Ablaze: A personal story of igniting my heart aflame

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My second poetry collection, Ablaze, sheds an honest light on my raging desire and passion to consummate the dream that beckoned me to abandon my home and blaze a new trail here in Central America, amongst rural villagers in isolated tropical jungles, amidst a backdrop of ancient cultures enriched by traditional customs for which I have deep respect. Having been forged in the fire of my heart’s desire, I am now faced with the opportunity to make choices that could determine the course of my life for many years.

Parama sitting on couchThe flames are burning bright, and I cannot escape the heat.

Five years ago, before I first arrived in Belize, Central America (a tiny country just south of Mexico), I was living and working as a schoolteacher in the U.S., when I had a vivid dream in which my Buddhist master teacher, Geshe Michael, appeared to me and told me that it was time for me to leave my home country, that it was okay to go… “The same thing happened to me,” he declared in the dream, while I extended my hand to touch a slow-motion panorama of tropical plants, flowers, and coconuts….

When I woke up, I recalled the dream as if it had really happened, and I was emboldened: I resigned from my job, booked a plane ticket, and packed my bags. Waiting in the airport, I earnestly prayed and (heard God?) tell me, “You will almost die down there. But you will be saved. I am with you.” … While this may seem crazy to my readers, perhaps it is worth mentioning that I seem to be endowed with a gift of clairvoyance, whatever that means. I honestly can’t explain it, at least not scientifically. I don’t know whether to consider it a blessing or a quirky talent that comes from a rare genetic mutation… or both.

bird of paradise flowerForewarned by the somewhat alarming message that my life would be endangered, I forged ahead nonetheless, bolstered by the support of the man who was then my husband, mutually inspired by our shared vision to purchase a small parcel of fertile land in a rural area where we would build a small-scale permaculture farm and develop a vocational education center for the benefit of our local community.

In the U.S., I had established over ten years of a successful career in special education as a consultant in public and private schools; in addition to earning certification and practicing professionally as a Licensed Massage Therapist and yoga teacher. I earned a Master of Arts in Education and gained a wide range of experience working with children and adults who were diagnosed with developmental and learning disabilities. I enjoyed working in the field of education, but I felt deep dissatisfaction with what I deemed to be a restrictive, top-down model that limited my creativity and freedom to design my own curriculum.

Parama w studentsI became disillusioned with the public school system in the U.S. and envisioned an innovative approach that involved outdoor, experiential education on an organic farm. I wrote and published my first two books that became bestsellers in experimental methods in education. When my husband suggested that we move to Central America and purchase land for our own school, I was forced to choose: Do I stay with what is familiar, or do I take the risk of trying something completely new? . . .

I chose to leave behind the security and convenience of my comfortable, middle-class life in the U.S. I took my innovative ideas with me on the road – south of the border. As I was about to expose myself to an entirely new life in a foreign country, I felt a high degree of anxiety mixed with a deep inner conviction that I was doing the right thing, and everything would work out, somehow, eventually….

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We arrived in Punta Gorda, a small agricultural and fishing town in Southern Belize, Central America, surrounded by Mayan villages and ancient cultural ruins. Instead of falling into the typical tourist routes, we … blazed our own trail. We immediately focused on establishing community liaisons and connecting with local people who were living the way we had envisioned: off-grid with minimal resource consumption and growing food on their own land.

Parama harvesting bamboo copyFinanced by our own meager savings, my partner and I knew that we needed to secure an ongoing income to support ourselves. We discovered that we could work locally as English teachers, earning a small but adequate salary. We traveled and found temporary work assignments in Guatemala, where we lived and volunteered on an organic farm while simultaneously purchasing one acre of our own land in Punta Gorda, Belize, beside other neighbors who shared our passion.

At that time, I did not expect that I would soon end up alone, following through on our project, after my partner became too ill to continue living in Central America. After many months of trying the best I could to help him recover, I determined that he required specialized therapy which was unavailable in Central America – impoverished, third-world countries with limited infrastructure and resources. He refused to seek adequate treatment and suddenly left me while we were living in the mountainous region of Chiapas, the southernmost district of Mexico.

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Heartbroken, devastated and discouraged, I almost returned to the U.S. and my previous career as a schoolteacher. Instead, I chose to make Central America my new home and community. I resolved that I would continue what we’d started, because I did not want to let anything derail me from realizing my dreams….

