The Extraordinary People I Know

Ejo #149 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Ziggy Attias

Chateau Orquevaux is a magnificent property perched on a hill overlooking the tiny village of Orquevaux in the beautiful French countryside.  With a population of about 70, the charming, centuries-old village was in grave danger of fading into obscurity, as its young folk flocked to nearby cities in search of a better life. 

That is, until Ziggy Attias came along and breathed life back into Orquevaux.  In 2015, he inherited the neglected property from his father, intending to fix the place up and sell it.  Instead, he very quickly fell in love with the Chateau and decided to transform it, and its gorgeous grounds, into a place where artists could visit and retreat from the world.  A place they could spend time with like-minded people, and find inspiration, creativity and collaboration.  A place in which artists could focus on their art, somewhere they could just be.  A place of peace and tranquillity, of breathtakingly pristine nature and an overwhelming sense of magic which radiates throughout the entire estate.  And so he created the Chateau Orquevaux International Artists & Writers Residence programme. 

I recently had the very great fortune of spending two wondrous weeks in residence at Chateau Orquevaux.  I shared those two weeks with twelve other artists; mostly painters but also a collagist, a photographer, a musician, another writer, a clay sculptor and a floral sculptor.  And while I was there I was very lucky to have the opportunity to sit down with Ziggy to chat about art, what being an artist is about, and his 100 year plan for the future of the Chateau. 

What is an artist?
What is an artist? I would say an artist is someone that can express themselves in the most honest way, the most vulnerable way.  I think an artist is someone that’s outside the box, somebody that is a free thinker.  There are a lot of people that call themselves artists that maybe aren’t.  The kind of artist that I’m attracted to is somebody who’s loose, not judgemental, somebody that accepts people as they are, and doesn’t try to put themselves on everything.  So they can be quirky, they can be a little crazy, all that stuff is okay.  But, if they want to be accepted, then they need to accept.  So to me, the purest way to be an artist is to be somebody who’s out there and free and expresses themselves, but also accepts that from other people.

So what makes Ziggy an artist?
I don’t really do any one discipline.  I would say my main discipline is manifesting something out of nothing.  So I’m an idea person. 

Like the Chateau?
Like the Chateau.  Seeing something from a little bit of a different angle than somebody else would see it. Obviously I didn’t build the Chateau, but I had an idea of what it could be.  I would say all the different forms of art that I’ve done, whether it’s film or jewellery or sculptural pieces or writing, I think I come at things from what I can do.  Because there’s a lot that I can’t do.  So my creativity, what I think makes me unique and gives me a voice, is that I find these cracks that other people don’t find.  I remove all that I can’t do and I see what’s left and then I have to be creative with that.

You know, I struggle with the term artist.  I know a lot of people do, and I think in my case, it’s because I don’t do any one discipline for long.  I tinker with everything, a lot of different things.  And there’s a lot of things I don’t do anymore that I do still think about.  Writing is something that I’m interested in, but it’s not necessarily easy for me.  

So that’s something you’d like to pursue?
Yeah, but not necessarily a novel.  All my writing is personal essays.  It’s always about my experience, and my experiences here at the Chateau.  And I feel like there’s something being built here that will possibly have historical significance.  So I think my writing is important in relation to that.  I don’t know if it’s important out there in the world, but in relation to what’s happening here in Orquevaux, I think I am an important part of that.  So I think my story’s going to be that I’m not an artist like a painter, who paints every day.  I feel like this whole place is my studio.  And at this point in my life, my strength is empowering a lot of artists, as opposed to me being in my own studio trying to make my mark.  I think my mark is in this giant studio that everybody gets to come into, and then hopefully they can do good work and then it goes out into the world.

So that, I see now, is much more important than me trying to make my mark on a specific creative endeavour.  You know, I think this whole bigger creative endeavour is more important than any smaller individual pursuit.  I don’t know if people necessarily define me as an artist on a day to day basis, even though I feel like I live my life that way.  I think my body of work will be my life.  And people will look back and they’ll see the different accomplishments I’ve had, different things I’ve done and put it all together and say, “Oh, he created art there”.  When you put it all together, I believe that there’ll be no question that, yes, that guy was an artist. 

What kind of training have you had?  Have you had any formal training or mentorship, or are you self-taught?
Everything’s self taught.  I didn’t know I was creative until I was around 21 or 22 years old.  I would say I was angry prior to that for a variety of reasons.  What happened was that I knew this guy who was a friend of the family, a neighbour, his name was David.  He was this angry guy, but he was a teacher, an art teacher.  And he made this thing with metal and solder.  I can’t draw, I can’t paint.  I can’t do any of that stuff.  And I was just really attracted to this thing that he made.  And it was like, can you teach me how to do that?  Which was a weird thing for me to ask, because there was no reason to think that I could do that.  But he said, well, if you’re serious, go buy these materials.  He wanted me to prove that I was somewhat serious. And I went to his house, I think we spent an hour together, maybe an hour and a half, and he showed me how to do soldering, which became, something that I turned, I believe, into an art form.

And because of that, I had a place to put this anger, which I wouldn’t even call anger anymore. I think anger is just one form of expression.  I found another way to express myself that wasn’t anger.  I was able to create something that people valued.  And I was able to turn that into jewellery, and it opened up my whole world.  And it opened up these doors of possibility.  So I would say that an hour with this guy gave me my whole life.

It led to this, essentially.
It 100% led, to this.  Because I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the other creative endeavours.  I would’ve been a guy cutting grass, because I had a landscape company at that time, and I think I would have been successful at that.  I always thought I was going to be a businessman.  But that started to change as I found new ways to express myself.  So I was becoming worse at being a businessman, and better at being a creative person.  And then because I had to make a living, I always tried to find a way to mix the two, like how do I pay the bills, but do something creative, not just for the sake of money.

And so with the writing, what made you want to write or think that you could write? When did that start?
I think it started when I did a documentary about a Native American tribe on Long Island.  So when we were trying to figure out a direction for the documentary, I realised I knew nothing about them.  So I thought that the film could be my personal journey of discovering these Native Americans on Long Island.  So then you have to write about that, if it’s a personal journey, you have to journal it in, and that became the film’s narration.  So from that, I started to think about my life in different ways, and I would get into these moments where I would just journal.  And then when I came to Orquevaux, I knew I could write – personal stuff, it’s all personal, I can’t do fiction.  So I started taking the writing a little more seriously when I was here.  

So you continued journalling?
I never journalled regularly.  I think it’s more when you have hard times in your life, that you write.  But I started to figure out my place within the context of this job, or this life, that relates to the Chateau.  And I started writing, and I’m always nervous when I write.  I write from fear, like I’m always thinking I won’t be able to finish the piece, or it won’t have an ending or whatever.  So I build it sentence by sentence.  Because I’m afraid to go past the next sentence –

So you aren’t able to look forward and see the end?
I can’t.  I can’t do it like that.  I have to have a feeling about something, and I start writing and then hopefully in the first few sentences I’ll find a theme and a direction and that gives me the story.  And then I have to do editing and rearranging, because maybe some thoughts came too early.  I don’t just write it.  I’m like, oh, this story relates to that thought.  Then we can consolidate those two thoughts together, things like that.  And from that, I discovered that my writing always forms a circle.  There’s always an ending that relates to the beginning, and a theme forms.  So I get excited by that, but I also get nervous that I can’t do it again.  So I don’t write as often as I probably should.  I have a bunch of works in progress right now, and I have been tinkering with one, finishing a piece that I’m going to read to you guys tomorrow.

