Exploring the Mental Health Benefits of Traveling

Guest Post by Henry Moore

It’s my pleasure to share my website with like-minded people. Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. He combines both in his work on FitwellTraveler.com

Exploring the Mental Health Benefits of Traveling  

by Henry Moore

Being in the same place and the routine of doing the same thing over and over eventually takes its toll on both the mind and body. With people working longer hours and often choosing to take only half of their vacation time, burnout is bound to happen. Getting away can refresh your mental outlook and make you happier and more productive when you return. Taking a few days off from work can help, but getting away and exploring a new environment is even better. Taking a vacation to a travel destination may be just what you need. To get the most out of your trip, you’ll have to consider the cost of traveling and how many days off you can get from work.

There are a host of benefits associated with traveling. By experiencing the new sights and sounds of a destination or just getting away from the rigors of routine life at home, taking a trip is a sure way to reduce the stress in your life. Being in a new environment also changes the way you interact with new people or cultures, which can lead you to becoming more open-minded and creative. You will come back from your trip refreshed and able to better tackle your work and other challenges.

Just planning for a trip can be a mood-boosting experience. The further in advance you can start planning, the more options and possible savings you will have. If you plan on air travel, consider booking direct flights to maximize your vacation time and reduce the possibility of delays. The first step is determining what type of vacation you wish to go on. Pick a destination that will be intellectually and emotionally stimulating. If you do not have a lot of vacation time, consider choosing a nearby location. This way you can enjoy a new experience, get out of your comfort zone, and not utilize too much time traveling. Prepare an itinerary of things you want to do and see. Make sure you leave some flexibility in your travel plans for the unexpected or in case you want to check out an additional scenic spot or local treasure along the way.

 For those people recovering from addiction, getting out of your current environment is crucial. Changing your routine and getting away from the people and places that encourage your addiction habits are necessary to set yourself on a path to recovery. Many people become addicted to substances trying to escape stress. Giving yourself a break is a great way to promote your self-healing process. Where you want to go is up to you, and everyone may need a different kind of vacation. While some want to visit a busy city with activities to keep them occupied and get their mind off things for a while, others may opt for the serene landscape of the wild outdoors for solace and quiet reflection.

 

Pets are great for overall joy and improvement of quality of life, but also can provide emotional support. Caring for an animal requires responsibility and reduces blood pressure. There are several other health benefits of petting animals, such as reduced anxiety, improved self-esteem, and a stabilized mood. Having a loving faithful friend by your side can be a great moral booster. If possible, consider taking your pet on vacation as well. This is a lot easier logistically if you are going to be spending time in the great outdoors. You can bond with each other by exploring, hiking, and enjoying the sights and sounds of wherever you decide to visit. Make sure to confirm that pets are allowed at your destination before you book your trip because parks and campgrounds may have site-specific rules. If you are going to be visiting a new city, make sure the hotel is dog friendly and find pet-friendly play areas, parks, and restaurants to maximize your vacation time with your furry travel companion.

 Everyone deserves a break from the daily grind, and taking a vacation will have a positive effect on your mental health. Prior planning of your trip will help you maximize your time away. Traveling is a great way to keep you on the path to improving and recovering your sense of well-being. Bringing along your pet will be great for the both of you and allow you to bond and enjoy the health benefits of having a loyal companion and being on vacation at the same time. New experiences and meeting new people will help you grow and become more emotionally stable, creative, and reinvigorated.

Photo courtesy by Pexels

Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. He enjoys travel, running, cooking, baking and reading. He believes travel can change you, and good health can preserve you. For more helpful information on health and fitness, check out his work on FitwellTraveler.com

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Dinner with Friends at Furusato's Restaurant Whom We Met on our Trip to Japan

Furusato Sushi Japanese Restaurant was the perfect place to meet Mike and Lucille Story for dinner to rekindle our friendship. 

We share a special bond with the Story’s that was created by our fateful meeting on a Japan Tearoom and Garden Tour in 2010 (photos), during the Spring Cherry Blossom season. It was one of the best group tours my wife Cecile and I had ever taken and we have a nostalgic longing to return there someday. The word Furusato, is a well known Japanese children’s song that was composed in 1914. The song was played at the closing ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano in 1998. It also means “old home” or “hometown.” It describes a person who is working in a distant land, expressing his feelings of nostalgia for the hills and fields of his childhood home.

When one walks into the restaurant, the sushi chefs behind the counter make you feel welcome by enthusiastically greeting you upon arrival and saying goodbye and thank you when departing. The roving waiters and waitresses were very attentive in making sure your water cup and tea cup is always full. The sushi portions and combination meals are substantial and tasty, and the ambiance is comfortable and pleasurable.

For appetizers we shared two orders of Edamame, and one order of Agedashi Tofu and a large porcelain container of saki. I ordered my usual combination dinner that includes of steak and salmon teriyaki, rice, Miso soup and salad, and everyone else shared their favorite sushi dishes. Our waiters and waitresses even brought a couple of courtesy food offerings.

We share a love of travel with the Story's and have even taken the Silk Road tour in China together. Mike, a retired chemist who was partners in a business with an office in Japan is intimately familiar with common Japanese phrases, food and culture. At their invitation we went to Robato-Yaki sushi restaurant in Nigata. Our gracious host was their friend, Takao Donumba, Ph.D., who was a frequent visitor to the U.S., and has children who went to school here (see photos). We also got to meet the mayor of Muko, the sister city of Saratoga. My favorite place to go after a long day of touring and before dinner is the single sex communal Japanese Hot Baths with an average temperature of 42 degrees. Towels, scrubbing cloth and traditional Yakaka cotton robes are provided. After one of these hot water treats, the operative words that come to mind are ahhhhhh and arigato (thanks)!

Capturing these Phenomenal Desert Sunsets at Joshua Tree National Park

“Don’t forget: beautiful sunsets need cloudy skies.” —Paulo Coelho

 

I love how the day began with blue skies and by late afternoon the clouds slowly moved just in time for a majestic sunset. While it doesn’t happen often, all the elements for a perfect sunset aligns itself like they did on our desert mountain tour of Joshua Tree National Park. The first photo I took of a solitary Joshua Tree, a giant member of the lily family displayed cool hues of bluish-grey to match the cooler temperatures at 6,000 feet in the Mohave Desert. By the time we made our descent to lower elevation of the Colorado Desert, the golden yellowish colors began to show itself. Just when you think the show is over, the underside of the clouds light up. I like it even more when the clouds start to stretch apart as they get ready to break the horizon with one final golden orange burst of color before transitioning to a natural blending of sunset and twilight—like the stages of a watercolor painting coming together. 

