What’s in a Word?

In my last blog I talked about my New Years intention and my plant based lifestyle, so I figured I would unpack my choices of words, because words are important.

Since the day I set my intention I’ve reflected on the words I use and ultimately the way words are used generally and how they impact my/our lives. Lots of people end up making ‘resolutions’ for the new year, but for me that word just seemed too loaded, almost suffocating, it’s a word that for me left me thinking even if I try my hardest there is potential to let myself down, you hear the talk of people ‘failing,’ their resolution just a memory (failure and success a whole other pair of words for discussion!) Intention for me was still a commitment, but a commitment that was gentle, not judging or guilt laden, it was a respectful attitude of heart and mind based upon my reflections of my lifestyle and it’s impact on creation. My intention was basically, something I try to live by anyway but want to do so more consciously, and that is ‘to do no harm.’ I didn’t want to laden myself with prohibitions that put a cloud over me, I wanted to be mindful and conscious in my decision making. If for whatever reason I had chosen to do other than my intention I didn’t want to have to then deal with the idea of ‘I’d let myself down’ or ‘I’ve failed’ I wanted to be in a place of forgiveness and allowing myself to be at that time and to then be able to extend gratitude to myself for the opportunity to reflect on than moment, if that makes sense.

When resolutions and commitments are made, particularly around the new year, I think that the part of the process that is missing is the journey to the decision and so it becomes simple a choice and I think so often choices become burdened with and reduced to; can’s, can’t, should, shouldn’t etc. I think the most important part of decision making is the how it is made. We can, in my mind, do it mindlessly because we think it is just the right thing to do, but then what are the foundations of that decision? The alternative, for me, is to make a decision mindfully, creating solid foundations for the decisions I make and creating a safe space to venture into the choices that are ahead of me, ensuring that there is no harm to self, such as a great big dose of guilt should I make a decision contrary to my intention! The journey is always important, even in making a decision.

Along with my New Years intention I made the conscious decision to participate in FebFast, fasting from alcohol for the month of February. The consciousness of the decision has made it fairly easy – look I enjoy a plant based glass of red! But just over half way through I’m beginning not just to look forward to the end but reflect on does there need to be a definitive end? How healthy is my relationship with the fruit of the shiraz vine? Is it about ritual? I’ve created a new one in it’s absence maybe that ritual will win over? Potentially this is not a forever decision, but the journey has been good food for thought.

Plant Based Lifestyle – I spent, like many girls and women, most of my late teens on a diet, then I dieted after my children, restrictions, restrictions, again can’t have, mustn’t have. I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, I used to call it a vegetarian diet, a decision I made based on the welfare of animals but also in more recent years a decision based on sustainability of our planet – so many people eat so much meat and fish, our planet is paying the price, not to mention our health. This year I decided to take up a plant based lifestyle, not a vegan diet. Vegan and diet are words that unfortunately seem to be laden with negativity. I have tried, pretty much, every fad diet on the planet, every single one telling me what I can and cannot eat. As a vegetarian I chose to eat plant and dairy based foods, now I choose plant based only, the difference has really being the mindset shift, I want my food choices to have longevity and for them to be choices made mindfully, with compassion for myself and the planet. Diet, for me, conjures up for me, words like; can’t, don’t, shouldn’t, bad and I’m sure there are so many other negative words, whereas lifestyle reminds me that there is real purpose in my choice. I am not simply aiming to drop a few kilos, I am aiming at creating a sustainable, healthy and enjoyable relationship with food. The by product of this choice is that I am creating a sustainable, healthy and enjoyable relationship with the planet too. On occasions when the word vegan is used, you can see peoples eyes gloss over, the internalised sigh of ‘shit, here we go!’ I came across it enough as a vegetarian, so it’s quite recognisable. Then conversation will start with ‘why?’ I’ve begun to share why and then the defences are up, the reality is I have no desire to ‘convert’ a person to anything, but if you ask, I’ll share, If I inspire, then great, but all decisions need to be owned by the person making them, otherwise we get back to the question ‘what is the foundation of the choice?’

