Sep 9, 2014

"Prasad" Savory Soul Food.

Savory Soul Food.

Sharon Gannon, the co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga will be in New Orleans Oct 10th presenting her new book "Simple Recipes For Joy."

   I stayed at my first Yoga Ashram after being introduced to yoga in 1996. An Ashram is a dwelling place for like hearted groups working and practicing together. I remember a yogi there at the time that was notably ill. They had been through a devastating break up & were clearly emotionally distraught. Although cooking was their Seva assignment (selfless service), the Swami’s asked that they not enter into the kitchen as to give their gross and emotional bodies time to heal & not cook their disharmony into the food we would all then eat, both literally and energetically. It was the first time I had considered this concept & it make me reflect that even my thoughts go into the meals I prepare. I pondered times I ate food that seemed poisonous in some way, more so emotionally and this directly explained it. The food was toxic because it had no love in it at all and plenty of negative seeds. Now I do all that I can to practice cooking as a love/medicine ritual. It is nothing separate from yoga at all. 

                         Michelle Baker, Co-owner and Founder of Swan River Yoga making a vegan meal for her parents.

  After years of visiting Ashram's consistently, I see that yoga is a complete life style that can not be segmented.Yoga is also a linking of the physical into the spiritual in everything we do. What could be more physical than what we eat & how it is prepared, done at least 3 times a day? Perceiving it’s value will help us see it less as a chore and more a way to connect with nature, all Divine. Asana, another physical practice, has helped me to view all of my actions more thoughtfully, including meals, of which I have become more sensitive to. Being more selective on many accounts,  I have also become far more selective of the food I eat, not only in the physical quality of it, but the energetic intention of it,  from seed to mouth, start to finish. I  sense each layer of my being and how it is affected by food choices, be it physical, energetic, emotional, or mind oriented.  If the food is energetically toxic in some way, from the very first seeds of intention in the earth all the way to the cook’s attitude, I can taste it. This is often what yogis refer to when they state you begin to develop a Higher taste for all things. Some yogis I know take it as far as to only eat sanctified food because it is difficult for them to eat it otherwise.

   The way in which one eats is a yogic practice also. In the yogic atmospheres I have trained in I learned how to eat in a more thoughtful manner, from quantity, to pace, to approach, to the company, to what is being spoken while eating. At the Ashram for example, they would not allow us to read magazines, computers or cell phones at the table at all. They asked us to keep our conversation elevated and inspiring as we would then begin to chew on our words and then digest them. They explained that some Swami’s will even get sick if the speech at dinner is profane due to their sensitivity. 

Certified Swan River Yoga Teacher Cynthia Krizo cooking up a vegan feast for her teachers in training.

   Ayurveda, the first medicine practice from India, references food as our main source of health. It prescribes eating 6 times a week as a means of medicine for the body and one day a week as a means of pleasing the taste buds. This keeps us in balance and compassionately connected to the plants and minerals that nourish us & provide nutrients To a yogi, health is wealth and the body a gift. At the Ashram, no one was allowed to eat until we expressed gratitude in Sanskrit Mantra and sang praises around nature's ambrosia. It was always presented as a work of colorful art & compassionate in consciousness.

   Another story that gave me food for thought came from Ram Dass. He was known to have lead many people to his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba. At one Satsang, he asked his Guru on behalf of them all... "Babaji, how do we get enlightened? We want the fast track. What is it?" They were mesmerized and remained still. No one moved. They were waiting for the light show. It was silent for a long time as though the Guru were in deep contemplation….and finally Babaji said…”It’s quite simple. Love everyone and feed people.” "Feed people?” Ram Dass thought. "That is ridiculous. It must be a metaphor."  It’s quite literally what he meant. 

       Certified Swan River Yoga Teacher Donisha, a full time physician and mother, cooking for her family.

   Feeding sanctified food is a Hindu tradition in India. Food is a Universal need and quick way to get close to people, so serving them tricks you into good karma. Souls are hungry. Serve all beings blessed food that has elevated thought and praise in it and they in turn eat loving kindness and compassion. Love is addictive. Now in their system, they will come back for more. Culturally Indian Hindu's are known to make tremendous sacrifices to go on sacred pilgrimages, called “ Yantras”, seeking out spiritual food as blessings from high teachers, hoping to swallow the direct blessing of Grace through transmission.

