In this episode, I interview Karina Fernandez of Live Well, Live Golden and Well & Golden Eats, a wellness blog and Instagram account focused on inspiring people with simple, nutritious recipes and tips on emotional wellness. Karina and I have been friends since high school and have both braved the challenges of experiencing the world as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Due to the fact that it is a trait that isn’t widely known about or accepted, being highly sensitive presents unique challenges that we discuss in this episode, as well as how we have coped with this condition/ability/gift/curse. We discuss the pros and cons of being highly sensitive, how to know if you are, and how to deal with an overstimulating world and people who don’t quite understand the severity of being highly sensitive, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Karina gives great advice on self-care and the importance of accepting oneself without judgment, as well as actionable tips to overcome anxiety. You can follow Karina on Instagram for beautiful photos of healthy meals and tips on self care to improve and maintain your overall wellness: @wellandgoldeneats and @karina_jacqueline
I used to be an atheist. I didn’t care about God, or finding a religion. I thought it was a strange compulsion that I was relieved to not be afflicted with. The closest thing I had to religion was yoga. I have been doing yoga since I was a small child unknowingly, throwing my legs overhead into plow pose while watching David the Gnome, rolling my head down into rabbit pose. I continued doing yoga as an adult because I was into fitness and loved stretching. I always thought yoga people were kinda strange with their sanskrit and chanting and symbols, but I loved that they were kind, capable, flexible and calm.
I became a vegetarian after watching Food Inc. I was horrified and traumatized by these truths, and couldn’t bare to continue. I was left feeling panicky and in shock from the intense loss of footing with my life’s foundation. I felt so stupid for not realizing that it took torture and violent death to make my favorite Short Ribs dish at Martini House. I couldn’t kill animals myself, I couldn’t pay someone else to kill animals for me. I had realized that animals desire to live, they never choose to “give” their life. Their life, dignity, and comforts are violently taken from them, and I pay someone for that service. How could I ever eat meat again in good conscience?
Well one day, shortly after the newness of being vegetarian had worn off, I was starving on my way back from a job. I pulled into a drive thru and ordered a burger. No one would know, and I was getting hangry, so I justified it easily. I took a bite and immediately was disgusted by the texture, flesh and blood just like mine. I imagined the cow who died that I was eating, I saw her bleeding out of her neck. I wondered how many cows were in my burger. I let my mouth fall open and the meat tumbled out. I was appalled with myself and knew burgers were over for me. I wasn’t vegan though. No CHEESE or ice cream?! You’re hilarious to suggest such a preposterous notion.
I went through a string of bad relationships. I went through bouts of depression, anxiety, self-loathing and emotional wallowing. I turned to yoga more and more to help dig myself out. Meditation at the end of yoga became a place of release, I just poured tears and breathed shaky, labored breaths.
I started meditating at home. I broke up with the guy I was seeing and suddenly felt FREE. I felt so empowered, I starting smiling brighter. I was already vegetarian, but I decided to go vegan again to lose weight. I had no desire to drink alcohol because I was doing so much yoga.
I stopped drinking coffee which was HUGE. I used to ADORE coffee. I drank it black daily, religiously. I didn’t want it to make me jittery when trying to meditate, and being vegan, I had a ton of energy. I honestly felt like running everywhere, I felt incredibly light.
One day I was at a concert. I was sober, surrounded by drunk, silly teenagers in bikinis and tiny shorts, and I was so happy in my sobriety. “What is happening to me?” I thought to myself.
It was Easter Sunday. My Atheist sense of humor had me joking to myself all day about this Zombie Jesus holiday. I was browsing Facebook’s newsfeed when a headline jumped out to me. “Are You Having A Spiritual Awakening?” I clicked on the article and pressed play on a YouTube video.
I was slouched over my computer screen, watching this video, and everything it was saying was fascinating me. The video was reiterating my observations of my lack of desire to partake in my normal vices. It explained my strange and abnormal lack of a sex drive, my desire for solitude, my enhanced sensitivities, all of it. I even stopped smoking weed because I was reaching greater depths in meditation without it, and it gave me similar feelings to being high on cannabis when I reached a certain state of meditation.
