WHY AYURVEDA IS HAVING A MOMENT: AN INTERVIEW WITH DIVYA ALTER

Ruby Warrington sits down with Divya Alter, chef and author of the brand new What To Eat For How You Feelto discuss why the timeless science behind Ayurveda is the perfect food philosophy for the Now Age…

William & Susan Brinson for Divya’s What to Eat for How You Feel from Rizzoli.

“Eating the right foods in the right way makes the light of our soul shine—you experience a tangible connection with the divine energies.”- Divya Alter 

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RW: First up, what would you like everybody to know about Ayurveda?

Divya Alter: That Ayurveda can work for you today! Although written thousands of years ago by ancient Vedic sages, Ayurveda is a universal manual that helps us integrate and balance ourselves on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. This timeless science helps us determine what to favor or avoid in terms of diet, routine, and environment by considering our individual needs, and what choices we can make to be healthy.

And if we face health challenges, an authentic Ayurvedic treatment goes much deeper than suppressing the symptoms; it addresses the root cause. An Ayurvedic healer’s goal is to assist in restoring the intelligence of one’s body to heal itself.

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RW: So why is Ayurveda having a moment? What makes this the perfect wellness system for the “Now Age”?

Divya: Ayurveda has had many moments through history; it is a divine universal science and its principles are always true. But I think that by experiencing the benefits of practicing yoga, lately many people have begun to explore and embrace its sister science, Ayurveda. It’s also encouraging to see how modern science is doing more research on Ayurvedic herbs, proving the ancient wisdom that was there all along. We know so much about turmeric now!

It is the perfect wellness system because it is highly customized to one’s individual needs. It is the most comprehensive preventative medicine—something we need today especially, as so many of our modern health challenges can be eliminated or minimized through preventative care.

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RW: What has your own journey with Ayurveda taught you about our relationship with plants?

Divya: Ayurveda helped me look at plants—fruits, vegetables, grains, spices, etc.—as my friends. I really want to get to know them! And the more I “hang out” with them, the more I appreciate them and understand when and how to use them in creating delicious, healing meals.

An aspect of every relationship is compatibility. Just like some people really don’t click together, sometimes eating two good foods together may result in them fighting in your stomach. Ayurveda taught me how to enjoy a healthy relationship with food by mixing and matching it properly. This goes beyond matching ingredients to layer friendly flavors and create stunning presentation; my goal is to make delicious food that can always be digested without any problem.

Another fascinating lesson I received from Ayurveda is that herbs and spices, like humans, are composed of the five elements (space, air, fire, water, earth). Dr. David Frawley explains in The Yoga of Herbs that each of the plant’s tissues affects a corresponding tissue in the human body: the watery liquid of the plant works on liquid plasma; the sap works on blood; the soft part of the wood on muscle; the gum of the tree on fat; the bark on bone; the leaves on nerve tissue and bone marrow; and the flowers and fruits on the reproductive fluids. Seeds, which contain all parts of the plant in an un-manifest form, work on the body as a whole.

William & Susan Brinson for Divya’s What to Eat for How You Feel from Rizzoli.

RW: How can eating this way heal the mind and soul, as well as the body?

Divya: Ayurveda recommends that we eat invigorating, “intelligent” foods—the way God or nature designed it in the first place. Fresh, locally grown, seasonal, organic, wholesome (unprocessed), energizing—properly combining such quality ingredients will support your body in doing all the intelligent things it is designed to do.

Eating Ayurvedic clears the body and mind from blockages and helps us feel happiness and bliss. You experience a clear communication between your body, mind, and senses, and you can easily control them. On a soul level, eating the right foods in the right way makes the light of our soul shine—you experience a tangible connection with the divine energies.

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RW: Are any foods “banned” in Ayurveda? Why?

Divya: According to Ayurveda, there is no good or bad food in and of itself. A food or herb can be good for someone or bad for someone—it depends on one’s individual needs at that time.

However nowadays, for the sake of convenience, manufacturers have created a lot of corrupted foods that make our cells act less intelligently (for example foods that are canned, homogenized, or genetically modified). These are bad for everyone. Why let such denatured foods clutter your pantry, and then your body and your mind?