Diet, although I realise that it’s meaning isn’t about a quick fix weight loss, does seem to carry that baggage with it and as such I think as human beings we just want the result and then try to get back to our lives as they were as quickly as possible. The shift to lifestyle, for me, is a reminder that this is about my life, my health, my decision to do no harm.

Since 1st Jan I’ve heard ‘oh but you can’t have…’ yes actually I can, but I’ve made a conscious decision not too (I even found out about the free pass for febfast but my decision was conscious, mindful and purposeful, so no free pass!) Since setting my intentions I have found my choices to be very liveable, because they are conscious, mindful and have purpose and meaning for my life, also, I believe, because I haven’t laden myself with prohibitions I am not finding myself feeling tempted in any way.

Generations are changing, but resolutions will continue to be made and diets will continue to be participated in. Some more food for thought, there are corporations extremely happy to buy in and exploit. Jan 1st, resolutions are made to loose weight, get fit and a whole bag of other ‘must give up, must take up’ decisions made – in the back ground there are corporations waiting in the shadows with a new diet, a new pill, amazing gym membership opportunities, all very happy to take money from people knowing that for some it is a ‘knee jerk this is what we do at this time of year’ decision.

I guess the bottom line is mindfulness, because when we begin to practice mindfulness and reflect on decisions our language may become healthier and less negatively ladened. Our choices become healthier because foundations are firmer.

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Journey of a Different Kind

So I’m back from my holiday and reminded of how much I enjoy this blogging thing, so I thought I’d share a different kind of journey. As I mentioned I’ve swapped from a vegetarian diet to a plant based lifestyle. After a hard journey in Sydney, I moved back to Brisbane with an extra 5kg, and I’m not talking in a suitcase! Over the Christmas break I watched a few docos on food and the impact on our bodies and the environment. I was already committed to a vegetarian lifestyle, creating a plastic and chemical free as possible environment, I’m a big believer in being the change you want to see. So after some real reflection I made a New Years Intention – I don’t like the language of resolution because it holds within it the potential to fail, which in turn carries with it the possibility of guilt, so I went with an intention a much more positive option, my intention was very simple, Do No Harm, to self, environment and planet and part of that was to embrace a plant based lifestyle (again diet is such a loaded word these days, as is vegan.)

I’m a month in to my new lifestyle, I managed to travel and continue to live out my intention, I’ve shed 2kg of the 5 already, I have so much more energy and sleep well. So what does this all look like?

Plastic free as far as is possible! I have a collection of plastic storage tubs, as most people in the world does, it made no sense to dispose of them, they’re gonna be around for a long time, but mid last year I did away with bin liners and cling wrap. I line the base of my bin with newspaper or magazine pages and simply wipe it clean when I’ve emptied it. I use wax wraps to store food and actually now make my own, which is sticky but fun! I use (and make) mesh bags with draw strings for loose veggies and have a strict commitment to no plastic bags from the supermarket. I’m mindful about buying food packaged in plastic and that’s a tough one, there’s so much food already pre-packaged, but if loose is available, even if it’s slightly more expensive I opt for that. I also recycle all glass jars, I get mocked because of all the jars I have but I use them to store my wares and home made stuff like hummus!

Chemical free! I do purchase some cleaning products, all organic and chemical free but for those difficult marks I have a home made mixture of Bicarb Soda, water and essential oils, I’ve opted for tea tree and eucalyptus for their antibacterial properties. Personal hygiene I opt for A Bit Hippy Products, again chemical free and plant based.

Plant Based Lifestyle – food! As a vegetarian I ate eggs regularly, I enjoyed partaking in cheese if we had friends or our kids over and obviously I used it on salads and in cooking. Milk, well never been a big fan unless I had a coffee, which is extremely rare anyway, and yes, it has meant that I forego chocolate, again I never really indulged so no real loss. On New Years Day I purchased a NutriBullet and commenced a juicing trial for breakfast. I grabbed some plant based cheese and lots of fresh veggies. I thought I would really miss my eggs on toast for breakfast, but I’m loving the juice and I’m loving creating different flavours. Salads have taken on a whole new image, lots of colour and textures and learning to make old dishes new again is quite exciting. No longer do I use substitutes like Quorn for a lasagna or bolognese, I use walnuts and Puy lentils.

