Part I: Ellie Laks, The Gentle Barn
Ellie Laks is the Founder of The Gentle Barn Foundation, a national organization that rescues and rehabilitates unwanted animals, and heals people with the same stories of abuse and neglect. She is a celebrated animal welfare advocate, humane educator, and the author of My Gentle Barn: Creating a sanctuary where animals heal and children learn to hope. Ellie founded The Gentle Barn in 1999. She invented her own “Gentle Healing method” that allows old, sick, injured and terrified animals to fully recover using a mixture of Western medicine, holistic healing modalities, holding therapy and lots of love. Ellie is an expert in healing orphaned and sick animals, like puppies with Parvo and calves from veal crates. Ellie has hosted hundreds of thousands of at-risk, inner city and special needs children, war veterans, seniors, victims of domestic violence, and those in recovery from drug, alcohol, and gang affiliation. Ellie has appeared on some of the most influential media outlets including The Ellen Show, People Magazine, Life Magazine, Animal Planet, The Huffington Post, Turning point, Women’s World, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, The NY Times, and many more. Ellie is a highly sought after and very effective guest speaker who has presented at Animal Rights conferences, Environmental conferences, Eco Feminism summits, Veg festivals, Pet expos, universities and high schools, Self discovery conferences, and corporate functions that serve to motivate the audience towards higher awareness, profound compassion, realizing dreams, greater sense of trust, and an enhanced sense of purpose. She was the keynote speaker at The Difference Maker series, Phoenix House, and The Los Angeles Green Fest. To date Ellie has saved hundreds of animals and hosted over 300,000 guests. The Gentle Barn is currently home to approximately 200 animals. The Gentle Barn has two locations in Santa Clarita, California and Knoxville, Tennessee. It is her goal to build Gentle Barns in every state in America, “Teaching people kindness and compassion to animals, each other and our planet.” For more information, please visit: gentlebarn.org.
Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dieticians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! Hello. Hello everybody. Are you out there? Check, check, check, check. Hi I’m Caryn Hartglass and it’s time for It’s All About Food. One of the reasons why I said “are you out there?” it’s because I want to know if you’re out there. No, I’m on the road again and we are in northern California in the bay area in a little hamlet called Monte Soreno right now. My partner Gary and I are fortunate enough to be directing the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” with a local group in San Jose and the place where we’re staying, it’s fabulous. We’ve been here before. We were in the pool house of Gary’s brother’s home but we’ve had a few power outages and my phone signal comes and goes and my Wi-Fi comes and goes. So when I say check 1 2 it’s because I want to know if you’re out there because I don’t know if the system is working or not so can you hear me everybody? Do you have any idea what it’s like talking when you don’t know if anyone can hear you? That’s kind of something you get; most of us when we talk to people we look in their eyes and see what their response is to what we’re saying. We get some feedback, back and forth. For those of us who do radio and podcasts especially when there isn’t another guest we’re really just in a black hole and we have to imagine what the reaction is, what the response is. It took a while for me to get used to it but now I’m kind of comfortable with it, stuck with it and I’m really grateful to the Progressive Radio Network for giving me this opportunity. We are almost in 8 years. It’s going to be 8 years of It’s All About Food in March. Wooohooo! I recently posted my best of interview list for 2016 at www.responsibleeatingandliving.com. You might check that out, see if you’ve heard all of the podcast that were my favorites and I love them all. Ok I’ve got to be clear; it was fun going back through the year and reviewing the ones that were particularly outstanding for a number of reasons. Let me remind you of some of them. I had spoken with Moses Seenarine a few months ago. He has a book out called “Meat Climate Change” and it’s a fascinating book full of lots of facts and references. If you want to get to know more about climate change and enhance your language and knowledge of what’s going on today that’s a great reference and we need you to do that because with the new administration coming into the United States in a few days ahhh! We’re going to need as many knowledgeable people about what’s going on with our home; Planet Earth. Another one of my favorites was D. Anthony Evans if you remember him he has a program called “Train to Live” and he was one of these wonderful people who had lived a difficult life with lots of misfortune and health issues and he’s turned it all around with a vegan diet with lots of physical activity and a very positive attitude. I found him very inspiring and let’s see some others. We’ll get back to some others later because I want to get back to current day 2017. Here we are at It’s All About Food and I’m needing some love, some positive energy. We like to tune in love here at It’s All About Food and I spend a lot of the day reading and researching and what I read about and what I research about is not positive. It’s bleak and I find it very draining so it takes focused energy to stay positive and when I do this show I like to provide as much positivity as possible because we don’t get enough of it and we all need to be re-energized, rejuvenated and inspired. So I have a fabulous person who is going to do that for us right now. She’s been on the program a couple years ago. Ellie Laks is the founder of The Gentle Barn Foundation a national organization that rescues and rehabilitates unwanted animals and heals people with the same stories of abuse and neglect. She is a celebrated animal welfare advocate, humane educator and the author of “My Gentle Barn: Creating a Sanctuary where Animals Heal and Children Learn to Hope.” So much more about Ellie you can find out at www.responsiblelivingandeating.com and read her bio or go directly to www.gentlebarn.org and Ellie welcome to It’s All About Food thank you for joining us.