Parama at KikimundoNow a young, single woman in a somewhat dire situation, I had unintentionally become a “woman at risk” and found myself desperately seeking a means to support myself while living in the third world, where job opportunities are limited and rarely offer any benefits beyond a small wage.

My persistence allowed me to support myself by establishing friendships within my local community as well as creating my own work opportunities wherever I traveled, looking for safety and security while still recovering from the loss of my partner’s companionship.

I discovered the importance of resourcefulness in order to survive as a single woman in Central America. Looking back, I realize how much courage and persistence it took for me at the time to continue seeking and finding opportunities, and now I can honestly claim that I am grateful to my beloved former partner for leaving me with no choice but to dig deep within myself to find my inner strength (Thank you!)…. While I wrote and published a series of books, I worked in many different communities as a massage therapist, yoga instructor, English teacher, and house-sitter. I lived for periods of time with host families in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. This proved to be an extremely challenging opportunity to grow and learn while immersing myself in the various cultural traditions of Central America.

door colorful copyEven though I do have the privilege of a broad educational background and qualifications, I learned first-hand what it must be like for local women who have little or no formal education to become caught in a “cycle of poverty”, to be taken advantage of, and, unfortunately, to be abused. Although I could speak fluent Spanish and interact with the locals in the marketplace and at work, I experienced many incidences in which local men, seeing that I was vulnerable and traveling alone, tried to take advantage of me in different ways.

I gained a deeper understanding for how “at-risk women” find themselves in precarious situations where they are endangered and oppressed. In spite of many dangers and challenges, I persisted and continued to pursue my dreams, relying on my own skills, faith, as well as the help and support of caring friends, near and far.

Parama crouching at pyramid copyYears later, I am proud to have stayed true to my own heart, despite countless moments in which I just wanted to give up. Now, I want to believe that I am “living my dream”…. Yet, something feels incomplete, like there is some surprise waiting right around the corner for me, if I could only muster the courage to be vulnerable and open my heart, even as it still heals from the pain of my past….

Since I arrived in Central America five years ago, I’ve been an intrepid solo traveler, exploring and living alone in many different places in Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala. I’ve learned a lot about myself and discovered my own inner strength….

Like the “locals”, I have worked hard and saved up enough money to recently break ground on the construction of my new home – an off-grid, thatch roof hut (in process!) – on my one acre of land in southern Belize, where I would like to expand my infrastructure and… eventually… open an innovative school and community center for the locals.

Parama's house

For many years I have persistently held the intention for The Farm School project in Central America to help women achieve their dreams and goals, whether they are single, have intact families, or are struggling, single mothers. The Farm School is a vocational, experiential training center that promotes health and wellness within the local community, especially for women, while supporting them to become more self-sufficient by learning practical skills.

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My heart burns with raging passion to create something that has never been done before. I hold fast to my vision to help at-risk women in need of support, encouragement, and opportunities to make their own dreams come true. Yet, I perceive that I have arrived at a crossroads. My vision may need to take shape in a different form, for now…. I wait and wonder and marvel at the mystery of the fire.

sunrise in AntiguaFive years later, after countless adventures, meeting new and interesting people along the way, nearly dying at the hands of those who would wish to do me harm, I have survived many dangers, overcome personal challenges, and learned what it means to be a warrior dedicated to a mission that can only come from touching the flames of burning passion within one’s heart, enlivened and inspired every day to keep blazing the trail….

Fire must be fed to stay alive. The strength of the flame is derived from a dynamic interplay of elements. Passion can be recognized and shared between two people who are uncontrollably drawn toward one another in a mutual desire to burn in the conflagration of hearts united and ignited. The flames burn and rage, transforming the landscape of the heart, regenerating the soil, making it fertile ground for new growth.

Please click here to download my second poetry collection, Ablaze

Music as a catalyst for the healing journey

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As a massage therapist and yoga teacher, I have discovered how playing carefully chosen music during a therapeutic session or yoga class can be a powerful catalyst for my clients’ and students’ experiences of connecting deeply within themselves, often eliciting a wide range of emotion: smiling, sobbing, shaking, or in some cases, deep belly laughs—all of which promote the healing process and support a journey of self-exploration….

