10 Ways to Make Mindfulness Part of Your Daily Life

Eating ice cream, the ultimate mindfulness practice.

Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

– Bob Dylan

Be Mindful as if You Were Eating Ice Cream

What does eating ice cream have to do with making mindfulness part of your daily life?

When you watch a child eating ice cream, you will notice how absorbed they are in that activity and that eating the sweet deliciousness is all they are interested in at that very moment. They are so overjoyed and so engaged with the act of eating ice cream that no other thought or distraction is going to ruin the experience. No way.

That is mindfulness. It’s easy with ice cream. We love it.

As an adult, you will find the same principle with, for example, having sex, talking to a great friend you haven’t seen in a long time, hugging and kissing your kids, reading a great book. All of these things are easy to disappear into because we love doing them.

But it’s not so easy to disappear into doing the dishes or changing your kid’s diaper. We don’t necessarily enjoy doing these chores, so it is much easier to let our minds wander towards some ridiculous distraction.

Actually, these mundane chores are the greatest opportunities to practice mindfulness. Almost everything we do affords us an opportunity to engage in this practice. That is what this article is all about.

So you want to find ways to make mindfulness a part of your daily life? Read on.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

But Why the Bob Dylan Quote?

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”24″][vc_column_text]While we are engaged in our daily routine, we are usually not mindful of what is actually going on inside of us when we carry out our activities. That’s why I reference that ingenious quote by Mr. Dylan. “There’s something happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

We are all Mr. Jones. Something bigger than ourselves is happening but we just don’t notice it. We rarely are taught to notice this and we are in a constant battle against our ego to experience things in a deeper and more meaningful way. But what is going on at this deeper level is actually the most important thing.

In actuality, we are co-arising with all things, and everything is happening at once and as one thing. But our ego-self denies this and the mind creates all kinds of escape routes to bypass our potential to realize this fundamental truth and our ability to access our “deeper, truer” selves.

So the practice of mindfulness is a practice to bring us back to the realization of our “true” selves in the moment that exists right now. This practice helps us develop the ability to live fully without extraneous thought and worry. It helps us to stay present without following our minds down all the crazy paths it creates to take us away from this moment and bring us back to our egoic self.

Mindfulness is the path that leads us to a state of true peace and happiness. When you make mindfulness a part of your daily life, you will see beautiful things happen to your attitude and outlook on life.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

All life is practice

You dream sweet dreams all night long, the mind’s release from the day. Or maybe there was a nightmare or two. Either way, the mind is just doing its thing.

When you wake up, what is the first thing you think about? Last night’s TV show? What to make for breakfast? Still pissed off from a fight with someone the day before? Worrying about how your kid kicked her friend and called her a nasty name?

There are a million things the mind goes to the minute you wake up. But when your eyes open in the morning, do you ever think about not thinking? Is that even possible? Is that an oxymoron? Thinking about not thinking?

In day-to-day life, who wants to work on mindfulness upon first waking up? We want to get to that first cup of coffee to get that rush. We want to run to the computer or the phone to see what’s happening in the news or at work. Maybe check email blindly or check Instagram to see how many likes we got on a post. But we definitely don’t want to work on mindfulness. Not even on the radar.

How do we avoid this hyperactive state of mind upon waking? Mindfulness practice. It’s something I work on every day as soon as I wake up. And when I say “work”, I mean it. It’s work. But it’s a joyful work because I know how much I benefit from the activity and how it keeps me sane in times of duress. Yoga is mindfulness practice, a fully engaged family

Start the Day Off Right, With Mindfulness

Define your mindfulness path for the rest of the day. To start the day off right, the most important thing you can do first thing in the morning is to not let the mind just run rampant.

Of course, you will be thinking, the mind going a little crazy with all the tasks and to-do lists for the day. Even so, the awareness should go to the body and the breath, the birds singing, noticing how your body is feeling as it just lays there in your warm bed. The five senses are your friends. When you tune in to them and bring your awareness to them as much as you can, they will guide you in the right direction, away from the dancing, bouncing monkey mind.

Again, the idea is to not placate the relentless thinking mind by letting it run amok. Bring awareness back to the breath and the body, bring it back to the sense organs by listening to the morning sounds or feeling the clean sheets below your body, in a kind and understanding way. We have to be empathetic to the mind. It is just doing what it is meant to do.

But there is a bigger mind, and this is what we want to explore first thing in the morning. We should try to let our awareness and our consciousness take the driver’s seat while the thinking mind is just a passenger. Maybe an annoying passenger that never stops talking, but nonetheless, a good friend. Because if it weren’t for our little chattering mind, we wouldn’t be here.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]So lets get to it! As soon as you wake up think about these 10 things you can do to make mindfulness a part of your daily life.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

10 Ways to Make Mindfulness Part of Your Daily Life

1. Upon Waking, Start Your Practice

As I mentioned before, the best time to start your mindfulness practice is immediately upon waking up. This is probably best practice for any habit you are trying to develop. Get at it! The sooner you put your efforts into the task, the sooner the mind will calm down and be prepared for the day.

Think of a typical day. The alarm rings, you react. And the mind starts running. Already the crazy mind steps in and takes control. Most of us don’t even know it. We just roll with the crazy.

There is a better way to deal with the mind immediately upon waking. Try to bring the awareness to your breath. (Here’s a great article on breath work and breathing techniques) Let mindfulness take control. It may be all you can do to just be able to count 10 breaths first thing after waking up. But don’t get upset. Just keep bringing the awareness back to the breath, just like we do in meditation. Give it 5 minutes or so each day and keep trying. It will get easier. But as always, just be kind to yourself and don’t get mad or frustrated because the mind is going crazy. Just accept it and keep trying.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

2. Just Listen

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]After engaging in the practice of following your breath to bring your mind to a calm state, start to listen to what is going around you. For me, after following the breath, listening is the best way to make a connection to the deeper self, the big mind. This is a huge part of meditation practice so we want to bring this into our daily activities as well. It will be infinitely harder in our daily activities because when we are meditating, lets face it, there is nothing else to do but listen and sit there! Nonetheless, during your regular activities, concentrated listening to what is going on around you can be done, over time, with practice.

Listening practice will also open you up to the beautiful things going on around you. Your partners breathing, the birds singing, a soft wind, rain. All these things we can easily take for granted when we wake up. We usually just ignore them when the monkey mind immediately jumps onto the scene and takes over everything.

Sure, maybe you live in the city and you hear the crazy street noise, someone blasting their horn, construction hammering away just outside your door. But try to just listen to these sounds, no matter what they are, and don’t judge them. Just listen with full mind and body and let them be what they are. This can be a very powerful mindfulness practice.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

3. Feel!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]Keith Richards, who I love to call “the roshi (Zen teacher) of rock and roll”, when asked what he thinks about while on stage, famously answered, “I don’t think, I feel!”

What a statement!

So far, upon waking (we still haven’t left the bed), we first put our awareness on the breathing activity. We can now engage in the listening activity and combine it with breathing practice to create a two-pronged attack on the thinking mind. Off to a great start!

Next, try just to feel your body in contact with your immediate surroundings. Feel your partner warmth next to your body, feel the clean, soft sheets surrounding you, feel the warmth of the blankets covering you.

Maybe you have some pain in your body, and you want to let the crazy mind run wild so that the pain will take a back seat and you won’t feel it as much. Pain can be a good way to make a connection with your deeper self and help you develop a daily mindful routine. Check in with that pain and try not to judge it and hate it. This is so hard! But again, with practice, it can get easier and direct you to a power you didn’t know you had.

I have been in situations in long meditation retreats where the pain in my knees or shoulders is like hot daggers being stuck into my flesh. Unbearable. When it comes to pain, we are taught to breathe into it and face it directly without calling it something bad. Just living with it. Again, this can be extremely difficult and seem like a ridiculous idea at first. Believe me, this practice is powerful and if you engage in it, it can bring to states of awareness you didn’t know exist.

Check out this nice article on pain, mindfulness and acceptance. Tinybuddha.com has great articles on a lot of the things we are talking about here. So please check them out. 

So feel! Feel with engaged concentration every part of your body and notice what is going on. Don’t judge the feeling and say it is good or bad. Just feel. Iza doing guitar meditation, fully absorbed

4. Start Slow

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]I totally understand that as soon as we wake up, most of us are rushing to get on with our day. The kids are jumping on us, the phone starts beeping, the dog is licking our face begging for a walk. So much the better to try to wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 am! Maybe for some reason that just isn’t realistic. Well, maybe its realistic, you just don’t want to! Or maybe we had a rough sleepless night, a party, or we had to work late. Even so, getting up early before the mayhem begins is the best way to keep a solid mindfulness practice going.

So assuming your not being attacked by one of the above intrusions, and you have started your mindfulness practice with breathing awareness, listening awareness and fully feeling your surroundings and/or your body, the next thing to do would be to start to get out of bed slowly and mindfully. Notice your body movement as you move towards the kitchen for that first sweet cup of green tea or coffee. Try not to focus on your to-do list or why work has been texting for the last 30 minutes. Try to just focus on your body and breath as you move from one place to another. Do it slowly so you can notice what is happening in your movement.

You may not be able to define the feeling of being fully absorbed in the moment and the activity at hand. Again, like Bob said “You don’t know what it is”. The feeling is undefinable. But it is our natural state to feel calm and clear in our activities, believe it or not. Mindfulness will take us there.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

5. Fully Engage with Your Activities 

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]As your day begins, you are now moving about and taking part in your daily ablutions. At this point it is so easy to let your mind run wild because there are a thousand things to do and maybe a lot of people are waiting on you like kids or work partners.

Now is the time to really crack down and practice. Be engaged! Don’t let that crazy monkey mind take you down the path of darkness. Move to the light mindfully and stay calm in the practice. Feel your feet hit the cold floor as you get out of bed. Keep listening to the birds sing or even the crazy street noise if you hear that. Notice how your body feels as you put on your clothes for the day, as you go to the bathroom, as you drink water or brush your teeth.

Just stay engaged, focus on the moment and the activity at hand. This is the best way to make mindfulness a part of your daily routine. Your kids will be hammering away at you for this or that, or maybe you just can’t get them out of bed and you feel that gnawing angry feeling creeping in before your day has really even started. I know, I’m right there with you every single day.

The best way to defeat anger, impatience, fear, annoyance, all these things that come up for various reasons, is just to notice them, look at them and welcome them. Say “Hi there anger, you’re back again are you!?” Well, welcome to the show, you’re not controlling me today!” By not engaging in the emotion and judging it (good or bad) you can take away its power and redirect it to focus on and engage with the activity at hand. Even if your teenager is complaining or just wont get out of bed, smile, and tell them you are practicing your mindfulness and that you won’t let them get the best of you today. They will think you have lost it and maybe you are starting to go crazy. Even better, the laughs on them!

The point is, if you fully engage with your morning activities, when your mind is fresh and alert, you will have a great jump start on your daily mindfulness routine.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

6. Keep Checking In

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]The day has just begun and at this point you are already fully engaged with your mindfulness practice. If you made it this far without falling prey to the crazy mind, then consider yourself enlightened and you can stop here. Just kidding. It doesn’t work like that.

Seriously though, like I said before, the morning is the easiest time to practice mindfulness so you should give it your full effort. As the day moves on and our activities get more intense and more complicated, it gets harder, and sometimes impossible to practice.

One of the best ways to make mindfulness a part of your daily life is to keep checking in with your practice all day long whenever you get a moment to check in. This could be simply getting up from your desk,  going to get a glass of water, kicking your feet around while sitting, reaching for something etc. And while we do that little something, just do it, and nothing else. Own it!

The simplest activities afford us the best opportunity to check in with our practice and continue to be mindful. This is why monks live such simple lives. Their chores and work are often menial and these activities allow them to work and still stay mindful with the least resistance.

But most of us don’t have this luxury. We must look for the simplest tasks that we perform throughout the day and practice being mindful doing these tasks using the methods we have discussed so far. I will list out some of these activities later, but if your are serious about making mindfulness a part of your daily routine, you will find that there are endless tiny little opportunities to practice throughout the day.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

7. Understand the Importance of Mindfulness and Keep it in the Back of Your Mind All Day

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]As we get more skilled at practicing mindfulness we start to see the world differently. We start to see ourselves differently, we develop more patience, we don’t react in such an aggressive manner any more, we become more tolerant, empathetic and less judgmental. These are just some of the benefits we gain by making mindfulness a part of our daily routine.

Imagine if everyone were trying to be mindful, practicing all the time, every day. I can promise you the world would be a much nicer place to live in.

Honestly, as I said before, we have not been programmed to be mindful. Quite the opposite, we have been programmed to feed the ego. The ego is the nemesis of mindfulness. So we have to keep practicing, maybe for a long time, before things start to change. This is what makes mindfulness so difficult at first.

With that being said, one trick you can use to keep your practice going even when it seems hopeless, is just to notice your awareness in as many situations as possible. Just knowing that mindfulness is extremely important to your health and others well being is powerful. Try to keep it in the back of your mind, even when the world seems out of control and crazy. That mindfulness can take you to a place of peace and calm in any situation. Know that what you are doing in your practice is extremely beneficial and that knowing will help you when things get tough.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

8. Meditate!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]The absolute best way to mindfulness a part of your daily life is to meditate. This is where it all starts. When we meditate we put ourselves in the best position to practice mindfulness.

There are endless resources on how to meditate so I won’t go into the details of meditation. I will just say that I can’t stress enough the importance of taking time to just sit down and remove all the possible activities and distractions that present themselves when we are not practicing sitting meditation.

Here is a good article on how to meditate.  I love the site mindful.org. They have some articles on meditation and mindfulness for you to reference.

The more you learn (or unlearn) in meditation, the better you will be able to practice mindfulness throughout the day.

If you wake up early and get to it before anyone or anything else is able to intervene in your life (ie work, kids, partners, friends, social media etc) then you will have a fantastic jump on the day. But if you can’t wake up early, then find a few minutes to meditate when you can; at lunch, just after work, before or after an exercise routine. There are plenty of opportunities.

Meditation will set the foundation for the rest of the day’s practice and really allow you to make mindfulness a part of your daily life.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_single_image image=”7312″][vc_column_text]Meditating at the beach.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

9. Mindful Eating

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]Another powerful way to make mindfulness a part of your daily life is to practice eating mindfully.

There are powerful business leaders, politicians, famous musicians and artists, chefs, people who have done incredible things and achieved amazing levels of success.

But you know what? I bet they can’t sit at a table and eat their lunch mindfully, without chasing the monkey mind, for even 10 seconds! I almost guarantee none of them can do that.

Not many people in this world have necessarily even tried to do this. It’s just something that we are not taught to do. Fortunately these matters are changing and becoming more accessible, but they are still way outside of mainstream thought and acceptance.

So this is going to be another practice we partake in whenever we are hungry and have a moment to sit down and be alone. But I will tell you, this practice is hard. How often have you thought about sitting down and eating without doing anything but eating? Absurd! The thought of it! Usually we are talking, working on the computer, reading, driving! You name it, we are doing it, without being fully engaged in just eating our food.

We are not accustomed to just eating while we are eating. And thats ok. Now is a great time to start. The practice looks super easy on paper, but like I said, it’s not.

By now you have the basic idea of mindfulness practice. Fully engage in what you are doing and try not to do anything else but the task at hand. As your mind drifts away to something else, and it will, just calmly but firmly bring it back to eating. Feel the food in your mouth as you chew. Notice the taste of the food as you experience eating like you never have before.

Over time you will come to appreciate what you are eating more and more. You will notice new things about your favorite foods; how they feel, how they taste, how they are sweeter than you thought, or more delicious. Eating will take on new meaning and become a richer experience that will only get better over time.

This is a big take away from mindfulness practice; it gets better and better over time. Your experiences, as you develop, will blossom and continue to grow. You will find it easier to make mindfulness a part of your daily life.

Ultimately, while eating, slow down and really appreciate the incredible activity you are partaking in. Be grateful for every bite of food and consider yourself lucky that you are able to enjoy such a blissful and amazing experience.

For more information on eating mindfully, go over Zenhabits.com, one of my favorite websites, and check out this article.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_single_image image=”7313″][vc_column_text]Mindful pizza eating is the best[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

10. Sleep Better with Mindfulness

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]At this point we have gone through the day practicing mindfulness whenever we can. We are keeping mindfulness in the back of our minds so that we may use it whenever an opportunity presents itself. Locked and loaded. Throughout the day there are endless opportunities to practice just being in the moment fully engaged in doing one activity at a time.

I always try to put my full effort into everything I do in order to keep the monkey mind at bay. Whether it be washing dishes, driving a car, walking, working, talking to friends etc. This is the best way to practice.

So now the day is coming to an end and its time to get to bed. We’re getting to bed early right? Ok. Early or late, a great way to get to sleep is to count your breath as you lie in bed. Just breath steady and count each breath up to 10. If your mind wanders, again, bring it back to your breath. This will allow your mind to calm down and in turn will help your body calm down until you are in a relaxed state and ready to fall asleep.

Also, try not to look at your phone or digital device at least an hour before lying down to sleep. The screens on your devices mimic daylight and this throws off your natural circadian rhythms that allow you to sleep.

With practice you will find that you will fall asleep easier and faster. And that will allow you to wake up nice and early for that meditation session, right?[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Other Things You Can Do to Make Mindfulness a Part of Your Daily Routine

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”18″][vc_column_text]To end this article, I want to leave you with some other things you can do throughout the day to make mindfulness a part of your daily life. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Be creative and try to find those precious few seconds or minutes during the day to really notice what you are doing and how you feel when you are doing it. After a while you will notice that you are engaging in mindfulness practice all the time as it becomes a habit. Keep at it and don’t give up. It just might change your life.

Some ideas:

  • Take up a musical instrument that you think you might enjoy. The repetition of practice is a great way to be fully engaged in the moment.
  • When going the bathroom, just go to the bathroom. Try not to look at your phone or read.
  • Play a sport. Sports are an excellent way to lose yourself in the activity. Notice how you feel when are fully absorbed in the moment of your play.
  • Learn a language. Totally focus your effort for an hour a day studying.
  • Go for a walk or run, and just walk or run. Runners often call their running practice a meditation.
  • Take up yoga.
  • Learn to draw or paint. It’s easy to disappear into the creative act.
  • Dance.
  • Garden. A connection to the earth is a connection to yourself. This is why people find gardening so relaxing.
  • Think of things you like to do and practice mindfulness while you are doing them. Apply what you learned while being mindful during these easier and more pleasurable activities to the more mundane stuff in life.