Ellie Laks: Thank you for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: So I’m glad that you’re here and I know you are a very, very busy person. I’m looking forward to the stories you have to tell. I was just imagining; I can’t imagine what it’s like to run the Gentle Barn with so many needy lovely non-human animals that need constant care.
Ellie Laks: Well yea it comes in waves. Sometimes things seem to run really smoothly. We have our staff and we have our volunteers and things go really well and then other times there are animals that get sick at the same time or old at the same time and we’re running in 50 different directions trying to meet their needs and those times are tough.
Caryn Hartglass: Is it raining where you are?
Ellie Laks: It is! Yes finally!
Caryn Hartglass: It’s a big rainy time for California and I imagine that makes it especially challenging.
Ellie Laks: Well it doesn’t make us look pretty, that’s for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Ha-ha.
Ellie Laks: It’s very muddy outside. The hills are turning green for the first time in years so we’re ecstatic for the rain and we just make sure that everybody has places to go in the barn to get out of the rain and nice and sheltered. They keep their bedrooms clean so it works.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea it’s hard to keep your bedroom clean when there is a lot of mud around.
Ellie Laks: Ha-ha, yea.
Caryn Hartglass: I know that. Ok! So let’s just get a little quick refresher on you and what the Gentle Barn is and what the Gentle Barn does.
Ellie Laks: Sure! I think that I came out of the womb obsessed with animals. That’s how I was made. So I’ve always loved animals and being out in nature playing with animals and when I was little I would find animals that were lost or injured or hungry and I realized that they sometimes rely on us for help. I would bring them home by the time I was 7, I decided that my little plan was to have a house full of animals that I saved and they would be my friends. My parents were not amused. Ha-ha, didn’t want a house full of animals. They kept saying when I grew up I could have as many animals as I wanted so I took that to the bank and I now have 200 animals. Ha-ha.
Caryn Hartglass: Ohhhh! Yes, well that’s one way of doing it when people kind of threaten you in some ways and say you can’t do it now but you can do it when you grow up. I guess they assume you’ll outgrow your dream but you didn’t and not only are the 200 or so animals that you have grateful but a lot of other human animals get to experience what’s going on and learn so much from them. I remember reading My Gentle Barn your book and loving it.
Ellie Laks: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Heart-wrenching and wonderful at the same time. Can you talk about how your sanctuary or shelter isn’t like others? How it’s different and what you’ve created there in terms of your animal therapy and mentoring children?
Ellie Laks: Sure, first of all I spent many years rescuing and re-homing dogs and cats and what I noticed was young adoptable, socialized, cute animals got home pretty quickly but the older animals with health issues or emotional issues were harder to adopt and so when I started the Gentle Barn I was very adamant on wanting to be there for animals that nobody else wanted not even other rescues. The vet said to put them down. The animal shelters put them down so I wanted to give those animals a chance. The Gentle Barn will take in animals that no one else wants. They’re either too old, too sick, too lame or too scared to be adoptable by other agencies and we bring them in and rehabilitate them with vet care but we also have really developed an enormous tool box of alternative methods; acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, deep tissue massage therapy, ultrasounds, massage therapy, water therapy, ice therapy, nutritional supplements and lots and lots of love. We do a whole slew of things that I think other sanctuaries are hopefully starting to embrace to get them mobile, to get them comfortable, to get them healed both physically and emotionally. Once they’re finally healed, if the can find homes of their own we adopt them but most of the time they stay with us and we give them sanctuaries for the rest of their lives. When the animals are ready we invite them to help us heal people with the same stories of abuse and neglect and so we work with inner city at risk and special needs kids. We work with war veterans, senior centers, domestic violence shelters, really anyone out there that is struggling to find themselves, struggling without hope and inspiration to come here and feel with the animals. With 200 animals we have an animal that mirrors every single persons story whether it’s feeling hopeless, whether it’s feeling lonely, whether it’s having multiple homes, whether it’s being sent away or abandoned or neglected or severely, severely abused. There is an animal here that mirrors their story. So they can come in and not only get unconditional love from the animals and not only get inspiration from the animals so that if the animals can recover they can too. They can really identify with someone that has their exact story and so for the first time in many people’s lives they gets this idea that they are not alone. It’s not them against the world that there is someone on the planet that has lived their life and suffered their pain and it lifts their spirits. They don’t feel alone and they can see the animal learning to trust again, forgive again, live in the moment again, have joy and happiness again and it inspires them to reach for infinite possibilities. So the Gentle Barn is basically a circle of healing. We heal the animals, the animals heal the people and the people hopefully turn around and be kinder to animals.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s such a beautiful, wonderful story. I love what you’re doing. Who wouldn’t?
