A partial group picture from the retreat.

The 3-Day Raw Food Spiritual Ashram Retreat was a success! All my time and effort that went into creating the event was well worth the experience. When Leela Mata and I discussed a possible raw food retreat about a year ago, I had no idea how to go about creating such an event. I have never done anything like this, so I approached it by asking myself: "What would I want if I was attending a raw food spiritual retreat " From there, I created a retreat that I would love to attend, myself. In fact, when it was completely organized and guests began signing up, I wished that an identical event existed that I really could take part in, as well!

We don't always announce birthdays of friends and family here. But this particular individual is an integral part of the raw food community and we want you all to meet her!

Today is the birthday of the radiantly beautiful Penni Shelton! For those of you who don't know Penni, she's an incredible woman; she's got a heart of gold and is filled with love and compassion. She has been a loving friend of Wendi and member of the Pure Jeevan family for a very long time.

I'm makin' nothing today, or for the next eight days! Think of all the time I'm saving myself by consuming only mono meals for nine days. What will I end up doing with that extra time? So far, today, I've spent a long time outside soaking up the sun's beautiful rays that I've missed far too much this Winter. I have no idea what the rest of this mono journey is going to be like, but I'm up for the adventure!

I've started a little journal on my desktop to track my nine days of mono meals, so I'll share what I've written from time-to-time. Here's what I have, so far...

So far, so good, with the mono-meal fasting for Navratri! I mentioned that I'll be sharing an almost diary-like blog entry at the end of each day, to share things with all of you. Well, today's diary entry is quite long. I do share a lot about what was going on with me before the fast, and why I haven't been around much online to connect with all of you.

How's everyone else doing? Are you enjoying your raw food journey? What have you been learning about yourselves, your bodies, and your overall health?

As promised, here's our interview with Leigh Crizoe, Rhio's partner and co-host of the Hooked on Raw Internet radio program. We think you'll love this interview, as it shows another perspective on raw foods and also gets into an interesting detox program that you may not have heard about. After 9/11, the New York City residents and workers close to ground zero breathed in highly toxic particulate matter for a long span of time. Rhio and Leigh live just blocks from the site, and both experienced respiratory troubles as a result -- especially Leigh, whose sweat began to stain his white t-shirts black! (Yep, you read that right: You'd actually sweat black! This happened to many ground zero workers, in fact.)

Who had the detox answer for them ?... Would you believe L. Ron Hubbard and Tom Cruise ? Apparently, detoxification was an area of high interest to Hubbard, the founder of scientology, who developed an intense regimen of saunas, vitamin supplements, and oils, all specifically for the purpose of ridding the body of toxins. According to Leigh, Tom Cruise personally funded and co-founded the New York program (which has proven highly successful!) after 9/11. (The official site for that detox program is here.)? Super-interesting stuff -- be sure to watch the video.

Surrounding yourself with information about the raw food lifestyle is important when you're beginning your raw food journey. That's one of the tips I shared with many of you who are subscribed to our mailings--and it's a very important tip. Even after being raw for over three years, I still surround myself with information about the raw food lifestyle. It not only keeps me inspired, it allows me to feel an even deeper connection with the community of which I am a part.

One of my friends, Beth Berry (better known as Bunny Berry), has become a constant source of inspiration for many individuals learning about the raw food lifestyle. She puts out video blogs through YouTube and has developed a wonderful group of followers in her RawFu community. As most raw foodists can tell you, your mind becomes clearer on the raw food diet and creativity soars as a result. Beth was already quite creative before raw, but on a high raw diet she has become even more so. I want to share something that she has recently created for the raw food community!

Today we'd like to introduce you to one of the sweetest, most creative, and passionate raw foodists we know. She's petite, pretty, pleasant, powerful! She continually shares her knowledge about the raw food lifestyle with others and educates many individuals about our human rights when it comes to the foods we grow and consume. She's up on the latest regulatory activities relating to health and diet issues going on within the US government, and speaks out when our rights are in jeopardy of being taken away.

Take the Time to Meet... Rhio!

Isn't it amazing how many different, stunningly delicious salad dressings there are in the world ! It's mind-boggling! There could easily be an entire blog devoted to nothing but raw salad dressings -- and I bet, in the right hands, such a blog could go on 5 days / week for literally years before truly exhausting the subject.

The world simply abounds with good recipe ideas -- and "abundance" is really the mentality you need to embrace when you're doing anything in the culinary world, raw or otherwise. The other side of the spectrum is the "scarcity" perspective, which is when you think, "Oh, I'd love to write a cookboook or create a recipe, but there are already millions of them out there and all of the great culinary creations have been done already."

Jim here... An unusual occurrence prompted this post, and I'm unsure as to whether it's significant. I've talked about some of my favorite non-raw items before -- things that were tough to leave behind as I embarked upon this raw foods journey. I think I covered pizza in a relatively recent post.

Corn chips were another. In fact, after Wendi went 100% raw and I more or less began to follow her dietary choices, I clung to corn chips for dear life for quite a long time. I began eating a LOT of salsa in those days. Sometimes, that would be all I'd eat for lunch -- just an entire jar of salsa and a bag of corn chips (though, by then, I'd at least usually buy the organic ones and, quite often, a baked variety of chips as well).

When I finally decided I'd be better off transitioning to an all raw lifestyle, I figured my love affair with corn chips had come to an end. Farewell beautiful chips, I thought. I'll never forget our delicious crunchy time together. And that was that. I never looked back.

But then, at a local raw foods pot luck, I met a raw chef who had more or less perfected a raw corn chip recipe. Could it be , I thought. Has this delicacy returned to me after all, as though via some sweet culinary destiny? Ahh, my friends, that was a glorious day. Chips and salsa had returned to me in an enlightened raw form. I could enjoy them once again, guilt free. And enjoy them I did -- usually using a local shop's "Peruvian Purple Corn" (a living, sproutable, dried corn product).