Ziggy reading for Literature Night in the salon.

I look forward to hearing it.  Tell me about something new that you are working on?
Well, I have an idea for a contemporary art museum here that I initially thought was going be in a building that I bought that’s near the church, but we just made a deal for another property which has about five acres attached to it.  So now I have this idea that in the future we’ll be able to build a real contemporary art museum from the ground up, with a large sculpture park.  And the park will always be open to the public.  Obviously we would run the museum, but the whole thing would be for the people, you know what I mean?  So when people come to Orquevaux to do the Cul du Cerf, which is the walk to the source [of La Manoise River], it can become more than just the Cul du Cerf here.  Orquevaux will also be this museum and it’ll be the sculpture park and you can bring your lunch with you, and there will be a performance centre and art studios and a gallery.  And I think that I can get some help from the government for that, but I don’t think it’s something that is going to happen for some time yet.

But it’s something you’re working on.
Yeah, definitely.  I like the idea of creating a museum.  The residency is the same way.  In many ways it’s the unknown artist.  So I like the idea of this museum that will be filled with amazing work and that’ll be the reason that people will come here.  To see all this new work that they don’t know.  And it’ll still be a beautiful experience, because it’s not the obvious.  It’ll be completely original, by the power of all the people that helped build this place.  And I think we can all create something amazing together. And I love that idea.

What goals do you have for the future? What do you want to achieve personally, artistically, professionally creatively?
I think there’s only so much I can do in my lifetime.  If I’m lucky I have 30 years, or maybe 35 years left.  So I don’t know how much of it I can achieve, but I do want to create an art village, and I’d love for it to be the whole village of Orquevaux.  And I don’t think, in my lifetime, that I’ll be able to get the whole village for the residency, but I think we can get quite a bit of it. And then I think the next generation will continue that.

Tell us about your plan for the village?
My plan for the village is to make a place that, if you love art, is really a one of a kind village in the countryside of France, surrounded by cow pastures and agricultural land.  It’s in a valley, and it’s this magical place with two castles and a beautiful church and art studios, and artists living everywhere and there’ll be music and art and sculptures.  It’ll be a creative think-tank, of all the arts.  So of course artists will want to come here, but if you’re not an artist you’ll also want to come here to enjoy it and to discover artists, and maybe collect work.  I want to create a place that is art driven.  And I think it’s a perfect size village, because it’s not too big, but it’s big enough.

And how will that plan live on, after you’re gone?
It’ll be self-sustaining, and the question is whether it’s going to be a board that runs it.  It can’t be run by one person.  I mean, at the moment it is.  I have a team obviously, and it’s getting bigger, but right now I’m the driver.  But I think in the future, when I’m not here, it shouldn’t be a single person.  It should be a collective of some sort, and you could have a president and a residency director and all the jobs that relate to it.  Maybe it’ll be not for profit.  My first choice would be that the whole thing gets acquired by a big art university.  But then my concern is that they would just use it for their students.  I want it to be open to the world.  So the goal is to create something like that, and have it be self-sustaining, so that artists don’t have to pay to come here, because it shouldn’t be whether you can afford to pay for it or not afford to pay for it.  So we’ll see how it works out, but I’d like it to be open to everybody. 

Tell me about someone who inspired you artistically. 
I don’t think I have anybody like that.  I had a complicated relationship with my father, but I will say he was a person that just did.  So it was just, “do”.  I learned that if you want to do something, just do it.  Don’t worry about doing one thing a hundred percent, do lots of things at 80%.  Just keep moving and try to improve.  So I think that watching him as an entrepreneur and a businessman, it must have put those seeds in my head.  I’ve been like that ever since I was very young.  So some of that is just in me.  I think the world inspires me in different ways.  If I see something that inspires me, it can open up a whole world for me. And then, even though I don’t know anything and even though there’s obviously fear and anxiety attached to doing it, I don’t not do it.

Do you still get fear and anxiety about things?
Sure, all the time.  I don’t know how to do anything.  So whenever I want to do something, I have to just go and do it.  It’s the unknown.  From my life, I learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.  I’m always uncomfortable.  And when I get comfortable, I’m a little bored. And that’s why every day I have new ideas, and I want to push it further, and push it further.  And I think as resources grow I’ll be able to create some amazing things.  COVID pushed me back a bit.  We were in a good run and then it just pushed it back.  

So I don’t know exactly if I could say a specific person inspires me, but I would say open people inspire me, and people that are open to ideas inspire me, because I’m always looking for ideas.  I’m always looking.  I’m always scanning.  I’m like Robocop, always scanning.  We have all the artists that come here, and I’m just trying to figure out how do I harness all that energy, and then how do I express that energy in my voice?  

Finally, what advice would you give to yourself when you were first starting your artistic journey?  And parallel to that, what advice would you give to someone else starting their artistic journey?  And would it be the same advice or would it be different?
I wouldn’t wish my life on anybody else, because there were so many decisions that had to be made and I’m like a cat with nine lives or 50 lives.  I don’t wish it on anybody.  There were so many minefields, and some of those mines exploded.  I’m just lucky I didn’t lose any limbs, and I managed to get back on my feet and keep moving.  And we’re not all cut out to make those decisions, or to make it through that.  So everybody’s got their own journey.

For myself – and I would still give this advice to myself now because I still worry a little bit – I would say it’s going to be alright, don’t worry so much, just keep doing the work.  And I think that’s the advice I would give to somebody else too.  Just keep going, get up every day and do the work.  If you want to write, write.  If you want to paint, paint.  If you want to – whatever you want to do, you gotta do it.  If you want to make movies, then go get an iPhone and make a movie.  So I think just do the work and, every day try to improve a little bit on what that is.  I think that’s the advice.  And I would give that advice to myself too.  And I would say to myself, try to worry less.

Do you think you’d listen?
I don’t know how to not worry. You know what I mean?  Because it’s not just about the money.  There’s always something to worry about.  I don’t know if anxiety’s the right word, but I think that you need a little bit of fear.  You need a little bit of risk.  There has to be risk, otherwise you’re on autopilot.  There’s nothing exciting about just being able to do it.  There has to always be a risk involved to try to break new ground.

The amazing gang of artists at Chateau Orquevaux (13-27th May 2022). Photo courtesy of Andrew Putschoegl.

For another very enjoyable chat in which Ziggy discusses the artist residency and his hopes for its future, check out this podcast.

