I AM NOURISHED
interview & nourishing recipes with Molly Brett & Tamara Sheen
In the early spring, I was blessed to attend the Women's Nourishment Retreat, led by yoga instructor Molly Brett and traditional foods guru Tamara Sheen. Many women gathered together at Beaver Farm in Kimberton, Pennsylvania, to move our bodies, chop veggies, share stories, and to connect with our roots. In the following interview, I talk with Molly and Tamara about the inspiration for these retreats and about their work in the world.
CORDELLA MAGAZINE: Tell us a bit about yourselves! How did you both come into this healing work?
TAMARA SHEEN: I grew up in England in the countryside through the 70’s and early 80’s. We had raw milk and yogurt from a local farm (this was before the distinction of organic). My mother baked her own bread, and when she and my grandmother cooked the Sunday roast they used every last bit and put the bones up for soup.
I came to America in 1986 to Camphill Beaver Run, an intentional community in Pennsylvania, to work with special needs children. Since that time I have been involved in aspects of nourishment both for my own three children and the children and young adults in Camphill.
I was so busy trying to look after others that I neglected to nourish myself and got very sick. Around this time I came across the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and learnt the work of Dr. Weston A. Price and other leading lights in nutrient dense healing foods. In 2008 I took a workshop with fermentation guru Sandor Katz, and I caught the fermenting bug which set me on my own healing journey! I now am a certified Healing Foods Specialist, committed to teaching people how to heal themselves with traditional foods. It is a continuing and humbling journey.
MOLLY BRETT: I am grateful for the life I live. I've had the chance to travel and live in many beautiful places among special people. I began studying yoga when I was 16. I was searching for something to explain the connection I'd always felt to the world. This was before there were yoga studios everywhere and I was lucky enough to have one a few blocks from where I grew up. It resonated with me immediately. The owner supported my interest and encouraged me to train as a teacher.
By the time I was 18 I had completed Yoga Life's 250-hour training. Throughout my twenties I traveled and worked within a Waldorf school. Waldorf education speaks to my holistic sensibilities. Through my yoga studies I became interested in muscle movement and I began taking Pilates lessons. I was always hyper mobile and the stability and strength I found through Pilates changed my yoga practice for the good. Soon I felt compelled to do my Pilates certification, and completed a 1,000-hour training. I've swung between my love of movement and my passion for Waldorf education in my work life. My husband and I explored living away from our place of birth but we felt called home after the birth of our first daughter. We now have two beautiful daughters and feel blessed to live amongst our family in the hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, supported by the impulse of anthroposophy and the community of the Kimberton Waldorf School.
CM: What does "nourishment" mean to you?
TAMARA: Nourishment for me is heart filled substance, it encompasses both the physical, soul and spirit of the human being and I see it as an antidote to these complex, cold, clinical and digital times we find ourselves in. It is love made visible through food, healing, movement, art, being in nature and anything where we use our bodies together with other people in common. [Nourishment is] community, generosity, learning, sharing.
MOLLY: I view nourishment holistically. This involves looking at the human being in relationship to all living elements, including body, mind, and spirit. When viewing ourselves in this light, we are able to feed each element of our being helping to create wholeness. To me this is the essence of nourishment.
CM: What is your vision for these nourishment retreats? What do you hope participants will take away?
TAMARA: I see these retreats as a way to help empower women to take back their physical, soul and spiritual health into their lives, as well as that of their families.
MOLLY: My vision of the retreats is to create a safe space where women can find community and give themselves time to honor their sacred self. I hope that each participant will leave having learned something new, feeling renewed and ready to embrace their present reality.
CM: Healing is much more than going to the doctor and getting a pill! It truly involves all aspects of our being. But in our modern times, there just doesn't seem to be the space to practice this deeper healing, and self-nourishment is not a natural part of our lives.
TAMARA: Yes! Women need healing retreats to empower themselves, and to find like minded women. Women have been doing this for millennia and we must make it conscious and relevant to our times.
MOLLY: We are living in a time when women's roles in society have expanded to encompass more than ever before. Within the home there exists the care-taking and householder responsibilities that are often taken for granted, while outside of the home women are now established in the workforce in all capacities. I know a lot of women who are trying to balance it all. This is a relatively new paradigm and it is challenging. With increased responsibilities to tend to there is less time than ever for the building of community that is meant to support us. A day to reconnect with yourself through movement, meditation, good food and community is a gift for yourself and the world around you.
CM: For the past 40 years or so, it seems that women have been on a conquest to "have it all." Full-time careers, families, etc. What advice would you give to women today to find daily self-nourishment, who are juggling so much?
TAMARA: I would ask them if their health is compromised in any way, and what they intuitively feel they need to change. Usually our bodies "know" what they need, and if we sink down into them in yoga and meditation we get the answers. Sometimes we need help to do that, but often it’s just a tiny prompt or question that’s needed. And it is so often sugar, lack of exercise, bread, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods which cause the most common symptoms of exhaustion, depression, weight gain, etc.