Juices, I have a base juice that I use and then add other veggies, the base is apple, lemon, ginger, mint and water, then I add stuff like spinach, kale, parsley, cucumber, beetroot and a shot of turmeric powder.

Lasagna, I used this recipe https://tasty.co/recipe/vegan-lasagna. I used swiss brown mushrooms, I didn’t have the liquid smoke, I made my own egg free spelt pasta sheets and home made tomato sauce and even the meat eaters around me enjoyed.

So a month in and my intention is alive and well, I’m feeling better and today, Feb 1st I’ve decided to participate in the FebFast too and choosing not to participate in drinking alcohol, and more specifically my favourite plant based beverage – red wine! I’m actually looking forward to the journey through the next month!

This journey is not an overseas trip, none planned until September, but I hope you enjoy it anyway, it’s a journey of intention and a journey of do no harm!

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“Vegan & More” Paradise Cove Resort

What is in a title, well this year my intention was to change from vegetarian to a purely plant based lifestyle, travelling vegetarian had its moments of frustration trying to find a decent meal, so I envisaged very basic meal options for my stay at Paradise Cove and was OK with that, I was just looking forward to the break with Mr Revthreads. So I start at the food for a very specific reason, and I am sure any vegan or vegetarian will be getting my drift. The reason is, I had the most amazing food. I’d alerted the resort before my arrival and they said they could cater and boy did they cater. Breakfast was an array of cereals, fruit and toast (pastries too) with a hot option of wilted Spinach, potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes, I did also leave a suggestion that scrambled tofu could be good for breakfast. Lunch had 3 options to choose from and for dinner I gave my consent for the chef to surprise me and he did, every evening I was presented with a different meal and each one was absolutely delicious, any salad sides were so fresh, the chef was fantastic and when I return, which I’m hoping to do this year, I will again be very happy to hand over my meal decision.

So the staff, wow! We got to know many of the staff by name and they knew us, they absolutely look after you with a smile and it’s a genuine smile, you can always see authentic happiness, because it continues when you’ve walked on by. The people that we spent most time with will never be forgotten, their eye for detail, their quick response to needs, their laughter and their presence.

Accommodation and location, well, the Yasawa Islands are beautiful and that’s purely creation, you can’t add anything to natural beauty, you can take away, but this resort doesn’t. The beautiful beach and crystal clear waters just lay at the edge of the resort. The snorkelling is fantastic, so much marine life on the doorstep, every snorkel was amazing revealing something new each time, again thats creation, but something worth knowing and remembering and respecting. We had a one bedroom garden Bure, and again nothing disappointed us, the room was spotless, the bed so comfortable, the outdoor shower was fantastic. There is something pretty great about showering beneath the sky with palm trees surrounding you, it just seems the right way to shower. The bed and pillow, no complaints there either, we slept well every evening, a good bed on holiday is an important ingredient I reckon, no stiff necks or aching backs!

The resort is 3 hours from Denarau Marina via the Flyer, so you are pretty much out there, but there’s plenty to do between relaxing. There is local village tours, a walking track to sunset point and another walking option on another island. We tried our hands at basket weaving, which was fun and exciting to actually create a basket from a palm branch. There’s option for boat snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking and paddle boarding. We were miles from anywhere but boredom did not rear it’s head.

Options to get to the island are the flyer, seaplane and helicopter so even the transfer can be quicker if you choose. This place isn’t the cheapest but it’s worth every cent and we will be returning.