 

When Cecile and I made our way to Ontario Airport, the sky was grey and the air smelled of smoke as it did when we arrived home to Silcon Valley. The contrast from the calm and clean desert air proves once again how nature can be as benign and as it is violent. Our hearts go out to those affected by the raging fires in our beautiful state. 

"A Family Blessing" was published today in the Los Gatos Weekly Times.

The following quote: "I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right," has been attributed to many people including P.T. Barnum, Mae West, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde. The idea is that all publicity is good publicity. Well, they spelled my name right, but, in this case a correction is in order. Our son Jason did not "move away after the loss of..." our beloved Maltese Lily. He actually moved back to Los Gatos from LA and brought Daisy with him which softened our loss immensely. As far as "unofficially" adopting Daisy, let's just say we "share custody."🙂 We care and walk her while Jason is at work. Either way, Daisy doesn't care about the miscommunication as she can't read, and, as long as she has a hand to feed her and a warm lap to lay on she is in heaven🙂.

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Off the Grid at the San Andreas Fault & Joshua Tree National Park in a Hummer

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human
spirit"—Edward Abbey

Adventure Hummer Tours lived up to its reputation of being voted the best off road tour in Palm Springs. 
We were picked up at 2:15 PM at the Marriott Shadow Ridge in an air-conditioned shuttle by Scott, our assigned tour guide and driver. A mother and her 6 year old child from the East Village in NYC joined us. 
Our first stop was at a natural palm oasis in the lower desert, once the center of life of the Cahuilla Indians. It was like taking a step back in time as we witnessed 2 billion year old canyons made of twisted granite. We crossed a wooden bridge that straddled the fault line. We saw a historic cabin built by early Palm Spring Settlers and saw the third largest oasis in the world bubbling up from the ground from a great underground aquifer. We walked between two of the Earth’s gigantic tectonic plates the created the "little" San Bernardino Mountains to our right as well as the mountain in the second photo. 
We then drove to the Frontier Cafe in Yucca Valley for a rest top and refreshments. I had a Chai Latte. It exuded a funky hip vibe reminiscent of a place the old beat poets like Jack Kerouac would have hung out at.
Scott, who spent 15 years in the military in Europe, Asia and the Middle East arranged for us to transfer into a bright yellow open air military grade H-1 Hummer that measured 15 feet long, 8 foot wide and weighed 10,000 pounds. We then headed to the backroads of Joshua Tree National Park in the upper desert, home to some of the most beautiful wilderness areas of its kind in the world. We stopped three quarters of the way to climb some of the granite boulders. We proceeded to the summit point at 6,000 feet. There were a few tourists in what essentially was a zone of tranquility. The panoramic vistas were awesome. A Joshua tree is a plant species belonging to the Yucca family, and is native to “Park” that covers a land mass of 790 thousand plus acres, which is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island. The park’s oldest rocks are said to be 1.7 billion years old.
The temperature was dropping and we made our way back to the Hummer. Scott played U2, the Doors and other music for our listening pleasure as we quickly made our descent to the bottom of the mountain as the stunning bright yellowish-orange sun began to set (4 photos).
We stopped back at the Frontier Cafe as we exchanged vehicles and made our way back to our suite about 7 PM, and bid our very capable guide farewell and thanks for a most illuminating and I dare say a spiritual desert experience. We ended the evening with an Italian dinner in our suite and called it a night.

Enjoying Our Stay at Marriott's Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert

My wife Cecile and I are nestled at the foothills of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, nursing a watermelon Margarita at the Chuckwalla Pool Bar & Grill. The desert holds so much beauty. We were greeted with the most vibrant colored plants and flowers. Free yoga in the morning, lunch and relaxing pool time in the afternoon with the cabana mist spray providing relief from the hot sun. Dinner at "The Grill"on the premises and out on the town. We had dinner last evening at Maracas Mexican Cantina and Grill in Palm Springs. This eatery places a unique twist on Mexican cuisine with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. We had tortilla soup, Mexican chicken pot stickers with pineapple ginger sauce, and Mahi-Mahi Fish tacos and shared a bottle of Corona Light. 

This Shadow Ridge resort has become a home away from home-vacation, only one hour by plane from where we live in the South Bay. A one bedroom suite more than accommodates our needs. Though we are not golfers, we love seeing the rolling fairways of the eighteen-hole championship golf course, breathtaking mountain views from the comfortable balcony. The property offers recreational activities for every age including a waterslide, children's activity center, six pools, jacuzzi and plenty of shaded and unshaded pool lounge chair areas. The last evening we were there they had a wine and cheese social with a live contemporary band.

The only damper (temporary) on the trip was on the flight home on Southwest Airline from Orange County. Shortly after take off, the pilot made a nosedive and turn that shook a few people up. It wasn't until later in the flight that the pilot apologized for the unexpected turbulence. He informed us that another plane was in our flight path and he had to react abruptly to keep us safe. 

My Encounter with a Wise Blind Folk Singer in the Orange Dress

“Fear can get in the way of living your life and expressing yourself. Life should be an adventure” —Suzanne Holland

I had seen her before. She was wearing an orange dress and her signature flowered sun hat. But, did I really see her? It wasn’t until the third time I witnessed her singing and strumming her guitar that I realized she was blind. She had a picture of her father with a sign that read: "In Memory of My Father Jack Holland, July 3, 1921—March 9, 2009" which would put him at 88, the same age my mom died. At the end of the makeshift memorial sign, she had written: "Happy Trails Daddy. Love, Susie." Her full name is Suzanne Holland. She had a stack of CDs on a table in front of her, one called Suzanne Holland singing Leonard Cohen songs.
We chatted a bit. I told her how much I enjoyed her music. I dropped a few dollars to the pile of cash in her guitar case.