Ellie Laks: Ha-ha.
Caryn Hartglass: Ha-ha. We have such a society today in need of what you’re doing and in need of recognizing number one that non-human animals should not be exploited but how we can benefit from them to heal our own problems and so many human animals today need a lot of love and when you don’t get it. Well you’re an amazing person Ellie that’s what I want to say because you rose above your difficulties and misfortunes and had this love that stayed with you that you were able to share with so many others and expand upon but it’s hard for many people to find that deep within themselves. They’ve buried it somehow and need it and it’s so much easier to be crabby and grumpy and hateful and spread that around then it is to be loving and caring and nurturing and I love that there is a way back for people.
Ellie Laks: Yea, I completely agree with what you just said. When we go through tough times, listen honestly when I went through my childhood I thought, “oh I’m the only one.” The truth is that we all have our stories. We all have our childhoods. We all have our struggles. We all have things that we have to overcome. Each and every single one of us and every single one of us has the choice to make to let the pain and what we’ve gone through cripple us and turn us hateful and resentful just like you said or take the pain and turn it into a gift that we can share with the world and I made that choice and I was lucky enough to be able to make the choice to be able to heal and love the world through my pain instead of hate it and resent it and I think our animals make that choice every single day. There’s a point in our animal’s life where they go through the recovery, they learn that we are not going to hurt them. They start accepting their safety and love here and then they make a choice. Instead of being resentful and angry and harmful for the rest of their lives, they make a choice to take what they’ve gone through and pay it forward and inspire someone else and love someone else and feel someone else and watching the animals do that time and time again is so incredibly inspiring and the people can come and get healed by the animals and they can make that same choice as well. I think that we are all one. We are all connected. It’s not animals’ vs. people. It’s not some people vs. others. I think we are all spiritual beings. We’re all connected. We are all one and if we can learn to love each other and feel each other then that circle of healing can keep going make a better planet and that’s what we are trying to do here.
Caryn Hartglass: Beautifully, beautifully said. I had a listener recently who was commenting on me talking about spirituality and bemoaning the fact that many people that consider themselves spiritual do not recognize what’s going on in our non-human animal companions that we share this planet with, but there is so much going on in each and every one of them and we could learn from all of them.
Ellie Laks: Agreed.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about the new Gentle Barn in Tennessee. What’s going on there and how did that happen?
Ellie Laks: Well the Gentle Barn was my dream since I was little but really the big plan is to have a gentle barn in every state so that everyone could hug cows and cuddle turkeys and give pigs tummy rubs.
Caryn Hartglass: Ha-ha.
Ellie Laks: Look in their eyes and know for certain that maybe then we can cultivate a future generation of people who will have reverence for mother earth and kindness for animals and compassion for other people. Maybe then we can have peace on this planet and so for many years we just weren’t ready financially, structurally and we were always building to the day where we would be organized enough with an incredible board of directors that’s well known enough to be able to go national and so two years ago almost exactly; exactly yea because my birthday is coming up now and two years exactly my birthday was coming up. I told my husband that I wanted to rescue a cow for my birthday.