Parama healingAfter all, what’s the point of getting a massage or taking a yoga class? It’s not just a physical “feel-good” frivolity, right? …Well, it’s never been that way for me. Not only am I seeking relief from muscular tension, but I’m also looking for a meaningful inner connection that can only be accessed in a context of stillness … and the loving presence of a skilled facilitator who truly cares about how I am feeling.

Being a massage therapist with over 15 years of professional experience in the U.S. and abroad, I seek out other well-trained therapists who can work on me regularly, so that I can be reminded of just how… f#@ing good it feels to be touched, rubbed, soothed, held, and … paid attention to, mindfully, in a professional context.

I believe we all need much, much more therapeutic, nurturing touch than we’ve probably ever had the opportunity to receive, for whatever reason.

I’ve recently discovered the joy of artfully crafting unique music playlists that can serve as audio backdrops for my yoga classes, workshops, and massage therapy sessions. I find that I have a strong preference for those masterful, maverick musical artists who challenge popularly held beliefs, push our boundaries, convey messages that are unconventional and provoke us to question our assumptions, to release the stranglehold we often have on ourselves, grasping too tightly to an old belief or identity that no longer serves us as we journey onward to better, brighter places….

Butterflies training

The mystique and alien-like nature of David Bowie has always captivated me…. For some reason I’ve always found something about the song “Let’s Dance” especially enchanting. I so love the way David Bowie sings the phrase “tremble like a flower” ….The music video has a poignant message about cultural inequality that resonates with me, since I live in Belize and interact with people from indigenous cultures, for whom the American lifestyle is mostly an alluring enigma.

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Here beside the Caribbean Sea in southern Belize, Central America, my neighbors Emmeth and Jill at the Maroon Creole Drum School teach the local youth how to make drums and play drums…. There I own a small plot of land and a thatch roof hut in the jungle. Emmeth enlivens the whole place with rhythmic African drumming almost every night: Come join us for a wellness retreat in the tropics! 

group pic at lunch - Maroon Creole Drum School

For anyone interested, here is a link to my YouTube playlists. (I’d love to share and hear your suggestions)… Let’s dance!

Moringa goes hiking with granola bars


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As the saying goes, “You are what you eat”.… I’ve been eating a lot (I mean, a lot) of Moringa, a miracle tree loaded with nutrients that grows well here in tropical Belize (my home, sweet home!)

In last week’s culinary adventures with the superfood goddess Moringa, we covered that girl in chocolate! (She had a luxury spa treatment with cacao and honey.)

This week, she was ready for some strenuous physical exercise (because goddesses like to … stay in shape)…. So, she packed up and went for a hike.

holding cashews

 

Well, here’s what really happened: I was sitting on my front porch enjoying a handful of cashews. I reminisced about all the exhilarating hikes I’ve enjoyed while living and working in Central California – aaah, the adventure, the breathtaking coastline and panoramic views….

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I will never forget hiking Mount Shasta in Northern California. I made it to the summit…. I put my name in the book of life that’s up there for any hiker who actually makes it to Heaven. 

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Moringa used to go hiking by herself (on numerous occasions)….

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because she needed to blow off steam from dealing with the stress of being in a job that she didn’t like very much….

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… But goddesses like to play with other superhumans, too. She likes to have the company of other, like-minded spirits who understand and inspire her. Who could she take with her on a hike?

As I nibbled on my cashew, I got an idea…

cashew on tip of tongue

eating cashew

I’ll make myself into a granola bar! Then I won’t be alone anymore… I’ll be surrounded by delicious, playful super foodies like myself ….

So, I donned my apron and headed straightaway to the kitchen to gather the ingredients:

Goss chocolate

First and foremost …. chocolate. But not just any old chocolate. This dark, handsome God of goodness was thrilled to join the goddess Moringa on her hiking adventure: 85% dark Goss Chocolate, handmade right here in Blue Crab Beach, Belize!

Moringa doesn’t usually use a recipe. She just wings it (ahem, she’s an angel, remember?) … That’s how she rolls… Here’s what Moringa wanted to roll into … 

ingredients all together

  • natural peanut butter (not Jiffy, folks, and here’s why)
  • organic honey (locally sourced)
  • organic oats (go with Bob’s Red Mill, baby)
  • cinnamon
  • sea salt
  • coconut oil

I first crushed the dried moringa leaves while Sammie the dog watched (I had piqued his canine curiosity).

moringa leaves

Then, I chopped the cashews and chocolate.

chocolate and cashews

… Mixed everything together with a few pinches of sea salt…

sea salt add

ingredients mixed in bowl

By now, Sammie the dog was like, Hmmmm, smells like … doggie treats!