This is her story in her own words: 
“I always tell my sweetie not to worry about my safety and I have absolutely no fear. There have been moments in my life, I’ll admit, when I’ve been afraid—like that night on the beach in South Africa, where I’m from, when a boy started messing with me. Oh yes, I was chilled with fear. But rather than show it, I played a game with him. I took my plastic eyes out and put them in my mouth, stuff like that—just to freak him out. I toyed with him for about an hour, till he got bored and ran away.
Fear can get in the way of living your life and expressing yourself. Life should be an adventure—if I feel like going on an excursion, please don’t anybody remind me that I might fall. I hate words like ’trip’ or ‘fall’ or ‘handicapped.’ When people ask me how long I’ve been blind I tell them ‘What’s the difference?’ The visual thing is so strong—they believe anybody who can’t see must be hampered. Of course, you are in some ways. There’s the feeling sometimes of absolutely no stimulation. It’s so boring—a blank feeling in front of me. It hurts not to be able to see they sky...
But there are many sides to life, so many beautiful things, and I like to go looking for them. You pick up landmarks if you want to know where you are. Like an iron gate that makes a noise at my feet just before I come to an Indian shop, or the smells of incense and spices and things from a clothing store I enjoy visiting. Once I heard a boy say, ‘Just look at her—she sees all things around her!’ But that’s because when I’m near objects I can hear their outline. They’re completely silent and I still hear them. How to explain it? Like parked automobiles—they cast a shadow on my field of audible vision. It’s an incredible thing that you develop. That’s why I don’t walk into walls and squash my face. I can hear openings in walls and doorways, the difference between a car, a tree or hedge, and know when to turn when I reach a street corner. I lost my mom in 1999. She was run over by a car in Capetown. I used to neglect my mom and dad, but learned a very hard lesson when she died...I always ask people, ‘Do you have a mom and dad?’ Without trying to preach, I say, ’Always look after your mom and dad.’

Postscript: Although Suzanne had to have her eyes removed when she was 8 months old, to prevent the spread of cancer, she doesn’t let it define her. She left South Africa for America in 1988 on a whim. She taught herself to play the guitar when she was 14. “The hardest thing about being blind,” she says, “I can’t see the stars, and I can’t hop on a bike or take a walk anywhere I like.” When asked if being blind affects her music or her outlook on life, she said: “Not really. I just try to take things as they come. I feel happy when I play. It always makes me feel better. It is a point of joy.” The late Leonard Cohen, whose songs she sings once said: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." There is plenty of light in Suzanne Holland.

Last photo credit of Holland by Linda Hubbard Gulker, 2009

Driving Miss Daisy to Partake in the “Blessing of the Animals” Celebration

Driving Miss Daisy to Partake in the “Blessing of the Animals” Celebration 

"The origin of the “Blessing of the Animals,” goes back to Saint Francis of Assisi and Ancient Jews."

At the recommendation of a neighbor, and my son Jason's blessings I took his dog Daisy to the “Blessing of the Animals” Celebration at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Saratoga, this passed Sunday. It is one of many churches throughout the world that offer a special blessing in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals that began almost 800 years ago.

The man who would be saint, was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone in 1181. Later, his father, a wealthy cloth merchant gave him the nickname, Francesco or “Francis.” Many of the stories and legends that surround St. Francis deal with his love of animals, his caring for the natural world, his dedication to the poor and as a man of peace. He gave up a life of wealth and privilege. it was these virtues that inspired Pope Francis to take his name, and is the middle name I was given when I was baptized in the Catholic Church. 

St. Francis was the ultimate “animal whisperer.” Legend has it that he preached to hundreds of birds and brokered a peace between a ferocious wolf and the people of a small village it was terrorizing. His sensitivity to all living and organic things are reminicent of the Buddhist teachings about loving kindness toward all sentient beings.

Channing Smith, the affable priest at St. Andrew’s called for owners to bring their pets up for the “blessing.” We were given an opportunity to say a few words about our dogs. When it was our turn, I introduced myself and Daisy. I told him how she came into our lives when our son moved back from LA last November. It was a auspicious time. We were mourning the loss of our little Maltese, Lily after 18 years of companionship. Daisy filled the void and soften the loss. Channing was moved by the story, petted Daisy, and with his placing his hand above her head gave her a blessing.

Many synagogues have their own blessing of animals, a practice that is said to have originated in by the ancient Hebrews. The Jewish ceremony is often performed on the seventh day of Passover. It represents freedom from the oppression of slavery in Egypt more than 3000 years ago of living creatures. It is a reminder to treat our pets more like companions than slaves.

As a student of the world’s religions, I have never attended a service in any tradition as joyful as this one. Near the end of the service I witnessed some people lovingly holding and caressing their cats and kittens. I saw a woman rolling a baby kitten of four months, in a small baby carriage. It’s name was Betton. It turns out that the woman strolling Betton around was Addie, the founder and president of Kitten Cattidude Rescue. I also spoke to Darelle, one of the dedicated volunteers who had a black cat in his arms that Daisy took a liking too. 

I found an empty pew to sit on for the remainder of the service. Directly in front of me was a man holding a Chihuahua named Rosy next to his daughter Dani. As we compared notes, it turns out Rosy and Daisy were about the same age (5 years old), were both rescue dogs and were both Chihuahuas.

I was pleasantly surprised how well behaved Daisy was. When Cecile and I walk her a few times a day on the trails of our gated-community, she can be very feisty with other dogs. She's been known to bark and snap at dogs bigger than herself. But, here she was calm and friendly and curious of what was going on around her. She felt at home in the midst of strangers. I could only conclude that the magic of St. Francis must have rubbed off on her. After all, as the story goes, animals and birds alike were susceptible to his charm and gentle ways. He was their friend, and their protector.

Photo credit: Last image (Saint Piere D'arene church) Nice, France) Oct. 6. Eric Ballard/Reuters

 

 

Bon Voyage to Michelle & Kyle on their Upcoming Trip to South East Asia & A Coincidental Encounter

“There are no coincidences; everything [and everyone] is connected.” —Kevin McDonald

Cecile and I hooked up with Michelle and Kyle for dinner at True Food Kitchens in Palo Alto to wish them a Bon Voyage for their upcoming Honeymoon trip to Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand. Jason and Alex met us there. Upon arriving we were pleasantly surprised to see Michelle’s childhood friend, Kacy who was one of her bridesmaids at her wedding last May in Napa, Kacy’s husband Noel, Kacy’s mom Janice and Gary. This marked the second coincidental encounter with Kacy and Noel at the same restaurant this past year. After hugs, a catch up chat and group photos, we sat outdoors—a table away under the warmth of the heated lamps. 