Try these things, make a connection to your surroundings, disappear into them, and know that your surroundings are actually you!

Good luck.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7310″][vc_column_text]Gassho, in Japanese, a bow of thanks and respect[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

How to Get Your Life Back on Track

how to get your life back on track

[vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10″][vc_single_image image=”7068″ css=”.vc_custom_1548019775382{margin-right: 10px !important;margin-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1548020068800{margin-right: 5px !important;margin-left: 5px !important;}”][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8″][vc_column_text]

It’s the new year and my family and I have a great task at hand. We have strayed from our principles and values and now an epic journey to get our lives back on track is in order. Well, maybe epic is an overstatement, but we certainly have our work cut out for us. And we want to help you get your life back on track just as much as we want to get our lives back on track.

Right now I am on a plane to Ithaca NY, where Rache and I met about 7 years ago, heading to a Zen meditation retreat (called sesshin) that I used to participate in at least twice a year. I am SO happy to be resuming this practice that I reluctantly put on hiatus for 5 years while we raised our kids.

So with committed clarity and intention it is a good time to reflect on where Rache and I were 7 years ago and where we are now. Sometimes, if you find things have gone off the rails, maybe look back at why you have gone astray. Then try to find the positive things you were doing before things started going bad. With a little work and a little guidance, you can get your life back on track. It’s not that hard.

Can you come up with something positive that you are proud of and made you feel good about yourself? Grab hold of that moment and hold it close to your heart. It will help you navigate towards being healthy and loving yourself and your life again.

Healthy Living Gone Astray, and Our Commitment to Get it Back

Over the last few years, inundated in the day to day of raising Iza, who is 5, and Zai, who is 3, and starting a new life in Guatemala and all of the challenges involved in moving to a new country (especially a developing one) we have compromised a lot of our values for convenience and ease. And we are not happy about that.

We both came together in the last few weeks and expressed our trouble with the way we are living and our desire to do better. We suddenly aligned as if by magic or fate and by uniting this way we have set our intention to get our life back on track.

The Beginning of Our Journey

When we first met, I was practicing art and had a side business creating raw food meals and green detoxes for delivery to people that wanted to improve their health. Rache was working for Cornell in the Food and Brand Lab helping to research better ways in which to get healthy food into the hands of students who were not eating well (which in America, is like, all of them).

I was living in a Zen Buddhist center and offering vegan pop up dinners to local folks in Ithaca, NY who loved the vegan lifestyle. She too was mostly vegan and she was practicing yoga along with a diligent exercise routine of running, kayaking and working out in the gym. We were both intent on helping to develop a healthy community and working to assist others interested in getting their lives back on track through healthy eating, meditation and exercise.

But years went by, we moved around a lot, had kids, and ironically we slowly started becoming those people who needed help.

We now (painfully) realize the error of our ways and we have committed ourselves to change. How will we do it? By reengaging Ra’Co Life and wholeheartedly practicing all the values and principles we hold so essential to our lives. Together we can help each other get our lives back on track.

We need to firmly implement these ideals and practices that hopefully will influence how our kids will live the rest of their lives. And we need to create the habits and stick to them so we don’t fall back into old patterns.

This month’s theme at Ra’Co Life is “Getting Our Life Back on Track”, so that is what we are going to do.

How will we do this?

10 Ways We Will Get Our Lives Back on Track

Can you come up with 10 ways to help get your life back on track (which I assume maybe it is if you are reading this)? Rache and I dedicate ourselves to these 10 commitments to start off: (please hold us accountable, we need your help.)

  1. Each of us has gained 10 pounds (Rache and I, not the kids haha) and we commit to shedding that extra weight.
  2. We will embrace our vegetarian and 50% raw (Ra) food diet and 50% cooked (Co) food diet.
  3. We will build our healthy community, both locally and online, and share everything we learn through this website and blog.
  4. We vow to be nicer to each other and find more thoughtful ways of speaking to each other and embracing our differences.
  5. We will volunteer and give to our community, especially those who are in dire need and are struggling just to get by every day.
  6. We will increase our knowledge through reading (ebooks and audio books) and engaging in meaningful discussions and collaborations with those who have knowledge to share.
  7. We will commit ourselves to the practices of mindfulness and meditation so we can be more thoughtful, more compassionate and more empathetic.
  8. We will forgive those that have caused us trouble so we can let go of that baggage that does nothing for us but weigh us down.
  9. We will save money, stay debt free and live minimal and frugal lives.
  10. We will commit dedicated (and digital free!) time to each other every day as a family and engage in meaningful discussions and activities.

There are many more things Rache and I can do to get our lives on track, but these are 10 big ones to start with. As they say here in Guatemala, poco a poco (little by little).

Change Starts Now

We all have within us the ability to change our lives if we desire, no matter how elusive and difficult that change may seem. But there comes a time when the desire to change becomes so powerful and all pervasive that we cannot shake it no matter how bad we want to continue with our old nasty habits.

When this force arises within us we must embrace and use that power while it is the most potent. At this point there is no time to wait. Now is the time for action.

Getting Over Fear and What Holds Us Back

For me, beyond the 10 points of change that I called out above, I commit to building a fire within myself to move my art career forward towards helping others in some way.  And I commit to further develop the passion and ambition to succeed, for myself, for my family and for others. All my life I have struggled with self-doubt, depression and fear that I could never make this work and make a great living from my art.

These things have held me back, and now I know that I have to move beyond these fears, face them, and use them as power to further motivate me toward success. Now is the time, because if it doesn’t develop, then I will have to move on and do something else. And this is not acceptable. I strongly believe I have too much to give and share with the world.

Finding Your Passion

I am extremely lucky to have found my passion early on. What is your passion?

The more I read, the more I come to understand it helps to find and embrace our core motivators and do them.

No matter what stands in the way, we have to go beyond ourselves and dig in deep to move forward and do something we know must do. These needs are within all of us, we just have to get out of our own way, and get on with our life’s work to benefit ourselves and those around us.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7076″][vc_column_text]Sunrise, a new day at the Ithaca Zen Center.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548029278003{margin-right: 10px !important;margin-left: 10px !important;}”]

Read, Read Read

Many of the books I have been listening to and reading lately speak to our need to find our passion and embrace and nurture that inner desire and to finally begin to do what we were meant to do. There are arguments against this such as written by Cal Newport in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which I encourage people to read, but I believe finding your passion is a very good way of setting yourself up for a career with which you can support yourself and keep your mind calm and clear, which is the most important thing we can do for ourselves.

Actually, find work that is meaningful and helps people and puts you in service to others. That is truly the best way to find happiness in this world.

These books help me to push forward and finally take action and are relentless in my pursuit to express myself and do my tiny little part to create change in a world that so desperately needs it right now.

Below is a list of 5 books that I am reading right now that may help you find your purpose and take action to create a better life for yourself (or at least a clear mind) if you have the burning need to do so. I am no different than you. I feel like my journey is just beginning.

Let’s do this together and help push each other forward to find our meaning and do our life’s work.

  1. Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins
  2. The Power of Purpose by Les Brown
  3. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  4. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
  5. Creative Quest by Questlove

The first, “Real Artists Don’t Starve”, is by Jeff Goins, a fantastic and well known motivational writer. Judging from the title, it is obvious why I am reading it. Being an artist that is struggling to sell work and often getting down on myself because of that struggle, I need some strong words to help me keep going and find ways to make this work. 

This book provides the encouragement and some great ideas on how to keep going, stay positive and make my business thrive.

The second is by a very well known motivational speaker named Les Brown. Normally I would not read these types of books as I find they contradict some of my values developed through Zen practice. These motivational books often push the idea of finding and doing whatever it takes to achieve and be successful in order to feel good about yourself. They have the best intentions and are actually great books and writers, But Zen practice, in my view, says that success is not the way to happiness and that there is no lasting happiness to be found outside of our inner being, our deeper true nature.

Zen says we should practice and develop our minds (through meditation) to understand how the universe functions and to realize there is something that exists beyond what we perceive as a separate self.

We must realize that we are not separate from that which exists around us and we have to discover that we are all part of this single universal consciousness.

And the realization of this “true nature” is so far beyond any type of happiness we can achieve through external means. Having had certain moments in meditation that helped me understand this, I know I am absolutely sure this is true.

Nonetheless, I find Les’ words inspiring when I’m feeling down and ready to give up.

Relating to my discussion above on Zen, I always relish the words of Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. He explains these concepts far better than I could ever begin to. So if you are curious and want to know more about Zen practice then this book is the place to start.

My life has been in and out of Zen temples and I have practiced meditation for years. But my path, I realized, was to live in the world and have a family and practice this way. And I made the right choice. Family life has helped me see beyond myself (Check out this short article on the challenges of family life) Even so I find myself lacking in certain worldly skills like developing ambition and finding ways to have a successful career and family life. I have to learn to live in this world, as do all of us, and we know that nothing in this world comes easily. 

Another book I want to recommend is by David Goggins and it really gave me a swift kick in the ass and woke me up to some things I have been missing in my life. If you haven’t read this book, it’s outrageously good and pretty much guarantees to inspire motivation and action. Overall, I like what he says about the need to push ourselves and go beyond what we think we are capable of. I prefer to push myself and improve myself little by little rather than a full onslaught on complacency and mediocrity like he does. But either way there are some excellent principles and ideas in this book that are guaranteed to inspire you to move.

Keeping it Together Through Creativity

The last book I want to recommend is by one of my generation’s most creative forces, Questlove. Here is an amazing exploration of what creativity is to him and how he goes about coming up with ideas, making things and expressing himself. There is really no other book like it. 

If you feel like you need to get your life back on track, I highly encourage you to find creative endeavors and start making something, no matter it is. I have been a creative all of my life, and I know that expressing myself has been one of the most important and essential ways to navigate this world when I feel I have gone off course. We are all creative beings, and during hard times making things can be one of the best ways to keep us going. Whether it be music, painting, sewing, carpentry, dance…you name it, your creative hobbies can save you.

Balance and Getting Our Lives Back on Track

Reading is a great way to help get you motivated and on the right track. Making commitments is also essential to help us create change. The next step is to find a way to motivate ourselves that will enable us to develop positive habits and not over commit or under commit to making change.

Enter the balance of Ra’Co Life. (like this short article on our work/life balance) I want to find a way to navigate this life (that often seems so backwards and ridiculous) and balance my actions in a way that enables me to always respect my mind and know that happiness doesn’t exist in the external world, but exists within. This is a challenge all of us must embrace and practice. So in the coming weeks I want to explore how to find this balance and share my discoveries with you. 

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7077″ alignment=”center” img_caption=”We Love This Book!”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548020172266{margin-right: 5px !important;margin-left: 5px !important;}”]

Dry January, Hold the Booze Thank You

Another way we have decided to get our lives back on track here at Ra’Co Life is to put aside the booze for January. Rache and I, along with our many other bad habits, have been leaning on the alcohol too heavily over the last couple of years. Drinking too much is a progressive illness and we have definitely seen it creep up on us over time.

So if you are having the same kind of problem, maybe make an effort to take a month off, really push it through and see what happens. What I have noticed during this alcohol free month is that I am sleeping better and I am far more patient with Iza and Zai when they are acting crazy, which is pretty much all of the time (seems like it, but not really).

Check out what the guys at Dry January are doing to help people get away from their habitual alcohol use. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/dry-january.

And please visit this link to self.com to get all kinds of great information on why getting off alcohol can really change your life for the better.

I have to say that being dry for January has really helped me stay motivated and get my life back on track. I’m not sure how Rache is doing with this, I was traveling the first two weeks of the month and she is now off to Vegas for her monthly commute. Judging from photos that popped up in my photo stream, I get the feeling she may have back slid a little! We shall see.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548020184321{margin-right: 5px !important;margin-left: 5px !important;}”]

In Conclusion

The main thing I want to say with all of this is that I am extremely excited to reengage Ra’Co Life to help facilitate Rache and I coming together and getting motivated to get healthier and make some very important and needed changes in our lives.

And I hope you too are excited about starting off the new year right and taking action like we are to make this a great 2019. Whether you are committing to reading more, drinking less, eating better or just being a nicer calmer person, I truly wish you success in all your healthy endeavors to lead a more balanced life. Ra’Co on![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

6 Easy Steps: Meditation We Don’t Usually Consider Meditation

[vc_row content_placement=”middle” center_row=”yes”][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_single_image image=”6984″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548800420646{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]Written in 2016

Meditation at the Pool

I’m sitting at a Hotel Club in Antigua, Guatemala meditating. I’m at a pool, but I’m still in my meditation practice. And I have (somewhat annoyingly) stopped my meditation to sit down to write this post. I would rather be meditating but inspiration arrives when it arrives, and it is a welcome guest. No matter what I’m doing or where, I keep the radar on and my compass pointed in its direction. Fortunately, inspiration never runs dry when you are open to it.

I am the proverbial frog waiting for the fly.

Back to the Hotel Club. Cloying in the background is a marimba group playing their lively traditional marimba music, which I have heard for the umpteenth time. Iza and Zai are over watching Casimiro the clown do his thing, for the umpteenth time. I guess it’s what we do. We do things over and over and over again, whatever the circumstances. I could be in a silent forest retreat right now, but I’m not. I’m here, every day, happily, and here is the only place to be. So I practice on and try to keep the little Mona Lisa smile intact.

Enjoy the Distractions

When l think of all the “distractions” and noise here, I think back to the time when I was living at a Zen Buddhist center in Los Angeles, California. Zen Buddhist center, Los Angeles, quite a unique juxtaposition I would say. But while deep into one of the many meditation retreats we participated in and helped conduct throughout the year, there were almost always one or two (sometimes 3) ice cream trucks blasting their carnival music into the street.

* Take 3 deep breaths……now.

Welcome back. As I was saying, ice cream truck music is not the ideal background music for a Zen retreat. Or is it?

The point I am making? We are not always presented with the most ideal circumstances to continue a spiritual practice (whatever practice that may be). That in itself is the perfect spiritual practice.

I mean, right now, I am hammering away on my phone and trying to keep up with the words and ideas flowing through my mind, and in a way this is just a part of the extended practice.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”6980″ alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548800593990{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]

Meditation 101

Now for the purpose.

  1. Find a moment (even 5 minutes)
  2. Sit in a comfortable position
  3. Listen to the sounds around you
  4. Don’t focus on anyone sound
  5. Breathe with intention, follow your breath
  6. Try to release your mind from all other obligations

You are now meditating and its something you can do anytime, anywhere, for as long as you have available. It offers you a moment to be alone even in a sea of people. It gives you an internal power you can’t get anywhere else.

Want to learn more? Here is a pretty well-written article from Yoga Journal.

The Story Continues…

We are now back home and the kids are sleeping. You parents know the deal: it’s SO sweet when you get those few minutes to decompress, But it’s only 3:30. Do I wake them or let them sleep. If I wake them, back to the beautiful grind of parenthood.

If I don’t wake them I’m F’d because I know they’ll keep me up all night. Yea, nobody wants that so I’ll go with another half hour and hope for the best.

So for the precious moments I have, do I continue my meditation I was so relishing back at the pool? Or, with inspiration still fully intact, do I continue this post. Rache would definitely continue writing so I use her as my guiding work force. And I feel like there is something I need to say, right now, so I am rolling with it and serving it up. Of course with the deepest gratitude for receiving this inspiration to share words and ideas. I feel like other like-minded folks out there in the cyber world are working hard to share their inspiration as well, so I want to give back when I have the chance.

And there you go. One of them awoke. Gotta go![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner css=”.vc_custom_1547575447533{margin-right: 120px !important;margin-left: 120px !important;}”][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

Get Started with Meditation with These Tools

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”6994″ img_size=”300×300″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://amzn.to/2RERhGe”][vc_column_text]

You can never have enough. These cushions are essential for any meditation practice, especially when you are starting out. They help you to ease into lotus. 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”6993″ img_size=”300 x 300″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://amzn.to/2RzlUgm”][vc_column_text]

Want to learn more about my style of meditation? Read up on Rinzai. 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row content_placement=”middle” center_row=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1547575406613{margin-right: 120px !important;margin-left: 120px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”6998″ img_size=”500×300″ alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

If you look closely, you can see me on the left when I first started practicing.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1547575729641{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]

What’s Sesshin?

sesshin (接心, or also 摂心/攝心 literally “touching the heart-mind”) is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery. – From Wikipedia

Most dedicated western practitioners do two sesshins a year for 7 days each in total silence. Each day you meditate in a variety of different ways for roughly 18-hours. Meditation in these cases can be sitting, walking or working. Often, by the 7th day, practitioners feel ‘high’ or ‘light’.

I meditate every morning and have tried to attend at least 1 sesshin a year while our children were small. Now that they are older, I am renewing my 2x annual practice.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1547575740756{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]

Meditation is Apart of My Work

My art is centered around meditation and in my most recent work, you can see the repetition, patterns, and simplicity of form. I typically meditate for 50-minutes and then do a freehand piece in under an hour. Learn more here on my website.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”6988″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.kurtisbrand.com/project/manta-cruda/”][vc_empty_space css=”.vc_custom_1547575753142{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1547575770154{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]My Zen brother Billy White also practices meditation as his work. Check out his sound healing at The Heart is Awake.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Ra’Co Natural Electrolyte Drink (the anti-Gatorade)

[vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1546557739124{margin-right: 140px !important;margin-left: 140px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Got to hydrate. Rache was puking her brains out last night, all night. I feel horrible for her. And when you are a spouse or parent who’s partner or child is that kind of sick, you feel a little helpless. Sometimes they just need time to heal so you try to help them as best you can. In this case, I worried that Rache was getting dehydrated or losing strength from lack of food. So I did some research and experimented a little and came up with a great and simple recipe for an electrolyte power boost drink. And because we are Ra’Co we try to go au naturel as often as possible.

