mind with breathing redux

In Philippine Star Column on September 30, 2011 at 10:48 am

Art of Living Teacher Denise Celdran going through some of the motions of Kriya breathing.

Inhale, exhale, inhale exhale. Breathing seems easy enough, in fact it’s probably the most essential thing that you do without even being aware that you’re doing it. The breath, that first gulp or air is an indication of life and your acceptance of it once you come into this world. So what happens as you grow older? You actually pay less and less attention to how you breathe (and sometimes what you breathe in) so that in times of stress, tension, emotional anxiety (or even excitement) you feel like the entire world has reduced you to a quivering, helpless mess. Okay, maybe a little melodramatic, but if you have ever been in a situation of heightened emotions, you probably have been this close to losing your mind or even your grip on reality, and this is primarily because you’ve actually forgotten how to breathe properly. This is the philosophy behind the practitioners of The Art of Living Foundation (AOL), a worldwide organization that promises you can achieve the life you truly desire by paying attention to how you breathe. It was that basic premise that got me to join one of their workshops recently, a three-day beginners course held after office hours at a private residence. Courses are held once a month and are normally about six days in length, but with my sked, the three-day course came as a godsend and I felt it was meant to be as my work-life balance was far from being balanced at that particular point in time. I’m not for any kind of medication and for me, most shrinks are a waste of money, so why not start with the basics and get the maximum impact of good ol’ oxygen.

Denise Celdran, founder and owner of Edgy Veggy is one of AOL’s teachers here in the Philippines and is a strong advocate of its benefits. In the last couple of years since she has practiced the breathing techniques regularly she has witnessed the stress and the often-destructive pull of worry (especially about the future) fall away. “There were many ideals and desires I would cling to before, and now, with just a breath, I detach,” she explained to me when I first asked her about the course. Timing is crucial in life and I actually learned about AOL over a year ago but despite regular invites and updates from Celdran I never got around to joining. Fast-forward to a couple of months ago when another crossroad in my personal and professional life resulted in anxiety attacks, a shorter temper and lots of blocks in my creative flow. I didn’t want to work, go out, but I forced myself to, and I was just looking for another way to find my center without having to fly off the handle to get it back. Divine timing came to my rescue, the three-day course was just around the corner and there was an opening, so I jumped in with both feet and a heart full of hope.

Proper oxidization for optimal body, mind and emotional stabiity

So what can one expect? The first lesson is not to get fixated on what you expect to happen and to just be in the present and be open to everything that is to be taught. There’s a little yoga to limber you up, which is jokingly referred to as “diesel yoga” since even the oldest participant (nearly 80 years old) is able to go through the poses, there’s meditation, there’s some sharing of insights and experiences, and a whole lot of breathing. Why is breathing so important (aside from the obvious, if you don’t breathe, you die)? Because it acts as a purifier, tranquilizer, and as an energizer. That probably didn’t make much sense, but it’s best explained that proper breathing gives you what your body needs, so if you need to detox, to relax or to get your mojo back, it all starts and ends with a breath. You go through a guided breathwork series which allows you to clear your body and mind with different inhale and exhale techniques; you’re also asked to sit in a way so that you get maximum oxidization. At the end of the first session many of the course participants already experienced a cleaning and a clearing on the physical level, a good start especially to those battling certain respiratory ailments and insomnia. I can only speak for myself so my personal experience was definitely a calming one — something I desperately needed at the time. I was also given a tool, something I could use whenever those sneaky little thoughts of doubt, worry and insecurity invaded my sanity via breathing exercises that could be done once a day, including an emergency shortcut (that could probably prevent a whole lot of road rage, since it could be done in a flash).

Others shared that with regular practice they developed glowing complexions (so yes, good breathing can make you better looking); just think of being able to achieve a deeper, more restful slumber for one. Some were able to control their appetites (kiss stress-eating goodbye) and most felt that they had reconnected with a lighter, more joyful part of themselves. Imagine all this with an inhale and exhale redux.

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For more information on Art of Living Courses call +63-917-848-4898 / 02-216-6139 or e-mail or visit 

SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated September 30, 2011 *Photo by Odin Nicolas