Though we have been to this fresh and healthy eatery several times before, this was the first time we ate “Al Fresco" in the spacious outdoor section. As usual the food was outragiously good. We ordered some of our favorite dishes, starting with Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon salad, Edamame Dumplings with white truffle oil, and asian herbs, a bowl of Ancient Grains, Grass-Fed Burger, Grilled Fish tacos, Seasonal Ingredients Vegi salad, and for dessert we shared a Flowerless Molten Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. 

Anyone who knows me, understands I always welcome so called “ hance events” that bring people together—even so called strangers that we discover a connection with on one level or another. I enjoy both the immediacy and the mystery of it.

A serendipitous moment or concidental encounter is one that strikes us as an event with perfect harmony. If you stay on the lookout wherever you go, you’ll begin to realize how often they happen in our everyday lives—when we least expect them. 

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, defines synchronicity as "a meaningful coincidence of outer and inner events that are not causally related." Jung speaks of a collective unconscious, a universal pool of knowledge. It is the basis upon which the ancient wisdom teachings refer to as being in “sympathy with all things.” We are all swimming in the same waters of life, in touch with each other’s movements, riding the same waves of existence. 

Einstein who was more spiritual than “religious” once said, “Everything is determined by forces over which we have no control…Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust…all dance to a mysterious tune…” He is also famously quoted for saying that, “Coincidences are God’s way of being Anonymous.”

 

Attended the 100th Year Celebration of Hakone Gardens—A Rich Multicultural Extravaganza

“If you look the right way, you can see the whole world is a garden.” —Frances Hodgson Burnett

Cecile and I attended the Hakone Foundation Centennial Gala Finale recently with our friends Nelson and Susan Bye. Established in 1918 by Isabel Stine as her private retreat, Hakone is one of the oldest and most authentic Japanese Estate and Gardens in the Western Hemisphere tucked away in the hills of Saratoga above Silicon Valley.

During our first visit here, when we first came to California in 1975, we were blown away by the serenity and harmony of our surroundings. But, it wasn’t until I began doing plein air watercolor painting here with the Saratoga Community of Painters, took Haiku Poetry classes, and participated in Japanese Tea Ceremonies that I began to fully appreciate this local treasure.

Selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Hakone was designed to express the Japanese ideal of seamlessly merging art and nature.
The 18 acre property is comprised of manicured hillside tea and Zen gardens, historic structures, a gift shop, a series of waterfalls, Giant bamboo, koi ponds, bridges, stone lanterns, meandering walking trails and a pergola with blooming seasonal wisteria. Tai Chi, Karate and meditation classes take place in one of the tea houses.

This gala event was sponsored by Wing Nien Foods. We began our evening with a welcome reception, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, silent auction of Japanese art, clothing, liquor, trips, kimomos, dolls, and gifts, dinner and entertainment. Ann Waltonsmith, former Saratoga City Council member and chairperson of the Hakone Foundation board gave the opening remarks. Cecile and I had the pleasure of traveling with Ann to Japan on a Temple and Garden Tour, including Muko, the sister city of Saratoga.

Robert Handa, NBC Bay Area was the Master of Ceremonies. Being of Japanese heritage, he, his mother and grandmother always felt at home here. Tributes were given to the late, William “Bill” Glennon, former mayor of Saratoga, as well as the Partnership that included two Caucasian couples and four Chinese couples. Hence, a Gourmet Chinese Banquet catered by the Flourishing Gardens Restaurant was both an unexpected but welcomed surprise. 

Other notables present were Shoichi Nagayoshi, Deputy Consul General of Japan, Shozo Kagoshima, former general manager of the Winchester Mystery House, who took over the reins of the Hakone Foundation last March; Emily Lo, Vice Mayor and former Mayor of Saratoga; Faramarz Yazdani, Treasurer of the Foundation, who was seated at our table, and Historian, author, community leader Connie Young, whose parents were in the partnership that owned Hakone 1961-66. The estate was then sold to the City of Saratoga to preserve it's heritage. Connie was quoted as saying, “Imagine a Japanese Garden owned by Chinese Americans who kept it in the tradition designated by Isabel Stine." 

The entertainment for the gala event included, Italian arias and show tunes by renowned Japanese soprano Keiko Kagawa, traditional Chinese music by Emily and Emma Lin, and the Far East Dragon and Lion Dance Association. As we ate dinner under the stars at around the time of the new moon, I thought to myself, to simply call this a multi-cultural event would be an understatement: A Japanese garden, formerly owned by four Chinese partners, catered gourmet Chinese food, a Japanese soprano singing Italian arias along with her Japanese opera group, and sitting at our table, an Iranian American, who is Treasurer of the Hakone Foundation board.

Beach Party and Bonfire at Seabright State Beach

“Enjoy your life now, it has an expiration date.”

Cecile and I were one of ten couples that congregated on Seabright State Beach late Saturday afternoon. It has become an annual event.
We brought our foldable beach chairs, our contribution of food and drink and our intention to have a great time and catch up with old friends. 
It was a beautul day for a beach party. Seabright is less crowded than the Santa Cruz Boardwalk Beach. From where we sat we could see the Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse in the mouth of the harbor. If you enjoy sunsets, walks on the beach, no crowds, this is the perfect place to settle down for a party and be with nature. When one is at the beach, time doesn’t move hour to hour, but moment to moment. After we set down our gear and food supplies, we spotted a solitary playful seal enjoying rising and falling beneath the ocean surf. We had plenty of appetizers like imported cheeses, avocado dip, chips, salads smoked salmon...We had staked out our spot where we had access to a barbecue grill that would later be transformed into a bonfire pit that ran late into the night. Just before sundown, a patrol officer drove-up onto the beach as we were having a drink—busted!🙂“There is no alcohol allowed on the beach,” he said. But as we looked around plenty of people skirt the law and drink discretely. The officer gave us a warning and went on his way. 

Putting aside our run in with the law,🙂 it was a festive evening from start to finish. 
We had music playing, there was some singing and dancing by members of our group. We enjoyed grilled hot dogs, brisket, an assortment of vegetarian dishes and enjoyed the lingering pink-orange sunset. Elaine, one of the friends in our group was celebrating her birthday. The cake that was in a plastic box was covered to keep it cool, and another friend inadvertently left his carbon footprint on it (crunch!)🙂. But, I’m not telling who it was. Whatever happens in Seabright stays in Seabright.😎

One of the most interesting and fun parts of the evening was taking part in a Jewish ceremony called Tashlich, which means to “cast away,” a ritual performed on Rosh Hashanah or the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Jewish New Year). It is done by casting crumbs or a morsal of bread into a body of water, indicative of casting off one’s “burdens” or "sins," in preparation for the New Year. In effect it is a purification ceremony, a process of letting go that wipes the slate clean and returns you to your true “unadulterated" self. It reminded me of going into the confessional in my Catholic youth and being absolved of my sins.