Look at the label of a Gatorade bottle or a major competing sports drink brand. What do you get? Water, Sucrose i.e. Sugar (the refined crappy kind), Artificial Color (really, fluorescent purple?), Refined salt, extra calories….sports drinks are pretty much the equal to soda, just different enough to make them appear as you might need them. But you don’t. So stop drinking sports drinks and get with the Ra’Co program. Make things yourself from natural, organic if possible, local if possible, fresh ingredients. Do it yourself and you will have fun (at least the first few times), promise. And don’t worry, this drink tastes great.


The Ra’Co Life Natural Citrus Electrolyte Drink

Here is what you need for 2-4 servings:

– 1 or 2 oranges
– 1 or 2 lemons
– 1 lime
– 1T raw honey
– 2 pinches of Real Salt or good quality mineral-rich salt
– 2-3 cups of coconut water (naturally packed with electrolytes) or filtered water

Liquify the honey and salt in a small pitcher with a little hot water and let it cool while you juice the oranges, lemons, and limes. Add the citrus juice and cold filtered water or coconut water to the pitcher and mix well. Serve or bottle in repurposed wine bottles or Ball jars and keep in the fridge.


Fresh mandarines and limes from the market. Huge funky lemons from the tree behind our house.
Fresh mandarines and limes from the market. Huge funky lemons from the tree behind our house.
The final product, sugar free, frothy, delicious and full of electrolytes.



– Just a reminder to get some real salt like Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt. The white table salt that is ubiquitous in mainstream groceries is processed to the point where it has lost most of the mineral content that is found in good unrefined salt. And the white table salt taste like crap. Try Real Salt fine sea salt. It’s pink and beautiful, super tasty and full of rich nutritious minerals. Get it here.



Whats for Lunch? Avo Salad with Sprouts

[vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1546557936792{margin-right: 130px !important;margin-left: 130px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]


Have an avocado salad on us. Eating healthy is actually really easy. We don’t want to pummel you over the head with healthy recipes and a constant call to arms to change your diets to a more whole food plant based diet (though you should, now). But once or twice a week we want to show you just how easy it is to have a healthy fulfilling meal, anywhere at any time. What’s for lunch today?

Avocado, Alfalfa sprouts, tomato, olive oil, and sea salt.

No fancy name, no fancy ingredients, no complicated preparation. Try this for lunch today and you will feel energized and refreshed. And of course, it’s delicious!

1/2 – 1 sliced avocado
1/2 – 1 quartered tomato
handful of alfalfa sprouts
olive oil
Real Salt sea salt

Add a big handful of sprouts to a bowl. We grow our own using these amazing Handy Pantry Sprout Jars. Get one jar to try, or if you have a lot of mouths to feed, we definitely recommend getting the kit. Try this one. After adding the sprouts, top with the avocado and tomato, drizzle with olive oil, and add a dash of Real Salt. Enjoy!

Avocados have more potassium than a banana, that’s a lot. Avos are one of the high protein fruits and vegetables with a whopping 2.9 grams per one cup, sliced. They are high in Omega-3 fatty acids (good fat) and are great for your skin and damaged hair. That’s just the beginning. Eat avocados!

Please let us know what you think, or send us some suggestions for quick and easy healthy meals. We are always looking for inspiration and may even share your recipe.




New York Times Article Review: A Portrait of a Modern Family

Ra'Co Life New York Times Article Review Portrait of a Modern Family

The New York Times, one of the most appreciated publications on the planet, just published an article on the American family. They titled it: Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family. It showcased many of the issues we as families face today by being stretch too thin; the inability to be there for everything you need to be. But they are all choices we make and we all have the ability to shift or adjust to make them differently. The article was not reflective of the entire population, but the comments on the article by the readers really demonstrated a broad spectrum of opinions and life experiences related.

What’s Missing?

What the article didn’t showcase was real opportunities for change for this ‘typical American family.’ The article had very few solutions and a lot of banter about what is not working. It didn’t account for the millennial population of out-of-the-box workplace scenarios and lacked content around alternative lifestyles like communities, expatriate living, or families who have worked out schedules to be home at opposite times to co-parent.

One other element not considered in the article: there is no talk about balancing behaviors like more sleep, a better diet and general health of the people they are showcasing. We find that often the main reasons people are stressed, tired and rushed is due to being overweight, sleep deprived and sickly, unable to function at 100%. Work becomes less productive and life is less enjoyable. All of this can be avoided through preventative health.

Kurt and I know this first hand because we’ve been there. When we first had Iza, we had just gotten two huge contracts. To fit it all in, we stayed up after Iza was asleep… we became sleep deprived and then ate poorly and drank too much to ease the pain. We stopped meditating and stopped exercising. Not only did we feel terrible, but we found that we were spinning and hardly getting any work done. We had strayed too far from our values, so we stopped, reevaluated and initiated a plan which supported our lifestyle.

What we love about this article is that it says what many of us are thinking all the time. It speaks to the realities many families face in the general workplace… the one with no life balance or boundaries.

Fermentation and Sprouting For a Healthy Gut

RaCo Life Fermenting

RaCo Life One Love Fermentation

Our kitchen is really starting to stink. I don’t think it stinks, I think it smells great. Rache on the other hand does not hold the same opinion. I must admit, my fermentation projects have got a little out of control and the kitchen is starting to smell a little like a bottle of apple cider vinegar, but a little more…ripe. Please don’t let this discourage you from attempting to ferment some foods. It only smells in a certain corner of the kitchen where the process is happening. This post is a very broad overview of the wonderful process of fermentation. We are not experts on the subject and there are plenty of blogs dedicated to probiotic foods and fermentation. We are just like you, just trying to keep the bodies of ourselves and our family healthy.

We have been making sauerkraut and rejuvelac for a long time now, but here in Guatemala the process all started with a brownish-red overripe pineapple. Nasty mush that leaves your tongue feeling like it is wearing a wool sweater, you just can’t eat it.  I had to find a way to use the over ripe pineapple and I remembered seeing a great recipe in our favorite cookbook of the moment, Gran Cocina Latina, The Latin Food of America, for a fermented pineapple drink called tepache. I have always been into fermentation but had not done anything with it since we came to Guatemala. And since the tepache is like a wine, slightly sweet with a mild alcohol content, I said, hell yea, fermentation time!



tepache, check out the foam, serious fermentation action
Tepache: Check out the foam, serious fermentation action


  • 1 rind of a large pineapple
  • 1 1/2 quarts of water
  • 1 cup of sugar

Thats it for the ingredients though I like to add a little cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice to make it more flavorful.


  1. Cut the rinds off of the pineapple and leave a little flesh intact. *(check out this post that includes how to cut a pineapple).
  2. Add the rinds and spices to the water in a large 2 quart jar, cover with cheesecloth and let it sit in a warm place for 3 days.
  3. All along, bubbles and foam are growing on the surface. It’s alive. You get to see the process unfold. After 3 days stir in the sugar and let sit for another 2 days. Done.
  4. Strain off the liquid and drink up. The alcohol content is low, but is sometimes increased by adding beer.

Making tepache is an easy way to introduce yourself to fermentation. And it tastes great. Go for it.

So once I got rolling with the tepache I decided to get back into sprouting again.



sprouts are growing
Sprouts in the Growing Process

Sprouts are one of our favorite things here at Ra’Co Life. They are packed with nutrients and you can grow them yourself. So here is a primer on growing sprouts to make it super easy for you to dive right in. Down the line we will do a full post or ebook on sprouting.


Raco-Life-Amazon-Products-Sprouter-kitThere are two products we recommend for beginning sprouters. We use the Handy Pantry Sprout Jars right now and they work great. Basically they are a Ball jar with plastic mesh lids. You could also use the Easy Sprout Sprouter which is also great but it comes with a lot of pieces. If you have kids you know that you will loose the pieces, guaranteed. That is why we use the very simple Handy Pantry jars. Also, they come with organic alfalfa seeds so you have everything you need to get started.

Sprouting is ridiculously easy but you have to stay on top of it.


Start with 2 TBS to 1/4 cup of seeds in a 32 oz. jar and fill with fresh filtered water. Quantity of seeds, soaking time and sprouting days depends on the type of seeds you are using. Here is a Ra’Co life soaking/sprouting chart to let you know how long to soak:


Ra'Co Seed Sprouting Chart

After soaking, drain and rinse the seeds and place the jar at a 45 degree angle in a container in a warm place without too much light. The seeds should be rinsed 2-3 times a day and most will begin to sprout after a couple of days. We soak our seeds in a natural lemongrass disinfectant for 5 minutes on the last soak because there has been talk about ecoli and other food borne illnesses coming from sprouts. Though we have never had any problems it is something you should be aware of. After the last soak, let sit overnight and then harvest the next day. We let ours sit in a colander so any excess water will dry. Then we place in indirect sunlight for a little while until the sprouts start to green. After greening, store in the fridge and eat within 3-5 days.

Sprouts are excellent in the morning on a salad with soft boiled eggs and a little gluten free toast. For lunch put them on a sandwich with avocado and tomato. Dinner, more salad with some good white balsamic, red onion and olive oil. Simple, packed with nutrition and tasty, sprouts are an essential part of our lives. Check out our post on this avocado, sprout and tomato sandwich.



kombucha - the SCOBY grows to the size of the container, this batch is flavored with hibiscus tea
Kombucha: the SCOBY grows to the size of the container, this batch is flavored with hibiscus tea

Before Guatemala, I’d never made kombucha. But it is really easy and requires very little time on your part. If you want to learn a lot about kombucha, check out this great post on kombucha at a blog called Phoenix Helix. I like it because it dispels a lot of myths about the beverage.  And its a great blog for people with autoimmune diseases.

First off, shouts to a good friend in Jaibalito who brought me the mother and showed me the process. The mother is also known as the SCOBY. Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Sounds like utopia, perfection… nerd. And our subject is also known as the mushroom. Lots of aliases. It is the main ingredient in kombucha and you can acquire one from a friend if you know someone who makes kombucha, or you can buy one here.  The probiotics produced by the fermentation process while making kombucha are said to have therapeutic qualities that help your body stay healthy. It is more of a proactive way of staying healthy through preventative care. Thats one of the reasons we drink it and one of the reasons we ferment things in general. Lots of healthy flora for the gut.

Other ingredients besides the SCOBY used to make kombucha are: black or green tea, sugar, and fresh water. Thats it. You can add other flavors like ginger or lemon later if you want, but it is not necessary.

So what happens during the process of making kombucha? In essence the SCOBY eats the added sugar and during the fermentation process produces probiotics, enzymes, antioxidants and organic acids along with traces of alcohol, remaining sugars and caffeine. It ends up tasting slightly tart and sweet and subtly fizzy (or very fizzy depending on time of fermentation).

Here is the recipe. I’ll call it Josie’s recipe as she is the one who showed us how to make it.


  • 3 liters of water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3-5 tea bags, black or green
  • 1/2 cup starter ( kombucha already made. buy a bottle if you need to.)



Bring the water to a boil with the sugar. Add teas and leave to cool. When cool strain the tea into to a large glass bowl, pour in the starter and add the SCOBY with the smooth side up. Cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band. Leave the mixture for 5-14 days depending on whether you like your mix on the sweet side or if you like it fizzier with a more pronounced vinegar flavor. The longer it sits the more the sugars get eaten and the stronger the vinegar flavor. After the fermentation process, strain and pour off into bottles and store in the refrigerator. I also like to add a tablespoon of chia seed right into the kombucha. The seed adds nice texture and even more health benefits.




the kraut is bubbling, it's alive
The kraut bubbling. It’s alive afterall.

Finally this brings us to our favorite fermented food, the old classic, sauerkraut. We all know what sauerkraut is, but most of what we buy is from the supermarket and much of it may be pasteurized and made with vinegar, sugar, preservatives and all kinds of other things you don’t need. The real stuff contains probiotics that are good for a healthy gut. It also contains fiber, magnesium, calcium, vitamins C,B and K, folate, iron, potassium and copper. Healthy! And it’s pretty simple to make, here’s how:


  • Large ceramic crock or food grade plastic pail
  • Plate that fits in the container
  • A rock that has been scrubbed, washed and boiled and that will fit over the plate
  • Towel to cover the container


  • 2 large heads of cabbage
  • Quality salt, fine


  1. Remove the large leaves from the outside of the cabbage and set aside. They will be used later to cover the chopped cabbage. Chop enough cabbage to make a layer of 2-3 inches in the bottom of the container. After adding the cabbage, sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the cabbage. Make sure to use enough salt as it is essential to keeping the cabbage crunchy and fermenting properly. If you don’t use enough  you will end up with mushy cabbage. After adding the salt, press the entire mixture down as hard as you can. I use a wine bottle to press. This causes the salt to start leaching liquid from the cabbage to create a brine.
  2. Chop and add another layer of cabbage and sprinkle with salt, then press down like before. Continue this process until there is enough space between the cabbage and the top of the container to add the plate and rock. After all of the cabbage has been added, place the large leaves over the chopped cabbage to completely cover.
  3. Next add the plate over the leaves and place the rock on the plate to hold everything down. Cover with a towel. Over the next 24 hours, if you pressed the mixture enough, the brine will end up covering the entire mixture. This is essential as any organic material that is not covered with brine will rot and mold. If at this point the mixture is not covered, add salt water until it is covered.
  4. Check every couple of days. Sometimes mold will form on the surface but this is not a problem. Just scoop it off, wash the rock and plate, replace and let it continue to do its thing.  You can taste the brine and notice that it will get more sour over time. When it has reached a taste that you like, scoop some of the mixture out and taste it. If you like how it tastes and it is nice and crunchy, put some in a jar and store on the fridge. Let the rest of the mixture keep fermenting but make sure it is always repacked and covered with brine. The flavors will change over time and you will enjoy tasting the difference.

Every morning I check the sprouts, kombucha, tepache and sauerkraut. It’s a great way to start the day knowing that wonderful fermented living food is growing and contributing to my family’s good health. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Enjoy!




Checked baggage; How many while flying?

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The answer is… Ten 70 pound checked bags of pain! Heavy lifting! But it’s precious cargo as we say around here, an effort well worth it. I guess we like our stuff more than we thought. Checked baggage over the airline limit is going to cost you, but for us it was worth it.

It was on my second mission to the US, this time to bring back (10x) 70 pound bags of things (to be sorted through over three days) we have been missing/needing (a thin line) that were packed away in a dark storage locker in the middle of Newburgh, NY. I have lived in a few armpits, and this is certainly one of them, and though we have never actually lived in Newburgh, our storage is there, for now. It’s close to Beacon and much cheaper than the city. And the storage place ain’t half bad.

So I took the red eye out of Guatemala city on August 11 and Arrived in LaGuardia at about 5:30 AM, got my rental car and set to it.

If you ever do decide to take on such a ridiculous task as this (moving by airplane), and I certainly hope you don’t, maybe fly Delta. At least they are the airline we are going with right now (but you know airlines, things may quickly change). As for now, Delta. When a company does us right, we give them big respect, because lets face it, there are way too many companies out there that suck.

Next, (hopefully you have abandoned the idea to move this way already) make sure to fly first class if you can. For one thing, from Central America, it isn’t that much more expensive. More importantly, the first two bags are free and you get a weight limit of 70 pounds rather than the paltry 50 you would get in coach. So for me that was about 100 extra pounds of crap I could haul along. A baby stroller, a Fender amp, shoes, cookware, clothing. Anything I could shove into a giant black military sized duffle bag or a badly bent $100 Target bag with a broken wheel and a missing handle.

But regardless of the problems inherent in a task like this, (stupidity), the cause fueled me on. Mama needs her shoes. Baby needs her stroller, papa needs his Strat and his iMac. (too bad I ended up with neither….Arbuella, help, I need my gear!).

Checked Baggage


At the Storage Locker

So I holed up in the Ramada Inn in Newburgh (2 1/2 stars!) and spent 10-12 hours a day for the next three days sorting through our stuff at Uhaul Storage. I’m feeling orange just thinking about it.



The Labyrinth
The Labyrinth
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

Uhaul Storage, locker 2174, my new home. Ok, I gotta get out of here.

So here is what I was up against: Bin City.


Bin City
Bin City


I ultimately got through it and in the end I would say I did a pretty good job getting everything that we needed. And with the help of arbuella Jan Ruby Crystal on the last day, I got everything packed up and loaded into the rented Chevy.

Things were pretty uneventful except when I was taking a screw out of the Bob Stroller and cut my finger with a crappy utility knife. Blood was flowing all over Bob, damn! I thought, mannnn, now I’m going to have to go to the emergency room again, for the second time in a month, pay a bunch of money and have a few stitches across my knuckle. How will I get the bags back? Ehhh, whateva, I wrapped it with some toilet paper and yellow duct tape and Arbuella and I finished packing. It was about 5pm by the time we finished, Arbuella starving and tired, my fingers duct taped, we’re all ragged and worn out. That day she had driven 3 hours from Mass leaving at 6am. Exhausted!

After dinner Jan headed home and I went back to the hotel to sleep as much as possible. Tomorrow could be rough…little did I know.

The Day of Checked Baggage Hell

So I spent the next morning in Beacon buying supplements for Rache, E3 Live was the big one, great for new baby Zai’s development they say. It did wonders for Iza, so hopefully it will be good for Zai. Blenderbabes.com has a good review here: E3live review. If we still lived in the States we would be taking E3live daily, no question.

Afterwards I was off to the airport, going down through the Hudson Valley on one of the most beautiful stretches of highway, the Taconic State Parkway. Incredible, put it on your bucket list.

Arriving at JFK Airport in Queens, I navigated through a daunting mass of travelers to get to the first available SkyCab agent. There were none. But  soon, from behind the counter, a guy called out to see if I needed help and took him to my ridiculously over stuffed SUV. We proceed to unpack and get busy with the checked baggage, but he told me we could only check 7 outside and we needed to go inside to check the others. First hurdle. So we checked the 7 and took the others inside. This is where first class came in handy. We went strait to the front in a separate check in area and started to check the bags. But soon it got ugly.