Suddenly, while watching this video, I felt an energy come up from my stomach and out through my mouth, a profound feeling that was so intense and unexpected that my body rolled upright physically and I began breathing heavily and crying immediately with wide eyes. I looked up at the sky and said aloud “Thank you! thank you! Thank you!” In my head, I was like “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?! WHY ARE YOU THANKING THE SKY? WHAT WAS THAT?!” I was beyond confused in my head, and all the while, I was crying and feeling an INTENSE presence of love within my body. I felt like I was jolted with a Loving energy. I was so happy, and I had NO idea why. I KNEW I wasn’t alone. I KNEW I received a gift. My brain was so confused, I cannot begin to explain how demolished my mental foundations were. My heart, on the other hand, was rejoicing.
The next day, I went to work and told my Atheist co-worker (whom I had always related to because we shared the same beliefs!) and tearfully and shakily told her my strange, overwhelming story. She did not know what to think or how to respond at all, understandably. My other coworker Joe, had overheard the story and was like “That was your Kundalini rising!”
Thus began my spiritual journey. There is SO much more that happened, but the point of this story is to explain the connection between spirituality and veganism. What I learned in the past two years, after hungrily diving into as much spiritual philosophy as I could get my hands on, is that the spiritual journey begins with raising your vibration.
If you’ve studied Quantum Physics or Nikola Tesla, you are aware that everything in this world is made up of vibrations. Matter is actually an illusion, and on a molecular level, everything in this entire world is made up of atoms and ether, or space. There is more space between atoms in objects that are less dense, less space between atoms in heavier, denser items. These atoms are constantly vibrating.
Everyone talks about vibes, but what people sometimes don’t realize is vibes are literally vibrations. When people are negative and have bad vibes, they are vibrating lower. They don’t feel in control of their lives and they often have unhealthy habits. Happy people vibrate higher. Their atoms are actually moving at a faster pace, making them feel lighter, happier, and the Law of Attraction brings more happy things into their lives faster.
Food also has vibrations. Fruits and vegetables have high vibrations. They are colorful, you feel light and energetic after eating them, and they provide your body with valuable nutrients that protect your immune system. Meat and dairy come from animals that experienced torture, enslavement, murder and early death. These extremely negative vibrations permeate the animal’s being and the stress hormones that have coursed through that animal’s body throughout it’s life are being ingested. This causes you to vibrate much lower, inhibiting spiritual growth.
The main ideas I read over and over regarding spiritual growth and expansion of consciousness, is that compassion is the KEY element of spirituality. Through meditation, raising your vibration, and quieting of the mind, the consciousness within your body expands outwardly into the world around you, making you aware through personal, visceral experience that you are ONE with everything. Your consciousness within your body can be spread outside of your physical body so that you will actually FEEL as though the trees are part of you.
You begin to be able to sense subtleties in energies in rooms you enter, your innate psychic abilities start to show themselves, and you start noticing synchronicities in your life. You start being able to manifest things faster. You start to understand on a deep spiritual level that every single person you meet has the same desires you do, the same desire to live that you do, and that every person is just another aspect of YOU, which is the whole universe of consciousness. This is why I’m vegan. Through these experiences, I have come to feel within my heart and soul the pain and suffering of the animals in the world.
The idea of being vegan is a huge turn-off for most people. Cheese is so very delicious and soothing, fried chicken was as enjoyable as sex for me at one time. Now that I’ve experienced the spiritual, healthful and peace within my mind, I could never eat meat or dairy again. The feeling of knowing I’m not supporting slaughterhouses, or the rape of female cows, is a permeating feeling of inner peace. Through meditation, I’m learning to ascend beyond my thoughts and ideas of how the world works, and instead I retain an open mind, a loving heart, and a burning desire for TRUTH. Truth even if I don’t like it. What do I know about the world, when new information can erase a lifetime of belief? I’m endlessly humbled. All I can do is share my experience with others in hopes of raising the vibration of the entire planet.