Each person was given a morsel of bread. We then walked close to the ocean’s edge, turned our backs and flipped the bread into the water. As we did so, a ton of seagulls came out of nowhere and it became an outright feeding frenzy. It seemed as if these beautiful, energetic and hungry creatures were only too willing to relieve us of our burdens🙂.
As it began to get dark, the birthday cake was brought out with sparklers and we sang Happy Birthday to Elaine and then dug in. By this time all the barbecues along the beach were now full blown contained bonfires. The stars were shining bright and it felt good to be alive.

Rocking out with Michael Franti & His Spearhead Band at the Idyllic Mountain Winery Amphitheater

“You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace.” —Michael Franti, singer song-writer

At the tail end of their "Love out Loud Tour" the band combines hip hop with an eclectic blend of funk, reggae, jazz, folk and rock. Franti's lyrics are filled with an enduring inspirational message about "getting through the rough times while never losing your enthusiasm for life."

Two songs into the concert, it becomes obvious that his brand of music is all about spreading the message of peace, love and community to millions of his fans. He has been described as an American rapper, musician, poet, singer-songwriter and spoken word artist.

The 6 foot six, 51 year old gentle giant who was born in Oakland, Calif. tells stories about love, injustice, isolation in social media, sexuality, gender equality, homophobia, and the environment. He sees his musical lyrics as a unifying force that can help people engage in a conversation about a "new way of being" in a challenging world. As an advocate for peace in the Middle East, his film: I know I’m Not Alone came out of his frustration of hearing generals, politicians and pundits talking abbout the economic cost of war without ever addressing the human cost.

He shared with his audience about his vision of what love and respect for cultural diversity is. He told us he likes to keep and open ear to people who have different political perspectives, come from different faiths and have different ways of living. 

Franti comes from a family of "dreamers." His biological mother Mary Lofy was German and Belgian and his birth father's genealogy is African-American and Nottaway Indian. Lofy put Franti up for adoption because she was afraid her racist family wouldn’t accept him. He was adopted by the Franti family, second generation Finnish immigrants. He credits the school teacher mom who adopted him with instilling the empathetic values that have become part of his musical message. He was taught to find ways to serve the greated good and be good to other people.

He tries to inform not only through music, but film, business and philanthropy. Franti’s organization, Do it For The Love, serves 1,000 families, providing children, adults, and veterans with serious medical ailments or special needs the opportunity to attend live concerts by any artist who performs in North America.

During the performance he paid tribute to his mother and wife who were in the audience. He moved effortlessly throughout the amphitheater, engaging people, singing and dancing with them, hugging them and even inviting young children on the stage to sing with him.

Franti credits a priest he met while attending the Universtiy of San Francisco, with teaching him how to tell a story. Before long he was writing poetry. He purchased a bass at a local pawn shop and began experimented playing music inspired by hip hop, punk and reggae that was being played on the college campus radio station, KUSF.

As to why he goes barefoot: He started playing music on the streets in countries where people couldn’t afford shoes. Every now and then he would take his shoes off and try to play soccer with the kids. As a personal challenge in 2000, he decided to try to go about his business barefoot for three days. 3 days turned into a week, then a month and he has been going barefoot ever since.

The Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival Breaks a Guinness World Record in Los Gatos, CA

“Knowledge is knowing a Tomato is a fruit and wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” —Miles Kington

On Sunday, my wife Cecile and I attended the much anticipated first-ever Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival Celebration in the downtown square of Los Gatos. A few things immediately caught our attention. The Blue Grass Band, Dirty Cello with cross over Cellist Rebecca Roudman got the jubilant crowd’s feet stomping and heart pumping (photo). The colorful three tiered display of 241 types of tomatoes were so stunning they could have passed for works of art at a museum (photo). 
Our good friend and former mayor of Monte Sereno, Mark Brodsky volunteered to set up the most ripe varieties of tomatoes before the start of the event (photo) for the judge to review. Christina Conlon, 32, an American born judge represented the British-owned Guinness World Records organization stationed in Philadelphia (photo). She was wearing a navy blue blazer, gray slacks and button-down white dress shirt, reminiscent of the colors of my school uniform at St. Michael’s High School I attended in New Jersey. Then there was the ever colorful and cheerful president of the World Tomato Society, Helen Pastorino (photo) who said she never dreamed that this event would get such a wonderful turnout and support from the community. There was a volunteer ice cream server giving out free sample sized cups of Tomato Saffron ice cream from his refrigerated cart prepared by Treatbot Ice Cream in San Jose that Helen encouraged us to try. It was surprisingly tasty. Even the cute and cuddly one month old tiny chihuahua named Peanut, wrapped in a pink blanket next it’s doting owner liked it (photo). The adorable pup licked my fingers clean of dried ice cream drippings when I went over to say hello to him. 

But, as cute and cuddly as Peanut was, it was Conlon, the judge from Guinness who had garnered much of the attention. After a careful count of these prized jewel-like tomatoes, the former bankruptcy attorney determined that a new world record for the most variety of tomatoes had been set at 241, right here in our beloved village of Los Gatos, CA, handily beating the previous record of 135 set in 2015 in New York’s Time Square.

While thinking about the fun time we had at the Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival yesterday afternoon, our doorbell rang. It was our next door neighbor Howard Green who generously offered us several pounds of fresh tomatoes from the community garden at Rinconada Hills that many residents participate in. He had no idea that there was a tomato fest in town. For us the joyful coincidence didn’t go unnoticed. The fresh tomato aroma was “to die for,” as Cecile would say. We happened to have two fresh packages of linguini in the fridge and Cecile decided to make a homemade sauce from an inspired recipe from my late Zia (aunt) Cettina from Sicily. Thanks to Howard, my late aunt and Cecile, it was Heavenly Pasta Night at the Augustine's home.