I had four boxes of gallon sized paint containers taped together to make two boxes that fit the size and weight requirement. They lady at the gate said this was a no no for TSA and the boxes had to be separated and treated as 4 boxes. That would be an extra $400. Hellll no! And the other problem was that I already checked baggage limit of 10 bags. I could check no more she said. Thats a serious amount of money in paint that I wasn’t about to leave behind. So the SkyCab guy, who was still hanging on said “Quick, follow me!” And we OJ’ed it through the airport flying over barricades, running through the backs of shops and jumping over people to get down two flights of stairs to the shops below. There I bought two of the largest dufflebags they had and we hightailed it back up to check in. At this point, things were getting surreal; after getting back to check in I found that I had lost the receipts and my gate slip to get me on the plane. Big problem. A couple of seconds later, when I was on the ground looking for them, a guy comes up to me holding my lost papers and hands them to me. And guess who it was? Philip Seymour Hoffman. But he’s dead you say!? No, it was him! I sat there with my chin on the floor and papers in hand as he walked away. I was in a daze. At the same time, I looked next to me and saw these tags laying on the ground (I saved them) :

Racolife_wisdomand  after that, I looked up and I see this:


Where am I?

Meanwhile my friend is shoving two boxes into one of the duffle bags:

Checked Baggage

Success! My luck is turning. But when we go to put the other boxes in the next bag, the bag is busted! No zipper. My friend says in an African accent “Man, this is really not your day.” Yea. But we shove the boxes in anyway and he proceeds to put a massive amount of tape around the broken bag. Pathetic!

More checked baggage

Finally the checked baggage is clear, all in. It’s a miracle. Now I just have to get the rental car back and return to the gate before the flight takes off. I only have a half an hour at this point.

So I got the car back and ran back to the gate with two massive carry on bags, get through customs, (minus some vice grips, a box cutter and an adjustable wrench that they took; I had forgotten about them) and made it to the gate just as the plane was boarding.

I boarded the plane, sat down, asked for a bloody mary, and it was smooth sailing after that. First class was empty. All mine! I put on my headphones, kicked back and disappeared into a deep sleep.


Fertility: Helping from the Male Side

When it comes to pregnancy and fertility, guys know that back in the day, men had just one job when it came to making babies; let the little men flow and do their thing. But these days things are different. Men and women are having kids later in life and there are studies coming out now that tell us women are not the only ones having to worry about autism and other birth related problems due to the advanced age of the parents. And the older you get, the harder it may be to provide the super sperm you once never even thought about. If you’re young and having trouble getting pregnant, of course there may be some deeper fertility problems going on, but don’t go running to the doctor so fast. Try some of the suggestions we are discussing here.

For the fellas, if you think you are having fertility issues, there are a lot of things you can do to boost your sperm count before engaging in expensive and time consuming fertility treatments. Check it out:

1. If you can handle it stop smoking cigarettes and marijuana and stop drinking. The weed has been known to reduce sperm count in certain studies, cigarette smoking is just pointless and dumb and not good for anything, and over indulging in alcohol has been shown to reduce zinc levels.

2. Eat foods that are high in zinc. Zinc deficiency is known to decrease sperm quality. We always recommend getting your vitamins and minerals from food, but take a high quality supplement if you need to. Here is a list of foods rich in zinc:

  • Seafood, namely oysters. I’m getting crazy hungry just thinking about it because I haven’t had oysters in a long time. Man, I miss them. Also, you will be happy to know that crab and lobster run a close second.
  • Beef and Lamb. I don’t go there but 3-4 times a year, and even then I just don’t feel good about myself. Stick with the plants if you can.
  • Wheat Germ. I don’t go there either because we keep our house gluten free. But it is supposedly good for your sperm. Supposedly contributes to greater ejaculation volume.
  • Spinach. Now we’re talking. Eat it raw, cook it, juice it.
  • Pumpkin and Squash Seeds. More awesomeness, I could eat these all day.
  • Nuts. Love them. Cashews are the highest in zinc and great for making raw food cream sauces and deserts. We love us some cashews.
  • Cacao and Chocolate. Hell yea!
  • Pork and Chicken. Gross.
  • Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Flax seeds. We use them to make delicious raw crackers.

3. Keep em’ cool and loose. Some studies suggest constricting the testicles could affect fertility. A great excuse to not wear tighty whities, if you have mistakenly made that error in the first place. Wear boxers or boxer briefs, that goes without saying, and your lady will love you more anyway. Also, studies have suggested that exposing your little friends to high heat could affect fertility. So no hot tubs for awhile. And don’t put your laptop on your lap; more heat. And while we’re at it, don’t put a cell phone in your front pocket either. Some studies say it can have a negative affect on your sperm.

So no alcohol, no hot tubs, no weed and no cell phones in the pocket. There goes your chance at being a famous rapper. Still want kids? Read on.

4. This goes without saying across the board; keep your weight down and exercise. Thats right up there with not smoking cigarettes.

5. Have sex, a lot, but don’t use WD40 or anything like that for lube. That could be a problem.

6. Eat organic to avoid pesticides, and stay away from toxic solvents and glues. And don’t sniff glue, thats probably bad for sperm.

7. Take supplements.

Okay, so lets get down to the supplements, which is what we have all been waiting for right? Supplements should by no means replace an active healthy diet full of nutrient rich vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Some studies have shown that supplements do little to enhance fertility. But other say it can help a lot.  And if you do take the supplements listed below, there will be a three month waiting period while the weak sperm grow into super sperm. Here is what I have found from extensive research and what, I think, has actually worked for me.

  • Zinc – at the top of the list. If you don’t like to eat a lot of the foods we listed above then take a good quality supplement.
  • L-carnitine – in healthy sperm there are high concentrations of the amino acid l-carnitine.  WebMD talks about l-carnitine and male fertility. Also check lef.com for more info on l-carnitine.
  • L-arginine – an amino acid that studies say increase sperm count and mobility. Check natural-fertility-info.com and menfertility.com for discussions on why l-arginine may be good for your sperm. Because it is mostly found in animal products, the supplement may be needed by vegetarians.
  • Selenium – helps to reduce birth defects and may increase sperm count.
  • Antioxidants – essential in all aspects of health.
  • Omega 3 – in animal studies, Omega 3’s were shown to increase sperm.
  • Vitamin C – high in antioxidants.
  • Folic Acid – combining with zinc may help to increase sperm count much more than just taking one or the other.

So there you have it fellas, lots of great information on building up your little men to do the job they need to do. We love to do everything the natural way first, through a healthy diet consisting of mostly plant-based nutrient-rich whole food, exercise, and by staying calm and stress-free through meditation and yoga. But if you are a healthy individual that lives like us and you find you are having problems with fertility, try the supplements. And if you don’t find that supplements provide results after a few months, go see a doctor. We wish you the best.


Pain in the Rache: How to Make a Homemade All Natural Tiger Balm


How to Make an All Natural Tiger Balm

Rache was feeling some serious pain in her neck this weekend and I wanted to make her a soothing natural Tiger Balm. Could be because my brother Karl is here. No! Big love goes out to little brother for being here in Lake Atitlan for the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna have a blast!

Rache could barely move because of her neck. Iza wants to be carried around by Mama 24/7 but Mama is pregnant and tired. And Iza weighs about 40 pounds. She needs good medicine!

Yesterday I decided to make Rache a massage ointment to hopefully curb some of that pain. Since we don’t have any Tiger Balm, and I am always looking for a DIY project, I made an all natural Tiger Balm like an icy/hot ointment from things we have in the pantry. What’s in it?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″ css=”.vc_custom_1547990405833{padding-right: 30px !important;}”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7176″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://amzn.to/2T2y12V”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Coconut Oil (1T)

Works great as a base and the stuff is magic anyway.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vcex_button url=”https://amzn.to/2T2y12V” title=”Buy Now” target=”blank” align=”center”]BUY NOW[/vcex_button][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7179″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://amzn.to/2FM6Up9″][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Ginger Oil (1/4-1/2T)

Ginger is supposedly good for inflammation.
Smells good mixed with the other stuff.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vcex_button url=”https://amzn.to/2FM6Up9″ title=”Buy Now” target=”blank” align=”center”]BUY NOW[/vcex_button][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″ css=”.vc_custom_1547990405833{padding-right: 30px !important;}”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7183″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://amzn.to/2T2UsFm”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Aloe Vera (1/4T)

Not sure if this was necessary, but aloe vera adds a cooling effect so I thought I would add a little. Leave it out for a more balmy consistency.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vcex_button url=”https://amzn.to/2T2UsFm” title=”Buy Now” target=”blank” align=”center”]BUY NOW[/vcex_button][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7182″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://amzn.to/2W50g3a”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Cayenne Pepper (1/4T)

The heat! Added less than 1/4 teaspoon and that brought enough heat. Go slow with the cayenne and add more as desired.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vcex_button url=”https://amzn.to/2W50g3a” title=”Buy Now” target=”blank” align=”center”]BUY NOW[/vcex_button][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″ css=”.vc_custom_1547990405833{padding-right: 30px !important;}”][vc_single_image image=”7185″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://amzn.to/2MlJSa3″][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Peppermint Oil (20-30 Drops)

Usually, we use this for digestion by adding 20-30 drops to a glass of water. But here the peppermint is used for the icy cooling effect and it works great. If we had eucalyptus I would have used that. Camphor would be even better.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vcex_button url=”https://amzn.to/2MlJSa3″ title=”Buy Now” target=”blank” align=”center”]BUY NOW[/vcex_button][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”7181″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://amzn.to/2T6Fm1I”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Calming Tonic –
Lavender, Catnip, Chamomile (20-Drops)

This is a locally prepared mix of soothing herbs valerian, chamomile, verlain, and catnip and is normally taken orally. But it’s mild so I thought it couldn’t hurt. I’m sure you have a similar blend at your local health food store. Support your local herbalists!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vcex_button url=”https://amzn.to/2T6Fm1I” title=”Buy Now” target=”blank” align=”center”]BUY NOW[/vcex_button][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

And Mix it Together

Mix everything together and apply the all natural Tiger Balm (you can also buy a similar version with Tea Tree Oil ready to go here) to the sore areas a little at a time, slowly massaging deep into the skin and muscles. Smells good, feels good, and gives that relieving icy/cool sensation we all love.

After all that work, I needed a little medicine myself:[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7186″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://drizly.com/centinela-tequila-blanco/p6388″][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Good medicine…

Now it’s time to do the rub down for pregnant Rache. Sweet. Another great Ra’Co home remedy![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Meditation in Art, From the Studio, Ensos

In a way my paintings are ensos. What is an enso?

An enso is a Japanese Buddhist painting, a circle, drawn in one fluid motion with brush and ink. Most people have seen this symbol before, but are not familiar with the name. The drawing of an enso is a discipline derived from calligraphy and expresses a precise moment and the state of mind that the creator was in while drawing it. The paintings signify emptiness and vast space and their creation is a spiritual practice. Sometimes the circle is closed, but often the circle is left open.

enso by Zen master Hakuin
enso by Zen master Hakuin who lived from 1685-1768



My art is a spiritual practice in the same vein as an enso painting. While creating one of my paintings from the Emptiness series, I strive (actually strive is not a good word, in meditation there can be no striving) to be in the same state of mind as I would be while in meditation. Letting thoughts come and go and focusing on the breathing and not letting the mind be swayed by this or that. This is a daily life practice as well.

Emptiness 6, in its early stages
Emptiness 6, in its early stages


But beyond the mental practice there is the issue of technique to be dealt with while creating these paintings, and that is what I am struggling with right now. Actually over the last week I have resolved some issues that have been keeping me from completing a painting that I would keep. It has been a very slow process. Lately it has taken 3-4 attempts per painting to finally get a good image. And the canvas cannot be painted over. The canvas must be removed and re-stretched, starting completely from scratch. The paintings that I have completed and kept have an intangible quality to them, some less than others, that when viewed have a sense of mystery and depth that is inexplainable.

RaCo-Life-From-The-Studio-Paintings copy

There are some important factors to be dealing with when creating a painting from this series:

– the quality of the mind when the paint is applied
– the quality of the brushstrokes
– the thickness of the paint
– how “clean” the paint is – no floaters or little solid bits
– the atmosphere of the studio
– the quality of the canvas, imperfections are ok (to some extent)

Actually, with regards to the latter, imperfections are embraced. They signify that nothing is perfect and that all life is transient. One of the problems I have been struggling with is that I was trying to make my paintings too perfect. Not absolute perfection, but I was not using the imperfections properly. I noticed that the paintings that were the most “perfect” lacked the depth and intangible quality I was looking for. So I backed off and loosened up a bit and things started happening.

a large variation on the theme of emptiness, this one starts to show elements of wabi sabi.


Like ensos, my paintings embrace the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, which basically means “imperfect beauty”. This philosophy is central to the Japanese aesthetic and can be seen in all good Japanese art and design from pottery to painting to architecture and flower arrangement (ikebana). The aesthetic of wabi sabi cannot truly be expressed in words.

another variation on the theme of Emptiness
another variation on the theme of Emptiness in its infancy


So I will continue to create these paintings and refine them, work on my meditation while painting them, complete the series and move on. These paintings are the first step in the creation of most of my future work and the formulation of my philosophy on art and life. I plan on presenting the ideas in other mediums such as sculpture, prints, drawings, performance, video and sound. All of my experiences in life have lead me to this point and, even after years of practice, I am just beginning this journey and it is a very exiting journey indeed.




From the Studio, Better Late Than Never

[vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1547573152562{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Better late than never. Nothing is getting done. We have a lot of projects in the works, and sometimes everything seems to move so slow. But we keep chipping away. Definitely needed some downtime this weekend so we went hiking and spent some QT at our favorite getaway spot, Lomas de Tzununa, here on Lake Atitlan. It’s a beautiful a 15-minute hike from here and the hotel/restaurant sits majestically looking out over the entire lake. And binge watched Empire. Super cheesy but totally entertaining. Actually, I don’t know how we watch this stuff, maybe we are just glad to chill and relax for a minute and almost anything will do.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Mindfulness at work. From the Studio 2-15-15.

Mindfulness in the studio.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’ve been working on the Emptiness series all week and getting nowhere. A large canvas has been tormenting me for several months and I have allowed it to do so, and that is why it is failing. The important thing is not that it is not coming out the way I want it to, but that my mind is not clear when it doesn’t look right and I have to start all over again. I get pissed, stressed and bring those feelings home and into others’ lives. My family shouldn’t have to deal with this. And with this one large canvas I am striving for perfection; a big mistake. Nothing is ever perfect. The 3rd Patriarch says:

One thing, all things
move among and intermingle,
without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.

I am on the fourth attempt now and that is all I will try with this one. If it fails again I will have to live with it. Often, jazz musicians in the past only recorded three takes on a composition. After that the performance went stale because the spontaneity and freshness were gone. Maybe I should listen to them.

Mindfulness at work

A big part of this series is the practice of mindfulness while I am painting. While doing the work I try to focus on my breath, the sound of the brush hitting the canvas, the waves from the lake below crashing against the rocks, the wind blowing against my back. The moment. This is where it is really at. My practice. It IS meditation and the nature of this series allows me to stay in the moment while I am working. I have to stay present because any little slip up will ruin the painting.

One piece I was working on in tandem with the large canvas was successful after the second attempt and I am happy with the results of that piece. I can see where my mind was while making that piece. But I don’t get all excited. I look at it as part of the bigger picture. Practicing mindfulness is an important thing so I can better understand the nature of reality and my true being. Doing a great painting or a bad painting are secondary. Clarity and realization are what I hope to achieve with my art. And this is what Ra’Co life is all about. The middle way.


I should have been better practicing mindfulness when painting this piece. I ended up killing it.
This one I actually messed up. The next one I kept.

As the larger canvas dries,  I am now looking at things from the proper perspective. The big picture, the practice of mindfulness.  Stay clear while working, learn from and accept the mistakes, and let the pieces live, warts and all. They are there as a reminder.

The failed third attempt in progress. More mindfulness next time.
The failed third attempt in progress.

These words remind of a time when I was playing in a band called the Meta-G’s in Cleveland, Ohio. We were ill, real ill. The funkiest and the heaviest band with massive potential. 3 rappers, guitar, bass and the funkiest drummer around. 3 black dudes, 2 Jewish cats and me, the weird white guy. We were the future. But nothing ever really came of the band because everybody wanted to be rock stars without making the necessary sacrifices. Too much ego, too many distractions too much of everything. Anyway, we had a big gig lined up at The Hard Rock Cafe in Boston which was about a 12-14 hour drive from Cleveland. We practiced and prepared for that gig for a long time. When it came time to leave for Boston we were all crazy with excitement about what exposure we might get from a goof performance. We were going to blow up.

We got to Boston, partied the night before, and slept long into the next day resting up for the gig. Everybody met at the club that night and we went backstage to warm up. After the first band finished we were all tuned up and ready to go. Or so we thought. The place was packed and people were amped and we took our place behind the curtain to await our introduction. Smoke was filing the stage, lights flashing, people screaming. Just then, right before the guy called out name, I noticed that my guitar was drastically out of tune. Turns out I had tuned up in silence with a chromatic tuner that was set wrong and I was tuned totally wrong. I did my best to get back in tune in about 3 seconds before the curtain went up but it was too late, the gig was shot. We finished the set but most of the people had started to filter out. We all walked out of the club, heads hung low…I had blown it for everyone.

Later that night we watched the video from the gig and it was torture. I tried to get up and walk away but somebody yelled at me, “Sit down, these are game tapes and you have to watch them”. They were right. I had to let it sink in so nothing like this would ever happen again.

The Meta-G’s broke up a few months later, but the truth is it had nothing to do with that gig. We needed a lot more work before we were ready and we needed to play a lot more of those gigs before the big one hit.

The only time we practiced mindfulness was when we were playing music.
The Meta-G’s around ’94 or so.


And I have nightmares about that gig to this day. Well, maybe not anymore. I learned a lot from it and now I am applying it to what I am doing with my paintings. I need to do a lot more of them before I am really happy with the results. A few bad paintings are not going to ruin the whole series, they will make it stronger. I plan on creating 50 paintings for the Emptiness series and then moving on. I’m only on my fifth one. Time to get back to work.