Caryn Hartglass: Ha-ha
Ellie Laks: So we thought we would go somewhere local to California and find maybe some baby veal calves and bring them home and heal them. I got really excited. A little bit later we got a phone call from a woman in Tennessee that said that there was a cow there that was missing a foot and nobody was able to help him. There was something very special about the particular boy and she knew it was crazy because we were all the way in California but is there something we can do and so my husband Jay reached around to see if there was any bovine surgeons in the area and found one at a Knoxville animals hospital who is amazing with surgeries and then he found several companies that would make a prosthetic foot for a cow.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Ellie Laks: He comes up to me and said happy birthday we’re going to Tennessee. 2 years ago we went to Tennessee to rescue Dudley and get him multiple necessary surgeries at the hospital and fit him for a prosthetic and it took about 5 months and when he was ready to leave the hospital we toyed with the idea of bringing him to California but it was a very long trip and also we really wanted to keep him in Tennessee. We thought it would be better for him and so we went to our board of directors and said “come on guys we are ready to go national” and they said “you know what go for it” and so that is what enabled us to build the second Gentle Barn in Knoxville Tennessee. It’s home for Dudley and all his future friends and now there is Dudley the cow. There is Horton, Henry and Lily the pigs. There’s Worthy, Indie, Chris and Daisy the horses. There’s Peyton Manning and Luke Skywalker and Heather the turkeys. Ha-ha.
Caryn Hartglass: Ha-ha.
Ellie Laks: There’s Rick Springfield and Jessie’s girl the chickens. There are so many more animals there that were saved in Tennessee because of all of this.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, Happy Birthday to you upcoming and careful what you wish for Ellie you make your dreams come true.
Ellie Laks: Ha-ha.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s beautiful, yes let’s have a Gentle Barn in every state and then in every city and maybe we can heal the world.
Ellie Laks: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Now let’s talk about the year of the chicken. It’s a funny thing these names we have. We have food days every day. They’re pretty much there to support commercial food products I think and then we have years of different animals and do we really care about the animals that are celebrated during that year and now it’s the year of the chicken or rooster I read. Tell me about some touching stories you have.
Ellie Laks: Yea so I love that 2017 is the year of the rooster. I’m very excited about that. I think that when people are evolving and maybe leaning toward a more compassionate diet and thinking about a plant-based diet. Over and over I hear this, the very last thing they give up are chicken and I had the most incredible experiences with chicken. I want to shout it from the rooftops. I really want people to know how amazing these creatures are. First glance they look little, not intelligent and maybe dirty and so it’s very easy for people to be removed emotionally from chickens but really I had the most incredible experiences. One of my very first roosters his name was Charlie and he was a very flashy little guy. He was little but he was orange and red and green and he had beautiful dazzling feathers in colors. I had always been raised that chickens weren’t that smart and so I knew I was going to love them but I didn’t have high hopes for their intelligence. Well this little guy liked to roost on the ground at night instead of roosting in the barn on the tops of the eaves with all the others and I was nervous because chickens are blind at night. When it goes dark they can’t see so laying on the ground like that he was susceptible to raccoons or whatever kind of predators that might get into the barnyard and so every evening just before dark I would go in and find Charlie and I would bring him into a coop where he would be safe and sound at night through the night. Well on one particular evening it was a very trying long day, a lot had happened. I was exhausted and I had people with me that I was honestly trying to just, I just wanted them to laugh and so kind of dreading the trek all across the barnyard to find Charlie I kind of was joking to make them giggle “Charlie come on time for bed!” and I absolutely did not expect him to come running but much to my surprise as I said that “Charlie come on, time for bed” he lifted up his head got up and he started running to me as fast as he could.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm.
Ellie Laks: He went all the way to me “yup I’m ready for bed”
Caryn Hartglass: Ha-ha.
Ellie Laks: It blew me away. The stereotype for chickens that they are not so smart and I believed it so much that I would have never in earnest thought to call him to bed but because I was joking I did it and he came to me running and from that day on every single night when I put the animals to bed I would say where I was. I would call, Charlie would come running. I would kiss him and hug him and cuddle him and then put him to bed and that was the day that I realized how intelligent chickens are and just because they are small and covered in feathers doesn’t mean that they can’t know their name and that they don’t have the same intelligence and affections as dogs. I started looking closer and through the years I’ve had the most wonderful relationships with chickens. I had another chicken named Strawberry. Strawberry loved being held and so when she wanted to be held she would just hurl herself at me so I would be walking around the barnyard doing my chores or cleaning the barnyard, filling up water buckets and from the corner of my eye I would see this little yellow chicken come flying at me and I would drop whatever rakes I had in my hand and I would catch her and most days I would have to do my chores one handed because the other hand was holding a sleeping chicken Strawberry in my arms.
Caryn Hartglass: I love these stories. Oh my goodness.
