Lessons Learned in Parks Part 1: On Going Vegan with a New Frame of Mind
If you've listened to our mindfulness episode you know I'm a firm believer in it as a regular practice. It has changed so much of my daily life, not to mention the fact that it has been my number one tool to improve my anxiety. It has brought me all sorts of superpowers including the odd feeling of the stretching of time, finding more joy and fun in the simplest of activities, the ability to go with the flow more, it has sparked my creativity, improved my cooking, made my yoga practice and my exercise routine better and more fun, but there's one super power that has skyrocketed and it has happened in a very strange and funny way, I've become an avid "noticer". By that I mean I now notice, all sorts of things, from internal mood changes and things that were triggering (meaning I can pause and think before reacting), things that caused me a ton of happiness that were seemingly unimportant before, to little tiny things like some brambles near my house that produce tiny orange flowers. I've noticed habits, preferences and adorable quirks I had never seen before in Carlos and the dogs, and I've found beautiful sentences in the books I'm reading and love, which I would have skimmed through before and that now make me think annoying Pollyanna thoughts in my head that sound like: "what a pretty sentence this is". It makes me laugh just thinking about it, but the truth is there's so much beauty in the simple details! Coming from someone who was always lost in thought and anxiety, this is like re-discovering the world, which is why I now sound like an excited five year old.
These little details make me feel like I'm here, taking it all in, instead of the feeling I used to have in which I always felt time was running away from me and I was chasing it. I kept feeling that another year had gone by without me truly living it.
All this to say, that this summer as I spent my days in nature, lakes, forests and parks with Carlos and the dogs, I found myself noticing a few things, and some very cool lessons came from those moments, so I thought I'd share them in a short two part-er!
When you're a teacher, and you write a blog and podcast, you're always looking for new ways to transmit and explain information, and this is why very simple lessons learned while I ran through the forest, or was sliding down a water slide or getting into a fountain to cool off, might come in handy for the topics we talk about here at Brownble.
In today's post and podcast episode, I'll be sharing two lessons learned, one as I was running through some forest trails, the other while I was the only adult splashing in a fountain at the park, surrounded by children. In next week's episode I'll tell you about lessons learned in a water park, where everyone was in their bikinis and swim trunks, and I learned a beautiful lesson on body image that I'm dying to share, one that's about to turn your instagram feed on its head.
The dog in the woods
The first unexpected lesson came thanks to a dog. I headed out for one of my #nomiles #notime #noapps #justtunes run in the woods, and I saw this dog entering the forest trails as I was leaving. This dog was so excited, and I mean SO excited, that he didn't know where to begin. He was moving his head from one side to the other, eyes popping out, with the biggest smile on his face, nervously looking at the trees on one side, and then the trees on the other side. He looked up at his mom and dad who were completely unaware that their dog was having a happiness fit. It was so contagious! It made me smile instantly, and for a second, I started wondering what that dog was thinking.
I wondered if he was scanning all his tree options or looking to see if there were other dogs to play, or whether there might be squirrels or rabbits to chase around. He was in such a joyous state he was paralyzed with excitement. I wondered what a different experience it would be to walk into the forest like that, instead of just thinking your doctor made you exercise more, looking down at your watch to see how much time was left. Instead of going in there out of habit, not really noticing that we are lucky enough to have this beautiful forest next door. What would it be like to walk into the forest seeing every little inch of it like part of an adventure, instead of walking through it without much awareness, or because you had to, or lost in the stress of what you have to do later, or worrying about your to-do list. The result is two different forests, two different ways of living the moment, two different ways of seeing adventure, two different ways of seeing exercise. There's a pretty big difference when you see it through the eyes of a dog who can't wait to get in there and start exploring.
We'll come back to this I promise, but first, a little lesson from a park fountain.
A few weeks before the dog incident, Carlos and I took the dogs to a park to cool off. They love getting in the fountains and running around on the grass. I packed some peaches and my yummy granola bars, some water and we headed out.
This time around we found a pretty big fountain, Vega got in immediately, Nala found it quite intimidating and stayed in the shade trying to find the cookies I had packed for her in my bag, Carlos went straight to the shade, and I was of course removing my shoes to get into the fountain.
I got in, and started splashing around feeling the cool water on my feet and legs, and I was surrounded by children. It made the whole thing 10 times more fun, but that wasn't the lesson I learned. These kids, who like us were staying in Madrid over the summer with no beaches nearby, had this fountain and this fountain alone as their entertainment at that moment. They didn't have any toys, they didn't have any gadgets to distract them, or adults entertaining them. Just a park fountain and their imagination. I stayed in there, splashing around, as these giant streams of water were going up and down and around, and I kept seeing what the kids were doing. I watched them do a wheel pose in the water and the other kids crawl under the tunnel this had created. I saw them make up games to see who lasted longer under the blasting streams of water. I watched them make strange hairdos by getting under the water and then abruptly coming up. In five minutes they had invented so many games, and all they had was water.