So how do we practice mindfulness? Check out this post from mindful.org to get you started. The practice should be carried out in every aspect of your life. Working, cooking, brushing your teeth, walking the dog…all are opportunities for realization. Just try. With time and practice a mysterious feeling will creep in. You may start to feel lighter, more ebullient, your problems will seem less important, and you will feel a sense of gratitude for your life. The calmness and clarity that comes from serious mindfulness practice is worth the effort. Give it a try.









From the Studio, 2-6-15

Lots of things happening in the studio this week. New ideas to paint over huipil, the ornate and beautifully crafted garments that Mayan women wear.


Originally I had the idea to paint over the huipil in one color drawn from the embroidery to create a minimalist piece. I may still do that. But then I decided to intricately paint over the embroidery in the color of the thread to create a textural impasto surface that would simplify the patterns.

A lot of what I am doing right now is designed to get me a little closer to understanding the local Mayan people and getting to know their culture through the materials, clothing , food etc that they use every day. This relates to my endeavor as a conceptual realist to recreate things that occur daily in my life, my families life and my friends lives. This is what I hope to create in future projects through various mediums such as film, sculpture, music, 3d printing and more.

My designs using pita, the local name for the colorful nylon twine used for all kinds of things, is a little bit on the back burner and I hope to move forward on some of these pieces in the coming weeks.

Pita pieces in progress.
Pita pieces in progress.

Making the pita paintings is hard on my assistant, Efrian, as the pita, when worked with the hands for several hours, starts to cause cuts and burns on the fingers. So I try to balance Ef’s work load by alternating the building of stretchers, doing the pita pieces, doing jobs around the house and doing wood construction projects among other things. He works quickly, has an intuitive understanding of what I want done and his craftsmanship gets better daily. He can build 2-3 large stretchers in a day, or a whole bunch of small ones.

Efrain with Iza at the easel he built for her. One of her favorite things.
A puzzle for Iza.

Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-Ef-Puzzle Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-puzzle


Working a lot on the “Emptiness” series which I have written about. Here is a past blog that better describes the series.


Finding the right way to prep the surface of the canvas is the biggest challenge. I am trying to create these beautiful floating grey rectangles and the it is important at this stage to represent these without brushstrokes and flaws. I see this series growing in the future into different painting methods, sculpture, video and other medium.

Below is the original inspiration for the series.


Here are some new wood constructions that will either become pita pieces or small paintings for the Emptiness series.

Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-wood-construction-pita-2 Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-wood-construction-pita-3 Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-wood-construction-pita-4 Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-wood-construction-pita

A large triptych canvas i have been staring at for about a week.  This will be a different series of gestural abstract paintings I think. I still love to do these types of paintings and hope to make them affordable to people that can’t drop 5-10k on a painting.


While I was working in the studio, Ventura, our guardian, gave me some these flowers while I was working. He said to fry the petals with eggs and eat them.

Edible flowers.
Edible flowers.

Also, the flowers near a desk Ef built for my computer work. I got it goin’ on.


Finally, the pathway lined with flowers on the way back to the house.

Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-flowers-2 Raco-Life-From-the-Studio-flowers

Rotator Cuff Issues and Inflammation

Rotator cuff injuries suck.

After I stressed out my rotator cuff 3 years ago from doing yoga too intensely and trying to progress too quickly (not yoga!) I fell off my strength building/maintenance routine, namely lots of push ups, and became super schleppy. I didn’t do what I needed to do to rehab the rotator cuff issue, which was a very bad move. I gained weight, my chest looked like crap and I was just generally not looking or feeling my best. Add in taking care of a baby for the first year….excuses, excuses.

But now I have had enough of that and have made a firm resolve to get it together and get back in shape. The first step is to rehab my rotator cuff. What does this involve and what have I started to do to get my RC back in shape?

1. Acupuncture and Acupressure Point Therapy

I’m a little skeptical about acupuncture. I believe it definitely has its merits when it comes to fertility, and I know it is a great way to relax, similar to a massage. Acupuncture has worked for Rache and I in both of these departments. But the practitioner has to know what they are doing. And I believe this may be an issue behind the efficacy of acupuncture. People are licensed to perform the therapy but still don’t really know enough about what they are doing. Acupuncture is an ancient practice and I believe many practitioners do not  have the same understanding, channels of learning or dedication to the form as they used to (acupuncture school is about 3 years now). Of course there are experienced and knowledgeable alternative health practitioners out there, but I think there are way too many therapists who don’t have enough experience or knowledge to practice effectively. Compare that to the loan debt accumulated to get certified and the pay scale of an acupuncturist (30-70k) and it makes it hard to practice full time to develop the skills as an an alternative health therapist. I do believe the practice is valuable though in some ways and hopefully it will grow in the future as people become more and more skeptical of solely relying on western style medicine, especially these days with the rampant use of prescription drugs. Acupuncture is very controversial and further research is needed for us to better understand the practice.

From my experience with a rotator cuff injury and acupuncture therapy I can’t really say it did a lot for me. So I moved on to other forms of traditional therapy that have been proven effective.

Acupressure, on the other hand, did work for me. A type of massage, acupressure focuses on trigger points of the body to relieve tension and aid healing. For this reason I think it is more effective than acupuncture.

2. Herbs and Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Herbs are another alternative type of therapy used to help heal rotator cuff injuries. Why herbs are considered alternative I have no idea. Herbs in many cases have been proven effective in the treatment of various ailments and illnesses. Currently I am using medicinal doses of turmeric and I have found this type of therapy to be very effective in relieving inflammation and helping to rebuild damaged tissue. The main active ingredient in turmeric is circumin. Circumin is an excellent anti-inflammatory and also an antioxidant. After reading the article  10 Proven Health Effects of Turmeric and Circumin at Authoritynutrition.com, I really learned a lot about turmeric and inflammation. Check it out. One of the great things about writing a blog is what I learn while researching a topic. Two important things I learned from this article are:

  • Turmeric actually contains low levels of circumin and it is more beneficial to take a high quality concentrated supplement of circumin. So I will gravitate away from just turmeric capsules to taking the concentrated supplement.
  • Low level inflammation plays a major role in many Western type chronic diseases. (This is why Ra’Co Life is here. To research all of this information and present it to you in a personal and understandable manner.) Wow! totally makes sense considering how bad the standard American diet can be in the cause of inflammation.

Another thing I just learned is that the full effects of circumin are not realized until after a 2 month period of continuous use. This leads me to believe that the most immediately effective therapy for me right now is stretching and the continued use of circumin supplements.

Other herbs and foods that are good for inflammation are:

  • Ginger – We use fresh ginger all of the time for cooking and juicing.
  • Cinnamon – I use cinnamon in my coffee as well as other things for this reason. Check out our post on Guatemalan coffee and how we use cinnamon.
  • Omega 3 Fattty Acids in fish, nuts and chocolate.
  • Black Pepper – adding black pepper is necessary for the absorption of turmeric into the blood stream.
  • Cloves
  • Cayenne and Chili Peppers
  • Pineapple – Pineapple contains bromelain which is said to have inflammatory properties. One of our favorite websites, mindbodygreen.com recommends mixing fresh pineapple juice (juice the core as well) with aloe, ginger and turmeric for a powerful anti-inflammatory morning drink.
  • Basil
  • Chamomile
  • Celery Seeds – great in coleslaw!
  • Parsley
  • Nutmeg
  • Dark Leafy Greens – pretty much good for everything. Eat them up!

3. Stretching

From my short experience I would say that stretching the problem area has been the most effective and immediate form of treatment. After doing some research I have ascertained that these are the most effective stretches for my rotator cuff pain right now, which is in the front part of my shoulder, or the internal rotator cuff.

I’m going to progress slowly and introduce new stretches into my program over the next 6 weeks. Then I will begin exercises to strengthen the muscles around the rotator cuff so I don’t injure it again when I begin to workout.

Here are the 3 stretches I am doing now:


Pull your problem arm behind your head and gently pull down at the elbow with your other arm. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat two more times.


Stretch your problem arm in front of you over, pull over your body and gently press back with your other hand. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2 more times.


Hold a towel behind you with the problem arm. With the other hand grasp the towel at the top and gently pull upwards. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat two to three times.

4. Strength Building Exercises

As I haven’t started my strength training exercises yet, I will save these for another post. But they are the crucial and final step in rehabbing an injured rotator cuff.

I will keep you posted on my progress.

Hope this helps a little for those who have rotator cuff injuries.





Throwback: Uh Oh…Drenched Macbook Air

Man, I got myself in some deep doo doo back in February of 2013, so much so that it has taken me 2 years to write about it.

Rache and I were watching a movie in our minuscule kitchen while making some gluten free linguine and clams (yea, a temporary sojourn from our usual vegan diet). I opened the fridge up and pulled out a bottle of water and tried to get the top opened unsuccessfully, as I pulled on it harder I got more and more PO’d and suddenly the whole top flew off and sent water flying , and everything went into slow motion as I watched the stream of water move straight toward Rache’s Macbook Air….and splash, all over the computer it went…I ran towards it and grabbed it to turn it upside down and dry it off.

Rache finally realized what happened, and I was like, oh damn, I really did it now. This was the third time (and third MacBook) she has had drenched with water. Man, after an initial burst of anger, she was way cool about it and I totally appreciate that, more than you can know….she’s the best. So the computer is still working, but sometimes it takes a while to know the outcome. We’ll see tomorrow if it still works…if it doesn’t, it’s death row for me…no no, not really. We both realize that it is truly just a ‘thing.’ Things can be discarded and can be replaced.

I did a lot of research and found that sometimes, over a period of time, the water can cause corrosion to the electronics over weeks or months even. I hope this isn’t the case with ours, maybe we will get lucky.

Here is what MacForums recommends if this happens to you:

“Here at Mac-Forums, we see quite a few questions about what to do after spilling liquid inside of Mac Notebooks. Obviously, liquids and electronics don’t mix, so while the answer may seem obvious, there are a few tricks you can try to bring your equipment back to life.

  • First and foremost, immediately remove ALL power, this includes the battery (if possible). The chances of a short occurring as the liquid continues to travel within your machine are greatly reduced by removing power quickly.
  • Allow the machine to dry out for a significant period of time, preferably in an area of low humidity and with good air circulation. Generally this means a minimum of 72 hours. Longer time periods may be necessary depending on the ambient humidity level. Drying time may be decreased by sealing the notebook in a box with uncooked, dry rice or silica gel packets, which reduce humidity.
  • DO NOT test the machine until after you’ve allowed a significant drying period. Obviously, you’re probably anxious to see if you’re facing a hefty repair bill, but your patience will be rewarded. Generally, the longer you wait to plug it back in, the better.
  • Disassembling the machine to clean it will void your warranty – but then, if you spilled liquid in the machine, your warranty is void anyway. So, if you’re comfortable with it, it might not be a bad idea to get in there and clean as best you can. Disassembly instructions are available at iFixIt.com Use lightly moistened cotton swabs to gently blot the liquid effected areas. Do not use any kind of solvents on the internals.
  • Spill damage is always very evident. Most electronics manufacturers, Apple included, affix liquid-sensitive stickers on the insides of machines to detect spills. Don’t take the machine to an Apple Store, expecting a warranty repair.
  • If you power the machine on and find that it’s not fully functional, or that functionality is limited, the damage is likely already done. You should not expect it to improve without replacing the systemboard and/or cabling and other components. In most cases, these repairs can easily exceed the value of the machine.

And finally, it makes no difference what the liquid was. The steps to take are the same for each type of liquid. Water, beer, wine, orange juice, apple juice, coffee with lots of sugar and cream, milk, soda… anything… if it’s wet, then it’s bad.”

Wish us luck!

Strong Partners, Art and Life, From the Studio

I’ve been floating around all my life. Into one thing and onto another. That includes jobs, relationships, homes, apartments, countries, states. You name it. I’ve been a construction worker, a pizza boy, a tailor, a carpenter, a raw food chef, a designer, a monk, an unemployed searcher, a writer, a musician. I could go on. Never sure of who I was or what I should be doing. But all along one thing I have always been sure of is that I am an artist. Never being success oriented or driven to conquer the world, I have let it blossom over time and enjoyed the beautiful struggle all along.

Making art is a bitch. An angry one at times. But at other times I can disappear into what I am making and everything seems to make sense. And I know I am good at it and that I love it and that is often enough. It has carried me through many a rough time, (though I often think those rough times were caused by the need to make things). And it has brought me to where I am today.

This is where I am today, check out the view from my studio:


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

From this you can see that I haven’t done too bad for myself. But what is a huge reason I am here? Support from others, my family, friends, but mostly from Rache. She gave me this studio as a gift of faith and love. This place where I am working now used to be a wet, rat infested, dark, useless storage space. Now it is a glorious studio filled with light and fresh air and art. And I am eternally grateful.

My woman is a real strong woman. And she was adamant that the first thing we were going to do when we moved into this isolated and empty home was to rehab the casita on top of the hill and turn it into my studio. We found the contractor, Rache made some material choices and lighting plans and set a budget, and off we went. Less than a week later I had the studio of my dreams.

And believe me when I say that when we moved into our house below, there was pretty much nothing. Nothing in the kitchen, no decent furniture or bedding or towels. No boat (we have no road in or out of here). No tools. Nada. The garden was practically dead (but over time Rache resurrected that also, and now we have all kinds of flowers and vegetables growing everywhere). So you can see where Rache’s priorities were; with her family and making others happy before she made any decisions for own happiness. This is what a strong and dedicated partner can do for someone; help them become what they are supposed to become and grow into what they were always meant to be. I hope I am or can become that strong and dedicated partner as well.

So everyday I wake up with gratitude and awe for the support and confidence that Rache has given me to keep moving forward and do what I am supposed to do; make art and be there for my family. It’s all I need and it’s all I want.

Now it is time to get my ass in gear and create some magnificently great work that will help to support us in all of our current and future plans (we have a lot of them, big dreams and big desires), put food on the table, give Rache the time to be a Mom and pursue the things that she wants to do and provide Iza with the means to survive in a future that looks very bleak for humanity. I have a lot to give back for what has been given to me. Thanks Rache for being that strong partner that I so needed. I am a complete pain in the ass and it takes a hell of a person to deal with me.

Please keep reading our blog and watch how my art unfolds and how The Brand Fams’  business develops. We have a lot of exciting projects to bring into fruition over the next couple of years and a million ideas to share and we hope you can be with us along the way.

More studio shots:






Let us know what you think and what your partner has done for you. We all need stories of inspiration, I hope my story inspires you to give daily gratitude and appreciation for the people in your life that appreciate you, love you and give you strength to keep on keeping on.

Raw Food May Not Be Enough, so we go 50% raw, 50% cooked

Is the raw food diet the healthiest way of eating? Or is it enough to support us and fulfill our nutritional needs? We go 50 raw/50 cooked and feel great. Raw food cleanses for short periods of time are important but we always come back to eating 50% cooked food. Here is an interesting article on why a 100% raw food diet may not be enough.

This article is from Science Magazine and is absolutely worth a read. It focuses on the poignant aspects of diet, food interests and tangible requirements for strength and brain muscle.

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Photo and article from Science Magazine website.

The World Has (Almost) Nothing to Offer You, (except, maybe, ice cream)

Today I am going to put something utterly ridiculous sounding out there. You will scoff, snicker, joke, frown and outright laugh at what I am going to say. And as a human being it is impossible to understand. But deep down, our true self knows it to be true. It is the idea the the world has nothing to offer us (except sustenance). This is a quasi-philosophical Buddhist rant so if your not into that kind of thing then stop reading now. It will just piss you off or you may just form some kind of opinion before you even listen to the idea. In fact, I can see the wheels turning in your head right now, forming opinions, making judgements…yep, I see it! But thats okay because I do the same thing… but with one slight difference; I try to just look at it and know that I am human and that is why I am judging my judgements and forming opinions of my opinions instead of latching on to those judgements and opinions like they are the key to my very existence. Because they absolutely are not.

Every day we form opinions ( stay with me? I will try to stay under 500 words) and judgements about a million petty things. “I like this, I don’t like that”. “That person sucks, but I really like that person”.  On and on we go. Of course we need to make these judgments every day just to keep alive. I don’t like drinking battery acid because 1. It taste bad (we are foodies after all) 2. It will likely kill me. We have to make these decisions. But the problem is, we don’t know when to stop. Like eating ice cream. I know I have to have some ice cream, right now. Eating ice cream is pretty much enlightenment. Especially the raw kind that Ra’Co Life makes. But we don’t have to keep eating it to confirm our existence. We eat a little then move on and forget about it. Imagine going through life constantly thinking about eating ice cream, What a waste of time! When would I find time to look at Instagram or to shop on Amazon? Seriously!

So right now I am going to lay some heavy writing on you from The Third Patriarch of Zen, Seng-ts’an. He was a major dude in the world of Buddhist practice. Major. These words are what he left to the world after he died. So they must have been pretty important to him, right? And the words basically say one thing, “Don’t get all hung up on your opinions and judgements. Don’t attach to them you dummies!” Ok, I paraphrase.

So here are the words. If you get bored (I hang on every word, but he basically says the same thing over and over, I understand), skip to the end of this post so I can bore you some more with what I mean about the world having nothing to offer you (except sustenance). It ties together I promise.


Verses on the Faith Mind
by Chien-chih Seng-ts’an
Third Zen Patriarch [d. 606 AD]

Tr. by Richard B. Clarke
Zen teacher at the Living Dharma Centers, Amherst, Mass.

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.

When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Be serene in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other,
you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality;
to assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment,
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in the dualistic state;
avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is even a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.

When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.
When thought objects vanish,
the thinking-subject vanishes,
and when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.

Things are objects because there is a subject or mind;
and the mind is a subject because there are objects.
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

To live in the Great Way
is neither easy nor difficult.
But those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute;
the faster they hurry, the slower they go.

Clinging cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
and there will be neither coming nor going.

Obey the nature of things
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
for everything is murky and unclear.
The burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.

The wise man strives to no goals
but the foolish man fetters himself.
There is one Dharma, not many;
distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with discriminating mind
is the greatest of all mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams of flowers in air:
foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong;
such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.