  Now when I cook I see it as my spiritual sadhana and I really look forward to cooking as a means of profound connection, celebration & something very beneficial to myself and all beings on many levels. I do my best not to hurry through it just as I would not hurry through my asana practice. I prepare myself for the ritual as though I were doing yoga by making the kitchen an elevated atmosphere, good music, good smells good company. I catch myself and make sure to chant while cooking. I look at the things that are in my food and connect with them. I enjoy getting into contact with the mineral and elemental kingdoms. I have found greater appreciation and non-violence in cooking as forms of medicine. I enjoy feeding the soul or souls of those I am cooking for if I do. I do my best to remember I am "feeding” God, or God pouring God into God eating God becoming God letting go of God and all over again. I get connected to nature’s cycles.

    Mary Glackmeyer, Swan River Yoga's Manager & Certified Jivamukti Yoga Teacher, looking over our teacher, Sharon Gannon's new book, Simple Recipes for Joy at her training in Woodstock, NY.

   The word Prasad, or Prasadam in Sanskrit means blessed or sanctified offering or a gift, most commonly in the form of food or sweets. Prasad is often in the context of a ritual, cooking, or the mind itself. Yogis want to preserve the sweet parts of the mind stuff, free of getting involved in it's ups and downs for once discord can settle in, we often become disrespectful & disregard our surroundings and nature herself. I have taken part in many pujas/ rituals in India  & my yogic studies enough to recognize the imprint Prasad makes in recognizing blessings and where these blessings come from. Prasad invites us to pause & offer back before overly consuming and taking in very large proportions. In our fast food American nation & the fears of corrupt agriculture, these daily steps have assisted me in recognizing my relationship to all physical matter. Examining all of my relationships as a level of ecstatic, enthusiastic devotion is Bhakti Yoga. 

   In resonating with Bhakti so deeply, the most specific teachings I have received about Prasadam came to me, after witnessing it in many Ashrams and India, right here in a little old town in Mississippi! On a country drive one day, while chanting loudly in my car, I suddenly found a group of women in full Indian Saris walking down the street & could hear mantra singing and tribal drums off in the distance. I delightfully aligned with this little farm community and those running it as part my spiritual family. The "Krishna Farm”, called "New Talavan" of ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) felt just like home here in the south, where yoga use to be obsolete, let alone chanting or being a vegetarian. They are living Bhaktis. Their practice of bhakti includes religious cooking, praying/singing, dancing and serving. Not too foreign from our New Orleans practices!

     Sughosh and Mohini Berg, co-owners of Good Karma Prasad Cafe, opening in late September at Swan River Yoga.... all vegetarian sanctified prasad food, the first in New Orleans!

   The family at the Krishna Farm taught me more in depthly about the rules of Prasad. Years later, their family is now opening the first prasad concept based restaurant in our city and in our yoga studio, Swan River Yoga, called Good Karma Prasad Cafe. This is delightful timing for us as also our teacher, Sharon Gannon, the founder of Jivamukti Yoga, is coming (October 10th) right around the same time to share her new book, “Simple Recipes For Joy”, which has fun recipes that advocate eating with compassion, kindness and non-violence. If we had the chance to eat with total kindness, why not apply the kindest choice? 

   The spiritual cooking practices as a means of savory importance this family have taught me will be applied in our new and only sanctified cafe in New Orleans coming at the end of September, 2014.  Some of these practices include honoring the kitchen as the heart and temple of the home by discerning what is allowed in it. They also spiritually clean and bless all of the utilities and cooking-ware to be used and they do not even taste the food until it is offered. They feed God first at as an offering before they take, thus setting the priority straight. In their eyes, since God would not accept violent food, it is never fed to God our any others.. This way God is pleased and fed, which feeds us all. It is thought that once a portion of the food is offered to God, all of the food ready for serving is sanctified, kind in nature and resonating high, the Soul is never left undernourished…. true savory soul food is here. Do all that you can to feed your Soul and the Soul's of others. There is no sweeter or more savory gift.

A Bhakti Caravan Kirtan and catered event by Good Karma Cafe at Swan River, where soon Prasad will be served!

    There are many ways to bless the food from a yogic standpoint. One of my favorite chants that I learned at the Ashram was from the Bhagavad Gita.

Brahmarpanam Brahma-Havir / Brahmagnau Brahmana Hutam /
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam / Brahma-Karma-Samadhina
See God everywhere: God is the ladle; God also is the food; God is the fire; God is the preparer; and God is the eater of the food. God is the reason for eating and God is the goal to be reached. Bhagavad Gita 4.24

Lokah Somasta Sukhinoh Bhavantu…. May all beings everywhere be happy and free is another one I often use, helping to spark and attract light into the body and soul being fed.