Ellie Laks: And then recently we rescued a one-day-old chick that had a deformed foot. So we brought her to our avian specialist. He fixed her and then a week later she came back to us but she was way too young and little to be in our barnyard unattended and whoever brought her us to rescue didn’t bring her mother so I invited her into my house to live with us until she was big enough for the barnyard and I will tell you that just sealed the deal for me. It was just absolutely nothing different about that chicken named Jasmine then any of my dogs. I would call them to eat and the dogs and the chicken would come running and would eat. I would sit on the couch and she would jump into my lap and fall asleep while I watch TV. She sat on my shoulder while I drove in the car and I had this bedtime ritual with her where I would have to hold her and pet her and sing a certain amount of songs before she would fall asleep but I will tell you that when there were days when I tried to cheat the bedtime ritual and do it faster. She would not go to sleep. I had to do the entire ritual before she was willing to go to sleep.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh my gosh, my heart is so full right now. If only people could realize what we have on this planet; all this richness, all this potential love and beauty. Who doesn’t like to be tucked in at night and be sung to and cuddled? We all need that.
Ellie Laks: Yea.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea human and non-human animals.
Ellie Laks: You know Howard Lyman said it best; Howard Lyman said, “there is no difference between the species the only difference is out perception of them.” If we see someone as dumb and dirty as worthless then that’s what they are going to be but when we look deeper and we open our hearts and we open our minds and we see their affection and there intelligence and their love of family and how they have best friends just like we do and how they have sadness just like we do and how they express joy just like we do then we’ll see a whole being that is deserving of the same rights and freedoms just like we are and really to look on the surface and go “oh they have feathers so that’s not smart or that has fur that’s not deserving of the same rights as we do.” I mean come on are we really that shallow. Let’s look deeper into each other’s eyes and into each other’s hearts because there is a whole world of love and magic waiting there for us.
Caryn Hartglass: I must say that it’s obvious to me but not obvious to everyone that the same thing applies to humans. We’re not just talking about non-human animals here, this is humans as well. People it doesn’t matter if they’re short, tall, thin, wide, black, blue, orange, pink, freckled, smooth. Whatever it is we all breathe the same air. We all drink the same water. We all want the same things and we need this perception thing; I’m going to steal that a little bit and play on that a little bit more later on because it’s all about perception so thank you for that.
Ellie Laks: Yea.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok so we just have a few more minutes. I wanted to talk about concern for peace. You recently blogged about that and what is it and what do you plan to do for 2017?
Ellie Laks: Well I just have this theory that the increase in the amount of animals that suffer is correlated with the amount of violence that we have in our neighborhoods. I think there are just so much violence and so much suffering and bullying and pain that people and animals are going through. The more we are removed from each other, the more we cover mother earth in concrete, the more we enslave and encage animals. The more we hurt and beat on each other the worse it gets and the good news to that is that the minute we open the cages. The minute we look deeper. The minute we have compassion for someone that might not look like us or act like us but we know deep inside that we are the same. We can turn it around quite quickly where we can celebrate love and peace among all of us and so in 2017 we really just want to heighten our dedication to that and make those connections. People to people, people to animals, animals to animals, make those connections that we’re all one. We’re all the same, we’re all loved and if we can make those connections and cultivate future generations to love more deeply to see the similarities that we all share instead of our differences that we can really turn this thing around and then strive for more peace in the community.
Caryn Hartglass: I say this so often, I always have to give my disclaimers and clarifications. Can’t do enough of that in these times, I am not a religious person but I take what’s useful to me from lots of philosophies and belief systems and you mentioned in your blog one of my favorite metaphors or phrases which is that the lion shall lay with the lamb.
Ellie Laks: Yes,
Caryn Hartglass: I so want that to happen. I remember in the film Finding Nemo, which is such a wonderful film and have lots of hidden and not so hidden messages about how fish are our friends not food.
Ellie Laks: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: But I loved the sharks that were in this 12-step program or whatever they were talking about. But they were trying to be vegetarians and it was a similar thing the lion shall lay down with the lamb. The sharks won’t be carnivorous. I think there is something like that for us on this planet but we all need to move in that direction together to get there.