Additionally, the Shaka Vansiya (SV) Ayurveda lineage that I am trained in recommends that we limit or avoid foods that are predominantly clogging, inflammatory, or overly heating to the liver: leftovers, soy, nightshades, onions and garlic, and flax seeds.

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RW: When would be a good time in life to experience Panchakarma?

Divya: Panchakarma is the traditional Ayurvedic practice of purification and nourishment. It is a practice of being open to letting go of physical, mental, energetic sludge, and to receiving nourishment and rejuvenation. It is a time-tested and efficient way to address imbalances resulting from daily wear and tear, as well as seasonal changes and energetic accumulations.

To really experience the benefits of Panchakarma, you have to give yourself the full 30 days for the practice and to do it at an Ayurvedic clinic located in a natural setting. I’ve seen quite a few victims of modern day Panchakarma that is practiced without a personalized protocol. That’s why I have to caution you: don’t do it unless your body is ready and unless an experienced Ayurvedic doctor is on hand to constantly supervise you.

A good time in life would be when you are in relatively strong health, you’re able to afford taking a month (or more) off, when the channels of your body are open to release toxins, and you are at a good clinic under close supervision. The weather should be not too hot or cold (spring temperatures). Such a Panchakarma experience can be truly life changing!

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RW: What is the overall philosophy of Divya’s Kitchen? What’s your message for the world?

Divya: At Divya’s Kitchen we believe that food can heal. That’s why we are devoted to serving you delicious food that your body and mind say YES to!

Our fresh, balanced meals are prepared with love, and deeply rooted in the authentic tradition of Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda that meets us where we are today. Ayurveda teaches us how food can restore the natural healing intelligence of the body.

Divya’s brand new book, What To Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic Kitchen- 100 Seasonal Recipes, is now available from Rizzoli! 

Divya Alter is a certified nutritional consultant and educator in the Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda tradition. She is the co-founder of Bhagavat Life, the only Ayurvedic culinary school in New York. She and her husband launched North America’s first Ayurvedic chef certification program and Divya’s Kitchen, an authentic Ayurvedic restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village.

TRIMARAN BOTANICALS: SKINCARE BLESSED BY A SHAMAN

Mimi Young, founder of Shamanic skincare line Trimaran Botanicals, shares her journey and her process…

Occasionally, a brand appears on the horizon that just vibrates authenticity – and Trimaran Botanicals, a skincare line out of Vancouver, is one such offering.

Created by modern shamanic practitioner Mimi Young, it’s no surprise to learn that each and every product is interwoven with the energetic imprint of the spirit realm – to create a line that nurtures the beauty of the user, inside and out.

It’s been an honor to collaborate with Mimi on this piece, in which she discusses her connection to the spirits (“No different than a friend texting you – those little communications just happen…”) her products, and her process…

The Numinous: How did you originally connect with your plant spirits?
Mimi Young: It happened by accident, really. For almost two decades I had been psychically smelling plants – smelling fragrances of plants (and other substances) that are not physically in my surroundings, and it took me a long while to realize that this was the spirits calling to me for recognition, to be heard.

I then realized I had the gift of communicating with these spirits when I was in Mexico. There was a tropical house plant where were staying – the leaves resembled a peace lily, although to this day I am not certain what species it was. I was in the bathroom, and I quite clearly heard the voice of the plant, “It would be so nice to experience this Mexican sunshine!”

So right away, I picked her up and put her on the deck, and it was crazy because then I kept hearing, “Thank you, thank you.” When I returned home, one of my house plants – a peace lily that had not flowered for years – was blooming with radiance. I interpret that as a beautiful token of gratitude from the spirit.

I can hear plants, animals, and crystals – and, as mentioned, experience clairscent-based communication from those realms; I perceive scents beyond the limitations of physical space and time. This morning I was talking to fern, dragon, the wolves… I wasn’t asking for this, I just held the space and it happened.

Cellulite Oil, $138

TN: And when did the idea for Trimaran Botanicals come up?
MY: Pun intended, it happened “organically”! I was searching for a product to assist with reducing cellulite after having a child, and so I made myself a body oil. To add to its benefits, I blessed it to ensure not only its physical efficaciousness but its emotional and spiritual effects as well.

The Numinous: How do you create your products now? What’s the process?
MY: I work with the spirits. I am physically the only human being when I am making the products, but I truly see it as a collaborative effort.

