Nineteen years ago in my early 20′s I found myself in the Osho meditation resort and wandering around curious about what activities happened in the evenings I shyly entered a building that had a free form dance class/meditation happening. I remember within minutes finding myself entwined like a tree root with a gorgeous woman who I later found out was called Padma and an incredible ballet dancer. Feeling somewhat like a very clumsy tree root I still managed to realise that I had stumbled into something extraordinary, something that was to change my life forever.
The facilitator of this class was Navanita Harris and she ran twice weekly dance meditations and every second morning dance classes, I took myself to every single class she offered during that 2 week visit and did similarly on yearly visits to the resort. Then for eight years I stopped going to the resort, as did Navanita and our paths only crossed again early this year when she was attending a retreat I was catering on. I was blown away to see her again after all these years and she was stoked that as a vegan she was able to eat absolutely everything I had prepared for the retreat (which if you are not vegan you might not understand how unusual this is and how much like Christmas it feels when you can eat absolutely everything).
Navanita agreed to an interview with me and it is through her answers that I realise I have so much to be grateful to her for as it was during those early classes with her that I really learned to listen to my body. It was the beginning of really being able to tune in to my body in order to feed it what it really needs so it can be healthy and keep doing the incredible job it does each and everyday. So it is an absolute honor to share the interview with Navanita with you all. I have included a simple grain and miso recipe at this end as this is one of Navanita’s favourite foods. Thank you Navanita I love you.
How long have you been vegan? What made you decide to adopt a vegan diet? I didn’t actually decide to become a vegan. It has been a clear need of my body. Very early in life it was clear I couldn’t eat certain foods, as the response in my body was extreme, gluten caused migraines, which I realised about 38 years ago. I simply experimented with noticing what foods gave my body a type of humming purr for example it was clear the aches in my joints for example happened when I ate sugar, so that just felt even better to let sugar go. I was always an active person and loved to feel the ease and grace in a moving body. I thought well when I have a Rolls Royce as a body then it runs smoothly if I give it nourishing fuels and loved watching what happened when I ate some that felt good and others that didn’t. So its been a matter of listening to the needs of the body.
How easy has it been for you to be vegan all these years? It hasn’t been easy sometimes as people way back then didn’t know about the Vegan thing and I was often named as too fanatic or even that I should do hypnosis to “Fix it ” or even suggested that therapy may help me drop my food fanaticism. However I just felt good to eat how i did and it didn’t feel good with certain foods. Eventually I even participated in a strong weeklong therapeutic process to check whether I was psychosomatic. Luckily the therapist was sensitive and at the end of an intense group she said ” There is definitely not any thing strange about how you eat” and she even said that I had something to teach everyone about eating in a nourishing way. The word Vegan wasn’t so big then as it’s become today. I was thrilled when I discovered I had a name as a Vegan and it’s been stunning to see it become a fashionable trend. A bit extreme in some cases, when I observe the cognitive interpretation of eating the right food as a dogmatic approach. I don’t feel it’s a dogmatic diet.
As you do a lot of physical exercise being a movement teacher how do you get the energy you need from a vegan diet? It’s a love affair getting to know what and when and in what amounts of food suits each body I am a high energy person and the right foods support this body. I need to listen as it changes and its fun to notice what I need. I still feel I have a lot of practice needed in caring and loving its needs.
How easy is it to get vegan food when you are traveling around the world? As I travel a lot, I always have a rice cooker wherever I go and then my day starts with a consistent entrance. My favourite breakfast of rice or a grain such as millet, quinoa or amaranth cooked with kombu and sometimes with a few mung beans .Then I have tahini and powdered umeboshi with this. As I lead groups around the world it often needs some patience in a new country to organise the food and explain this to my organisers I am careful with it. Now with my sensitive body and teaching needing fine tuning, the food has to be supportive of my body as a temple or a finely tuned instrument
What are you coping strategies for being with other people who are eating meat? I am a farmer’s daughter so meat was always around. I actually stopped eating meat in my early teens. I was in the hills with the cows and one turned and looked me right in my eyes with those soft wide eyed curled lashes and that was it, I didn’t eat meat after that. I don’t condemn others eating meat, it’s a choice. I must say though, I choose not to be around red meat being cooked and eaten as much as I can. With my life style I am not often in this situation.
Do you have any words of advice for people who are embarking on a vegan diet? For others embarking on a vegan journey, just to remember have fun and its a love affair to take care of the wise body you live in. Take care of it and it takes care of you. We live in this body. It is our home and I always feel when you take care of a body as a home rather than just as a house, it lights up and the love unfolds.
Here is a recipe that I have developed in line with what Navanita says she has for breakfast. It is very nourishing and will keep you warm all day during winter. And if you have a little bit of time would love to hear from you on how you listen to your body in regards to food. What foods make your body happy and what foods make your body struggle. Serving size is for 2 or 3 people
1/2 cup basmati rice (you can use quinoa or millet)
2 cups boiled filtered water
1/2 cup sprouted legumes (I used a mix of mung adzuki and beluga)
1 head broccoli cut into florets
big sprinkling of hemp seeds
1 tbsp miso
1/2 tsp of umeboshi plum vinegar
salt to taste cayenne pepper (optional)
Place the basmati rice, boiling water a sprinkling of salt and the broccoli in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down to simmer for approx. 10 minutes or until rice is cooked. Take out some of the liquid and mix in with the miso in a bowl until miso becomes dissolved then add to the saucepan keep simmering and add the umeboshi plum vinegar and sprouted legumes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve into bowl and sprinkle on hemp seeds cayenne pepper if you want a bit extra vitamin c and a bit of a kick heat wise.