Ejo #139 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Zimmy Khan

TW//suicide

I met Zimmy in 2011, nearly ten and a half years ago.  I had just experienced two of the darkest years of my life and desperately needed help getting out of the deep, pitch-black hole I was in.  I’d consulted a couple of psychologists in Dubai, who had not been able to help me.  It’s the only time in my life I remember feeling such hopelessness, darkness, loneliness and desperation.  And then one day, I read an article in Time Out Dubai about a very special therapist called Zimmy Khan.  It felt like a dim light shining in the distance, and I ran towards it.  I checked out her website and wrote her an email. The subject header was “I Need Your Help”. 

Not only did Zimmy help me through that bleak phase of my life, she has, over the years, equipped me with tools that have allowed me to survive and navigate another decade in a city that drains my life force, being away from my family and friends, relationship ups and downs, career dilemmas, sometimes crippling social anxiety, and the devastating grief of losing my beloved Mum.  She taught me resilience, and she taught me how to have faith (a word I’d previously considered a profanity).   

I immediately fell in love with Zimmy as a therapist, and later, when it dawned on us both that we were spending the first 45 minutes of our sessions just chatting, I fell in love with her as a friend.  David calls her my guru because she helped transform me from someone who saw the world as an adversary, to be fought and challenged, into the woman I am now.  I am (mostly) at peace, I know who I am, I love myself, I am grounded, I am happy and I am open to receiving all of life’s possibilities.  I no longer feel alone, and I am no longer afraid.  Zimmy saved my life and I know it sounds like a cliché, but I am truly blessed to have met her and I am eternally grateful that she is my friend. 

Zimmy and me

It’s my great honour to introduce you all to Zimmy. 

Thank you so much Zimmy, for taking the time to (virtually) sit down with me and have a chat.  I appreciate it and I’m absolutely certain that my readers will enjoy it too. So, I started this post with an excerpt from an anthology you contributed to called “How The Phoenix Rose” in which you talk about your experience of severe physical and mental debilitation after suddenly developing a brain lesion in 2004.  Can you tell us about it?
I’d been working at JWT, one of the top global advertising agencies, in Dubai.  I’d been there for two years and was doing very well when I was suddenly hit with paralysis, and diagnosed with a brain lesion.  My mind has always been my savior and north star.  But the medications they gave me made me so weak, mentally, that I was not able to access my north star, my inner guidance, my mind’s ability to analyse and find solutions for me to heal myself; and that was the scariest part of the whole experience for me. More than the physical paralysis, it was the mental shutdown that made me feel alone and weak and hopeless. My superpower was taken away by the medications, and that’s why I stopped taking them, to see if I could still access my inner guidance. When that connection came back, I was able to heal myself through love and gratitude affirmations.

That sounds terrifying. Do you remember that time clearly, or has it faded with time?
Not as clearly as you would expect, because I live mainly in the present.  I remember things as a story, with minimal emotions.  I think I dissociate very reflexively from painful things, as a deep rooted trauma response – my analytical mind switches on to keep me safe and to protect me from feeling too deeply, and to just focus on what needs to be done to fix it, solve it or get out of it. I do remember the immense despair and fear that I went through, and also the great love and faith and peace that I felt for myself while saying the affirmations that healed me.  I really did feel like I went from wanting to kill myself, to everything will be alright, in a matter of only weeks.

Every hero has an origin story, and I wonder if that episode in your life is yours. 
The lesion did help me to honour my inner guidance more, and I will always feel fortunate about that.  But Chryss, I don’t see the lesion as my origin story, or even the catalyst.  It feels more like a very important fork in the road, but no, not the origin.

Are you happy to share your origin story with us?
I lost my mother suddenly and traumatically when I was only one and a half years old.  She had run away from her family to be with my dad while he was married to someone else. My parents married in secret, and for three years she lived as his second wife, whom no-one knew about; until his first wife found out.  Her brother murdered my mother to avenge his sister’s betrayal.  

Five month old Zimmy, with her mum and dad.

It was only then that my dad’s family learned about the whole situation, and of course they were in no position to care for me because the first wife had their loyalty.  My dad was also unable to care for me, and my mum’s family felt that she got what she deserved for disgracing them.  They wanted nothing to do with me as I was a reminder of their shame and loss.

Zimmy at six months.

Since the options were limited and my dad was concerned for my safety, he had to make quick decisions, and I was passed onto a childless couple who were our neighbours and family friends.  I was already quite comfortable around them and moved with them to Saudi Arabia soon after. Within a year my dad divorced his first wife, remarried, found a job in Saudi Arabia and moved there too. 

Zimmy at the age of four, with her biological paternal grandparents.

Between the ages of three and 15, I’d be with my foster parents during the week and spend the weekends with my dad and his new wife. I grew up knowing that my mum had died and that I now had two sets of parents. Both sets had their own baggage and issues and insecurities and wounds. I’m sure they all did their best to raise me as a team, but most of the time I felt alone, scared and unwanted, like a burden. I remember always being worried about something bad happening and feeling like I couldn’t trust or control life. I always needed to be on the alert and ready to fight. I never truly felt safe, or able to trust anyone, or have an irrefutable sense of belonging. So I became my own little unit – me, myself and I.  I always had the ability to talk to myself, to be there for myself and help guide myself through abusive experiences (physical, mental and emotional) in both homes, as well as feeling different at school.  

I found ways to work with my “defects” rather than allow them to defeat me. I used to analyse the other kids and try to figure out how to achieve the “desired result”, but in my own way. I created my own strategies on how to fit in and study better and focus better.  Things like doodling rather than taking notes in class, having music play while I did my homework and sleeping with books under my pillow. I always managed to get through with mostly As and Bs. School was very important to me as it felt like the only safe space in my life, and I wanted to do well and keep having that as my refuge.

By the time I became a teenager, with all the hormonal changes and bigger emotions, I was feeling very overwhelmed and suicidal. Even then it was my mind, my inner voice, my higher self that was my strength and got me through each day. I would have a pep talk with myself every morning: “Let’s do our best today, and if it’s not enough and things get too heavy, we can go to the top of that 15 storey building and just jump off. Don’t worry, we’ve got this, one way or the other. Just focus on one thing at a time and the day will pass”.  It was always “we” because that created a sense of belonging and connection, like someone had my back.  It is still “we” today.

I came to Dubai in 1997 to complete my bachelor’s degree in Business Management, with the intention of returning to Saudi Arabia to enroll in a Master’s program, and to wed in an arranged marriage.  And I was happy with that.  I was just so thrilled to have the opportunity to escape an oppressive family situation, to be independent, and get a higher education and live in a more open environment for a while.  During my studies, I was offered an internship at JWT, and after I graduated they offered me a job.  So I just stayed in Dubai. 

Well, I, for one, am very happy that you decided to stay. And thankfully (and miraculously) you fully healed from the brain lesion.  How did that whole experience lead to your evolution from high-flying advertising executive to life-saving healer and therapist?
I was so consumed with the miraculous outcome that I moved very quickly into delving into how the mind and body work together, how to be more than we’re taught we are, and how to access the superpowers that we all have. It was a rebirth for me, and a huge push towards my calling.  