So, I pressed the goo onto my cookie sheet (greased with coconut oil, of course) and formed it into something that looked more like a semi-appealing human treat. (Okay, you’ll just have to trust me on this one)….

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In case you’re wondering, the brown stuff sprinkled on top is organic cacao powder, because… cacao rocks my world and always will.

I let it bake on 300 degrees for about 12 minutes while I … went hiking in my mind.

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Highlander in redwoods

(Damn, I miss that Toyota.)

Briiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnngg!

… Time to take the granola bars out of the oven!

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… Moringa rolled into peanut buttery super food goodness: perfect for that long, strenuous hike in the mountains of my mind! (I live on the beach in the tropics now, so I kind of have no choice but to … imagine).

Sammie the dog stood by anxiously waiting to try a bite, too.

looking down at Sammie

giving granola bar to Sammie

I think Sammie the dog and his daddy really liked ’em! They were so jazzed up, they started dancing!

Dwayne dancing Sammie

If you’re anything like me (which I highly doubt), you’ll also want to have fun experimenting with your own handmade granola bars! Here are some … recipes (if you really need one). I highly recommend just winging it. You just might sprout your own angel wings and fly off to an enchanted, fairy-filled mountain yourself!

If you’re ever in California and feel like getting your butt kicked into shape, consider hiking Mount Shasta… although, I’d recommend at least 8 months of rigorous pre-hike training.

Check out this video about climbing Mount Shasta (cool music!) and be sure to watch till 6:56, where they slide down the mountain on their butts (it’s a glacier… I mean, the mountain, not their butts) — sliding down the glacier and the concomitant thrill makes this ass-kicking hike well worth it!

Enjoy, and don’t forget to take your superfood, high energy granola bars!

 

 

 

Moringa gets a spa treatment in Belize

Moringa goddess

This week I have enjoyed playing on the beach in Belize with my friend, the Goddess of superfood, the inspiration for this blog series, the miracle tree … Behold her natural beauty, ladies and gentlemen … Moringa.

Moringa gave birth to twin baby coconuts and just one day later went out dancing all night…. Moringa is such a high-vibe, earthy goddess: She’s naturally high in nutrients and minerals, so she always has plenty of energy for everything that’s good in life.

Today, Moringa wanted to do something special just for herself, because… Well, because she’s superhuman…. So, she deserves something extra special.

Moringa oleifera is a fairly large tree that is originally native to North India, although today it is grown and harvested in tropical regions all over the world, including my home, sweet home, Belize! I recently planted Moringa in my own backyard, so in a year or so, I will be able to harvest my very own Moringa!

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This miracle plant goes by a variety of names, such as drumstick tree, horseradish tree, or ben oil tree. Almost all parts of the Moringa oleifera tree are edible. Moringa leaves are rich in many important nutrients, including protein, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin and iron.

Being a U.S.-Certified/Licensed Massage Therapist, I had the privilege of offering my friend Moringa a luxurious spa treatment. I provided her with a full body wrap and facial proudly handmade with all-natural, locally sourced, cacao powder and honey — sustainably harvested by my friends Abelina and Juan on their very own cacao tree farm in southern Belize!

Here is what Moringa looked like with her organic cacao powder body wrap treatment:

1 bowl of moringa cacao

Ingredients:

  1. a handful of fresh moringa leaves
  2. organic cacao powder
  3. organic honey
  4. coconut oil

That’s it… Yes, really. That’s it. (Life really can be this simple.)

It’s worth noting, dear reader (Hey, thanks for reading!) that cacao is qualitatively different from cocoa:

Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans.

cacao beans

The process keeps the living enzymes and removes the fat (cacao butter). Here is a bag of organic cacao powder from my favorite Belizean suppliers, Ixcacao in San Felipe village, southern Belize. (Thank you, Abelina and Juan, for satisfying my superfood addiction with your awesome, organic cacao powder!)

cacao powder

Cocoa powder looks the same as cacao powder, but it’s not made of the same stuff. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures, thereby denaturing the living enzymes (Ewww, you mean it’s not a raw superfood?! Hmphh.)