Postscript:
When I was a kid my now, 100 year old dad would ask: “Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?” I was used to him quizzing me on trivia questions. “A vegetable, of course, dad,” I answered. “No, it’s a fruit,” he would say. At the time I had neither the interest nor curiosity to verify if what he said was true. It was many years later that I discovered it was a fruit. Science Bob says the way to know is to inquire if it has seeds. “If the answer is yes,” he said, “then technically, (botanically) you have a fruit.” Dad was right—again

Just Got My New Sondors Fold X Electric Bike—a Joy and Adrenaline Rush

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride."
—John F. Kennedy."

It’s beginning to feel like Christmas and Hannukah combined. I just got my new Sondors electric bike. It was defintely worth the 3 1/2 month wait. Our friends James (Jimi) and Jennifer Hunter, just back from an Alaska cruise offered to be my “assembly team.” Though Jimi used to race bikes back in the day, he would be the first to admit that, Jennifer was the brains behind the operation. She proved to be more mechanically adept than either one of us, and took the lead assembling it. That said, it was Jimi that got me hooked on electric bikes. We covered many a mile navigating the foothills of Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga as well as the backroads of Napa Valley in the last several months.

Storm Sondors, the creative genius behind his brand says, “Global electric bike sales are projected to increase by about $10 billion over the next 10 years.” His company has sold 20,000 bikes and shipping to customers in faraway places like India, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Just as no-one ever conceived that phones would become smart hand-held computers and the internet would become a worldwide phenomenon, who ever dreamed we would one day be riding electric assist bikes to work, to the beach, to the health club, your favorite yoga studio, and even your local Apple Store (see photo).

In there new promotion, Sondors Inc., the makers of my new electric FOLD X bike says, “The choice is yours…a new iPhone or a new Sondors. That’s right, a brand new SONDORS can be yours for less than an iPhone.” Plus you get recreation, exhilaration and transportation without those pesky roaming charges.

But why limit oneself to either an iPhone or an electric bike. Why not have both? So, I upgraded my old razor flip phone to an iPhone 7 Plus for my birthday last month and now have a Sondors Fold X which has a 48 V battery, 500W rear hub motor, a driving range of 50 miles using the straight electric or 60-85 miles using the pedal assist. It also has an LCD screen for 5 levels of electric assist, can be folded in half for easier storage in your garage or to put in the back of your trunk or back seat of your car, has a adjustable handlebar height, and but not least a 7-speed Shimano gear cassette with hand grip shifter. The knobby fat tires can tackle any terrain and what an “adrenaline rush.”

I love Storm’s story as much as his bikes. Born in Latvia, he struggled to make friends as a kid. He felt awkward around his classmates and even his parents felt there was something off about him. While in his 20s he was making wooden models for major toy companies in Chicago and then went out on his own. But success didn’t make him any happier. He eventually sold his company and moved to Malibu. The surfer businessman came up with the idea of a more economical electric bike (pricing his first model at $500) when he saw how expensive they were. He was also diagnosed with Asperger’s Disease as an adult. It was a liberating moment and explained a lot of the angst he suffered as a child. He now interacts more comfortably with strangers and engages his customers more regularly when they want to test drive his e-bike creation and has become an inspiration to many who have his form of autism. And, judging by his sales video clips, he has a charming sense of humor to boot.

Photo Credit (Apple Store in Santa Monica, Ron White, LA Times)

A Delicious Lunch at the Bell Tower Cafe—A Former Place of Worship & Still a Peaceful Refuge

"Churches worldwide are being given an afterlife by savvy entrepreneurs who CONVERT them to libraries, restaurants, schools, housing, bars, theaters...."

Cecile and I enjoyed lunch yesterday at our favorite Bell Tower Cafe. We had a Greek Salad and Egg White Persian Omellette consisting of 4 organic egg whites, basil, tomato and feta cheese, with a side of potatoes and toasted wheat bread. We chose this Saratoga bistro not only for its diverse menu and tasty food, but for its outside patio that is tucked away from street traffic. It boasts an idyllic shady garden, stone cherubs, potted plants, and an arbor with vines and flowers, and is dog friendly—an important feature as we had our son Jason’s dog Daisy with us. There is even a red phone booth—that in the age of cell phones has become a charming relic and time capsule of the past. The building itself is a relic of the past. It was built in 1895 and served as a Methodist Episcopal Church in 1896. It was also used by the Red Cross during WW l, as the city of Saratoga’s Town Hall, and was even a school. In 1924 the church became an art gallery and sometime later housed a bridal salon. The Bell Tower restaurant opened its doors in 2010 and is kept busy by loyal customers who enjoy the attentive, friendly staff and quick service. 

The Bell Tower is one of a plethora of churches around the world whose clerical residents—for one reason or another have had to vacate the premises. Ironically, Savvy entrepreneurs have given these former places of worship an after life by converting them into clubs, restaurants, theaters, bars, and concert venues. Some examples: The Church Bar & Restaurant in Dublin, Ireland (photo) with remnants of a grand pipe organ on the second landing; a 700-year old Dominican Church converted to a bookstore in Maastricht, Netherlands; A Gothic church built in 1909, in San Francisco turned into housing; St. Sebastian Church in Germany was transformed into a kindergarten; The Church Brew Works in Pittsburg, PA, was once a Catholic Church in 1878. There is even a church in Santa Cruz, CA that became a therapy center. 

Though there is no longer a bell to ring in the Bell Tower, I love to ring a few of the ornate bells located on a stand in the reception area just in front of the blue sign that says “Best of Saratoga 2012.”

 

An Evening With the Gifted Jazz Saxophonist & Fellow New Jerseyan, Eric Darius

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” —Maya Angelou

While in LA last Saturday, Cecile and I had the pleasure of attending an evening performance by Eric Darius, 35, one of the most gifted and exciting musicians to enter the American Contemporary Jazz scene in the last decade. 

He had just closed out the Cancun Jazz Festival with Jazz icon George Benson. From the start this charismatic New Jersey born musician took over the room, and serenaded us with his sultry, original songs and tunes from the old jazz greats. As he roamed around the ballroom, he generated so much energy and excitement, we were up on our feet dancing.

Darius entered the world jazz scene at the age of 17, and since then has six critically acclaimed albums under his belt. He realized his calling at the tender age of nine when he heard a saxophone being played at his local church. He found himself “blown away by both the emotion and the soul of the instrument."