I became keenly inter­ested in everything to do with “mind over matter”, “the power of thoughts” and “the attitude of gratitude”. Concepts that I had no prior awareness of, but that very naturally flowed through me and helped me to get my life back to its full glory. I made it my priority to study all that I could about these transformative powers that we all carry within us, and yet look for outside of ourselves.  It was this quest that trans­formed me from a hardcore, corporate intellectually-driven executive into a full-time therapist and healer. And it’s that exceptional and life-changing learning that I share with my clients in my sessions and workshops, reminding them to acknowledge all that they have to be thankful for, rather than focussing on the things that are missing.

There’s absolutely no question that you are special, that you do possess a superpower.  I attest to that and I happily recommend you to anyone that even drops a hint that they might benefit from your very special skillset. You have helped a lot of people. Do you think you were born with your superpower, or do you think that all the hardships you endured in your life helped to shape you that way? 
I think we are all born with these superpowers, and that is the real hallmark of being at the top of the food chain. We are the only beings that have the gifts of thought and analysis, and with that comes the ability to choose differently and to create different outcomes, to be better, to evolve. That is the superpower we all have. I don’t feel special in this respect, just really proud of myself for recognising the choices, and for choosing to be a better version of myself daily.

Life is bigger than us, and gives us both good experiences and challenging ones so that we can choose which ones we want to grow from. Some of us respond more to the painful push, and some of us thrive more when things are good.  So yes, my superpowers came to light due to adversity.  I wish I’d realised that I could have accessed them without the struggle!  But I think that learning so much about self-love, and finding these navigation methods, perhaps makes me a better therapist, and has helped me to create resources like The Happiness Project.  I’d sure like to think so. 

The other day when you were at our place for dinner you said something along the lines of, “I’m becoming mortal”.  What did you mean by that? 
I think that’s about progressively becoming a more feeling person than the mostly analytical one I used to be. I guess that comes with softening my armour and letting down my guard and starting to trust life and people, and allowing myself to connect, belong, love and live more fully. So yes when I allow myself to feel more, I do feel more human.  Vulnerable, but also more intuitive and alive. And I’m OK with that, I’m actually happy with that.  But sometimes I do become nostalgic about how in control I used to be.

Do you mind please listing the modalities you specialise in, for our readers, and what each one entails?  How can people benefit from them??  
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) go hand in hand as they are both related to learning how to direct our mind more consciously, rather than being directed by it and then feeling not in control of our thoughts and behaviours. So these are practical tips and techniques on how to reply to our negative, self-limiting thoughts, beliefs and programs by firstly becoming aware of them, secondly not fighting them but kindly and patiently shifting them to what would serve us better, and thirdly being consistent with the practice. This leads to a gradual but sustainable improvement in our mental, emotional and physical state of being, and gives us more energy and ability to be better versions of ourselves and to create a better life experience for ourselves. It also helps us to be more accepting and empathetic towards others.

Clinical hypnotherapy is used when there are deep subconscious wounds, fears, traumas or addictions that are creating pain in our lives. Sometimes we know what they are but we feel powerless to change or heal them; and sometimes we don’t even really know the root cause, but we know that no matter what we do cognitively, it just doesn’t seem to help for too long. So with this modality we connect with the subconscious mind, which has all the answers and solutions, and we heal the root causes from the past, so that they become disarmed and unable to create the pain in the present.  This is such a magical process and I am still in awe of how the mind takes us directly to the source, even when the client or myself have no idea what it is.  The healing that happens is so profound and long lasting, it still blows my mind. While hypnosis is still widely seen as just something to help with addictions and phobias, it really is much more than that and helps with healing traumas, PTSD, relationship issues, mental, emotional and physical illnesses too.

For energy healing I use a combination of the basics of reiki and pranic healing, plus my own intuitive interpretation. Energy healing modalities are based on the premise that we are all made up of energy and that everything that has form has an energy field.  How is my methodology unique?  I am able to get a sense of, and verbalise, the emotions that are creating the blocks in a client’s energy flow, and with their permission we work on allowing them to be released. This helps people to become more empowered and aware, and to be able to choose different thoughts and create lighter emotions so they can keep their energy system flowing better.

Akashic records reading helps us to connect to the client’s Super consciousness, the infinite essence.  Not just the conscious thinking mind or subconscious feeling mind that are limited to our bodily experience of life, but something bigger, wiser, made of love and connected to all that is. Through this modality, we access a “soup” of information that transcends time and space, and is made of our higher self (the part that knows our purpose in this life, and is a distillation of all the learnings from previous existences), collective consciousness, ancestral consciousness and so much more. The benefit is access to incredible love, wisdom, guidance and connection to something much larger and more powerful and comforting than we have ever known.  People also receive answers, solutions and healings during this process, giving permission to the therapist to access these through the client’s energy field, and to verbalise things that they may have been receiving through dreams, signs, gut feelings etc. but have not had the chance to really listen to, or interpret fully.

This is the newest modality in my portfolio, and the one that has truly challenged me to accept that I really am quite intuitive, and that I should trust and own this superpower rather than doubt or feel embarrassed by it. Since I come from such an analytical background, it’s been the most fascinating journey for me, first with energy healing and now with this. I know I heavily rely on my intuition, even when working with clinical hypnotherapy, but this really throws you in the deep end as there is almost no science to give you a sense of security. I used to be very hesitant, and actually avoided delving into it until the “call” became really strong and I decided to do a course, just to quell my curiosity.

During the course, my readings were really accurate and intuitive, and the teacher and students all wanted to work with me! So it’s almost like I had no choice but to embrace this facet of myself.  I slowly started doing readings, for close friends at first, and only after I felt more comfortable with this strange free-falling did I start offering it to clients.  It is a beautiful experience, not just for clients, but for me too, and I have never had a session in which I wasn’t touched so deeply that it led me to tears. The unconditional love, acceptance, encouragement and wisdom that comes through is really something special, and each client leaves feeling uplifted, happy, peaceful and more whole.  

Over the years, you and I have tried most of these therapies, plus some other, more experimental stuff.  Our hypnotherapy sessions helped me tremendously when we first started seeing each other and I was at a very low point, holding onto lots of shit.  I really enjoyed the Akashic reading you did for me in 2018, as it connected me to my yiayia, who died a year later at the age of 103.  My least favourite therapy was the past life regression (sorry!).  I didn’t really feel like I got much out of it (though it did inspire a short story, so perhaps that’s not quite accurate). 
The past life regression was your fifth session, and the objective was for you to have more discipline with your writing, and to enjoy it more. So we accessed a past life in which you had done that, to remind your cells, your consciousness, of how it feels to be that way again. Maybe it’s just me, but I do feel the past life session was more impactful than you may have realised.  I believe that it served the purpose of getting you to be more regular and disciplined with your ejos, and over the past few years I feel your writing has become deeper, and more open and honest.