I consumed the entire bowlful of this sinfully delicious raw super food with sheer abandon:

2 spoonful of moringa mud bath3 after getting spoonful

… I licked the bowl clean (oooh, mmmm!)….

6 licking the bowl

… Finally, I licked my fingers….

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In case you’re wondering why I would be so amenable to voracious consumption of cacao powder, click here to learn the benefits of eating raw cacao. Basically, it’s good for you, especially when Moringa is playing along!

After eating Moringa and her cacao honey body wrap, I got an idea:

7 thinking about cacao

I’ll treat myself to a full body wrap!

cacao body wrap

Great idea! So… I gathered my materials (cacao powder, honey, and coconut oil) and mixed them together (It’s easy: You can do it yourself at home!)

cacao facial getting ready

Trust me, I’ve done this before, folks…. Here are two of my clients blissfully relaxed during a luxurious cacao powder facial treatment at our Spa and Wellness Center at Cotton Tree Lodge, a jungle lodge and adventure getaway in southern Belize:

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When applied topically, cacao offers amazing skin benefits. Enriched with minerals and vitamins like Vitamin C, magnesium and omega 6 fatty acids; cacao promotes blood flow, provides hydration to the skin, and increases cellular healing to result in younger looking skin and a youthful glow (Come on, every girl out there wants all this):

  • Cacao is high in antioxidants. It blocks harmful free radicals in the body. It also protects the body against premature diseases and premature aging;
  • Cacao has good amount of vitamin C and magnesium, which helps in protecting the skin and keeping it healthy;
  • Cacao contains omega 6 fatty acids, which helps in cellular healing. It also heals wounds and scars quickly;
  • Cacao has a raw enzyme which helps in repairing the cell and its rejuvenation; and
  • With super absorbent properties, cacao protects the skin from harmful UV rays and acts as a natural sunscreen.

My client, glowing and radiant after her spa treatment, said this about her cacao honey facial:

“With traveling [from Michigan] and the change in climate [to tropical Belize], my face broke out all over my cheeks and felt very irritating. Parama gave me a cleansing facial that was made of organic cacao, honey, coconut oil, and copal essential oils. She gently massaged my face, applied the all-natural face mask, and then gave me a full-body Swedish massage while the face mask nourished and soothed my skin. After the session, my face felt so much better: It glowed and felt soft and smooth. My skin was completely cleared up by the next day.”

Well, there you have it, my Belize-bound, beach-going beauties!

If you feel so inspired, here are some videos to help you get started with your own edible cacao honey facial … (But … be forewarned: You will smell like chocolate cake, so if you have a dog or a boyfriend or a husband, they will want to eat you!)… Enjoy!

Moringa goes dancing with a cantaloupe

You heard the news? Moringa gave birth to twin baby coconuts!

Mommy and babies are doing fine; in fact, they’re thriving, because…. Well, because we’re talking about Moringa, the superfood goddess of the century!… She’s a miracle tree…. and she’s one hot Momma!

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Moringa always has plenty of energy, and she loves to have a good time! She’s ready for a night on the town with her girlfriends… So, call the babysitter, … or better yet, have Daddy Banana stay home and entertain the little ones for the night!

Moringa called up her best friend Candy (a cantaloupe) and invited her to go out dancing.

In case you didn’t know, cantaloupe is a mystifying fruit. (It’s no wonder she is also a goddess.) Cantaloupe contains a wide variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and has a sweet, rich flavor. As a woman, the cantaloupe is very… complicated, yet alluring.

Candy: Well, I just don’t know what to wear—

Moringa: I’ll lend you … something green.

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Candy: No–wait…. Green’s just … not my color. Pinks and reds really complement my skin tone.

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Moringa: Okay,… whatever. Hey, can you bring some of that cantaloupe musk?

Candy: Yeah… Can we go dancing on the beach?

Moringa: On the beach? …. Sure, I guess….

Candy: Well, it’s a full moon, you know.

(Goddesses, especially fruity goddesses, like to dance on the beach under a full moon).

First, Moringa and Candy went skinny-dipping in the warm Caribbean Sea.

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Then, they tried on some different outfits (Girls just love dressing up for each other).

“I’m tired of this musk,” Candy the Cantaloupe said, “I want to try something new.”

“How about … something sweet and zestful?” Moringa suggested.

So … the two goddesses mixed together apple cider vinegar (for zest), coconut oil (for smoothness), and organic, locally sourced honey (for sweetness) — a personally customized dressing.