Famous Vegetarian Quotes:
” A man of spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Know that the same spark of life that is within you, is within all of our animal friends, the desire to live is the same within all of us.” – Rai Aren
“Whatever we sow, we will reap. When we harm others, we harm ourselves, when we enslave others, we enslave ourselves. Spirituality is about Liberation, calls us to awaken to the interconnectedness of all life and to practice kindness and respect for others.”-Unknown
I am a highly sensitive person, an empath, and a water sign. Most of my life I’ve been watery and tearful with ever-shifting moods like the ocean’s tides. This used to be out of control, this emotional volatility, though it was more deeply sad self-loathing than outwardly directed anger. I felt as though I was flailing in my own dark ocean, and meditation showed up like my lifeboat, showing me how to separate myself from the depths and instead ride the surface like a surfer.
This is why I’m passionate about sharing the benefits of meditation. Everyone with a brain can benefit, and what an incredible joy it is to experience those precious brief moments of internal peace and silence. I’m no expert, but I have a regular meditation practice that is always evolving. If you’ve ever been curious about learning to meditate and why it’s so life changing, I will attempt to elucidate.
Benefits of Meditation:
Lengthens your attention span
Lessens Stress Levels
Helps you master your emotions
Unhooks you from addictions to internet, TV, food, drugs, sex: You learn to be happy just existing without endlessly seeking satisfaction to quell restlessness with external stimulation.
Increased creativity: A clear mind is an ideal substrate to see past mind-chatter and tap into intuitive creativity.
Improves your performance in life, as everything you do will be coming from a calm, relaxed, alert state.
Loss of pettiness and ego
Enjoy life more since you will be more fully present, less stressed and less preoccupied.
Brain health: Meditation is like brain exercise. It reduces the effects of age-related brain degeneration and helps prevent Alzheimer’s.
Makes you happier! When you learn to calm yourself and reach a state of peace through gratitude, breathing and being fully present, you detach your joy from external stimuli. Once you’re able to do that, NO ONE can take away your happiness. You surf through life instead of capsizing with every wave.
How To Meditate:
Meditation is simple, but not easy. The best part is, you need NOTHING other than a comfortable place to sit and your breath. One VERY important thing to realize right away, is to let go of the idea of being able to clear your mind the first time you meditate. It is a practice and a skill that is not learned quickly or easily. Realize that your practice is successful if you just make yourself sit for those 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t matter if your mind chatters the entire 20 minutes, your practice is still successful, because you are learning to be aware and mindful of your thoughts and your separation from them. Each time you practice, your mental agility is improving, so don’t judge yourself if you can’t seem to calm down or focus. Consistency is the most important factor in creating a meditation practice, and the very fact that you sat there for 20 minutes is beneficial and a bonafide success.
Prepare yourself mentally and physically for your meditation practice by taking a shower, washing your face, your hands, changing into light, loose, comfortable clothing, and taking your shoes off. You don’t need to do any of those things, but basically you are trying to make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Find a quiet place that you won’t be disturbed, put pets and children in another room, and put your phone on silent (or ideally, put it in another room). If you would like, you could play ambient sounds like rainfall, or better yet, go outside and experience natural ambient sounds. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
Find a comfortable place to sit. You can sit on the edge of your bed with your feet flat on the ground, cross-legged on the ground, on a pillow, on a couch, wherever you can sit and feel at ease. It is best to sit upright, with your spine tall, but not rigid. It’s important that you keep your spine straight, imagine stacking your vertebrae and allowing gravity to keep your spine in place. Allow your shoulders to drop back and down, again not forcibly. Imagine a string on the very tip of your head like you’re a marionette, being pulled gently upward, and imagine your sit-bones grounding into the Earth below you, as if you’ve grown roots. Let your hands rest in your lap, with your hands facing up if you are meditating on gratitude or open-ness, or hands down resting on your knees to ground yourself. Allow your body to be heavy and devoid of tension. All of these feelings are subtleties, there is no straining. Loosen your shoulders and neck, and gently let your eyes fall closed.