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Last Day in Paradise

We’re back home, I’m sat listening to the washing machine as it cleans the Fijian air and sand from our laundry reflecting on our last day at Paradise Cove (one way to drag the holiday out.) After our wonderful wedding anniversary celebration the night before we woke up knowing we had to pack and prepare to leave. We fairly quickly got our stuff together before wandering down the wooden path for breakfast, the blue sky dotted with white cloud, the sun shinning down, we had until 1pm to vacate our room, so we took our towels and sun necessities with us. After breakfast the daunting task of choosing a lounger for the last time, beach or pool? Beach won! We had brought some toast left over from lunch and decided to feed the fish, I wasn’t sure how it would go, but oh my goodness, the fish were happy, all of a sudden we were surrounded by fish, waiting eagerly for a tiny piece of bread, not sure bread is the best option but they enjoyed it, don’t we all like a bit of bread! They were leaping out of the water and then returning to our feet, only regret we didn’t do it sooner! We then sat for a while on our loungers feeling a little sad at leaving, holidays have to end, but this place seemed a little special, we’d met so many people, the staff knew us by name, we gazed over the aqua blue ocean laid out in front of us just thinking about the laughs, the food, the people and how relaxed we were. There was only one more activity that needed to be tried and that was paddle boarding, so to the hire shop for a board and a paddle. I went first, carefully on my knees I began, within seconds really I thought well, worst case, it turns into a swim. I steadied myself, hands on the board, positioned my feet and there it was, me stood up on a paddle board, paddling! It looks easier than it is, I was a it wobbly and the paddling was clumsy, but I was doing it. Mr Revthreads was next, same routine, same result, a wobbly yet ever so upright paddle boarding experience was being had. Mr Revthreads wasn’t keen overall, but he can say that with experience now, so I went again to do a paddle to the bommie ahead, turn around and back, turning is a whole other experience, but with sheer determination, and let’s face it necessity, I managed to do a 360 turn and head back to shore to dress for some time looking under the water. Snorkel and fins on, we’ll eventually, we used the resort gear and I wondered why every time I breathed through my snorkel I got a mouthful of water, Mr Revthreads caring lay laughing as he pointed out that my snorkel wasn’t attached and was laying flat in the water! Anyhoo sorted, off we went, it was amazing, almost like a fishy send off, as soon as our faces were submerged 7 trumpet fish glided past us, a school of Sargent Fish were feeding at the bottom, it was quite amazing. We continued on a trigger fish took off as we got closer, Angel fish and parrot fish gliding through, but one thing I noticed more were the juvenile or baby fish hanging around, a tiny little Angel fish, tiny clown fish, even a tiny trigger fish, each of them clearly identifiable by their shape and markings, just miniature in size. We came across the trumpet fish again, but now they seemed happy resting along the bed of the ocean. We knew time was passing, so it was farewell to our fishy friends so that we could finish our packing and check out. Once the room was cleared, we went to the bar and opened our tab for the last time, paradise punch for me, Fiji Gold for Mr Revthreads, we waited on our lunch and again just looked out over the ocean. By the time lunch was consumed it was pretty much time to assemble on the beach to wait for the flyer to take us to mainland for our flight. Home now, after a pretty poor experience on our flight home (that’s for another day) hoping the peace and serenity of our Fijian experience is deeply bedded in our spirits.

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Last full day in Paradise

After been woken by torrential rain at 4am we managed to sleep a little longer before rising for breakfast. The sun had managed to break through the clouds that seemed now to be dispersing to reveal the blue sky beyond. Yesterday was also our wedding anniversary, 28 years and still happy so it was always going to be a quiet relaxed day. We picked out our sun lounger by the pool and settled in, our main task for the day was chatting with fellow paradise lovers as they passed, this was interspersed with the occasional dip in the pool to cool down. The afternoon consisted of a short power nap before a full body massage, yes I can hear readers thinking how difficult our day was! The evening was a traditional Meke night, beginning with traditional songs and dance, before we too were invited to get up and join in the dance before the buffet dinner commenced. We were presented with a bottle of bubbles for our anniversary form management and staff as we sat among friends to eat and be merry. After dinner we were surrounded by the beautiful staff team and serenaded, presented with cake on a plate iced with congratulations on, it was truly a magical night. We sat on the Kava mat listening to the beautiful voices of the band, partaking of course in a Kava. Our night finished sat by the bar chatting, today we have to pack to leave, to return home, hopefully the peace and tranquility that is Fiji is deep within us to sustain us for our days back at home, until we return.