I poured myself a generous helping of smooth, zesty sweetness….

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Meanwhile, Moringa and Candy danced euphorically on the beach. They had plenty of energy, especially considering the health-enhancing qualities of apple cider vinegar.

I felt like this after eating my Zestful Summer’s Moringa Cantaloupe Salad….

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If you would like to dance ecstatically for hours, you might consider adding cantaloupe to your diet. Watch this video and learn about the many surprising health benefits of cantaloupe.

 

Moringa gives birth to twin coconuts in Belize

If you are a reader of my blog, you may recall the big news from last week: Moringa got married to a Banana!

They celebrated their wedding party on the tropical beach in Belize, then they consummated the marriage during their unforgettable honeymoon getaway (Moringa was certain to bring along locally sourced, organic honey for the special event – and to spice things up a bit, some cinnamon, too).

Well, folks, we have more exciting news for this week….

Mr. and Mrs. Moringa-Banana are pregnant with twins – baby coconuts!

coconut tree

(awwww, that’s soooo cute!)

We never expected it to happen this soon, … but, well, … that’s life!

Moringa, being the extremely sensitive goddess that she is, cannot help but keep scrupulous records of every event that has transpired since conception.

First, she heard the babies calling to her from the realm of spirit:

“Mom! We’re up here! … We come from a tree!”

Moringa went outside (she lives in the tropics), looked up at the nearest tree, and saw…

baby coconuts

Baby coconuts!

Coconuts are not actually nuts; they are the fruit of a tall palm Cocos nucifera with large, spreading fronds.

“Oh, my sweet, little darlings!” she cried out, “How can I get you down from there?”

“Ask Junior!” they replied.

Baby coconuts are very smart, because they are high in saturated fats and therefore nourishing to the entire body, including the brain!

Coconuts are excellent for your health, because they are loaded with many health-enhancing vitamins and minerals. For example, coconuts are loaded with potassium. There are 600 milligrams of potassium in a serving of coconut water, which is 17 percent of the recommended daily amount and more than what’s found in a medium-sized banana.

See, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this family! (Daddy is a banana, after all).

Junior, her tall, strapping, native Belizean neighbor, came right over to help Moringa. He was the man who had planted the seed for the moringa tree that now grows in his front yard here in Belize.

moringa tree

Junior got busy right away knocking down the most robust, healthiest-looking baby coconuts for the expectant Momma Moringa. (Daddy Banana was in his office, but since his office is at home, he could look out the window and smile and wave at his wife down below).

Junior pokes coconut

Since we are dealing with a goddess, the gestation period is quick and birth is relatively effortless, though there are still some logistics involved. Moringa appointed Junior to be her assistant for the birthing process of the baby coconut twins.

Junior walking w coconuts

The tops of fresh tender coconuts are usually cut open with a sharp machete to access the goodness inside, which includes both the water and the jelly-like meat.

Junior hacked the tops of the baby coconuts’ heads with a machete (Hey, let’s face it: childbirth isn’t all that pretty!) … Grrr, that’s hard work!

Junior chops coconut

Amniotic fluids (coconut water) spurted out, and their umbilical cords were cut, too. Momma Moringa was hanging in there like a champ!

As a dear friend of the Moringa goddess, I was present for the birth and had the privilege of drinking the fresh coconut water straight from the baby coconuts.

Holding the baby in one hand (the perfect size!), I looked longingly out to sea and made a wish. Sammie the dog joined me.

1 looking out to sea

I took the first sip.

2 first sip

I kept on drinking….

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I drank to the last drop.

5 coconut beach bliss

I was then in an altered state of consciousness where dreams were my only reality.

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I had a dream about Moringa and her baby coconuts, and when I woke up, I saw this:

coconut moringa in a bowl

It looked so good, so… I ate it! (Goddess forgive me!)

In case you didn’t know, another health-enhancing product can be derived from this amazing fruit: coconut oil. Watch to find out more!

Moringa marries a banana in Belize

beach blissMy friends and family know I’ve always been a finicky eater. My mom told me that when I was little, I annoyed her because I used to play with my food… a lot.

What’s wrong with playing with your food?

Isn’t food meant to be fun?

Well, nothing’s changed. I still play with my food… a lot. I like to experiment. I like to invent my own meals. It still annoys people. (“What are you making?”)