Ellie Laks: Agreed! It starts with every single one of us. I have a very personal example; it’s really easy for me to talk “oh we should love each other we should see the similarities.” It’s very easy to just to talk about that but implementation. When we rescued Dudley he was rescued from a rancher who was third generation rancher and that’s what his family did was bring in baby cows and feed them fatten them up and then send them back to slaughter to make money and that’s who he was, that’s what he had done again he was third generation and it would have been so easy for me to judge him and maybe not be so warm to him and think that I knew who he was. But I really tried to put into practice this idea that we have to focus on our similarities with compassion instead of looking at our differences and so I really overcame that drive to want to judge him and I opened my heart to him and I heard about his childhood and what made him the man that he was today and we were warm and loving to him. We never judged him. We thanked him profusely for allowing us to rescue Dudley and I think that warmth and love and compassion that we extended to him paid off because by the time we were done he retired from ranching. He quit basically and he went vegetarian and he changed his life. I don’t think he would have done that if we judged him and if we were cold to him and if we came at him like that. But because we extended love to him with what we had in common instead of what was different between us and we loved him just like I would love anyone, he responded to that.
Caryn Hartglass: This is so beautiful and it’s important and probably one of the most difficult things we can do. Be non-reactive and non-judgmental. It’s really challenging. I know, a couple of years ago I was asked to speak about animal agricultures impact on climate change to 250 cattle producers on a night before a bull sale.
Ellie Laks: Wow!
Caryn Hartglass: First of all I didn’t want them to kill me. Ha-ha
Ellie Laks: Ha, yea.
Caryn Hartglass: But I wanted them to hear me say and so I started just as you said talking about the similarities that we all have. The dreams that we all have; the wants that we all have because we all have more similarities then we have disagreements and dislikes. We need to align on those things if we are going to move forward.
Ellie Laks: Agreed.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good! I like talking to you. I like everything that you’ve done. I had you on today for a selfish reason. I needed to hear you speak and hear about all the wonderful things you are doing just to inspire myself for 2017. This is going to be a very challenging year for many of us and we have to stick with this concept of being non-reactive, non-judgmental that doesn’t me we don’t do the work. The work is so important but the way we do it really matters.
Ellie Laks: Martin Luther King Jr. said an amazing quote. He said, “You can’t rid the darkness with more darkness.” You can only end darkness with more light and so if we are running around hateful and angry and sour and judging and being angry all the time that’s darkness. That’s not doing anything but if we open our hearts and love more and have more compassion for everyone not just the people that are doing things we believe in but everyone; the people that work at the slaughter houses, the people who are doing horrible things to animals, the people that are eating meat. We can approach them with love and compassion and put more light into every conversation and more light into the world. That is what’s going to change things around and it will and one of the things that I practice by the way which has really helped me because obviously running the Gentle Barn for 18 years we have seen some really horrendous things. We have seen some very dark, very ugly, very cruel things and so people ask me all the time how in the world do I not go crazy and how do I stay composed and one of the most powerful things that I do is to infuse more light into my day and into my life is every morning before I leave my bedroom I spend at least 5 min visualizing the world that I want to create. I close my eyes sometimes I play soft music sometimes I don’t it doesn’t really matter and I set my timer for 4 or 5 minutes and I visualize soft fertile earth underneath my feet and I visualize rich thick tall forests and I visualize the sky filled with birds that are safe up there and I visualize thundering hooves of horses running by because there are wild herds again and I visualize huge big abundant gardens feeding the world and I visualize people holding chickens and kissing them and hugging cows and holding hands and I visualize clean pristine waters that lead to oceans with thriving marine life and I visualize clean air and I visualize that peace and that love and that freedom for all creatures and I live there every single day for 5 minutes before I start my day. Yes we have to be cognizant of the truth yes we have to be aware of the madness that’s happening around us but most importantly we have to live in the world that we want to create. We have to know with every fiber of our being that it’s possible and then from that possibility then we start our day and then we have conversations and then we do our work from within that belief and that hope that the world is waiting for us and we will create it.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. Thank you Ellie Laks for that so very much. I’m looking forward to archiving this interview and listening to everything you just said either on the audio recording or in the transcription when we get it. That is a beautiful positive affirmation, imagery. It’s meditation of course and we all need to do it. Did you all feel and see and hear and smell and taste everything that she was describing? Thank you for that I’m going to take that with me everywhere. It’s so important and you know your dreams come true Ellie; that dream, I want that dream to come true too for everyone.
Ellie Laks: I think it will.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, thank you so much for joining me. Thank you for everything you’re doing. I am so in awe and inspired and what else can I say. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Ellie Laks: Thank you so much for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, bye bye. That was Ellie Laks from the Gentle Barn and I recommend not only visiting the Gentle Barn website or the Gentle Barn sanctuaries now one in Tennessee and one in California. There website is www.gentlebarn.org.