Take 4 deep, full, audible, slow breaths with big exhales, imagining all current thoughts being blown out of your body. Let your breath calmly come down to a natural, effortless pace. Imagine your breath entering your body and filling your lungs, spreading into all corners of your body. Turn your attention away from external stimuli, and instead toward inward sensations. While exhaling, feel the air leave your body and the feeling of your body constricting and pushing the air out. During your inhale, think about the life force that is oxygen entering your lungs and keeping you alive. Realize that your breath and this moment is the only thing that exists. Everything in the past is a memory, everything in the future is uncertain, during meditation the only focus is on this very moment, your breath, your inward focus, and this feeling of the weight of your body on the couch/chair/ground.
Since you are attempting to clear your thoughts, your mind chatter is going to get LOUD. The goal is to sit still, so your mind may tell you “I think I have an itch. OH damn I think I left the car unlocked. Did I lock the car? Damn I don’t want it to get broken into again.” Since you are meditating, you will observe these thoughts and acknowledge them as clever stories to try and draw you in, but you will let these thoughts pass by saying in your head “THINKING, Breathing in…” and allow the enticing thoughts to pass like a canoe on a river, while you sit peacefully on the shore. It’s not about getting all thoughts to go away, it’s more about finding that one point of concentration and making your practice basically just bringing your attention back to that point of attention, again and again and again, being gentle with yourself.
Buddhists often compare the untrained mind to a drunken monkey. This belligerent monkey is not going to let you shut it out easily, it does not want to sit still and be silent. It is beguiling with the stories it begins to tell, and sometimes these stories will carry us away for minutes before we catch ourselves and remember that we are meditating. Just remind yourself “THINKING, breathing” and put yourself back on that shore, watching the canoes of thoughts pass by. You are expecting chatter when you begin your meditation practice. Peacefulness and silence come in time, realize that your journey is just beginning and that reaching mindfulness and tranquility takes time. Boredom, sleepiness, tiredness, all of these things are signs that you are doing meditation right. It’s the trudging through these states and staying consistent with your practice that will bring the desired results. It’s a strange paradox that the more expectation and results you make efforts to attain, the further away your goals get. Try and deeply relax, letting go of expectations and attachments to outcomes. Don’t judge yourself or internally berate yourself for not being able to make your thoughts shut up. Your mind is so conditioned to multi-tasking and completely unused to being forced to shut up and sit down. It will not do so without creating an entire circus of ruckus for you to quell. Luckily, you are stronger than your mind, and in time, the glorious permeating peaceful feelings that come from meditation practice will be experienced and it will be completely worth the journey.
Meditation is like exercise, in that it is only beneficial when regularly practiced. You can’t get fit or expect to be healthy with only one workout, and same goes with meditation. The best way to ensure a successful meditation practice is to plan for a regular practice at the same time every day. Meditation may seem like hard work, and it is, but the pleasure of experiencing the timelessness and peace of meditation, and the incredible emotional and mental benefits, has made meditation one of my healthiest and most enjoyable hobbies. I often hear people say they can’t sleep because their brain won’t stop chattering at night. Learning to meditate eliminates those problems with techniques to maintain control of my own mind, making my life less stressful and more restful!
You may find meditation at first to be an annoying pointless practice. You may find yourself bored, tired, and feeling like a terrible meditator because you can’t get your brain to shut up. What you must realize is that like anything, getting past the learning curve is the hardest part. Once you start experiencing moments of silent, thoughtless awareness, your TRUE self, the person observing your thoughts, starts to really enjoy making your monkey brain shut up, and you start learning to truly control your mind and it’s thoughts, which in turn will absolutely change your life for the better. Your practice will become easier and more enjoyable over time. If you are able to stick with it and experience the benefits, you will see why meditation has become my secret weapon that saved me from being a drowning and flailing emotional octopus, to becoming an adept Sea Captain, contentedly navigating the tumultuous waters of life safely within my hardy ship.