Alas, fate stepped in once again. "Thou may partake of these crisps any time thou wishest," fate boomed. "Yet, in order to do so, thou must prepare them thine self using thine Vitamix and requiring an enormous flax-sticky mess with extended clean-up time, and thou must have parchment paper available at all times, and thou must exercise great care and patience in using your Excalibur, for these chips must dry for many an hour before ready."

Yeah, it was a bit of a chore to produce them. So, as the novelty of chip making and eating wore off, I slowly decreased the frequency of going through the messy, time-consuming hassle of preparing them. Until yesterday, it had been literally months since I made a batch. But... we'd ordered a few pounds of the corn from Natural Zing lately, and I found myself with some extra time the other night. So...

Now, I'm going to pause for a minute for a tangent on digestion. I know a great majority of people, it seems, complain of various digestive disorders. As a result, we have many raw foodie specialists schooled in the nuances of food combining. Oddly, I never paid much attention to these discussions, nor offered input on these matters, because they simply weren't relevant to me.

In fact, I likened my own digestive system to some kind of nuclear powered garbage disposal. It didn't matter what I ate; digestion wasn't a problem for me. So, for example, I'd routinely finish off heavy meals, and then follow them with a huge slice of juicy watermelon (a major no-no according to common wisdom). It just never bothered me.I always joked that, even though I'd been raw for ages, I could still probably go eat a Big Mac (not that I would) and be unaffected by it.

So powerful was my stomach acid that, admittedly, I sometimes privately *worried* whether this might mean something was wrong with me. I mean, shouldn't some of the things I was eating make me sick? Was it "good" to not be made sick by what is generally regarded as poor food combining choices? Do people commonly suffer from problems of efficiency as well as deficiency ? I still do not really know the answer to these questions, and suspect the answer is rather complicated, anyway. Fortunately, it doesn't matter now because...

Something finally made me sick!? I'm laughing now about that, but I spent most of the evening in terrible stomach pain after having over-indulged in some of those (in)famous raw purple corn chips.

So, what happened ? That's an interesting question for me. Here are some possibilities: (1) Perhaps my hyper-active digestive system *was* in fact a problem, and now it's beginning to normalize. Perhaps, had I been healthier all along, I would have been made sick by some of my food choices, but now my health is improving!? (2) Perhaps it's a fluke and I simply shouldn't have eaten mass quantities of corn and flax so late at night. (3) Perhaps my body is improving in its ability to communicate with me, and/or that I'm getting better at listening, and that the message here is that corn is not something my body gains nourishment from -- at least, not in this dried-reprocessed-redried form. After all, some leading raw food authorities, like Gabriel Cousens, aren't fans of corn (even fresh corn!).

Oh sure, there may be other explanations (e.g., "a bad batch of corn"). But, I'm actually most interested in #3, above. Even though this is an extreme example (more intense than it needed to be), I'd like to think that I'm getting better at knowing what I'm being nourished from and what I am not. I'd like to think that this is a latent sense that can be developed, much like our ability to know things by feeling and intuition rather via pure rationality all the time.

But, with food, I think it's a matter of inventorying your physical sensations head to toe, and also as a whole. How is the food you're eating making you feel? Do you feel satisfied or still hungry? Do you feel light or is the food sitting kind of heavily? Do you feel energized or dragged down? How's your mental clarity? Do you feel spacey or more grounded? Do you feel noticeably happier or more sad than before? How are all of these things mapping out over time? Is your weight moving in a positive direction for you? Are your illnesses improving? Food is medicine, after all; it has all of these effects and many more!

For now, I think I can safely check purple corn off of my own personal list of foods that make me feel good. I suspect my old assertion about "being able to eat a Big Mac without any side effects" no longer applies -- and maybe this is a good thing. I think perhaps it signals some progress in my journey toward optimal health.

In any case, I think this kind of purposeful introspection is healthy, and something we should all strive to do more often.How about you? Had any similar experiences? What have you learned from them?

Original Comments

Below, we have included the original comments from this blog post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On April 15, 2009, essie wrote:

I receive many questions from our readers, and I am very happy to respond. I truly love helping others, but I don't do it just for them.When I was younger, many times I thought I was performing selfless acts of kindness whenever I'd help others. However, now I realize I am experiencing pleasure by helping others. I find it very rewarding, as though I am fulfilling my purpose in life.

Do you know what your life's purpose is? Do you believe there is such a thing These aren't rhetorical questions; I'm really interested in hearing your response. Well, I've known my life's purpose (actually, I have more than one) from a very young age, but it wasn't until recently that I began living it more fully. My purpose in life is to love others---to connect with others through an immensely deep and genuine love.One way I've found for spreading my love and realizing my purpose is by helping others.

When I answer questions for our readers, I speak from my heart. I think it's important to realize, however, that the answers we receive from others are *their* answers to similar questions. Maybe their answers will work for us, but maybe they won't.I've stressed this many times, but it never hurts to repeat it: Listen to others, hear what they have to share, but mostly listen to your own inner voice. We all have the answers deep within ourselves, even if we can't always hear them very well.

This video is nearly 10 minutes long (sorry, we'll aim for shorter ones in the future), but shows a full process for making a delicious, spicy nut dip. From there, we show two options for making the sandwich -- one using dehydrated raw bread, another using lettuce as the wrapper. I wanted to add that the packaged raw bread used herein is from Love Force, a great company that has provided sponsorship support to Pure Jeevan in the past. Here's a link to their site in case you're interested acquiring some of their bread or finding out where it's sold. (It's very good, as are their raw organic energy bars!)