It reminded me how kids aren't afraid to make anything into a fun experience. How they don't take things too seriously, and how they can make the most out of the simplest things.
These two seemingly unimportant moments this summer made me think about the process of going vegan. I've been thinking about this a lot recently because we're very close to launching our upcoming course "The Roadmap: Going Vegan Made Simple", in which I bared my heart and soul telling you all about my journey and the things that helped, and the things that made it harder. I get so many questions and emails from all of you every week, and in them you often tell me how you've decided to make this dietary change for x reason, but it's been hard, it's been hard adjusting, adapting, finding your sea legs. You've been feeling a bit off center when it comes to planning your meals, or you've been worrying about how the family dynamics are going to change. For many, this change is accompanied by so much joy and positive feelings, extra energy and a new sense of connection to their food and the world around them. Others are still in the mindset of the cheese they loved that they're not going to have again, or how they're feeling a bit anxious about the new family dynamics around the table.
I get it. It's a shift that can feel like a lot more than a simple ingredient choice on a plate, so I want you to do a little exercise: What if you were that dog on my forest trail? Seriously! Picture this for a second.
What if you approached veganism, and with it, the supermarket, your fridge, a family gathering, the new foods and ingredients you're trying, all the books and movies you can find inspiration from, what if you approached them like that dog who couldn't wait to start trying, exploring, and experimenting?
Many people at this point would tell me, "that's easier said than done", or, "but I want to do it well and I'm not ready", or, "it takes effort and I want to really do it perfectly and like I'm supposed to", or, "I started, hit a roadblock and just went back to the way I used to eat". I'm here to tell you to follow the dog's lead. The dog is not worried about whether he chooses the right path to begin his forest walk, or if he's going to miss the trails on the right if he goes left. The dog doesn't waste time wondering if he's going to enjoy his walk in the ideal way, one that will leave him satisfied and feeling good about himself and therefore he must plan it all out perfectly. If he reaches a dead end, he just turns around and walks until he finds his way again. He just looks, feels, and leaps. He goes right, then left, then right again. He isn't afraid to make mistakes because it's supposed to be a fun and joyful experience and there can always be adjustments made along the way if something isn't right.
Same goes for veganism.
I encounter so many people who approach a change like this from a scarcity mindset, in a way they're ready for something to go wrong because they have the preconceived notion that it will be incredibly hard. Others are feeling overwhelmed with all the information, and are trying to find the perfect way to do it. With time, this leaves them feeling tired and like it's all too much, and of course, if anything is causing us pain, we are bound to leave it behind.
As you know we have a different approach here, it's one in which missteps aren't mistakes, they're just part of the journey, and we love to guide you towards the simplicity and fun that can be found in seeing your plate in a new way, in being a part of that change we all say we want to see in this world. If we approach it with some fun, some joy and some excitement, EVERYTHING in our experience, from the way our body adapts to the new foods, to our cravings, our happiness when making this change and our ability to stick to it, changes. It goes from "something I think I should do", to "something I'm so excited to do", it can change your entire experience when switching to a vegan diet.
Where do the kids in the fountain come in? We need to add fun back to everything. Kids are really doing it right! They transform reality into something that's enjoyable, and that can help you on this journey as well. If cooking more at home is turning out to be difficult for you, download some cool podcasts to listen to while you chop. Go get those utensils that will make life easier, get an apron that will make you laugh, plan a fun potluck with friends, dance a little in your kitchen. Put on an inspiring film or get a new book from the library with topics that inspire you (our vegan library is full of ideas, so check it out here). Find a way to turn your meals into something you truly enjoy (aka, some days are not for kale salads but they're for veggie hotdogs with all the fixings while sitting outside on the porch).
Add fun, add some excitement and anticipation, remove any notions you have of not being able to make a mistake, or get off track, you can always find your way back and make this change if you're inspired to do so. Mindset is everything, and you can make your eating and food routine into something you love, and something that brings you joy and fun. It will make the ride the point, because it's not about reaching a perfect vegan destination, it's about all the little actions we do daily, and you can do them with tons of compassion, and care for yourself too, and with lots of excitement. Like a dog suddenly realizing he is about to enter his favorite place in the world.
Next week? An incredible lesson learned in a water park. Stay tuned! It has to do with body image, and how we're constantly bombarded with an ideal that is almost nowhere to be found in real life.