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One definition of enlightenment is, “no problems.” I like this. At first it seems simplistic, but the more you think about it, the more its wisdom is revealed.

Everyone desires to be healthy and happy, and as I get older I am beginning to believe that it is easier than we think. There’s an enormous amount of confusion, guilt and dysfunction surrounding how to take care of ourselves.

This, I believe, is reinforced by industries that profit from our ignorance. There are only two dietary and lifestyle choices – either we choose to live, and act accordingly, or we choose to die.

When one becomes aware, at a gut level, of the interconnection of all of life, many things are easy to understand. If something is good for you, it is good for the planet and all other beings.

Gardeners know that all living beings want to thrive. Put the right plant in the right place; give it the proper amounts of sunlight, food and water and it will lustfully live out its life. When a plant doesn’t flourish, it is either lacking in or getting too much of something, or being chewed on by something else.

Our bodies are similar in that it is our nature to thrive. If we are not healthy we may have emotions and beliefs that are chewing on us.

It’s interesting to note that insects tend to first attack plants that are unhealthy, and not getting their basic physical needs met. Unlike plants, we, at least those of us in the industrialized nations, have the privilege of choice and, in large, the key to being healthy is in making life-affirming choices.

If you find it difficult to make healthy choices, simply do what you do, consciously. With food, for example, when you eat, eat with awareness of what you are eating, and what went into bringing it to you, as well as how it makes your body feel. If you follow this practice, previously relished but not life-sustaining foods quickly lose their appeal.

The same holds true for all our behaviors, from work to relationships. Being in the present moment and aware of how we are feel is the perfect gage for knowing if something is life affirming.

Our thoughts are not always our allies and can drag us into problems, large and small. Today, I am old enough to look back on 60 years and can see how so many things that once seemed to be tremendous problems were created by me, in my own head.

Life, in its brevity, is sacred, as is the food we eat and the planet on which we live. Taking the time and effort to care for your own unique spark in this universe is one of the best things you can do for yourself and others.

And one last thing, have fun – I didn’t feel wise enough to write this until I went for a swim in my favorite place. A little fun goes a long way towards creating both health and happiness. And remember, that in the end all problems disappear anyway.

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Vicki Chelf was born in Kentucky where she was raised on crispy cornbread, fluffy white biscuits, fried potatoes, pinto beans, greens, fried apple pies, and other delights that Southern country cooking is famous for. Growing up with rich delicious food was a mixed blessing, because although cooking with ease comes naturally to her, Vicki became an overweight kid.

After naturally shedding the excess pounds in her teen years, Vicki vowed that she would never be overweight again. After a youthful period of extreme dieting and exercising, she decided to learn how to stay trim and fit in a healthful manner. In 1971 she become a vegetarian and moved to the Laurentian Mountains where she learned to speak French and wrote La Grand Cuisine Vegetarienne, which stayed in print for over 20 years. She founded Le Pommier Fleuri, which today is one of the largest health food stores north of Montreal. She also wrote four other books that were published in French.

In 1982 Vicki sold Le Pommier and moved to Sarasota, Florida to follow her dream of pursuing a degree in fine art. In Sarasota she wrote Cooking With the Right Side of the Brain, which was followed by The Arrowhead Mills Cookbook, and others. Vicki has taught classes and workshops about healthy plant-based cuisine since the mid 1970’s.

She has traveled extensively which helped mold her unique cooking style that combines the creativity of a fine artist with a first-hand experience of various world cuisines. She is an avid gardener, active painter, and long time practitioner of yoga and meditation. In 2008 Vicki received a bachelors of science in Holistic Nutrition. She has co-hosted a weekly radio show called Sustainable Sarasota, for over 5 years on WSLR 96.5 FM, and hosted a local TV show.

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