As a shamanic practitioner, I live my human life but the door to the spiritual realm, and to the plants, is always open. And the plant spirits (or animal, or crystals) will come to me and tell me things throughout the day. No different than a friend texting you – those little communications just happen. I mean it’s spectacular and beautiful, but it’s so much a part of my everyday that it’s normal for me now. A great example is that the plants just told me the other day to add to our current AURA COLLECTION, explained to me the functions of each new product, and even the ingredients I should be using!

In terms of filling orders, my process is both orderly and intuitive:

– I examine each order as if it’s a medical chart, as I allow myself to tune in to that customer’s order.

– I ask my plants what this person might need, be it an item from the line or a custom order.

– I always hold the product in my hand and bless it with that person’s name so it becomes “for” that person, but also adding that it’s also “for anyone else that might receive this product,” in case it ends up being passed forward – as a gift, in sharing, etc.

– I will also add to my blessing a mantra, an invitation for something like security, groundedness, self-compassion, etc. Sometimes I even write it down on my founder’s card to be placed in the shipment.

– Before it’s shipped, the order is placed in a nook in my studio – a space set up for my assembled inventory, surrounded with crystals and plants – to be charged with more intention, solfeggio music, sacred plants diffused in the air.

– Once it’s been charged, I pack it and anoint the package with sacred sage, asking that the order be delivered swiftly and without damage. So even the shipping process is energetically blessed. And I kid you not, all my orders end up being delivered far faster than expected!

Good Vibes Elixirs, $44

TN: Do you take the same care sourcing your suppliers?
MY: I have multiple suppliers. My requirements are their integrity as artisanal suppliers of the finest pure, wildcrafted, organic, botanical ingredients such as cold-pressed plant oils and first-distillation, solvent-free essential oils, but I the energy with the people themselves also has to feel right. All of my suppliers believe what I believe – I can quickly pass on any messages from my plant spirit to them, and it’s like everyday coffee break conversation!

I didn’t set out looking for shamanic suppliers, it just turned out that I attracted a network of suppliers who work the way I do: they speak with the plants, they too fulfill my orders with loving intention and anoint my shipments with sage for protection. They understand my process and share the same values. As such, my raw ingredients are always handled with love, and have not been sitting in a stale, cold, business as usual factory/storage space.

TN: How long have you been practicing shamanism – and what was your initiation into the tradition?
MY: Becoming a shaman isn’t like choosing to become one and taking a course (although I understand that there are courses out there), it is a spiritual inheritance, and it is through my work with a seasoned shamanic practitioner that I have honed my abilities to connect in an ongoing way with the spirit realm. What I have learned cannot be learned in the Western definition of learning, it’s been through spiritual experience and touch.

My shamanic practitioner did give me the formal tools and language for me to remove my “self” from my “ego,” however. In doing so, my ability to honor my “unknowing” and to ask for guidance from the spirit world has given me the ability to go deeper into my journeys and collaborations with spirits, and to bring back into the physical world a deepened intuition, and heightened senses.

Ultimately, my “knowledge” come from the messages I receive in my journeying, and with the plants – being a shaman means listening first.

Sacred Smudge Mist, $46

TN: What will women gain by approaching beauty from a shamanic perspective?
MY: My hope is that the experience of using Trimaran Botanicals will bring a person’s inner beauty to the surface, as that is the purpose of the brand: alignment of deep inner beauty with the outer.

I also hope that Trimaran Botanicals is something that people can use to continue their own practice of connecting with themselves, of coming home to themselves, and of acknowledging that the plant world is interconnected with ours, so that they can truly connect with the outside world from a “whole” and holistic place.

TN: What’s your definition of beauty for the now age?
MY:
I often question why we need to define beauty. For example, the lightness we experience when we are one with nature cannot be experienced through a facial or fitting into a pair of skinny jeans.

That said, beauty to me speaks of internal balance. It’s being happy with yourself, where you fit in the world, and where you fit in your own skin. When we can nurture this and cradle ourselves, is when I think we can begin to understand that we are really, truly beautiful.