To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state.
Consider motion in stillness
and stillness in motion;
both movement and stillness disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.

For the unified mind in accord with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible.

With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no exertion of the mind’s power.
Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.
In this world of Suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To come directly into harmony with this reality
just simply say when doubt arises, “Not two.”
In this “not two” nothing is separate,
nothing is excluded.
No matter when or where,
enlightenment means entering this truth.
And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space;
in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.

Infinitely large and infinitely small;
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries are seen.
So too with Being and non-Being.
Waste no time in doubts and arguments
that have nothing to do with this.

One thing, all things;
move among and intermingle,
without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about nonperfection.
To live in this faith is the road to nonduality,
because the nondual is one with the trusting mind.

The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is

no yesterday

no tomorrow

no today.

Did you make it through? Magical, right?

So what does this have to do with the idea that the world has nothing to offer you (except sustenance)?

Basically, I think we are all trying to GET something out of our surrounding environment i.e the outside world. We as people are all about acquiring things; comfort, love, respect, money, security…on and on and on. We can never get enough. But the fact of the matter is, everything that we need (except the most basic bodily needs…food, water, shelter) is within us. The light that shines within us is not actually us but something greater than ourselves. And we ALL are this light and we all are connected. Roll your eyes, go ahead. Call me whatever you want. I don’t care and I will not judge you, because, yes, it does sound ridiculous. But it is true. The truth can only be found within ourselves and not outside of ourselves.

Like the Third Patriarch says, by constantly looking outwards of ourselves, forming opinions and judgements about what we see, and attaching to those opinions and judgements, we hold our selves back from the truth.

So look within. It is all there waiting for you.

Oh, and Happy Birthday to my nephew Oscar, you are the coolest. Eat some enlightened ice cream with your cake!



Whats for Lunch? A Taste of Summer

Right now I just can’t get over the holidays being over. So I’m eating cookies, and I think they have mold on them, and I don’t care.  I’m eating peanut butter and drinking wine. All this after eating the Tomato, Avocado and Sprouts on Gluten Free Bread Sandwich that I am about to present you with. I don’t know where the 50/50 part of our m.o. plays out here, lets say it’s PHSD (post holiday stress disorder) and forget about it.

Anyway, we know it’s pretty cold back in our homeland about now. Especially for you NY’ers. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pennsylvania. Sucka’s! Small violins playing loudly. We did our time in the snow and will surely do it again and love it.

Enough. Whats for Lunch today? I don’t want to bore you with a long story about how we came to this amazing lunch experience, so let’s cut straight to the chase. Here is our offering, a taste of summer in the dead of winter. This is a variation on our last “What’s for Lunch” post. We eat a lot of sprouts and avocados, and we push them hard for health, so lets present a sandwich this week. Even though it is not the season for tomato sandwiches, you can still make a good one now. You’ll just have to drop $11.50 at Whole Foods/sandwich for the fixin’s. Just playin’, we miss Whole Foods big time. The sandwich; homegrown, gluten free, fresh cut, whole food, super sprouted goodness. Vegan, lots of raw, gluten free, soy free, organic, local, incredible.

outrageous sproutlyness.


Built with: Avocados from the tree by the lakefront, tomatoes from the market, fresh baked gluten free bread, cashew mayo blended in the Vitamix, homegrown basil and lettuces, Real Salt sea salt, organic olive oil. If you don’t have a Vitamix, just get one. If you don’t have an avocado tree, too bad.

Future posts will include our gluten free baking experiences and recipes, so for now I’ll just say, we made the bread, and it’s good. Really good. Even on a broke-ass oven we made it good. Thanks Bob’s Red Mill for your gluten free flours, and thanks Salud Para Vida in San Pedro de Atitlan for hooking us up with lots of the necessary ingredients for the bread.

As far as the lettuces go, everything grows like crazy here for some reason. Rache planted some seeds and a couple of months later we ended up with a seriously nice lettuce mix and some homeland basil that is hard to find here. Our friend Lea calls it Real Basil.


On the subject of growing, you may know we grow our own sprouts. If you have an extra 10 minutes a day then you can too. Try this one , we live by it.

Tomatoes are hard to find in the winter but can definitely be had.  Thats why it’s a special treat, right?

Cashew Mayo is crazy easy and a great light, raw, vegan option. Blend a cup of raw cashews, 1/2 cup of water, 1T olive oil, 2 t coconut vinegar. (We love this stuff.), 1 t lemon juice, a couple drops of coconut sweetener (hold up- you haven’t heard?) then some sea salt to taste in the Vitamix until creamy.

Avocados are always available. Dig in.

The rest is easy. You know how to make a sandwich, so have at it, and enjoy a little summer in your winter.

Let us know what you think.



From the Studio: Emptiness

When we talk about emptiness, what exactly are we talking about? Is it the result of sadness, loss, desperation and loneliness? Or is emptiness the truth, something extraordinary to work towards, to be realized, transcendence, maybe the most amazing thing one could ever experience?

It is strange that two definitions of this word could be so vastly different. One definition existing in the east, and the polar opposite existing in the west. Why does the West view emptiness as a negative condition while religions such as Buddhism and Taoism see it much differently?

From the Heart Sutra, the most important text in Buddhist philosophy:

“Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form”. The idea implies that there is neither existence in form or lack of form. All things are empty. Once this is realized, true freedom appears.


An excellent translation is by Red Pine and is available here.

On the other side, from Woody Allen, a modern existentialist:

“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”

In actuality there is no antidote to the emptiness of existence. Emptiness in existence is inherent. To search for an antidote to this condition is to create despair, delusion, because it can never be found.

My recent art endeavors to form my feelings and thoughts on the complicated subject of emptiness. How did I come upon this absurd and hopeless idea? As you know, my family, aka “TheBrandFam” are currently living in Guatemala, the land of shitty internet. As I write, Rache is screaming in the background that her pages won’t load, and I am on the edge of my seat desperately hoping that I can get this blog post up before the internet cuts out on me again. Good Luck! Because of the extremely slow and unreliable connection, often when I do an internet image search for source material for my art, I am left with nothing but a grid of empty grey boxes that are place fillers for the actual images I am searching for.


One day, after maddening frustration that these grey boxes kept popping up in place of the beautiful colorful photos I was searching for, I realized that the blank grey boxes that always appear are equally as beautiful and compelling as the images that I so longed for to appear. The frustration forced me to “let go” and dissolve into the beauty of the simple grey boxes cleanly laid out before me. This is why monks and serious meditators sit for endless hours in retreats. So the mind can actually let go of delusive thinking to allow a deeper experience to be realized.


The frustration I was speaking of, by the way, has been happening a lot lately. Living in a developing nation has some serious drawbacks, and lots (and lots and lots) of patience must be practiced. Being on time here is actually showing up an hour late. Getting something fixed that is supposed to be finished “mañana” and does not get done for a week is normal here. And it has taken us months to realize that the more we do NOT get what we think we want, the closer we will get to what we actually want but do not know it, that being an inner state of calm, the calm that is so often clouded by our desires, opinions and judgements.


So I started painting these boxes to express all of the thoughts and feelings I have on the subject of emptiness. And they are, to me, absolutely beautiful and I hope to paint at least 50 different compostions before I move on to something else. Or maybe they will continue indefinitely and expand into new mediums and modes of expression. What I have learned here tells me not to expect or force what they are to become. The daily work, like meditation, will allow them to be exactly what they are supposed to be.


Building Rache’s Desk

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]As you know, our way is the middle way. 50% work 50% fun in this case. When we work, we always try to engage in projects that are productive and fruitful, but also a lot of fun and challenging. If it’s too hard and too much work for something we don’t really want, we don’t do it. Likewise, if it’s too easy and doesn’t bring us a challenge or a new interesting result, we don’t do it either. The construction of this desk is a great example of the RACO 50/50 philosophy.

For some reason we have been at this house for a month plus and Rache still doesn’t have a desk. That should have been priority number one. But sometimes we do things backwards. So finally she was like “All I want is a desk and internet and I’ll be happy, make it happen!” Loud and clear Rache.

And I love to build things so it was no issue for me to get rolling with that. And even better we had a ton of old wood laying around from the old casita roof and other things.  The best pieces were 2″ thick and 12″ wide and heavily weathered, perfect.

Scrap wood from other projects, perfect for the desk.


Here are some the of pieces we cut, laid out on the bench and ready to assemble:

Cut pieces, ready to assemble.
Cut pieces, ready to assemble…beautiful wood!


We designed it to have a surface of 62″ wide x 36″ deep. Because Rache wanted the 2″ thick chunky pieces of wood, we decided the depth of the desk should be 36″ to really give it the mass it needed. It worked nicely as you will see in the finished photos. It was cut 62″ so it would fit in the nook in our bedroom that overlooks the lake.

Here are some drawings of the design:

Plan and elevation drawings of the desk.
Plan and elevation drawings of the desk.


Making some initial measurements:

Measuring for the cuts.
Measuring for the cuts.


Here are most of the pieces cut and ready to assemble:



Now we assembled the pieces. Just used lots of screws, no bolts. Maybe down the line if we want to move it I will replace screws with bolts for easy disassembly.

Assembled desk frame.
Assembled desk frame.
Assembled desk frame. Lake in the background. Not a bad workshop!
Assembled desk frame. Lake in the background. Not a bad workshop!


I love the fact that the wood is so old and weathered because it gave me freedom to leave the cuts loose and rough and added to the overall rustic feel of the desk.

After adding the shelves, Rache wanted the bottom part of the desk painted, so Efrain set to work on that.






After it was painted we decided to weather it by sanding a little. Then we added some of the oil that they use on the wood details of the house. This really added a nice patina to the finished piece.



Moving the desk into the space. This thing is a tank! If there is a big earthquake, likely the only left standing will be this desk.




Desk in place, Rache is ecstatic. This is what it’s all about!



*Added bonus, Claudia is describing the construction in Spanish.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”http://youtu.be/5fhXtKiIH6o”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Waterskiing Guatemalan Teletubby

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]I don’t know what this guy is but he looks a bit like a Teletubby, and he can really waterski. Enjoy!

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”http://youtu.be/Ll6TGR-fHsA”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Galletas Con Avena Con Pasas

You can’t get good home made GF cookies in Guatemala. Well, good is a relative term I guess. But for us, so far, not really. I’m not sure if they have the same GF problem here on the lake like they do in America. Sin gluten? No se!

So we decided to have the girls bake us some GF oatmeal raisin cookies from a recipe on the back of a Bob’s GF oats bag. Like many indigenous people here, Claudia and Katy eat copious amounts of tortillas at all meals. Probably 3-4 each, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has to do with poverty and it’s messed up. So we try to get them to eat other things like greens, smoothies, potatoes, salad, and healthy cookies like these when they are eating lunch with us. Honestly, they hate raw or cooked greens and always politely say no when we ask if they want a salad. Oh well. They are pretty young and not unlike anyone else at that age that wants to and can eat less than healthy food. So we are going with the cookies.

Anyway, I’m getting off to track. So we got them started with all of the ingredients and showed Claudia the recipe which was in English. She is extremely intelligent and exceptional at translating our horrible Spanish and usually getting to the source of what we need. So we thought it would be a snap. How wrong could we were!

Rache went back upstairs to work in her work lair and I went out to check on the fellas to see how they were doing disassembling the eyesore of a broken down floating dock in our lagoon (another post to come). The girls promptly went to work.


After a while I came back in to work on some web stuff and strolled into the kitchen to see how the girls were doing. The first thing I noticed was this:

Unbeaten eggs on top of the raw oats? Fail!
Unbeaten eggs on top of the raw oats? Fail!

Uh oh, mucho problemas!

I quickly realized they had no idea what was going on, understandably so as they may have never made cookies, let alone with a recipe in English, and with no sugar or wheat flour to boot.

So I went through each ingredient, showed them the measuring devices for the ingredients, crossed my fingers and went away while they busily proceeded to make the cookies.

We modified the recipe on a Bob's bag.
We modified the recipe on a Bob’s bag. They couldn’t really read it.

It seemed all was going well, then I came back in after they had the cookies in the oven for a while and this is what I saw. Hilarious.

They spaced the cookies about 1/4″ apart. Hmmm…

We finally pulled them out after cooking a little longer, I tasted them and I said ” Muy rico, pero no bonito!” which translates as ” Very tasty, but not pretty!” I’m working on my rhyming skills in Spanish.

So all in all we had a blast and had some funky tasty cookies in the end.






From the (New) Studio….Part 1

Excitement has been brewing as my new studio (Casita de Carlos!) at the top of the hill has been getting a face lift. One of the many desirable attributes our new house has (Patziac) is that it came with a concrete casita about 150 steps up on a winding rocky path above the main house. When we first started looking at the house we noticed the casita looming high above and I immediately saw a light bulb go off in Rache’s head…”studio!…now I can get rid of him the whole day!”

taking the water taxi home, boat full of avacados, the studio hanging high above in the hills of Patziac.
taking the water taxi home, boat full of avocados, the studio floating high above in the hills of Patziac.

But really, it was the ideal situation as I have been using makeshift bedrooms, patios, living rooms etc. for studios as we moved around from place to place. This casita looked ideal as it had two large rooms with giant empty walls and an amazing view of the lake. I can get some serious work done here.

incredible view from the studio, work in progress....
incredible view from the studio, work in progress….

The casita was in horrible shape and the caretaker of the property, Ventura, said the rook leaked. It was full of junk, dirty as hell and really dark. But with Rache’s help, ideas and vision we knew we could make an incredible place for me to work.

The first job was to get it cleaned out and find a good contractor to replace the roof and do some other work like add lighting and vent slots for air flow. Ventura and his ayudante Pasqual immediately set to work and had it cleaned out in about a day. Great start. We found a great contractor named Charlie Rendell who works out of San Marcos where we used to live. He gave us some great ideas for the roof and some suggestions for the lighting. We needed to replace the old rusted metal with new metal and add in opaque white corrugated plastic for nice diffuse lighting. Also, there were no lights inside so Rache had the idea to add track lighting with LEDs. Yea, sounds expensive. In New York it would have cost us 10k and would never have been feasible. Here the budget was about $1500.

We also wanted to add an internet router, replace the locks, and replace the windows with some secure lockable iron frames, still for under $1500. Charlie said he could do it and we set to work.

the metal arrives! Rodolfo, who was doing the work, carried everything up with Efrain.
the metal arrives! Rodolfo, who was doing the work, carried everything up with Efrain.

The first day, the metal and plastic arrived on a private boat and we carried it up. Once the metal was at the top they started to rip off the old roof.

day 1, ripping off the roof.
day 1, ripping off the roof.


Part 2, adding the new roof, in the next post!

From the Studio…9/22/14

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Every Friday I post an update about whats been happening in my studio. New ideas, new work, places I’m showing, people I am working with, writings, materials….anything I can think of that lets you know whats new with my art practice.

So whats been going on?

  • Moving forward with the Pita Series. After a month or so of experimentation I still have nothing that I would call “finished”. Are they geometric abstraction pieces, clean and finished solid panels? How do they combine with each other? I want to loosen up on the reigns a bit and start to exploit the aspects of the fabrication that have been lost in translation, giving the panels and pieces a looser quality. I love the how the pita extends away from the picture plane, falling to the floor, expanding outwards etc. Having my assistant create small stretchers so we can move quickly through the experimentations and arrive at some pieces that can be enlarged and finished.
  • Working on the large canvas, still, for the Search piece. Up in the treehouse studio.
  • Found that I can create video collages quickly with After Effects. So doing the video sketches quickly with amazing the iphone app PicCollage then downloading the Youtube videos and arranging them full scale in After Effects. So easy.
  • Contemplating how I can raise funds for the vast amount of ideas I have that require investment.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”masonry” columns=”3″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”1949,1956,1955,1958,1959,1950,1951,1952,1953,1954,1957,1960,1961″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

From the Studio…week of 9-15-14

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Every Friday I post an update about whats been happening in my studio. New ideas, new work, places I’m showing, people I am working with, writings, materials….anything I can think of that lets you know whats new with my art practice.

So whats been going on?

  • Went shopping at the local dollar store in the neighboring town of San Juan La Laguna. Love this place! Bought a ton of pita, the nylon chord I am working with right now.
  • Started a new studio space in the treehouse for my series of paintings dealing with emptiness. This is now a silent space away from the day to day operations at our house and other studio. These paintings are minimal pieces in which meditation is essential to the process.
  • Built some new frames for larger “pita” pieces. Pita pieces are becoming more sculptural.
  • New ideas for paintings and constructions designed with iphone apps.