Thank you so much!  You’ve definitely helped me become a better writer, and a better person.  After all these years, it’s still a wondrous experience for me to come to you feeling stale or blocked or stuck in some way, and walk away feeling like I’ve been fixed.  And for that reason, my absolute favourite therapy of all is your energy cleanse. 
Energy cleanses work really well with you as you are truly open and trusting with me and that’s all it takes to set things right, or to position them better, to create an easier flow. And thankfully you are aware of, and good at, self-regulating and you use your mind well, so we haven’t really needed extensive hypnotherapy etc. Would you please tell me what you like about it, and how it helps you and how you think it works?  I’m curious to hear your take on it.

To be honest, it all feels a little bit like magic.  And because we have worked together for so long I definitely feel that I can completely trust you, and trust the process, and let go and have faith that you’ll guide me in the direction I need to go.  Hypnotherapy is similar, but it feels like I need to do a little more delving into my own consciousness, and sometimes that feels clunky to me, like too much hard work (LOL, I’m so lazy).  When we do an energy cleanse, I just open the door to my sub-conscious and let you in, and let you do all the work.  I always leave your house walking on air, buoyant and buzzing but very clear-minded, and very happy. I want to thank you so much for all that you’ve done for me, over the years. I’m so grateful that the journey you took to overcome all the trauma and pain in your life led you to helping others overcome theirs. I’m so grateful that it led us to each other.
That really has been my driving force towards actively participating in life. Being there for others, and allowing them to use some of my learnings to heal themselves. So what you say makes me feel like I have been of service, and of love, and that you have helped me to fulfill my purpose. I really do love my work

If you feel that a session with Zimmy might help you in some way, you can get in touch with her at zimmy@epiphany-zk.com, or just let me know and I’ll set it up for you. She does in-person sessions in Dubai, as well as video sessions for clients all over the world.

Ejo #130 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Chris Diprose

I first met my friend Chris in 1995 when I was living with The Boys (shoutout to Andy, Matty and Mike) in a share-house called Delmore Mews. One day this tall, lanky 19 year old rookie cop just turned up and became part of the furniture (I’m assuming one of the guys invited him over, but who really knows, it was so many years ago 😉). Twenty five years later, we’re still in each other’s lives (and you might even recognise him from our big Vietnam motorcycle adventure of 2012). It’s funny, when you’ve known someone that long, you see them change and evolve and grow. Over the years I’ve watched Chris metamorphose many times, but a common thread in all of his evolutions has been his intensity and commitment to whatever he sets his mind to do. We may not always see eye to eye on everything, but something I’ve always admired about him is that he puts in the hours, he puts in the work and he goes all-in on whatever he focusses on. And I find that extraordinary. Which is why I wanted to talk to him for this ejo.

So Chris, you weren’t in the police force for very long before you moved into computer programming. And I’ve always been fascinated by how you then pivoted that into building a very successful online sex toy store. Walk me through the full three acts of that business.
So, I started out programming in 1998, and in 2006 I went travelling for a year. While I was away I got interested in search engine optimisation (SEO), which is structuring and marketing your website in such a way as to harness the traffic from search engines. When I returned from overseas I got more heavily interested in that, and it led me to work for a digital agency, as head of their Online Marketing, working with Honda, Bunnings, Myer and the like, to help them with their SEO strategy. When you’re helping other companies really push their brands, driving traffic to their websites, it’s not such a long jump to think, maybe I should be doing this for my own business.

So, I first started an online business with a good friend of mine, Pip, selling UGG boots. We grew the business so quickly that our boot supplier, Emu, actually withdrew supply of boots to our little company because they were worried about the impact our huge orders would have on the physical shops in the UK that were buying the same product. So one of Pip’s other friends bought my share (I made a bit of a profit from it) and they went on to manufacture their own brand.

After this experience I was thinking, “What is the most highly sought after product online?” Actually, it’s two things, more closely related than one might think! Baby stuff, and sex toys. Baby stuff includes clothing (which can be problematic for online sales due to sizing) and prams. Sex toys, in comparison, are small, light, discreet and people want them delivered. The choice was obvious to me. I started the business and quickly grew it to be in a very dominant position. We were #1 for all major terms in the search engines. We had big numbers of web traffic and sales. We were turning over large volumes of orders, and had around 8-10 employees at one point.

I did that for more than 12 years, and achieved so much running that business. It was an amazing time, and I swore I’d never work for anyone ever again. You should never say never! January 2020 rolled around, and I was on a plane back from Europe and business wasn’t doing great. The two biggest sex toy retailers in the world were now in the Australian market, they were importing container loads of product from their bases in the US and UK, they were undercutting me on prices with some products being sold below my wholesale cost price, and they were leveraging their big marketing power to push smaller players like me out of the market.

So yeah, in January of this year on that plane home I decided enough is enough. Time to draw a line under it, and try to find a role doing the same job for a larger company. Covid-19 put a pause on all of that, but I’ve been hunting on and off since March and meanwhile spending heaps of time with my son, running home-school, cooking, cleaning and trying to do my part for our house. Oh, if anyone knows of a position for Head of Digital or eCommerce Director, let me know!!

In my last ejo, you mentioned your health wake-up call which happened eight years ago when the doctor prescribed you statins. I can’t remember you ever being 40kg overweight, but your physique now is definitely closer to what you looked like when I first met you all those years ago. What happened in between?
I think because I’m 6’4″ I just didn’t seem that big. But I was 112cm around the belly, and 115kg on the scales. It wasn’t like it happened in one day. It was a slow creep in weight, every year adding a bit more, and a bit more, until whammo, I was “technically” obese. My BMI tipped into the 30 range, and then a few blood tests later the doctor was saying, “I think we might need to put you on statins”. Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, it happens because people wear their bodies down. It’s hormonal, and if you tax those hormones enough, you start to stack it on. I actually have a picture on the shelf from my graduation day at the Police Academy. I’m trimmer, and probably fitter now than I was back then. Much healthier too.

So tell us about the changes that you’ve made to your diet over the last eight years.
Holy moly, where do I start? So, about eight years ago I just started trying to eat more healthily. That meant cutting out fast food and eating more vegetables. I ate well, I ate organic, and I ate good home cooked foods from the food pyramid. So what happened? I put on more weight and ended up with a herniated belly button, insomnia, anxiety, inflamed glands on my neck and the back of my head, headaches every week, plus a whole raft of other health issues.

About five years ago, my wife Nicole and I watched “That Sugar Film” and I read the books “Pure White and Deadly” and “Sweet Poison”. Immediately after watching the movie we ditched all added sugar. Overall though, it wasn’t enough. I was still eating bread, potatoes, rice and pasta. These are the backbone of all weight gain problems, not table sugar specifically. Sugar and treats are obvious, but those four foods are core staples in the food pyramid (which, in my opinion, is so flawed it should probably be inverted). I kept reading many more books, and I managed to convince Nicole that we should try a low carb, ketogenic diet. And that massively improved everything. It was the step I needed to take to improve my health, and it worked 90%. It jumped my knowledge and understanding up a huge notch, and made dramatic improvements in all of my health markers, but more importantly I felt better – I felt more alive, more energetic, my brain fog lifted and there were plenty of other benefits. One year ago, after reading more and more, and thinking about things logically, from an evolutionary perspective, from a nature point of view, we went 100% carnivore. We now eat only animal products, and I have to say this last step sealed the deal, it nailed the final 10% of body and brain improvements. I’m now a 78-79cm waist, and I weigh 75-76kg on the scale.