By age 11, after playing a saxophone for only a year, Darius was chosen to be in Sonny LaRosa and America’s Jazz Band, consisiting of young musicians, age five to twelve. The group toured the country and even played at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

In 2004 he was named the “Debut Artist of the Year" by Smooth Jazz News. He has shared the stage with some of the most renown Grammy Award-winning artists, such as Mary J. Blige, David Foster, Carlos Santana, Wynton Marsalis, Babyface and Prince. His Jazz music crosses into other musical genres such as R&B, Hip-Hop and Pop resulting in a fresh, distinctive sound that is uniquely his own.

Born into a musical family with rich traditions in Caribbean music. (His father is from Haiti and his mom is from Jamaica), Darius attributes his inspiration to Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis and Prince for fearlessly trail blazing new frontiers in music.

He has been featured on Fox’s TV show, The X Factor, one of our favorite entertainment shows, and TNT’s hist drama series, Mob City. With the help of radio stations worldwide, his radio single, “Breakin’ Thru” recently made it to # 1 on the "Mediabase Smooth Jazz Chart." 

He was also featured on the up and coming musician Adam Hawley’s radio single, “35 Street” that made it to # 1 on the “Billboard Contemporary Smooth Jazz Charts” for 5 consecutive weeks. 

Humbled, grateful and honored by all the attention his music has been receiving, Darius continues his involvement in the “Mission in the Schools Campaign” he established several years ago. His goal is to inpire the younger generations of musicians to follow their dreams, play music and keep music alive in schools. Dedicated to this cause and having the desire to “Push it Forward" he has faciliated workshops with the Birmingham School of the Arts.

For those interested in attending one of his concerts while on tour around the country, check out his website at: www.ericdarius.com

One Lucky Dog, a Monkey god & Other Meaningful Coincidences

“When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and their meanings, you connect wth the underlying field of infinite possibilities”—Deepak Chopra

While attending a medical conference in LA this weekend, Cecile and I met a woman named Sue who manufactures and distributes nutritional supplements from Vietnam where she works and lives. I was attracted to her booth by a rather large familiar looking wood puppet, propped up on her display table. As I got closer I noticed it was Hanuman, the mighty monkey god in Hindu mythology that symbolizes, physical strength, perseverance, devotion, and how to face and overcome adversity in life. 

I noticed a number of coincidences were beginning to unfold. For example, Sue told me she bought the puppet in Myanmar (Burma), a place where I have visited over the years to study and practice mindfulness meditation. Her manufacturing plant is in Southern Vietnam where my son Jason and I visited years ago, and where Cecile and I will be touring in 2018. While we continued to talk, a cute golden dog joyfully popped out from behind the table to say hello. “What’s his name,” I asked? “Lucky,” she responded. “My first dog while growing up in New Jersey was named Lucky,” I said. She told us her dog was 6 years old. She took him in and helped nurse him back to health after he got hit by a motor scooter and was thrown to the curb and given up of for dead. He was a 1 month old puppy at the time. Lucky has been her faithful companion in ever since.

I have been journaling and archiving coincidences off and on for over 25 years. We have all experienced them in our lives that cause us to scratch our heads and say, ‘Hmmm, what a small world.” Or, “What are the chances?" For example, you think about an old friend you haven’t seen in years, and few moment later they call. Or, you are drawn to visit a place you haven’t been before, and wind up meeting the love of your life. 

While getting ready for bed, I noticed I left my bag with books and special reports from the conference on the concierge floor where we had appetizers and drinks. I hopped in the elevator and encountered a chef. I told him what had happened. “No problem, we will find it for you,” he said. As we entered the lounge, he checked with his staff. It turned out the items I left behind were turned in to “Lost and Found.” He escorted me down to the basement to retrieve them. On the way back to my room, he recommended the service elevator. I asked him what was his name and where he was from. "Paolo. I'm from Italy,” he said. “What part,” I asked? “Milano,” he answered. Cecile and I had been there. We spoke about my mother’s good friend who was a pastry chef in Sorrento. “Ah, the Amalfi Coast is the best," he said. He escorted me to my door, we shook hands and I said, Molte Grazie, and Buona Notte (Thank you very much and good night!). “Prego and Buona Notte,” he said. The lines of connection and this curious encounter didn’t escape me.

Sometimes coincidences can be a cause of joyful amusement, and other times have significant meaning to the observer. One thing that is certain, the phenomenon of meaningful coincidences will continue to fascinate believers and skeptics alike. I’m grateful to count myself among the believers.

Cosmetically Challenged Fruit and Veggies Get No Respect & Why They Should

Cosmetically Challenged Fruit and Veggies Get No Respect & Why They Should 

“Ugly is the new beautiful when it comes to produce.”—Mary Gerush

It all began with a trip to the local Farmer’s Market. One of our favorite fruits are white nectarines. When we approached our favorite produce stall, I began hand picking the best, unbruised fruit I could find when I came upon one that looked “cosmetically challenged.” It was odd, misshapen, and it made me smile. It looked like it had a big nose attached to it. My curiosity got the best of me. I bought it anyway. When we got home, It got me thinking about how often the mind discriminates by how things look. People tend to look for attractive partners with whom to mate, nice clothes to wear, we want flawless skin, perfect tans, desire fancy cars within our budget, cute pets to bring home. So is it really any wonder why we would expect good-looking food to be tastier? In fact according to Debra Zellner, a professor of psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey, “Several studies have shown that how foods are presented can influence our liking them.” Think about the “oohs and ahs,” we express when the waiter serves us an entree made by a chef that looks like a work of art. They are almost too pretty eat. 

In 2014, Zellner worked with the Culinary Institute of America to serve two meals to participants that were prepared by chefs. They were the same in every way except one was more visually pleasing to the human eye. The result of the study confirmed that people enjoyed their meal better when it was plated more attractively. Scientists believe the brain uses aesthetic processing to evaluate whether the foodstuff we are looking at, is good or bad for us. But, the question that begs to be answered, are strange looking fruits and vegetables really bad for y

Let’s begin with what causes fruits and vegetable to become mishappen or deformed in the first place.
According to Marvin Pitts, a professor of horticulture at Cornell University there are three major causes:
Inadequate pollination, frost damage and insects feeding on parts of these food sources that causes them to develop in a asymmetrical shape. But, none of these causes would make them harmful to human beings. The belief is that once people are reminded that fruits and vegetables don’t have to be symmetrical to be safe and delicious to eat, perceptions are likely to change. Plus, in the age of social and environmental responsibility, food shaming based on how an item looks may fall by the wayside. 