[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”40px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”masonry” columns=”4″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”lightbox” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”1818,1817,1808,1799,1800,1803,1801,1802,1804,1806,1807,1810,1805,1809,1811,1812,1813,1798,1815,1797,1816,1814″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Trying to Get Through, The Drink, Devil’s Paradise…

Even though we are surrounded by the immense beauty of the lake and it’s surrounding cliffs, hills and volcanoes, Rache, Iza and I are going through some stressful times. Rache is weaning Iza from breastfeeding and Iza is really not liking it at all. That has been the one true thing Iza has been able to identify with her whole life and now it is being taken away from her. We get it. She doesn’t. We are also trying to secure a long term living situation here and a short term situation in New York during the busiest seasons for both areas. Not fun. Not to mention that Rache is coming off one of the most intense work periods in her life and I am trying to make my art happen and develop my online businesses with the pressure of knowing that I have to make these things happen so I can one day fully support the family and Rache can take on duties of Full Time Mom. To offer a short respite from the anxiety, over the weekend I developed a very special Guate-centric frozen cocktail called Devil’s Paradise. It tastes amazing, is incredibly refreshing but has that special kick we all long for during stressful times. Here it is! Devil’s Paradise The base for this drink is Aguardiente, a spirit that pretty much has a counterpart in all areas of the world. A universal chicken soup if you will. Basically it’s straight moonshine, designed to knock your ass out in as short a time as possible. Here a liter costs Q55, or about $7. Ouch, you know we are getting into some trouble. Even a local friend, our driver/roof builder (?), and awesome dude Giovanni, who grew up here, cringed when I told him what I was drinking. But I found out that it really isn’t that bad and I didn’t get a hangover. Of course, if I had my druthers I would use some really nice rum like Ron Zacapa Centenario 23, but hey, we saved ourselves about $75! Of course mixing that quality of rum would also be a damn shame. So Aguardiente it is! Aguardiente literally translates as “fiery water” and is distilled using any number of things, but usually fruit or sugar. In each country it may have different names, strengths and can be made from different sources. Here in Guatemala I have no idea about any of the above, but it tastes like it is made from sugars and is about 70 proof, more or less. The other ingredients are: 1/4-1/2 of a fresh pineapple 2 papaya and shredded coconut ice cubes a half cup coconut milk a sprig of mint for garnish for the Aguardiente, use 2-4 ounces, depending on your stress levels. This cocktail is also extremely delicious without the alcohol and the kids will love it. Just make sure you separate the hard stuff from the virgin stuff. Rache almost gave a big slug of the hard stuff to Iza. Those two often move too fast for me, but this time I caught them! So here we go! First of All, How to Cut a Pineapple:

Beautiful Pineapple


cut the ends off
cut the ends off


cut in half and cut out the core
cut in half and cut out the core


quarter it
quarter it
slice down the middle, then slice in the opposite direction to create blocks
slice down the middle, then slice in the opposite direction to create blocks


slice underneath to remove chunks
slice underneath to remove chunks



Now, The Drink:

the fire! Aguardiente!
the fire! Aguardiente!
add the pineapple to the blender
add the pineapple to the blender


pour in the fire, 2-4 ounces
pour in the fire, 2-4 ounces


ready for the papaya coconut ice cubes
ready for the papaya coconut ice cubes


drop in the cubes
drop in the cubes
delicious coconut milk, start with 1/4 cup
add delicious organic coconut milk, start with 1/4 cup – you can use fresh coconut milk for an even better drink
blend it all together, garnish with a slice of pineapple and a sprig of mint, voila!
blend it all together, garnish with a slice of pineapple and a sprig of mint, voila!
there you have it, The Devil's Paradise made with Aguardiente, a guaranteed quick fix stress buster
there you have it, The Devil’s Paradise made with Aguardiente, a guaranteed quick fix stress buster


Where to Go? What to Do?

This beautiful morning I sit here listening to the lake water lap up against the shore, the fisherman in the wooden kayak is whistling a little song and Iza is quietly breathing as she sleeps. Usually I am up before the sun working or meditating, but today ZZ (our nickname for Iza) is a little bit sick with a cold and she woke up at 5am crying. So we spent some time with her to calm her down and get her back to sleep. Then Rache went back to work and I did some meditation. I will refer to meditation from here on out as Zazen, which is a Zen form of meditation.

So hopefully you are reading our blog posts regularly and will know what I am talking about in the future! Right now, as we go into the last month and a half of our stay here at Casa Paloma in San Marcos, Guatemala, Rache and I are doing our usual race to the finish to try to secure our next place to stay. It’s a drag and we always get stressed out around this time.

First of all, we are trying to find a place to stay here at Lake Atitlan for a year which is not easy. We love it here but want to get to know it better while we decide if we want to make this our home forever. We are pretty sure we do, but moving to another country is a huge step and a lot has to be evaluated.  A big problem is that we are going into the major tourist season here, the dry season, and most of the places are already rented. We are finding some things though and are confident we will secure something soon. Hopefully the owner of this house we are in now will agree to work with us on either buying it or renting it long term. We truly love it here.

Second of all, we are trying to find a relatively affordable apartment in NYC to rent as we have to be back there for a month in October. We have all of our stuff in storage there that we have to go through and Rache and I need to network in the city. We are looking forward to going back but it is really more stress to make it happen than we need right now. Should we bring our nanny? Should we exceed our budget to find a decent place? Should we stay outside of the city and commute in? Too many questions to work out!

Actually we really want to just stay here, stay put. I think we both truly feel like we are done moving around!

But the question always creeps back in; Are we in the right place for us? Should we do some more traveling, to India and China? We both love to travel so much and I could do business in those countries and Rache could go to her annual yoga retreat in India. Somebody smack us!

My Zen teacher in New York always talks about not worrying about where to go and what to do, especially when doing zazen. These two things always seem to pop up in our minds and cause mental strife. The idea is to just make a decision and be happy with it. Why do we have such a hard time doing this?! As I said in a previous post, decisions can drive you crazy! Our situation is kind of unique in that we both can work anywhere as long as we have an internet connection. Of course many people have places of work to go to and dont have the option of moving around. So they just learn to love where they live. Many are happy where they live, no matter where they are, that is the best way to be. But others are not happy being where they are and always wish to be somewhere else or to travel and experience new things. The grass is always greener type thing.

So now, The Brand Fam is right smack in the middle and we are deciding what to do next. Fortunately we know what we want  and that we want to settle down soon. Hopefully things will work out for us here and we will finally find a place to call home, or maybe, at least, home base!

Keep reading to find out… I think things will happen for us soon!

Tuc Tuc of the Week

The taxi drivers around the lake take their taxis seriously. In a previous post I talked about the little three wheeled taxis, called Tuc Tucs and how their owners love to pimp them out. So I think I will start posting some of my favorite Tuc Tucs and see where it goes from there. Maybe organize a Tuc Tuc race?!?!?

Anyway, here is a cool one I often see in Santa Cruz. We call it the “batmobile”. Santa Cruz is a chilled out village where we used to live and they have some great taxis. Keep a lookout for more Tuc Tuc posts!

Batman Tuc Tuc




Guatemalan Wall Art

Lake Atitlan is dense with great outdoor wall graphics. Everyone seems to paint their own murals, logos, and signage on the weathered stone, adobe and concrete walls and the work really looks beautiful. I love meandering through the narrow passageways of the lake’s villages looking at these colorful and skillfully rendered graphics. These days the art of sign painting seems to be lost in most places, but here it remains strong. Check it out! More to Come…..








Pura-Vida-Thumb Wall-Graphic-San-Marcos-thumb

Venta-De-Articulos-thumb Partido-Thumb Nueva-Era-San-Marcos-Thumb Amigos-Thumb Agua-Pura-thumb Wall-graphic-3-Thumb Sabila-Thumb San-Juan-Corn-Painting-Thumb Wall-1 Wall-Graphic-2-Thumb



Yesterday and Today, Same Mind

Yesterday I was laying in bed at 4:30 in the morning and I just wanted to get up, go sit and then paint. But Rache got up to work, Iza was crying and I couldn’t do anything. I was trapped. Today, I woke to the soft hum of a distant boat on the lake, sat and then went straight to painting. Beautiful morning. But I try to keep the same mind whether it goes my way or not. The Third Patriarch of Zen, Seng-T’san, said:

“If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything.”

Most of us are not enlightened monks so we have to find a balance. But whether things are going our way or not, we still have to have the same mind, constantly looking inward and not giving importance to what happens outside of us.

Too Many Choices….

What drives us crazy?

1. Too many Choices – Lay a ton of crap in front of us and try to make us want it.

2. Too many Decisions – Trying to decide on the right option will make us crazy.

3. Too many Opinions – Once we have made all of those decisions we form all kinds of opinions on them. These opinions deepen the insanity.

I’ve read about this problem in a few places. Barry Schwartz writes about it in “Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less”.

from Amazon.com:

“By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counterintuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on the important ones and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.”

The idea is that the abundance of choices we have to make, or more importantly, feel we have to make on any given day creates internal tension that can lead to stress and unhappiness. We don’t even realize these choices are slowly and insidiously taking us down.

Seng-ts’an, The Third Patriarch of Zen, said:

“To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.”

A good friend of mine, a Russian from Kiev before the wall came down, recounted a story to me abut the first time he came to America.  He arrived in New York in the winter time and decided he needed a new coat as his old one was getting worn out. Going to Macy’s was an exciting and new experience for him, but when he got there and looked at the amount of coats they had available in the Men’s Department, he became overwhelmed at the choices, had a huge melt down and ran out of the store without a coat!

Here in Guatemala we go to the market two or three times a week to get produce. The interesting thing is that the markets basically have the same items for weeks on end. One kind of lettuce, one kind of tomato, one kind of apple. In America we would probably think of this as a bad thing. The more options the better! But here we have found it incredibly liberating to know what we are getting every week. One less thing to think about!

So a simple thing like food shopping has taught us a great lesson. The less decisions we have to make about what we are buying, the less stress we feel.

It’s a hard thing to practice back in the US, but hopefully, when we return, we can apply what we have learned here and try to make our lives easier and less stressful.


Guatemalan Coffee with Honey and Cinnamon

Here at Ra’co Life, we are big fans of green tea. All kinds, Japanese, Chinese, Korean…never sweetened! And with our busy lives it keeps us going all day. My Zen teacher, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, (who passed away recently at 107! ) drank green tea all day long. But he never drank coffee like many of the monks did. He would say “Coffee make Old!”. Judging by his age, there may be some truth to that! But many say that coffee has some great health benefits and may actually extend your life. It has several essential nutrients, helps boost athletic performance, may lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and may help protect you from alzheimer’s and dementia. And  nothing can compare to the boost of coffee! Thats why so many people drink coffee and not tea. We want the jolt, the quick fix, the rush! Yes, I love it as much as anyone. But I have some health issues that keep me from drinking it excessively so in a way I’m fortunate. One cup a day, max. Occasionally I will have a cup in the afternoon or evening, but usually that is where the green tea comes in. Being in Guatemala, coffee is ubiquitous, essential even. You can’t escape it if you tried. And it is among the finest in the world. The high altitudes in which it is grown, the large number of microclimates, and consistent rainfall patterns all contribute to the special qualities of Guatemalan coffee. So I have my daily cup and love every minute of it.

From a coffee shop in San Juan La Laguna.

Here is an interesting fact about coffee: The best time to drink coffee is not as soon as you wake up in the morning (unless you haven’t slept!). Our body naturally produces a hormone called cortisol which makes us feel energized and awake. This production of cortisol peaks between 8 and 9 a.m., usually when most of us are having our first cup of coffee. But the effects of the caffeine are lower at that time and we end up wanting more than just the one healthy cup.  The best tie to drink coffee is actually around 9:30-11:30 a.m. or later in the afternoon when cortisol production slows down. Here is a link to some more interesting facts about coffee: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/coffee How do I drink my coffee? With cinnamon and honey. Way tastier and healthier than using refined sugar and cream! Cinnamon can help lower your bad cholesterol, can help treat type 2 diabetes and is good for better brain function and memory. And honey combined with cinnamon can help relieve arthritis pain. Check out more of these health benefits of cinnamon: http://www.organicauthority.com/health/11-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html. Honey can help prevent cancer and disease, reduce ulcers, and is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. And both honey and cinnamon are delicious! So next time try your coffee with honey and cinnamon and get a tasty health boost with your caffeine.  And try a bag of the Guatemalan coffee produced here in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. It’s fantastic!

Guatemalan Arts and Crafts

I have become fascinated with Mayan Arts and Crafts in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala where we are living. There is a rich culture of Mayan women who weave beautiful textiles using the backstrap loom method and painters, mostly men, who paint in vibrant colors in a unique primitive style. There are also various crafts using found objects and recycled materials.

This is a beautiful example of an embroidered textile made by an artisan in Panajachel.
This is a beautiful example of an embroidered textile made by an artisan in Panajachel. It appears that there are many stories going on here having to do with the artist’s life.
These recycled nylon shopping bags are made from large sacks that once carried sugar, wheat and other various bulk items.
These recycled nylon shopping bags are made from large sacks that once carried sugar, wheat and other various bulk items. High Design!


Check out this great little backpack we bought for Iza in the market of Panajachel. It was lovingly crafted by a Mayan textile artist.


Most of the painting in Lake Atitlan is done in the town of San Juan La Laguna near the popular town of San Pedro. Here are a few examples of some of the paintings we really like. They are hanging in our house in San Marcos. The owner, an American writer named Joyce Maynard, obviously has excellent taste!

We really like the artist Diego Isaias Hernandez who works in a highly expressive narrative style.

Huge painting by Diego Isaias Hernandez hanging in our bedroom.
Huge painting by Diego Isaias Hernandez hanging in our bedroom.
Another nice piece by Hernandez.
Another nice piece by Hernandez.


Another style of painting we like is called vista del pajaro and was popularized by the artist Juan Fermin GonzalezThe painting below is unsigned but it is a good example of this style.



Finally, I love the many styles of hand carved flutes they sell all in most tourist areas.


So you can see that Guatemala is full of really beautiful arts and crafts. From intricate textiles to colorful vibrant paintings, most of the objects created here could be called folk art and depict the rich lives surrounding the artists in the villages of Lake Atitlan.







Meds in Guatemala?

Eons ago when we were back in New York, Rache had her doctor call in a prescription for a 3 month supply that would get her through the time we planned on staying in Guatemala. Didn’t seem like an issue. She already had a one month supply and  knew she had to go back to New York for a business meeting so would pick up the 3 month supply then to get her through the rest of our stay in Guatemala. Nope, didn’t work out that way. Back in New York the prescription got messed up, her doctor was AWOL and she was left unable to get the new prescription. Clear as mud? Sorry. So we had a lot to worry about as she now had no good way to get her meds. She could get them mailed if she could finally make contact with her doctor, which wasn’t really happening. We had a friend here that went through the same situation, and she went through hell trying to deal with the postal system and waiting to finally get her shipment.

Rache finally decided to see a local doctor here in Santa Cruz to see if he could prescribe the meds for her. The doctor told her that they don’t really do prescriptions here and that she could buy the meds over the counter at a pharmacy in Panajachel. What! You mean back in the states we have to go through hell to get the meds she needs, and here you can just go up to the counter, ask for the meds, they hand it to you, you pay for it and leave. Relief!

After I heard that I got to thinking. A few days ago I smashed my toe on a rock while hiking up the mountain to Casita Blanca and was hobbling around in a fair amount of pain. Ibuprofen just wasn’t cutting it. I thought, “If Rache can get her meds over the counter,  maybe I can get something for my broken toe.” A quick internet search confirmed this was possible. Just ask for Kodone, and you will be given a nice new box of Vicodin, no questions asked. I went to the pharmacy, told them in my terrible Spanish that I had broken my toe and they offered Ibuprofen. “Ummmm, no, necessito medicina mucho fuerte.” They put the Ibuprofen back and handed me the Kodone. They also added, “How many boxes would you like?” For real!?!? I said one would due, paid the lady, and walked out.

Chalk up another win for The Brand Fam! The meds are expensive, and I’m really not into taking pills at all, but in this case, you better believe I’m on it!

lamotrigine 1 pills


Pimp My Tuk-Tuk: The History of the Tuk Tuk and Our 1st Nomination!

Pimp My Tuk Tuk, Guatemala

Here in Guatemala, and other parts of the world, the main style of taxi is a motorized rickshaw type vehicle called a Tuk-Tuk. I’m sure lots of you well traveled folks are familiar with them. We have become totally fascinated with these little three wheeled demons and it is now turning into an unhealthy obsession (Ok, for me at least. I don’t to drag Rache into this ridiculousness, but hey, thats what I do best).

So I had this idea to do a series of blog posts on our favorite Tuk Tuks in Guatemala. As you all know, if you have a good idea, there is a 99% chance it has already been done. Well, you guessed it, it has. There are some dudes in India that created a charity called “Pimp My Tuk Tuk” and we love it! Check it out. Maybe Ra’Co can hook up with these guys while we do a version in Guatemala. We’ll see!

But back here at the Lago, we are going to start our own version of Pimp My Tuk Tuk by posting images of our favorite Tuk-Tuks and we will try to do a little expose on the drivers as we learn more of the language. But right now our Spanish totally sucks. This will be a killer ongoing project that we are really excited about. Hopefully we can get to a point where we can gain interest in the project, get ya’ll to vote on your favorite vehicle, post videos etc. of the drivers and their vehicles and tell their stories. Maybe even start a Kickstarter project to raise funds for the drivers, their families and the less fortunate Mayan folks in the area that we are growing to love.

Sound good! Give a shout!


The History of the Tuk Tuk 

According to these guys the first version of the Tuk Tuk was created in Japan by Daihatsu. But they say Thailand was really responsible for inventing them and putting them to good use over 50 years ago. Anyway, the above mentioned site gives an excellent history of the Tuk Tuk so I’m not really going to get into it any further than I have to. That’s what links are for.

So without further ado, here is our first entry into Pimp My Tuk Tuk Guatemala. We call this one The Love Tuk and it’s located in San Juan La Laguna, a beautiful arts and crafts town located next to San Pedro. Unfortunately the driver wasn’t around so we could only get these photos. We will definitely follow up on this once we can find the driver, get his name, and try to get him to tell us something about himself.



There it is, out first entry in Pimp My Tuk Tuk Guatemala. Check back soon for the next installment!

Coming together as a Community

What is the biggest problem in your life right now? What is it that makes you crazy, annoyed , disturbed, angered, worried, nervous, hopeless, fearful etc? Anyone want to jump in? Is it health, social issues, money, relationships? For me, I think it is: “How can we find freedom in our life to love our work and have more time for the things we want to do i.e. spend time with family and friends, read, relax, create, cook, travel, learn, share, build things, garden… rather than do the things we HAVE to do all the time i.e. work work work work doing something we don’t really like to do to support people we don’t have any desire or reason to support.” It seems like we all live in our own little bubbles and we never get together as a community to fight in unison for our basic freedoms. How can we all come together to make some changes in our lives and society to win back our freedom? Am I being idealistic? Please help!

Yesterday I killed a snake, I am miserable, and I will never do it again….

Yesterday was one hell of a day.

Iza has been sick for the last three or four days and I am doing my best to make sure she is ok. She has been crying consistently, running a slight fever, eating very little and just has not been her happy smiling self. She wakes up 3 or four times a night crying and I rock her back to sleep.

I’m pretty tired.

Rache is in New York working her ass off to provide for us.