I know some people think, wow that’s restrictive, or weird, but everything that goes into my mouth is simply delicious. Sure I do miss some things sometimes, but then I have some bacon and… well, it’s bacon, enough said. I’m not saying we’re so chaste that we don’t have dessert; sometimes, we do. But we recognise how we feel afterwards, and that we should probably try and avoid it in future.

I think there are many diets out there, that remove a lot of the foods that are toxins and you can survive on those diets long term, and probably live a great life, but ultimately we rest firmly on the shoulders of our ancestors for what our body thrives on. The difference is survive versus thrive. When did humans start eating meat? Approximately 3.5 million years ago. When did we start monocropping agriculture and eating grains? About 11,000 years ago. Evolution is interesting. We haven’t always eaten modern fruit, rice, bread, potatoes or pasta. So why are these bad? The upshot is that our body breaks down all of these foods into sugar; and sugar spikes insulin in our body. When you have insulin circulating in your body, any fat you have ingested in that same meal gets stored in your adipose tissue, and while you continue to feed your carbohydrate addiction, you’ll keep holding onto that fat, stacking on more and more over time. Possibly the worst thing someone can do is eat several high carbohydrate meals per day, but unfortunately that is precisely what dietary guidelines tell us to do. The interesting thing in my particular journey is that I eat nearly the same amount of calories that I used to eat, but I weigh 40kg less. It kind of makes you realise that calories, in terms of human nutrition, aren’t very informative. I should also note that weight loss has nothing to do with exercise. I did less exercise in losing that 40kg than I did before.

You grow, butcher and make a lot of the food that you eat, right? Tell us more about that.
Yes I do. I avoid all of the additives and processes that food from supermarkets goes through to reach the shelf, and stay there for months without refrigeration. Not all food is created equal and if you judge a food by price alone then you are missing the point of what healthy food really is – that’s not to say healthy food is more expensive, I personally save heaps of money by buying bulk and preparing my own food, but I always buy the best quality ingredients. I like to know where my food comes from, how it was produced and grown, and I like to know what it is made from precisely. Why? If we find that we are overweight, sick or unhealthy, then it is most likely linked directly to the inputs we have going into our body, and in my opinion 95% of that is food related. People don’t realise that getting older doesn’t mean you need to be fat, tired, unfit, anxious, sleep deprived or foggy minded. These are not normal, and you don’t need medications to “fix” them. The path of pharmaceuticals, as a solution, is a lifetime sentence of medication after medication, without end. The big pharmaceutical companies are not interested in curing your ills, they want you as a lifetime customer.

By self-analysing and correcting your path with a healthy diet of the most nutrient dense food you can buy, you get yourself off that conveyor belt to misery, you take control of your life, you liberate yourself from the clutches of the pharmaceutical industry. Why does this matter? People see their doctor maybe once or twice a year (if lucky), for about 15 minutes at a time. Doctors have little clue about you, about your health and at best, after pleasantries, they have 12 minutes to solve your ills. They take some blood tests and have no concept or understanding about what caused any of the issues that might crop up in those blood tests. The doctor won’t ask you what you eat, even though, as I said before, we have so few inputs that 95% of ill health has to come back to food and what you put in your mouth. So what, you might say? The doc said I’m fine. Well, yes, you’re fine until you’re not fine. You might be surviving, and you may or may not get sick. Or sometimes (like some friends of ours) you get that stage 4 cancer diagnosis, and given less than 12 months to live.

A while back, when I started thinking more deeply about health, I took it upon myself to study the leading causes of death. If I’m going to die of something, then I want to know as much as I can about it, and find out if there are ways that I can mitigate, or prevent it. The leading five causes of death in Australia? Coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke, cancer and diabetes. How much do you know about them? And, why should you care? Death seems so far in the future. But the facts show that over the course of our lives 50% of us will get cancer, 13% will get coronary heart disease (and 50% of those will die from it), 35% will get diabetes, half of us will get Alzheimer’s and 40% of us are obese. We might well live to a ripe old age, but the last 20 years of our lives will be sick with disability.

One thing that these ills have in common is that they are all driven by chronic inflammation. In simple terms, inflammation is when your body is unable to differentiate good cells from bad, putting your body into a constant state of attacking itself. This is all driven by the inputs that we have going into our body, that confuse and distract our immune system. Imagine you’re in your castle circa 1066, and an army walks up to the front gate and starts attacking you. Meanwhile another army walks up to your western flank, and then your eastern flank. Your immune system is now forced into fighting battles on three fronts, on an ongoing basis, forever. Forces and defences are divided. Is it any wonder that the immune system might then miss the single assassin who scales the southern wall, that single cancer cell which is left unnoticed and is able to enter the castle and assassinate the king.

So, viewed from that lens of knowing we have very few inputs (with a huge impact), then it makes perfect sense that I’d want to know what is going in, and knowing that it’s the best I can possibly get – and making my own is the only way to do that. Fortunately, the best foods are produced at home, from quality ingredients, so I choose to do that. Over the last few years I’ve learned how to make many different kinds of cheeses: ricotta, hard cheese, soft cheese. I make salamis, prosciutto, and pancetta. I make Greek style yogurt, I have butchered a steer, a lamb and a pig in the past, and I’ll continue to do things like that. I plan to get a gun licence, to hunt deer and possibly slaughter and butcher a steer myself. In the past, I have also made sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and sourdough bread, but these all went by the wayside when we turned carnivore. I also make chicken liver pâté, I smoke many different meats (bacon, brisket, burgers, sausages, etc.), and I bought a griddle not that long ago, which gets a big workout every day for burgers. We also have a lot of berry plants and fruit trees, for those occasional desserts.

Another aspect to this is, what are we evolved to eat? Are we evolved to eat apples, which were only cultivated 5000 years ago? That equates to just a minute on the evolutionary clock. Apples used to be small, sour and unpalatable, but they have been cultivated in the last few hundred years to be big and sweet. Are we evolved to eat that? Bananas are five times bigger and sweeter than they were even just 300 years ago. Are we evolved to eat that?

Now consider meat, which is the reason we came down from the trees 3.5 million years ago. Our brains grew, and we evolved to hunt animals. Are we to believe that our oldest food, the food our brain evolved with, is to be lower on the list of things to eat than bananas, wheat, corn, soy or pea-protein? According to the food pyramid, it is. That doesn’t make sense to me. The question I ask is, are we adapted to thrive on those foods, or are we capable of just surviving on them? A great resource on the topic of what humans are designed to eat is Dr. Barry Groves.