Sadly, even though nutritious food is available, six billion pounds of so called ugly fruits and veggies wind up in a landfill because it doesn’t meet cosmetic standards, while millions of children who go hungry every day. To combat this dilemma, Bay Area start up “imperfect" is selling crooked carrots and malformed tomatoes and potatoes directly to consumers by forming strategic alliances with farms and packing houses to take their unwanted produce and sell them at 30 to 50 per cent less than supermarkets. It is a win-win situation that benefits the farmer, consumer, while saving a great amount of wasted food and water.

The European Commission joined in declaring 2014 was “the year against food waste.” Their goal is to reduce food waste in the European Union by 30% by 2025.
Imperfect Founders Ben Chesler and Ben Simon are filling in some of the gaps in the food waste chain. They founded Food Recovery Network to connect cafeterias with local food banks so dining hall leftovers would go to groups in need. Ron Clark, the food sourcing and logistics manager for the California Association of Food Banks set up a program called Farm to Family, where he sources out one million pounds of ugly fruits and veggies directly from farms to families in need. 

Imperfect’s motto is,“all fruits and veggies deserve to be loved.” As in life itself, diversity and imperfections are not flaws but traits to be celebrated. When you break down the word Imperfect, it actually spells, “I’m Perfect,” because everyone and every thing is perfect in their own imperfect ways. And finally a note to parents of young children, your kids are more likely fruits and vegetable if they looked like this.

Postscript: Yes, I did eat my cosmetically challenged nectarine from the Farmer’s Market (except the nose),🙂 and boy was it tasty and sweet.

Eggplant Head Image credit: Gareth P. Lewis.
Apple Duckie image credit: @gourmet.jpg
Carrot Yoga image credit: @debbiegleeson
Peachy Love image credit: @UglyFruitAndBeg.jpg

Warrior ll On the Dock of the RInconada Lake & the Canada Geese that Yielding the Right of Way

Warrior ll On the Dock of the Rinconada Lake & the Canada Geese that Yielding the Right of Way🙂

Journal Entry: 7 AM. Sunday. After Cecile and I walked on the trails with our son Jason's dog Daisy, and before my 8 AM yoga class at Bay Club Courtside I had the urge to do a Warrior ll pose which is a symbol of wisdom, courage, and focus. Normally, I have to compete with the Canada Geese for floor space on the dock, but they were off wading in the cascading ponds except for one who stood steady on a rock, gazing on the reflection of the lake—which is what I was doing moments earlier. We were both loving what we do.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert—repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves."
Via Lis Huntly writes: 
"You are perfect in your wholeness. 
Your wholeness includes your scars, your weaknesses, your mood swings, the days of your life you’d rather pull the covers up over your head and stay in bed.
Yoga is a practice of peeling away labels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and embracing whatever form of beauty you bring to your mat each day."

Namaste'

P.S. Normally, I would do the pose barefoot...but the geese can be messy in what they leave behind—if you know what I mean.

Debora Cohen: Yoga Teacher, Energy Therapist, Healer, Author & Friend

Debora Cohen: Yoga Teacher, Energy Therapist, Healer, Author & Friend

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher.”—Temple Grandin

Debora Cohen, and my wife Cecile and I go way back. She was one of our first yoga teachers at Courtside Bay Club. She exemplifies all the special qualities one wants to see in a yoga teacher. She empowers her students to get the most out of their practice, she emphasizes safety, and rather than working from a script, she choreographs a sequence of poses according to the energy she feels in the room. More importantly, she maintains a positive attitude throughout the class that allows her students to have an uplifting and energetic experience.

Speaking of uplifting and energetic, I reminded Debora recently, that back in the day—and much to my surprise—I did my first deep back bend called “Wheel Pose,” in one of her Sunday morning classes. We simulated a back bend in one of the photos below, to demonstrate how Debora goes about assisting a student to safely get into the pose. As a beginner, you never start out doing an advanced back bend. It takes practice. Then one day, you suddenly find yourself in the pose saying to yourself, my God, “I can do this.” It's a very empowering experience.

Debora holds a BA honors tract in psychology, one year of masters study and three year of clinical doctoral education. She also holds many certifications in the disciplines of energy work, yoga, fitness, meditation and medical qigong to name a few. Her continuing education efforts led her to becoming a Certified Energy Health Practitioner (CEHP).

Sometime later, I had heard about a spiritual leader affectionately called Amma, or "mother.” She was best known for literally "embracing the masses," resulting in the media giving her the nickname: “The Hugging Saint of India.” By this time, she had hugged millions of people around the world, and her status as a “Spiritual Therapist,” was attracting a large audience in the US. When reporters would ask Amma how she kept up such a hectic pace, she would simply say, “I am connected to the Eternal Source, so I am not like a battery that gets used up.” Her organization raises over 20 million worldwide to fund her many charitable causes including Mother’s Kitchen, that feeds the poor and the hungry. I used to see Amma at her 164-acre campus near San Ramon, Calif., twice a year when she was on tour. I was moved when I saw spiritual leaders from every major religion standing in line to be hugged by her. After a while I felt compelled to take people I knew to see her and experience her compassionate embrace. I brought family, friends, fellow yoga students and many of my yoga teachers. Debora was one of them. 

Out of all the people I invited to visit Amma, she was the most taken by her. Her experience met all the criteria of the old saying: When the student is ready, the teacher will come. In a section of new book: Kundalini, Empowering The Mind, Body, Heat and Soul: The Energy of Joyful Transformation (Balboa Press, 2017), Debora talks about how she came to meet this humble living saint many compared to Mother Teresa. Without mentioning me by name, Debora wrote in Chapter 3, “One day a student came to me and told me about a woman known as Amma that he thought I would resonate with.” 

Like myself, and thousands of others from all stations in life, when Amma was in town, Debora would go see her at the San Ramon campus—which sits atop an equestrian farm. Later, she would go on to visit her ashram (teaching center) in India. In effect, Amma became her Guru (spiritual guide). This experience played a major role in her personal transformation and enhanced her abilities to: “feel or sense what was going on with my clients while I was working on them.” 

Postscript: To those not exposed to yoga, the partner yoga poses as seen in these images are are rarely taught in a traditional yoga class but "are" taught at certain yoga workshops. 
To learn more about Debora’s energy work, online courses, podcasts, retreats and her new book, check out her website: http://www.insightfulrelaxation.com 
www.amma.org
enjoyyourlifenow.net
Note: Studio Photos taken by my beloved Cecile...