Chicago is lucky to have so many different ways to get involved with diverse healthy and compassionate living communities. From meet-ups to advocacy organizations to vegan festivals, there is no shortage of ways to become active, learn more or just make some friends who share your interests and values. One upcoming event for those who are interested in abundant health and wellness is the third annual lecture from Dr. Gabriel Cousens on the topic of Holistic Veganism happening on Sunday, September 23nd at St. Augustine College, 1345 W. Argyle Street in Chicago. The doors open at 11:30 for attendees to check out the exhibitor fair and the lecture is from 1:00 – 4:30. Admission is just $25.00 with a $12 raw lunch option.
Dr. Cousens, who received his MD from Columbia University, is a longtime holistic health practitioner as well as the founder and director of Tree of Life Foundation and Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, AZ. With admirers such as actor-activist Woody Harrelson and the countless people he has helped turn their health around at his center and with his books, Dr. Cousens is a big draw every year when he comes to Chicago. In addition to the Sunday lecture, there will be other opportunities to meet Dr. Cousens and connect with the local raw vegan community with a whole weekend full of activities detailed on their website.
I recently communicated with Cyndi Dodick, event organizer and founder, about the upcoming events with Dr. Cousens. A holistic health practitioner with a masters in Plant-Based Nutrition, Cyndi is someone dedicated to spreading the word about healthful and conscious living. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to ask her some questions about the upcoming weekend with Dr. Cousens. Please check out the interview and consider attending this popular event.
What is unique about Gabriel Cousens's dietary philosophy?
Cyndi Dodick: Gabriel views diet as a part of a much larger concept that incorporates the idea of “as above, so below,” “as within, so without.” Diet is a part of the relationship between individual health and balance reflecting a larger relationship of health and balance on the planet. He brings to a healthful diet the spiritual dimension of food, and to nutrition, he brings his spiritual approach, providing a professional’s understanding of diet and health.
One of the common complaints about veganism is that it takes too much discipline for the average person in our food culture today. Raw foods is thought of as even more difficult to maintain. How does Dr. Cousens address this for regular people who cannot fly out to his center in Arizona or even spend a lot of money on food at home?
Cyndi Dodick: We all encounter limiting beliefs everyday. You know as a vegan that 99% of the challenge is choice. Once we choose to be plant-based, we begin to see opportunities unfold in front of us. Dr Cousens’s Phase Chart makes it easy for anyone with access to organic produce at good grocery store or farmers market to begin to incorporate very simple additions to their current diet. Simply having fruit or a smoothie for breakfast and a hearty salad at lunch will bring people to a 50% raw diet! Recent studies indicate that the health benefits of raw food are maximized at 80% and although some people choose to go beyond this, it’s not necessary to become 100% raw. It can be isolating for some who choose to be extreme in this diet, for others it’s an enjoyable challenge. Either way, it’s important to be kind to yourself on the path. With any change, there are bound to be setbacks. What’s great about the setbacks is they are feedback that may motivate a different choice next time. It’s not necessary to change overnight and with each positive change many people experience positive results. Success feeds success.
It has been my experience coaching people and teaching Dr. Cousens’s methods that after a few brief sessions of instruction on how to organize their kitchen and prepare meals according to these principles, most people find it easy and enjoyable to do and once they start to feel the health benefits, they are highly motivated to learn and incorporate more.
As for financial considerations, sickness is always more expensive than health. That said, organics are a bit more expensive, but when one eliminates meat and dairy from their diet, it frees up a bit of cash for sure!
There seems to be a uniquely spiritual foundation of Dr. Cousens's work. If someone is interested in the diet but not the specific spirituality, will he or she still feel included in this weekend's activities?
Cyndi Dodick: Dr. Cousens considers one of the most pressing issues in our society today to be sovereignty, the right of each person to chose his or her own path. People will feel drawn to some of the events and others, not so much.
In past years we have had all kinds of people attend the weekend events; meat-eaters, vegetarians, those dragged there by family members, right wing, left wing and all religious persuasions; such a beautiful tapestry of life! We come together without judgment to learn and to better ourselves and our community through celebration and education.
In past years the feedback has included “deep sense of community,” “transformed,” “life changing,” “deeply moved,” and “ inspired!”
Could you describe what one could expect at your events?
Cyndi Dodick: Cutting-edge information, like-minded, welcoming people, and businesses aligned with the message of sustainability, health, ecological and community responsibility and, of course, some crazy good food!
If someone wants community support after Dr. Cousens's lecture to implement changes, do you have any recommendations?
Cyndi Dodick: This life choice flourishes in community! Chicago is blessed with several meet-up groups, raw restaurants, and chefs that can inspire people on this path.
Go here for more information on the weekend.
Thank you, Cyndi!
Want a fresh, new start or just some inspiration as you continue on the health and wellness path? This is the weekend for you.