So, what does a typical day of eating look like for you?
Around 10am I eat my main meal, which is typically 600g of ground beef in six burgers, on the griddle. It’s all local, regenerative beef. Then, eight eggs yolks, raw; local and direct from the farmer. Also 100g of homemade chicken liver pâté made from local chickens, free range, organic and no soy.

At around 2-3pm I whisk up the egg whites that I didn’t eat at brekky, and I turn them into meringue (no sugar or anything else added). They’re probably too plain for those who eat sugar normally, but they’re awesome to me. On some days, if I’m still hungry I might also have a bunch of chicken wings. Or some homemade scotch eggs, or some sausages, or bacon, or salami or cold cuts (I made smoked brisket the other day, nom nom), or maybe some more burgers or other animal product.

Do you think you’ll continue to eat like this for the rest of your life?
The other side to this question is what would be the consequences of returning to the way I ate before? Pretty dire if you ask me. At every point in my diet, as I’ve moved more towards animal-only foods, I’ve become healthier. And at this point I’ve never been healthier, never felt better, never been fitter, never been stronger, never been able to put on muscle so quickly or easily, never recovered from physical exertion so quickly, never had a clearer mind or been more calm. I cannot see myself changing the way I eat, I eat like a king! Having said that, I am not so dogmatic as to think that my way is the only way, or that I am the only healthy person. But I do know what is working for me. I’ve found a comfortable spot, I listen to my body and how it responds to foods, and I react accordingly. I do occasionally have non-animal food that really adversely affects me, and that simply reinforces the need to avoid it.

You mentioned something while we were chatting for the “(It’s Easy) Bein’ Green” ejo that intrigued me and I’m curious to learn more about that, if that’s OK. You said, “To explain the natural carbon cycle and why cows can save us – that’s another ejo unto itself”. What did you mean by that?
Okay, so I’ll explain this in simple terms. Cows are bad, right? Most people think so anyway. They produce methane, therefore we should stop, or reduce, eating meat. But the reality of the situation couldn’t be further from the truth. Cows can, and are the only proven way to, sequester carbon back into the soil, which is the best way to lock it back up.

Why is cow-produced methane/carbon not as bad as thought? The oil and fossil fuels that we dig up from the ground have no natural way to be sequestered back into it. These are simply dug up from where they were sequestered 50 million years ago, and they are burned and released into the atmosphere. There are no simple or natural pathways for that 50 million year old carbon to be stored back in the ground where it came from. It’s just added to the carbon in the atmosphere.

On the other hand, herbivores like cows and sheep are part of a natural carbon cycle, which means that when used in combination with their natural environment they are carbon negative (or at the very worst carbon neutral). A cow cannot produce more carbon (methane) than it consumes; it only produces what was already stored in that grass. If cattle populations remain stable, and the cattle are fed grass (their natural diet) then it is impossible to be net positive methane/carbon.

OK, I’m not entirely sure I understand how that works. Can you break it down for me?
Okay, so the rumen on a cow is a digestion tank, it is simply a vat that contains the plant material chewed and swallowed by the cow as well as a whole bunch of bacteria (which the cow has a symbiotic relationship with). That bacteria breaks down the fibre and plant material, and then through the process of moving through the four chambers, the cow’s stomach consumes the bacteria. Believe it or not, cows don’t actually live on grass, they live on the bacteria. Their diet actually yields about 60% fat, which is amazing because grass contains practically 0% fat. And the bacteria inside the cow’s rumen is identical to the bacteria that digest and consume organic material outside of the rumen, out on the field, under trees, in grasslands and all around us.

So, no matter if the cow eats the grass or if we leave the grass to be consumed by bacteria those same gases contained within the grass are released into the atmosphere. The bonuses of running that grass through the cow is that we produce food, we produce high nutrient fertilisers (urine and manure), we produce soil (undigested fibre and plant material), and we do this in an environment where other animals are welcome and can thrive. Leaving the grass on the ground does nothing to sequester the carbon contained within the grass back into the soil. The grass just sits on top of the ground, it decomposes, and those gases are released into the atmosphere. If however the cow chews and trims the top of the grass, then the grass plant has to root prune, meaning that the plant selects some of its roots to “shut off” and rot in the ground. It no longer has the need for so many roots, and that equals carbon now being stored in the soil. Basically, cows eating grass equals carbon sequestration, and if managed properly can become a huge carbon sink.

Sustainability is no longer a saviour for our environment. We need to have ways to regenerate our land, and regenerate our soil. We only have about 30-50 years of harvests left in our croplands. I hope that sinks in; 30 years of wheat left, and that’s it. And, 90% of current arable land is already in use, so we cannot simply move to the next field and just start doing the same thing again. The current growth of crops is utterly dependent on NPK fertiliser, produced with fossil fuels – which is unsustainable. When you eat corn, soy, wheat, peas and oats, that’s all grown with petrol. Without that fossil fuel you would not be able to produce the crop in our modern food systems.

What we need to do is change the way we think about soil. Were it not for soil we would not exist. That 15cm of topsoil surrounding our planet is why there is life on earth, and why we are able to live. Soil grows our plants, it filters our water and it provides carbon storage to keep our atmospheric temperature stable. Soil is a living organism, with billions of living things in every teaspoon of it.

One of the biggest criticisms of cows being on pasture is that they degrade the land, and this is why proper management with regenerative agriculture is so important. It keeps the cattle moving, not allowing them enough time in one place to degrade the soil. It mimics nature, in that the cattle eat the grass, drop urine and manure, and then move on within a matter of days. This is how predator and prey work; the predator keeps the prey moving, not allowing it to stay in one spot for too long. Unfortunately most of the big predators are gone, and so we need to step in and move cows in paddocks frequently. This is regenerative agriculture, and combined with crop production it fertilises the soil for crops, produces beef and sequesters more carbon in the soil than is emitted.

When you talk about sequestering carbon, the first thing that comes into my mind is trees.
Trees burn. The roots of plants don’t. A tree stores most of its carbon above ground, and when you have the 2019 tinder-dry conditions that we experienced in Australia and California, then you end up with a years’ worth of Australia’s carbon emissions being burned into the atmosphere in four months – just from those trees burning. And that’s on top of our usual power generation and fossil fuel burning emissions. Prairie grasslands sequester their carbon into the soil with root pruning, root exudates and soil life. So, if a fire sweeps through a grassland, sure the top of the grass gets burned, but soon enough that grass is growing again and is often refreshed and renewed, with more vigour. Grass is far more efficient in growing than trees, and grass is far more efficient in storing carbon than trees. Perennial grasses penetrate the soil deeply, allowing for more water storage, more resilience and better drought resistance for land. Forests and trees have their place, but they are not the solution to sequestering carbon in the soil, and they are not fast enough, nor bankable enough, long term. Grasslands coupled with cattle are our bankable, and proven, way to sequester carbon back into the soil, regenerate those soils, regenerate landscapes and feed people.