Transcribed by M. Eng, 6/25/2017
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
I’m a little choked up imagining that imagery she offered us just now. The book is great, The Gentle Barn, and you will have, if you do not have profound appreciation right now for what this person has done, you will have even more so where she came from and the challenges she faced. I feel really honored right now to be able to have that conversation, and I want to take in all of that because I so needed it. How about you? Did you need that?
I’d love to know what you thought about the conversation just now. Send me your comments anytime at email@example.com. And remember that we cannot make change with the darkness that’s all around us from the dark. We need to find the light. Find the light within us. It is there. It is burning. You need to feed it, breathe into it, imagine it, and share it.
This concept of perception – I had not quite heard of perception in the context that Ellie mentioned it, but I want to expand on that now that she has put that into my mind. Perception is such a powerful thing. When I talked to people who were in a health crisis and sharing my experience with cancer, I often mentioned Dr. Bruce Lipton and his audio program The Wisdom of the Self. The things he talks about have to do with what ourselves perceive. Our 50-100 trillion cells in our bodies, our cells, perceive the environment that is presented to them. The environment they perceive, not necessarily the real environment, and what that means for a health perspective is that if we are giving our body messages that aren’t healthy images and comments all the time, our self will respond to us and respond accordingly, making us ill. If we encourage ourselves to be strong, to be the best they are, to be cheerleaders for our own selves within our bodies, we can see powerful, positive effects on our own personal health. I know it worked with me. That is why mediation is so important on so many levels. It can make us healthier. It can make us conquer fear if we are afraid of a health crisis or even the world around us, which can be extremely scary.
This idea of perception – I am expanding it now. I am focusing on what has to do with our bodily cells, but if we expand on what we perceive, everything, if we take that imagery that Ellie gave us and focus on that, I want to think that our exterior environment can become what we perceive it to be. Some people might say this is really simpleminded thinking. I do not. I think it is powerful. At the very, very minimum, it feels good, and that is what life is about: living through each moment in time. Last week, I talked about there is no time because our lives consist of moments. Right now, there is only right now. There is not the past. There is not the future. There is only present and focusing on that moment. Finding ways to feel good in the moment is the way to enjoy life and focusing on imagery on how we want the world to be instead of bringing ourselves down all the time, how the world currently is, I think will really help.
Now this needs to be coupled with action! We all need to be doing things to help make the world a better place and not just thinking about it, but doing. Sometimes visualizing first helps us with what needs to be done and what we can personally do.
You know, part of that, in response to living, primarily what we focus on here on this program, I like to stick with the positive I like to stick with the joy. Occasionally, we talk about the dark things, but I like to think that when we do, we wrap it around lots of light and positivity. I do not like to focus on the horrible things that we are doing on this planet. They are infinite. Let us focus on all the great things we can do. Ellie is a prime example of that. Now let us talk about some more good news! I made a whole list of things I want to talk about, and it is funny because I never get to everything. Here is some good news.
I want to put this together in the right order here, so we are talking about plant-based foods, and what is in a name? We have talked a number of times on this program how I think the 21st century is going to be about taking products that are made, in part, from animal ingredients and making them with plant ingredients. This is a trend. There is investment behind it, and it is a wonderful thing. We saw a lot of passion going on with mayonnaise last year, where there where Hampton Creek foods were doing really well at getting their plant-based, just mayonnaise, products on the shelves. There were other big mayonnaise out there, but the Hampton Creek was making the big splash. Unilever, the company that makes Hellman’s and Bestfoods, got nervous and slapped the lawsuit on Hampton Creek. In the end, they realized what they were doing was ridiculous, trying to capitalize on the name ‘mayonnaise’, saying that mayonnaise was only mayonnaise if it has eggs in it. They ended up making their own plant-based mayonnaise. If you can’t beat them, join them.
We are seeing a lot of that with other products. There has not been a lot of buzz about milk until recently, but there are some folks that are trying to hold on to the word ‘milk’ and have it only mean ‘milk from a dairy cow.’ Did you read the letter that one senator from Vermont presented and is creating a campaign to get the FDA to look at not allowing manufacturers of plant-based milk to call them milk? It is kind of ridiculous. The argument behind it is that the consumer is going to be fooled, the consumer is going to be confused and were actually – I like to believe and think that we are all more informed than some of the people who want to think – For the most part, I want to think that the people who are buying almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, even milk of magnesia – I think they know they’re not getting cow’s milk, and they’re buying it on purpose. We should see this change and hopefully for the better, but this new administration that is coming in may change everything for a while. That is why we need to be vigilant.