I’ve been house sitting at my friends’ beachside bungalow in Belize, a tiny country just south of Mexico with white sand beaches, tropical jungles, waterfalls, caves, monkeys, … and … more beaches. I normally prefer to howl with the monkeys in the jungle while painting my face with streaks of mud, but for the next few months it looks like I’m beach-bound, here beside the Caribbean Sea. (I know, I’m so bummed out, right?)

So, this morning, a little bird flew into the window of my bungalow with a tweet (a message, folks) and told me to write about what I’m having for breakfast.

First, I had to finish my daily morning yoga routine.

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Get your bliss on, baby.

Then, I made my way into the kitchen to inspect the cupboards and see what I could whip up. I found ….

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Well, … I’ve tried over a hundred times to eat all these tantalizing, commercialized cakes, pies, and doughnuts from the grocery store, but my body rebels, no matter how much I want it to cooperate with my taste buds’ flights of fancy. One bite of anything that contains wheat will send my digestive system into disarray. It gets ugly.

I engorged myself on wheat products my entire childhood, growing up in an Italian family where my Nonna and Papi (Italian grandparents) always made delicious home cooked meals (Grazie!) with plenty of pasta, fresh-baked bread, cookies, and more … pasta. (“Don’t you want more pasta? … Here, have some more!”) So, like most Americans, I acquiesced to the family’s mealtime traditions… until I discovered in my adult years that I was, like most Americans, allergic to gluten.

Yes, that most dastardly, nefarious ingredient. Gluten – it’s in all wheat products. It’s evil, I tell you, … evil.

I’ve joined the growing ranks of the health-conscious “gluten free” army, and we’re rising up, folks … Look out, we’re adamant and unyielding, and we’re proud of it.

So, … Lucky Charms? Not for breakfast. Maybe in my dreams. Well, maybe … in another life … if, say, i’m really super stressed out and don’t have any time to make anything because that person keeps instant messaging and i have to answer and i just want to numb out because of that stupid thing that stupid person said and i just can’t relax so i’m going to sit and have some cereal…..

I eat to live; I don’t live to eat. (Well, … okay, the one exception would be chocolate: If there’s chocolate anywhere near me, I have to eat it. It’s an obsession.) I exercise my body every day, so I exercise my right to healthy, conscious (shall we say, intuitive?) eating.

I found a ripe banana.

The gates of heaven opened up, beams of radiant, white light poured out into the room, and I was renewed in the spirit! (Well, sort of) .… My point is, I did not succumb to the temptation of filling my gut with things that would make me feel yucky for the rest of the day. I waited until I had found something nourishing — something that I could have picked off a tree with my own hands, which I can actually do down here in tropical Belize.

Banana trees grow everywhere in Belize! I even have one in my own backyard, and I can eat from it year-round. (Now that’s what you call “food security”….)

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With a banana in hand, I was ready to start inventing! Let the experiment begin!

I wondered, What other fresh, healthy foods could be happily married to a banana? Then, I thought about all the moringa leaves drying on that tray downstairs in my bungalow.

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These are the actual seeds I extracted from the pod (heart-shaped seeds, awww!) and the twigs that came from a moringa tree in our neighbor’s front yard here in Belize.

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Then, I heard the banana crying out for a companion to join him in a blissful bowl of raw food deliciousness. Poor, lonely fella. So I hurried downstairs to retrieve some moringa for him.

Yes, our neighbor “Junior” – quite a dude. A tall, strapping, native Belizean dude. Years ago he planted some moringa seeds in the dirt with his own hands and left it to grow into a tall tree, which he can shimmy up for anyone who asks him to get some fresh moringa. (Isn’t that great? It’s local; it’s organic!)

Moringa, known as the Miracle Plant, has become quite a fad in America’s health food movement. If you live in the US, you won’t be lucky enough to find it in your backyard, like me (hee, hee). You mostly find it in health food stores, all violently ground up into a powder and sold as capsules, but I prefer the real thing, because I can get the real thing!

Moringa trees are tropical, so I can grow them in my very own backyard (lucky me!)…. All I needed was to ask Junior to give me some of the seeds from his tree!

You can either plant the moringa seed (well, if you’re lucky enough to live in the tropics, like me – hee, hee) or you can eat one or two seeds fresh out of the pod. But be forewarned – the seeds are bitter, and they have a powerful detoxifying effect, which I had the privilege to experience first-hand.