People might rightly ask the question, so how can I use this information? Well, if you want to be good for the planet then you need to buy local, buy directly from farmers, buy in-season food, buy food that helps improve the environment (regenerative beef, chicken, eggs) and recognise that food which is grown overseas or far away is not only grown with fossil fuels but also needs to be transported to your location, and is likely grown in ways that you have no control over.

OK, but if everyone were to buy local there wouldn’t be enough to go around, would there? How can we fix the problem of supply, without the farmers having to increase their output to the point that the quality of their produce is compromised. It seems like the huge number of people that need to be fed on earth make it difficult to escape that cycle.
There are a couple of fallacies here. That more natural growing practices are somehow less productive, and that we need to produce more food to feed the world. Regenerative agriculture land is actually more productive because it can be stacked and utilised in non-traditional cropping seasons for other food production, e.g. grazing animals in the off season. Not only that, the soil is also more productive and is known to produce more bushels per acre than non-regenerative agriculture land. The current methods are leading to collapse, where croplands will no longer be usable. So, how can we continue doing the same thing? That’s the very definition of insanity!

A factory-farm setup, where animals are crowded into pens, fed feed and then marched off to a slaughter house, is arguably one of the most destructive production systems. While you might only see the small spaces the animals are kept in, and as exploitative as they are, they are only part of the picture. In that factory-farm, the steer are fed corn because it fattens them up the fastest. That corn is grown in a monocrop environment (and, as Jared Diamond puts it, the single most destructive thing humans ever did to the planet was inventing the plough). They kill all the animals on that land, they churn up the soil, they grow annual plants that again ruin the soil, they spray the crops with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, they shoot any large predators, they poison mice, and then when they harvest the crop they leave nowhere safe for any of these animals to live, so predators (like snakes or birds of prey) finish off the ones that are left.

And, not only that, cattle aren’t even evolved to eat corn. The animals get sick, and if they were fed corn for much more than a few months they would likely die of some kind of illness anyway. Meanwhile in a regenerative farm, the steer is on grass, eating its natural food, in its natural environment, with no stresses. It’s not standing in its own manure day after day, it’s healthy, and it doesn’t need hormone and disease shots. Sure it takes about two to three months longer to grow to a mature size steer ready for slaughter, but you’re seeing the entire system all in one place. This environment encourages other animals, and the soil flourishes with life. And the cows are about as close to their natural evolved environment as they can possibly be. Then they have one single bad moment on one single day, when they are killed and turned into the most nutrient dense food on the planet.

Farmers already feed the world. But a lot of that food goes to countries that don’t need it, and waste it. There are countless examples of poor countries shipping their main staple of cropped food to rich Western countries because it can be sold for more money than locally. This is food inequality, and it’s not sustainable. There is already enough food in this world to feed everyone, in fact we can probably feed up to ten billion people without any increase in production. We just have to waste less, and give food to the right places.

My question is, knowing this, how can we continue to do things the existing way? How can anyone continue to support that kind of system? We have to escape that cycle of thinking that humans are smarter than nature, of thinking that we know better, that we can improve on nature and spray chemicals and fossil fuels on things to defeat nature. We cannot defeat nature, and it’s complete hubris to think that we can. Most wheat is sprayed with pesticide right before harvest to make it dry up and to make it easier for processing. Yum! Rice is sprayed several times during growing. A strawberry typically has over 40 different chemical compounds on it while sitting on the supermarket shelf. If you’re not buying spray-free, then all grains, fruit and vegetables that you consume have numerous pesticides, insecticides and herbicides on them. So do we keep producing food this way or do we look for ways to produce foods that are safer and better for humans, while regenerating the environment? Nature has shown us the way, we just need to get off the chemical bandwagon and observe nature, mimic the ways it produces food. There is a better way, it’s productive, it’s beyond sustainable and it’s already being practised by many producers. We, as consumers, just need to make those smart choices to choose to reward the farmers and ranchers who are producing food in a way that benefits our environment and produces quality nutrient dense food.

There is a sense, to me, of huge cognitive dissonance when it comes to what people eat, and the effect it has on the planet. It seems like it’s easier to just not worry about it, and to live in ignorant bliss. How frustrated do you get?
Cognitive dissonance implies that people have investigated, and then ignored, the facts in reaching a conclusion counter to all logic. Everyone wants to believe their way is right, that they cannot be wrong. A vegan will see plant-based food on their plate and think that no animal died for them to eat it. That this makes them the best human being they can be, a force for good. Unfortunately life is vastly more complicated than that, and just because you don’t see an animal product on your plate doesn’t mean many animals didn’t die to grow that plant food. The truth is that growing and eating vegetables, grains and fruit results in far more death than eating animals as your main food source.

I don’t think it’s cognitive dissonance on the part of most people though, I think it’s just not understanding, or really needing to understand. “Everyone knows oats are a healthy breakfast!” “Fruit juice is so healthy!” Why bother investigating that oats turn into sugar, if your doctor hasn’t told you that you’re a diabetic? Why bother finding out that those oats are grown in monocrops, and how many animals died to grow them? Why investigate cholesterol if your doctor hasn’t uttered the words, “We might need to put you on a statin”? But it makes sense that people need to be prodded, or pushed into change. For instance, the food pyramid must be right, yeah? I mean, experts investigated it and produced a pyramid of food. Most people don’t realise how much impact lobbyists, bad science and politics had in producing that dodgy food pyramid. Most people don’t know that for 99.999% of human history we have never eaten so many carbohydrates. And then there’s all the crap nutritional “knowledge” out there. That all calories are equal, saturated fat is bad, fruit and vegetables are necessary, cholesterol is bad, you need fibre, you can be a healthy vegan and plenty more.

I just don’t give much of a hoot what others think, or what they do. On social media, I used to debate vegans. I don’t do that anymore. Now, when I think about commenting online, I try and live by the Warhol quote, “When people are ready to, they change. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them”. We all live such privileged lives, in such a privileged country, and it’s easy to forget that we are all a part of nature, we are just animals and because of that we have weaknesses. One of those is our inbuilt desire for certain foods, and unfortunately there are many companies and forces working against us, against our health, trying to manipulate us into eating their foods.

So, it’s not frustrating for me per se. Everyone has to live their own life, and live it the way that they want to. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not their own set of facts. I guess my ideas might sound like fringe theories or concepts to some, but all of what I’ve said about diet is being practised by many thousands of doctors with great success for their patients, and what I’ve said about farming methods is being practised at large scale with great success by thousands of farmers around the world. These are not new concepts, they are old concepts being practiced in the modern era.

So this has been a pretty intense, but really informative chat. Thank you Chris. For those who are interested in learning more, can you recommend some resources for people to read up on?
Watch Allan Savory’s TED Talk. Read “Dirt to Soil”, by Gabe Brown, “Sacred Cow”, by Diana Rogers, “Cows Save the Planet”, by Judith Schwartz, “Defending Beef”, by Nicolette Hahn Niman, “The Vegetarian Myth”, by Lierre Keith, “A New Green History of the World”, by Clive Ponting, “Guns, Germs and Steel”, by Jared Diamond and “On Eating Meat”, by Matthew Evans.

Happy and healthy.