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Land and Sea Day

After another early night and restful sleep it was time to head for breakfast ready for the village visit. The sun is shining, the ocean calm, we hopped on the boat to head to Soso Village, approximately 20 minutes away. The boat glided across the warm calm waters, the water crystal clear with glimpses of the bommies below us, each of the islands we passed were edged with golden sandy beaches and Palm trees, there is something amazing about passing such beauty in nature, you can’t help but reflect and meditate on creation and all it has to offer. We arrived at the island and was briefed, no hats, sunglasses are fine, we’d first meet the chief who would give us permission to enter the village and present a gift then we would visit the school, wander over to the church, then see some of the handcrafts made by local women and maybe buy something before heading back, so first stop the hall to sit with the chief. As we sat we were informed it was the cheif’s brother, John, who greeted us, we sat on the mats in a circle, Ron our local guide handed the gift to John who then chanted a welcome in Fijian, once the formalities were over we each introduced ourselves before heading to the school. As we walked we could still see the scars of the cyclone that hit two years ago, the fence that surrounded the field of the school had been completely destroyed, all that was present were broken stumps that were once fence posts, construction was happening because one building of the school was completely lost, Ron explained it was a very frightening time and they were just glad no one in the village lost their lives, a very stark reminder of our need to care for the planet and creation in a world where many deny climate change and the human impact. We were greeted once at the school by an mer of 6 & 7 years olds, most very happy to spend time with us, lots of them quoted intrigued by my colourful tattoo, I sat with some and read a story book, getting to know some of their names before been invited to the middle school to have a look around, the older kids not fazed or interested by our presence as they hurried off for their break. There is no high school in the village, their choices are to go to a high school in another village on the far side of the island or head to the mainland, but Ron explained some didn’t want to, they wanted to work even as young as 13. This brought up some fundamental challenges for me, it sounded as though child labour is accepted, something I didn’t think was an issue in Fiji, mybe I’m more naive that I realised, but now was not the appropriate time or place for this discussion. We then wandered to the church, a Methodist Church, on the far side of the village laid and AoG Church, Ron explained there was no expectation for people to go to church, but services were held twice every Sunday. Then we went to the ‘market’ local women sat around with their wares for sale, it’s a bit of a strange one because each of us felt we had to purchase something, how could we not? Some of the items were definitely hand made by the women, others seemed to be items that had been brought in, we opted to buy what we believe to be the local handicrafts. The village was so beautiful and well kept, village houses varied in size, materials and design. A visitor from our resort, a year or so ago, saw that all their power was from a generator, she was apparently an owner of a solar energy business, she took all the details of dwellings and returned with a crew and provided the whole village with solar panels, whoever you are, good work. It was time to head back over the blue to the resort where I would do my diving refresher and contemplate a dive after lunch. Once back it was off to the pool with the dive equipment and refresh my underwater skills, it’s been two years. Lunch was had, decision made, after some um’s and ah’s, dive gear ready, Sunset Wall bound. The boat stopped our dive master briefed us, dive gear donned and backward roll into the deep. As we descended the ocean beneath us welcomed us with colour and life, I remembered the feeling of awe as we entered the world of the ocean, the silence, the fleeting of tiny fish, the graceful dance of larger fish. Clown fished danced among the anemone, we got to touch this sticky swaying plant, so bizarre! We continued gliding along the wall of the reef, Angel fish, Damsel fish, Parrot fish, Giant Travelli’s shimmering around us, we came to a drop off and had to swim over it, a moment that you’re reminded how vast the ocean is, we couldn’t see the bottom, we were at 27metres, it’s a moment were you realise how insignificant you are in the scheme of things, a moment when you realise as human beings who inhabit the planet and think we are the most important creature, are faced with the reality that we are just part of a whole, and again a reminder of the need to care for the oceans as well as the land. We continued on, a puffer fish lay in wait and amidst the bland bit of coral lay a bright orange and black nudibranch, it’s colours so vivid. After about 40 minutes it was time to do our safety stop, we arrived at 5 metres, my floaty ass needing to be held down, 3 trigger fish hanging around as if to ensure we left the waters, which we did. It was then back to shore for a Paradise Puch to celebrate my first dive in two years. At this point I need to introduce Bola, our dive master. I make no apology for sharing that I was so nervous, my last Australian based dive was not a pleasurable one. I’m a floater, it takes a lot to descend past the first 10 metres, breathing underwater is not natural for a human, but Bola was amazing, he was calming and considerate. My failure to descend easily was greeted with a hand to gently pull me further into the deep and a constant check in that I was OK, the reef was awesome, the experience was helped by Bola, if you’re ever at Paradise Cove Resort remember to say hi to him!