"When God is fed--ultimately we all will be fed the food we need that can heal us from the disease of self-centered greed. We human beings are suffering from spiritual malnutrition. Prasad is medicine that can heal this illness.” Sharon Gannon

A sample of delectable vegan food made with love to go or stay in good company at Swan River Yoga Mandir in Md-City 2940 Canal street.

*To learn more about and experience Prasad, please visit our new cafe in Swan River Yoga, called Good Karma Prasad, coming soon at the end of September.

*To learn more creative and compassion cooking recipes, I suggest our teacher's new book “Simple Recipes for Joy” by Sharon Gannon.

*To learn more about compassion and non-violence in what we eat and all things physical, please come to our teacher, Sharon Gannon, the founder of Jivamukti Yoga’s workshop at Swan River Yoga October 10th in New Orleans, LA. 

                   A day at Jacksun Slaughter's (Certified Swan River Yoga Teacher) home with her family where they cook and garden together.

Register at our website for Simple Recipes for Joy Book release and Jivamukti Yoga Class at
4pm-6:30pm Jivamukti Yoga Class with Sharon Gannon, co-founder.
6:30 Vegan Food is served from Simple Recipes for Joy
7pm Talk with Sharonji and Q & A
7:30-8:30pm Book Signing

“Sharon is my Guru—I like eating anything she’s dishing out. Her teachings on yoga and veganism have positively transformed my life. She is not only an example of someone who walks the talk, but she excels in so many areas, teacher, philosopher, activist, artist, musician and cook, showing us all that through devotion to God one can become a divine instrument and with God’s great love all is possible.” Russell Simmons

             Sharon Gannon is the Guru to co-founders Michelle Baker and Keith Porteous as well as Swan Manager Mary Glackmeyer.

A sample menu of Good Karma Prasad Cafe opening in Swan River Yoga the end of September:

Good Karma Cafe Sample Menu coming soon!
Fruit Salad: a variety of seasonal fruits served with a side of honey.
Coconut Cream Bowl - Seasonal fruits topped with coconut cream crushed walnuts and a side of honey
tofu scramble ( not sure yet) or a breakfast sandwich
BBQ - Tofu Sandwich: grilled BBQ tofu an option of melted cheese with veganaise spread, lettuce, tomatoes, and grilled bellpepper.
Curd Sandwich: grilled Curd fresh cheese, veganaise spread, chipotle sauce, lettuce, tomatoe, and pickles. (BBQ option available)
Bhima Veggie Burger: Veggie Burger dressed with vegainaise and ketchup, luttuce, tomatoes, Pickles . melted cheese is optional.
Antuna Wrap: Antuna(chickpea spread garnished with red bellpeppper, celery and spices), lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and sprouts.
Veggie Griller Wrap - Fresh Broccoli, Bell peppers and matchstick carrots grilled with olive oil and spices, lettuce, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts and vegan chipotle Sauce
-all sandwiches and wraps come with a side of nutritional yeast popcorn
Hot Plates
Malaysian Curry Bowl: Soy Chunks and Potatoes drenched in a coconut milk, lemon grass, tomatoes sauce seasoned with a rare Malaysian spice blend.
Good Karma Plate: Soup of the day, House Salad,spiced Veggies of the day, and your choice of white or brown rice.
Rice and Dhal Bowl: Basmati or Brown Rice(your choice) with an Indian spiced bean soup
Teas (selection of a variety of teas)
Coffee Chai
Mango Lassi
Mint Lemongrass House drink
Green Mango Chiller: Green mango, lemon, and honey blended with ice. Rasbery Chiller: Rasberries and lemon blended with ice.

Mini doughnuts(gluten free and dairy free)
chocolate chip cookies(gluten free and dairy free)
chia seed pudding: cacao powder, almond milk, and shredded coconut with chia seeds.
chocolate cake(gluten free and dairy free)
Good Karma House salad Antuna goodness Mama's love
Quinoa Salad

And much more in the works!

Sughosh Berg, co-owner of Good Karma Prasad Cafe, co- founded with Michelle Baker. We would both like to thank all of those beings that have contributed to our fundraising efforts through Kickstarter and our band Bhakti Caravan!

May all beings everywhere, be happy and free, including the food that we eat and the way we prepare it! Namaste, Michelle

Swan River Yoga teacher Jacksun Slaughter's son in their garden where they cook much of the produce they grow in the 7th ward.

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