Discover more about Trimaran Botanicals on Instagram or shop the brand at Trimaranbotanicals.com

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: THE MAGIC OF PLANTS PARTS 1 & 2

The week that showed me there’s no denying the magic of plants…

Medicine woman: Deborah Hanekamp

Magic of plants part 1. I’m completely fascinated by the whole plant medicine revolution that’s happening right now. The concept that thousands of people, often the opinion-formers and change-makers of the world, are being sought out by the consciousness of Mother Earth via these medicines, and experiencing vast awakenings.

In fact, I was joking with my friend the other day that the current financial system won’t collapse because of dodgy bonds and unchecked “quantitative easing” – but because all the bankers will end up doing Ayahuasca, and quitting their jobs to make a positive difference in the world instead!

To date, I have not been called to sit in a ceremony myself. The stories of emotional and often physical intensity frighten me, and I know from past practice that I am capable of having similarly (third) eye-opening experiences using alternative, gentler methods.

But still, the fascination remains, and so when I learned about Deborah Hanekamp’s Medicine Readings, which she described as being as close as you could get to a ceremony without actually drinking Ayahuasca, I was obviously super intrigued.

Cut to Tuesday afternoon, when I met Deborah for a reading at my fave spot, Maha Rose. She began by asking what I was working on (as in emotionally), and from her questions about this I could tell immediately that she is a gifted intuitive, with an open and true connection the subtle realms.

I was then asked to lie on her treatment table, and begin a steady tri par viloma (three-part) breath. For the following hour Deborah would invoke the spirit of the plants using scent, in the form of sweet floral tinctures, healing stones and different sound instruments, including her own voice as she sang the haunting “Icaros,” traditional Peruvian medicine songs.

All the time I felt very much in my body – while I was shown, with incredible clarity and in the form of deeply held memories rising effortlessly to the surface of my consciousness, the very root of the issues I’d been grappling with during the recent eclipse period. Tears flowed freely as I was able to make sense of situations that my psyche had chosen to keep hidden from me until now, but in understanding and putting these pieces of my past together, I also felt a sense of forgiveness.

Coming out of the session, I was aware that I’d actually been in a trance-state – my body felt slow, my blood thick, as if I’d be dosed with a heavy anesthetic. One designed to null any pain, allowing me to face the truths that arose without flinching, or looking away. Writing this now, I realize this is probably very similar to what happens in a plant medicine ceremony.

Deborah then told me what spirit, the Grandmother consciousness of the plant, had shared with her during my reading, all of it deeply relevant. We finished the session with her giving me a prescription for a special bath I was to prepare for myself in the coming week, along with a crystal, a meditation, and a mantra to work with.

They say that when you are ready, the spirit of Ayahuasca will find you. And in a week of much confusion, actually, following the two eclipses, last weekend’s Blood Moon, and in the final throws of this Mercury Retro period, she offered herself to me in exactly the form I needed.

Check out more about Deborah and her work at Unityessences.com

Magic of plants part 2. I also watched the brilliant documentary Cowspiracy this week – which has totally cemented my commitment to being vegan. This is something that goes beyond health, beyond all the completely unnecessary bloodshed, and even beyond environmental issues for me now (although, if you need any more convincing, check out this ridiculous fact sheet). For me, this taps into the evolution of consciousness.

Because okay, how’s this for theory. Animal agriculture is by FAR the biggest contributor to the destruction of the rainforests – responsible for 91% OF AMAZON DESTRUCTION. How freaking cool, then, that the Amazonian plants themselves are fighting back – the Ayahuasca revolution opening so many influential minds to the wider implications of this issue.

The broader message of this film + my interaction with plant consciousness with Deborah this week have made me more aware than ever of the connection we as humans share with every other living being (animal + vegetable) on Earth, and the responsibility of love and care to our extended “family” that comes with this.

Also, you can think about it from a karmic perspective – with so much environmental destruction in the name of using flesh for food…doesn’t it make a sick kind of sense that our addiction to animal protein (because that’s what it is, since all tastes besides breast milk are acquired) could be what brings about the extinction of our species?

Wow – big stuff. But it’s not too late! As one commentator in the documentary puts it: “No other lifestyle choice has a father reaching and more profoundly positive impact on the planet than choosing a plant-based lifestyle.” Amen to that.

From the streets of LA…where they’re all about the magic of plants!