On the subject of plant-based products coming in, being accepted and being profitable, which is important in a capitalistic society, we have Miyoko’s Vegan Butter. Have you tried it? Miyoko’s Kitchen has European-style, cultured, vegan butter. I tried it, and I have to say that it was surprisingly good, where it had this lingering flavor that reminded me of butter, cow’s butter. It did that without the sickening flavor I remember about butter and milk. It is a really good product, and it works really well. Trader Joe’s is now offering the palm-oil-free, vegan product at 226 stores nationwide, and this is something to celebrate.
I personally do not eat a lot of butter. I eat it as a treat from time to time, but to get to move people across the plant, across to food continuums and move towards plant-based products, this is a beautiful thing. I am sure we will have some Congress people say that we can’t call this butter because it is not made from cow, but we are changing that, and that is exciting.
Can I tell you what else is exciting to me? Have I talked about corn thins before? If you read my blog, What Vegans Eat at ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com, occasionally I sing praises about corn thins. Here in California, we did our first shopping here when we got here, and we do not have a big space in this pool house we are staying in – limited refrigeration – so we have to be careful about what we get. At the same time, we have to be careful that we have foods that we like and are good for us, so we wanted to have corn thins because I like to call them a great vehicle for smears. We like them with peanut butter, with almond butter. We make hummus and avocado, and it is quick and easy and sometimes very helpful.
We found them at Whole Foods. Thank you, Whole Foods. They are organic. I think they come from Australia, from a company called Real. These are real corn thins, so I relate to them calling their food real, but I went to grab them, and they have several different kinds. My partner Gary was surprised when I said, “No, no, no. We do not want the original. We want the kind with the Sesame seeds.” The original corn thins have oil in them. I really do not think that that is a necessary thing to have oil in our corn thins, so I get the corn thins with sesame. It has a tiny little bit of salt, and that is all they are made of. They are really fabulous, but it made me think about the importance of label-reading, and there are a lot of things going on right now about label-reading. It is a little entertaining, I think. Just last week – you may have seen it – the FDA came out with the new nutrition labeling guidelines. What is really fun to look at is their PDF Q&A on their nutrition supplement facts on the labels related to the compliance state, added sugar, declaration of quantitative amounts of vitamins and minerals, guidance for the industry. You read this, you realize it is amazing for the food manufacturers to determine the nutritional value of their foods, what they have to report, what they can report, what they can not report, and what they can kind of get away with. What it says to me, frankly, is that I want to eat whole foods that do not require these crazy labelings. There is so much description here about what can be called added sugar and not added sugar. It is a fascinating read. There are a number of things that are happening. One of them, for example, is amending the definition of a single-serving container. I am going to be curious how that pans out because you may know how manufacturers have used the serving size to dupe us in some ways because if they make the serving size small enough, then they do not have to report things like hydrogenated oils, a number of things that make the number of calories look very low, the amount of serving size. When the serving size is very small, it is not a realistic serving size. My understanding is the serving size will be a little more realistic, and it will be fun to read new nutrition labels. The thing is they will not be coming out until 2018 and 2019. And that is, of course, if the new administration does not repeal the whole thing.
Another FDA labeling thing, that came out a month ago, December 2015, in New York, for chain restaurants – we require that everything on the menu lists calories, and the FDA is going to try and make this happen around the country. We will see if it happens soon, and I have mixed feelings for it. We like to eat at The Daily Bread. It is a restaurant that originated in Belgium, – Brussells, I think – and we have many of them in New York City. When I am reading a menu of what I think are healthy items, I see the calories, I am always like, “Whoa!”, because I do not think about calories when I am eating. Sometimes, I think I might want to buy more calories by dollar than less calories because if I am getting lentils and onions and all these foods that are good for me, maybe I want to have a few more than a few less. This is a good thing for people to see in fast food chains. It is not particularly healthy to see how many calories are in their muffin or whatever else it is they choose to eat, and they will be surprised with how much salt, sugar, and fat is in so many of these foods. My recommendation, of course, is to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet! Keep it simple. Keep it minimal. Find your kitchen. Make wonderful foods there, where you know what is in everything, and you will be so thankful for that. Your body will thank you, too, and yourself will perceive only good things. That is what I wish for you.
Thanks for listening today on It’s All About Food. I am Caryn Hartglass. You can find me on responsibleeatingandliving.com. I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. and have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Emma Weiss, 2/13/2017