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What is One to do?

An earlier morning wake up was had yesterday after a good nights sleep, the same sun was shinning and the same ocean gently rocked in the background as I sat sipping green tea before heading for breakfast. The first big decision of the day had to be made, which sun loungers would we claim for the day! Once this hefty decision was made we settled in. The blue sky laid above us, the aqua ocean before us, a straw canopy protecting us from the rays of the sun and palm trees framed the scene. We sat back for a while, sipping tea and gazed at the glass like ocean almost still before us. After a while another decision moment happened, we decided to take out a kayak and explore around the island. Life jackets on, fins and snorkel stored we headed off on our little adventure. We paddled out and then along the coast line, the ocean changing from translucent in the shallow with just sand and shale, to deep blue and bommies in the deep water, passing over the bommies teeming with life, flashes of purple and pink and gold coloured coral. As we neared the far corner of the island, just around the other side from the resort, we saw the waves breaking against the rocks. Now as novice kayakers, Mr Revthreads and I had to decided whether we could make it through or not, then a large wave crashed at the corner, making our decision much easier, we would turn around and head back. We contemplated heading across to another island, but even with the velocity of our paddling we couldn’t beat the dive boat that claimed out spot, so we headed back around the corner. As we did we went to investigate a large rock sticking out of the ocean, as we neared it seemed to come alive as the crabs who inhabited the land scurried around, their camouflage shells making them invisible from a distance, only a blue tinge of their shells catching the sun and their movement making them visible up much closer. Now another thing with being a novice, people who kayak regularly make hopping out of said kayak and back in look quite easy, well it’s not, before we decided to hop in the ocean to snorkel we decided we would move closer to shore and practice hopping out and back in, Mr Revthreads made it, although not sure how I would’ve faired had I still been in said kayak, as for me, I don’t like to use the word fail,but shall we say it didn’t quite happen and even my attempt, had Mr Revthreads been in the kayak, would have seen him rolling in the deep! So secure kayak on beach and then snorkel, that’s what we did. There are so many bommies to explore, each are home to coral and so much marine life. We swam along a pipeline and one of the first fish to greet us was a trigger fish, I will never forget what a trigger fish looks like after my advanced diving, that’s because we surfaced to be told there is a nest, stay away, they will come at you, so I promptly swam to the other side of Mr Revthreads, so that he could feel like he was protecting me, hahaha. Anyhoo we continued to glide through the still, calm ocean watching in awe as life in the ocean took place before our eyes. More trigger fish, parrot fish, flute fish, clown fish, star fish, moray eels and so much more we’re going abought their daily life, shoals of bait fish would scurry by, no doubt avoiding whatever larger fish were on their tails. We had no idea how long we had been in the ocean, the colour of my back gave some indication, but probably around an hour would be fairly accurate, we swam back to the beach then retrieved our kayak before returning to our base camp, rather hungry so lunch it was. I spent the afternoon reading and relaxing, Mr Revthreads took off for a dive at the Pinnacle dive site, from which he returned very excited at his experience, he explained about a very dark swim through, he could see nothing, but as they entered the fish swam aside, revealing light at the other end of the swim through, he met some sea horses and lots more, he just sat for a while contemplating his diving experience. By now It was cocktail time, still on our loungers we looked out at the ocean, the sun starting to fade, fish leaping from the ocean in the distance, what’s not to love? Dinner was followed by a glass of red wine in the bar looking over the ocean before bed, another day had been had in paradise, just relaxing and enjoying life, as it should be.

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