Yesterday I decided to find a doctor for her and looked at a list of options that our landlord offered us. There was an American doctor and a few naturopathic doctors in neighboring towns. I opted for the American doctor because, quite frankly, my Spanish completely sucks. Fortunately my wonderful nanny Marta came along with us to ease the burden of communication if I couldn’t find the clinic. And I’m so glad she did. We ended up going to the wrong town, San Marcos, to find the doctor but Marta ran into a friend as we were searching aimlessly. Her friend told us that there was a great clinic in town that practiced natural medicine and that we should go there. We quickly found the clinic and went inside. It felt right immediately. The place was spotless and the people that worked there also knew Marta and were extremely kind (like most of the people we have met here). Behind the reception desk were shelves upon shelves of little carefully marked brown bags full of herbs and plants and such. A beautiful site.

But what does this have to do with killing a snake?

Almost immediately the doctor came and ushered us into the examination room. He asked a few questions and Marta did her best to translate what I didn’t understand. Then doc checked Iza, felt her throat glands, and ascertained right away that she had an infection. I can only assume bacterial. He didn’t seem worried so I felt better. Back at his desk he wrote out a prescription and went to get three bags of dried herbs for tea, some fresh green leaves and a small bottle of drops to take orally. After we gave Iza the drops she almost immediately calmed down. Muy tranquilo. Things were going well.

So we paid Q150 for the services and medicine (maybe $25) and headed back to the dock to catch the taxi boat back to Santa Cruz. Along the way I stopped in a tienda for dos cervezas to take back with me. I knew they were going to be much appreciated later in the evening. Consumed that afternoon, they never made it that far.

At the dock we got on the boat and in no time were back at our landing. Iza was really chill at this point and starting to quietly fall asleep. So we jumped on the trail and headed back up to Casita Blanca. Another peaceful ten minutes along the gently flowing creek through the forest and we were at the gate of the house. Suddenly hear Marta yell. Ahhh!

A snake was blocking the entrance. I had read about venomous snakes in the area and ignorantly thought it was a poisonous yellow beard. I thought about it for a moment then decided to grab a rock and kill it; and I did. Dumb ass! How could I have done this. Fear for my baby and my nanny made me react in the wrong way and now I have to live with what I have done. After I killed it I saw next to it a large bloody mouse that it had just killed.

The cycle of life was right before our eyes. Iza is sick and plants are there to heal her. The mouse eats the food it finds in our kitchen. The snake eats the mouse. I, stupid fucking white man (see my favorite movie of all time, Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”), kill the snake.

Turns out the snake was actually a scorpion hunter and it was there protecting us and helping us.

And I now know that I will never kill a snake again unless it is an absolute last resort.

At least the journey proved fruitful. Iza seems to be slowly getting better and hopefully she will be up and around in the next few days. If not it’s off to the American doctor, most likely for a dose of antibiotics. Hopefully, we won’t have to resort to that.

But that’s Ra’co life, 50/50. We do the best we can.


raco life_herbs1 san marcos san-marcos-clinic


Baby with 102 temperature! First time parent syndrome…

So last night about 2am, the night before Rache is leaving for New York for a few days, Iza wakes up moaning and crying. Rache is next to her and I am roused out of my usual half sleep to her stating nervously “Iza is on fire!”. What to do!?

I’m supposed to be the chill guy that keeps it all together emotionally (“supposed to be” being the operative word) so I get out of bed calmly, reassure Rache that everything is ok, and go down to the bathroom to get the forehead thermometer that we brought along in our toiletries bag.

Iza has never really been very sick minus a cold here and there but she is having a hard time adapting to the Guatemalan food and has been fussy and gassy and not her usual self. We are really careful about our diets, but let’s face it, Gringo Gut is bound happen.  I’m pretty sure she is ok so I stay cool and take her temperature. 102 degrees. I am a die hard research guy (read “time waster”) and remember reading that as babies get older this can be quite common and shouldn’t cause a freak out call to the doctor. So I’m there reading everything I can on the internet about a feverish one year old and conclude that she is ok. Rache is holding her and putting on cold compress and quickly her fever drops and she calms down. Then I rocked her a bit and off to sleep she went.

So we are obviously first time parents and I’m sure a lot of you are laughing a little under your breath. No worries, we get it!

This morning she is super fussy and won’t let me put her down but her fever is gone. Cool.

Here are some of the things I have gathered from various sites on the internet about babies with fevers:

1. Fever is nature’s way of fighting disease. A moderately high temperature means your baby is doing what it is supposed to to take care of itself during illness.
2. There isn’t a lot of difference between a 100 degree temperature and a 102 degree temperature for a one year old. Don’t freak out!
3. Don’t jump immediately for the acetaminophen. It may help your baby feel a little more comfortable, but only drops the temperature about 1 degree. Try to calm them naturally first and only resort to those meds if they are still really upset. We didn’t use it and she went back to sleep in about 30 minutes.
4. Never give a child under 19 aspirin! They could develop Rye’s Syndrome.
4. If the temperature reaches 103 its probably time to call the doctor.
5. Babies from 0-6 months with a fever is a bigger concern. Call the doctor if she is over 100 degrees.
6. If she is closer to a year old and has a 102 degree temperature monitor it for 24 hours. If there is no change, call the doc.
7. 104 temperature is probably time to go to the emergency room.
8. Make sure the baby is mostly free from other symptoms. I won’t go into them as the list is quite extensive. Google it.

This is a very basic outline and I am by no means a doctor. But I have researched it pretty thoroughly and I hope the list helps you first time parents out there.

Also, there are lots of natural remedies for a fever and we always refer to those first. Here are some links:





Slow Down Aging with This Delicious, Raw, 5 Minute Brand Fam Breakfast

I read this morning here – http://www.truthaboutabs.com/foods-that-age-you-faster.html – that four of the foods you should not eat if you want to slow down aging (among other things) are:

1. Wheat
2. Corn
3. Sugar
4. “Vegetable Oils”

Most likely most of these are contained in one serving of regular breakfast cereal, even the “healthy” ones. But The Brand Fam ain’t having that!

I think I look pretty damn good for my age and I want to keep it that way. But we are sleep training Iza lately and she decided to cry for about two hours last night so Rache and I woke up in a funk. I didn’t want to make a big breakfast so I just grabbed a bunch of raw almonds, dried coconut, raisins, walnuts, raw sesame seeds, dried apricots and some fresh apple, dumped them in a bowl, dowsed them with coconut milk and dug in. A five minute Brand Fam breakfast! Combined with a side of sencha green tea from https://www.teatrekker.com/ and I was good to go!

Iza didn’t eat a damn bit of it but she really never likes to eat in the morning except from mama. But I’ll keep trying.

Getting Our Life Back….A Beautiful Morning

After a long year of late sleepless nights we are finally getting our groove back. We knew that we had to get into a really great stress free environment to reestablish our lives. Before Iza, Rache and I were very involved in healthy eating with lots of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, regular meditation and yoga, and daily of exercise.

Over the past year, lets just say we have strayed far from shore. Because Iza doesn’t really like to go to bed before 11pm and usually wakes up one or two times a night our usual 5am wake up has been pushed back. That means it’s hard to get up to meditate and do yoga as the sun rises. And because we are often stressed or over tired, we resort to bad habits like drinking too much or eating crappy food (well, relative to our usual diet). It’s a vicious cycle and I’m sure thats why so many parents start to get those love handles that turn into rolls that turn into….you know what I’m saying.

So the Brand Fam has grown sick of those nasty habits and decided to get their sh@# together! We both woke up at 4 this morning, Rache fed Iza when she woke up and I went and layed down with Iza after her feeding. At 5 Rache went off to do yoga on the roof and I sat in Zazen for a while on the front porch.




Rache Brand-yoga

Afterwards Rache started getting ready for her first commute into Panajachel to work and Iza and I ate a killer breakfast of raw chia seed pudding with coconut milk, lightly fried plantains, and fresh fruit salad. Rache wanted to wait to eat because she heard that the place she was going has excellent breakfast (turned out to be true, see shortly in another post).

Breakfast of raw chia seed with coconut milk pudding, fresh fruit salad, plantains fried in coconut oil, and turmeric and ginger tea.
My view from the meditation bench.
A flower along the creek on the way into town.
A flower along the creek on the way into town.


I think we are finally getting back to the way we love to live.

Sesshin (7 day Zen Retreat in Ithaca, NY), Vegan and Gluten Free!

So Rache was extremely kind to let me take part in Sesshin in Ithaca, NY. Sesshin is a silent 7 day meditation retreat and is the life-blood of Zen practice. How often do we get to get away from the distraction of our daily lives and get time to focus inward without need for thinking, planning doing, etc and try to discover who we truly are? Sound easy? NOT! Spending 8-10 hours a day in meditation and having everything in your life appear before you can be extremely difficult. Most of us spend all of our time just trying to get by. We never have time for introspection and, honestly, we don’t want that time. Because then we have to deal with our minds directly and there is no escape. No escape. No computers, iphones, food, drink, exercise, TV, iphones, movies….just ourselves and our own minds. But the more we practice this the better we get and the more we begin to understand ourselves (or lack thereof).

I was fortunate enough to cook for 25 people for this retreat and everyone was so grateful that I tried to make the food as vegan and gluten free as possible. I had some great help in the kitchen and we made it through. What a great experience! I wish to thank everyone that took part in the Sesshin for all of their hard effort and gratitude!

I don’t know when I will be able to take part in Sesshin again as it definitely takes a toll on a family with a small child. At this point I really have to put my nose to the grindstone and make things happen for the Brand Fam so Rache and Iza can have a better life.

Thanks again Rache and Iza! I will do everything I can to repay you for this time.

Alicia of Pura Vida in San Miguel Allende made these incredible gluten free shortcakes to celebrate our last day of the retreat.
Alicia of Pura Vida in San Miguel Allende made these incredible gluten free shortcakes to celebrate our last day of the retreat.


Alicia and Ithaca Zen Center Monk, Polly, Preparing the Vegan Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcake.


The Finished Dessert. I made the rhubarb sauce with fresh rhubarb from the Zen Center garden and also made the raw cashew cream for the topping. Finished off with a spearmint sprig that grows everywhere.


Beacon, NY to Northampton, MA

So our next stop after leaving Beacon, NY was Northampton, MA. We wanted to stop over at Rache’s parents to have a big first birthday party for Iza and get in a little family time before we leave for Guatemala. As you can see from the previous blog, we had a blast at Iza’s birthday. Iza got in some great playtime with her cousins. And Northampton was beautiful in the spring. We spent the evenings on the back porch listening to the frogs and looking out over the marshland behind the house. A great way to prepare us for our next stop, a Zen retreat in Ithaca, NY.


East Harlem to Baltimore, First stop Beacon,NY

Hudson River

The Brand Fam has started its summer ’14 adventure!

We have decided to leave East Harlem for the summer and travel to Guatemala for 3 1/2 months for a work vacation. We’ve done our research, reserved our houses through Airbnb, booked our flights and now have everything in place (we hope).

The first leg of our journey began on May 23 just before Iza’s 1st birthday and we traveled to our old home of Beacon, NY to put some things in storage. I jam -packed the Prius V with all of our stuff from the East Harlem apartment and Rache and Iza took the Metro North train direct to Beacon.

After dropping all of our stuff off in storage I went to the Dia Beacon to catch the new Carl Andre show. Its an all consuming retrospective to one of the most important sculptors in contemporary minimal art. What a show! Fortunately it is showing through April ’15 so we can visit it a few more times.

Here is a link:http://www.diaart.org/press_releases/main/239

Brand Fam Dia Beacon Carl Andre

We love the Dia Beacon and think its one of the greatest contemporary art museums in the world.

After I visited the museum I went down to the Hudson to catch the beautiful views of the river. These days it always seems to be rainy and overcast but the fog on the river made for a memorable photo.

Hudson River

We used to have our kayaks docked here and had the pleasure of cruising up and down the river at least a couple of times when the weather was nice. Definitely miss it!

Soon it was time to pick up Rache and Iza at the train station. Rache said Iza made the trip less than pleasant, but thats how it goes sometimes.


All in all a killer start to our journey and hopefully a portent of our future travels.

Next stop Northampton, Mass…..




The Incredible Grocery Experiences

RA’CO on the road is always looking for great markets and grocery shopping experiences. Rache and Kurt usually find that when they are visiting family they either have to pack their own food or shop when they get to where they are going because of our families have more traditional diets than we do. We have a lot of special needs like gluten free flours and snacks, organic produce, raw organic seeds and nuts and various raw foods and snacks so we usually look for local health food stores or a local Whole Foods Market. And we love specialty shops like gourmet olive oil and vinegar shops or tea houses that have really good Japanese green teas.

On this trip to Cincinnati we have had two really great shopping experiences. The first was a Whole Foods in Chagrin Falls in Cleveland that really took it to the next level with their design and the products they featured. We loved the fact that they put a lot of effort into the presentation with custom finishes and build outs and that they featured lots of cutting edge products like specialty infused olive oils and vinegars. Great job Whole Foods!

In Cincinnati we just experienced one of the most amazing markets we have seen yet called Jungle Jim’s. This place is legendary in the Midwest. If you’re ever in Cincinnati and you’re a hardcore foodie like us then you have to go! The owner is super interesting and quirky guy who has turned his massive food store in a shopping paradise fitted out with a jungle theme, massive wine cellar, live fish tanks, outdoor ponds, candy shop, kitchen equipment shop and one of the best healthy food sections we have ever seen. Rache was like, “Man, if we ever do get married, we should do it here and have a registry here!”

We went to Jungle Jim’s to get ingredients for our healthy gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan and raw dishes that we will be adding to Kurt’s family’s usual Thanksgiving menu. (Please visit the menu page for all of our recipes for these dishes.) There was nothing that they didn’t have, and Kurt’s Mom (Sue) picked up all of her special international products that she likes to buy for her Swiss husband Paul.

Thanks Jungle Jim’s for all of your offerings and helping us to make this Thanksgiving a super special and healthy event!

Where are we going to eat!?!?

We left Cleveland this morning after a great stay with our friends and failed to eat a decent breakfast. I guess we were so hyped up on green tea and ready to roll that we totally forgot. So after a few hours of driving we realized we were starving and decided to pull over to get something to eat. Then we realized we were in Ohio outside of any major city and what were we going to eat? Arby’s, Mcyuks, Wendy’s, Burger King? Uh, sorry, we have too much respect for our bodies to do that to ourselves. As we swung off the highway Rache said “Man, I wish they had a Chipotle around here!” I was thinking “Good luck with that!” then she looks to her left, and Bam! A Chipotle, our choice for fast food. We love this place and it’s a magical oasis of healthy food in a desert of nasty greasy burgers, cheese drenched fried whatever and sugar filled beverages. Rache and I both get pretty close to the same thing, here is what we get:

– A big salad made of fresh crisp Romaine covered with vegetarian black beans, brown or white rice, lightly cooked peppers and onions, fresh spicy hot tomato salsa, tasty guacamole and corn (for Rache, not for me). We skip the cheese and sour cream of course (though they say their dairy comes from pasture raised cows and is free of rGBH, a synthetic growth hormone that has been linked to cancer….bad stuff, we’re sure you have heard about it by now) because Rache is allergic to dairy and I avoid it as it is just unnecessary. And we also avoid the wrap because we don’t do gluten. Rache gets the corn chips which is her occasional point of indulgence. They make them right in front of you.

We love Chipotle and always look for them on our frequent road trips. Wish there were more really cool and healthy fast food places to eat like these guys!

Cincinnati for Thanksgiving…

Today, Rache and I are off to Cincinnati where I grew up and where my family lives. We’re armed with an arsenal of healthy meat free, soy free, dairy free and gluten free recipes we’ve been collecting because my family definitely likes to celebrate with the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. But this year Rache and I will be adding some amazing super healthy nutrient packed dishes to the usual turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy items. We’ll be checking back in here after “turkey” day to tell you what we made and to hook you up with some recipes from the dinner that can actually be enjoyed by anyone all year round.

Our Detox….

Though we haven’t done it in a while now due to our crazy nomadic lifestyle over the past few months, Detoxing is usually a big deal for Kurt and Rache.  And we commit to doing it for 10 days at least twice a year.  For Rache, it’s no big effort because she eats that way a lot of the time anyway.  And for Kurt it’s a part of his business, Kurt’s Cuisine, to prepare and deliver detox food packages to people who like to cleanse their body and eat healthy.

Our detox is based on the Anne Wigmore diet and it’s raw, vegan and mostly green.  We love it, but it can be a challenge for those who eat a crappy diet full of sugar, meat, bread etc….all very acidic. So the detox aims to bring your body back to an alkaline state which can, when completed, allow you to lose a few of those extra pounds you may be carrying, boost your energy level and feeling of well being, drastically clear up your skin and give you an overall feeling of clarity and radiance. For us, it definitely works.

Throughout the ten days that we cleanse, we eat a raw green vegetable soup called Energy Soup that is the basis of the diet. And they don’t call it energy soup for nothing! It really gives you a big boost every time you drink it. We also have lots of green drinks and eat big salads for lunch and dinner, and have a shot of wheatgrass once a day. And thats it! It’s definitely a challenge eating the same thing for 10 days, but the end result is so worth it.

It’s been a while now since we last detoxed. The last time we did it was at the lake house, but the new year is coming on and thats always a good time to cleanse. Rache, of course, is carrying Z!BE so we don’k a big detox is order for her for a while. But Kurt is definitely in need and looking forward to getting through the holidays and starting the year off right.

We definitely encourage people to try to detox once or twice a year and maintain a healthy diet.

Lets Face It….

When it comes to having a kid, our partners/wives/girlfriends are doing all the work, that’s pretty obvious. But all of you that have been through this or are going through it knows good and well that it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Far from it! So this is the time we must, with our greatest strength and effort, exhibit patience and compassion for our pregnant partner.

When her moods are swinging like a wild monkey…. she’s crying, she’s screaming at you, she’s just plain freaking out, take the time to breath and relax and don’t perpetuate the fight. Try not to give in to the urge to avenge your precious ego, just let it go and be with it and understand that the person you love is carrying the most precious and vulnerable thing there is in your life.

Keep trying to show understanding and compassion. Keep your ears open and keep your wits about you. Because, brothers, it’s not about you, it’s about her.  And the more you are there for her, the more kindness you can show her, and the clearer you are about your intentions of raising a happy child…well the better off everyone, including your self, will be.

It all starts now.