I typically like to fast from food once a week. Recently, I decided to fast all day and then pop two fresh moringa seeds. Within a few hours I was … well, in the cathartic throes of detox. All the toxins came out, and I’ll just leave it at that. Spare ya the details.

The take-home for you, dear reader (Hey, thanks for reading!) is that after my detoxification, I felt like a superhero, because moringa, after all, is considered a super food and will go down in the foodie halls of fame as one of the most powerful, health-enhancing plants.

moringa-oleifera-powder2Native to India, the moringa tree has been planted in other tropical countries all over the world, including my home sweet home, Belize! While many things found in nature can have one or two health benefits, moringa has many. India’s ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine cites over 300 diseases that can be treated with the leaves of the moringa tree. Recent scientific research has proven that moringa is a powerhouse of nutritional value (You might even start feeling like the goddess in this picture if you eat lots of moringa).

Moringa leaf is an excellent source of nutrition and a natural energy booster. Moringa is also soothing, as it helps lower blood pressure and acts as a sleep aid. Moringa’s detoxifying effect may come from its ability to purify water: Moringa is a coagulant, attaching itself to harmful material and bacteria.

The other day, I was biting the fresh moringa leaves straight off a twig that Junior had plucked from his moringa tree. My friend noticed me and asked, bewildered, “Why are you eating sticks?”

I whinnied in reply.

Back to my lonely banana. He’s such a demanding chap. I have left him waiting for waaaay too long (sorry, dear, but first I had to come to Belize to find you).

Now that I had my moringa super food, all I had to do was add the filler ingredients – the glue to hold it all together. A newly married couple needs to celebrate with entertainment and gaiety! Let’s party!

I brought down the organic oat flour and steel-cut oats. I broke out the fresh, locally sourced, organic coconut oil, and I popped open the bottle of honey (in my mouth – oooh, baby!) … and….

Hmmmm. 

Still missing something….

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A cat? (awww) …

A bird! A plane! …

No, …. Sea salt, of course! We’re at the beach, remember? The waves of the Caribbean Sea are crashing (hear them?) outside the kitchen window to shore, and the salty sea winds are blowing my hair all over my face. [I wrap my long, unruly hair under a green shawl – green to match the moringa.]

And, let’s face it, after waiting this long: No marriage can go unconsummated. Let’s be sure to add a dash of spice to our after party with a few generous sprinkles of … cinnamon!

First, I invited everyone at the wedding party to get to know each other with some ice breakers (the banana had previously been frozen, unable to express himself fully, reluctant to warm up), but after those icebreakers and some casual fun and games, everyone was really having fun! I introduced the ravishing bride and her groom (the moringa goddess and her banana), and they danced together beautifully. Then, everyone wanted to get in on the dance.

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Drumbeat, please…. [Live drummers enliven the place with native rhythms].

By then, it was time to get real close together and start sweating (oooh, that can be so messy and embarrassing, but in the end it’s always worth it, to let loose)…. So, I used a fork to mash all the ingredients together.

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Here is what all these naughty ingredients looked like when I had everyone partying together and relishing in newlywed merriment:

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Rather have the Lucky Charms? (Believe me, I understand). Health food is … well, let’s say, an acquired taste. (You can add cacao powder, which I would have done in a heartbeat, but I was all out because I ravenously consume all cacao products in my midst).

Notice the white sand beach in the background (We just had to have the wedding in Belize; I mean, where else can a lonely banana find his moringa goddess? And this goddess, my dear readers, having suffered for so long, loved and respected the banana, and she had earned her white dress.)

I went for it, folks…. Banana moringa bliss on the beach.

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And how did I feel after tasting the first bite of naturally wedded, tropical splendor?

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Hmmmm, maybe I should let my hair down for this one….

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Divine….

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Like a goddess

Emerging from the sea

Holding a trident

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Early in the morning, when the sea is calm, I like to swim in the Caribbean. Yesterday I came out holding this three-pronged stick—a trident. 

My spiritual teacher Geshe Michael said, “Always try your best to treat everyone kindly. No exceptions. It could be the most annoying person you’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter. Everyone has something to teach you. You never know when you’re talking to an angel.”

(Look, mom, I’m an angel! Sorry I annoyed you by always playing with my food.)

And finally, some inspiration for you to play, too!