MOLLY: In a way because we are all so rushed and overly accessible we forget that simple things can help us reconnect; a deep breath, a good organic meal, a conscious moment in the sun. We can string moments like these together and create a living meditation which can nourish us daily.
CM: How has food and movement helped you to find healing?
TAMARA: Without the changes I made in my eating—introducing fermented and whole foods into my diet, practicing Yoga, walking in dature daily—I would still be sick and always exhausted, and maybe even suffering from a chronic illness. I do not take this for granted and try to remember to stay humble! I continue to strive for better health and understanding.
Traditional foods give us life because they are alive! Rich in important nutrients, enzymes, beneficial bacteria, minerals, vitamins and healthy fats, all easily absorbed into our bodies for maximum health through ancient preparation techniques which stand the test of time.
MOLLY: Food and movement nourish the senses. When we nourish the senses we're able to find a place of equanimity.
CM: Your first nourishment retreat was inspired by the root chakra. How do you hope to incorporate the chakras into your future retreats, and why?
MOLLY: The goal of our first retreat was to create a time and space for grounding during midwinter, allowing us to set intentions for when the sap starts to rise in early spring. When envisioning what that would look like I spoke about focusing on the root chakra. Soon Tamara & I began to mold our workshop around the first chakra. Because of the holistic nature of our nourishment retreats, focusing on a chakra helped to form our rhythm; a common thread to carry throughout the day. Whether it be drinking a seasonally warming golden milk tea, moving through yoga postures that help connect us to the earth or making a root vegetable ferment, we found a way to draw upon our theme. It was our theme (grounding) that encouraged us to study the root chakra but the fluidity, focus and cohesion we found while doing so has encouraged us to continue with consecutive retreats that will study the chakras individually.
CM: Molly, could you tell us about the type of yoga you practice? What drew you to this particular form over the others?
MOLLY: The style of yoga I studied is called classical yoga. Classical yoga is the oldest form of yoga. It studies not only the physical yoga postures but all aspects of the eight limbs of yoga. The eight limbs of yoga encompass postures, breathing practices, relaxation techniques and meditation. Classical yoga was created thousands of years ago in India and is meant to prepare the body and mind for samadhi (enlightenment). I stumbled upon it as a teenager but I have come to appreciate the depth compared to other styles.
CM: It seems that super foods, clean eating and traditional foods and paleo are really beginning to take off and enter the mainstream diet vocabulary. For example, we're seeing broth bars pop up in places like Brooklyn, NY and Portland, OR. But this seems to be targeting only the hipsters and upperclass. It's ironic because these foods, when made at home, are so economical and simple! What are your thoughts on this? How can we bring this beautiful, nourishing food to those on the outskirts?
TAMARA: Yes this is so often the case. But it is all good! So many of these foods are simple to prepare at home and need to be brought back to the heart and hearth of the home. Ironically they were originally mostly "poor mans" staples, not food for the privileged, so they must be available to all, regardless of economic standing! Teaching is the key to this... Dr. Weston A. Price's mantra was “teach, teach, teach!”
Many cities have community gardens and wonderful food programs for low income households. food banks are beginning to see the value of nutrition and education. We are in a "food revolution,” as Sandor Katz says. So these are exciting times!
Last and most important is our awareness and care of the land—of fields, farms, gardens, hedgerows, forests, rivers, oceans and mountains—so that the food that it gives us is clean and free of chemicals, and to honor and give homage to our farmers, foragers and conservationists, for they are the stewards of our earth and as the native fathers of this land once said, "the land is all that lasts.”
May all beings be free of suffering… may all beings know peace, health and happiness… may there be eternal peace in the hearts of all beings.
Basic Pickled Roots
• Slice thinly an assortment of root veggies: radish, turnip, daikon, & jicama are all good here.
• In a large bowl, sprinkle veggies with 2 TB of sea salt & massage with your hands until softened a bit, and veggies begin to release their juice.
• Add a bit of grated ginger & finely minced or mashed garlic to taste (optional).
• Stuff sliced roots into a wide mouth pint or quart mason jar and pack down tightly.
• Make sure veggies are covered by the brine. Use a small shot-glass (or tiny zip-lock bag filled with water) and sit on top of veggies to keep them under the brine. Cover loosely with clean cloth or jar lid, and leave in a warm place (like your kitchen counter) to ferment for up to 2 weeks.
• If any mold develops on the surface, it probably means that your veggies popped up from underneath the brine. Throw the batch out and start again!
In a small pot, combine:
• 1 cup milk of choice
• 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
• 1 tsp. grated fresh turmeric
• a few grinds of black pepper
• a drizzle of honey
Heat on low for ten minutes, strain into a mug, and enjoy.
Tamara Sheen & Molly Brett
Tamara Sheen brings nourishing foods into the lives of others through teaching and cooking. Follow along with her new business adventure, Blue Egg Nourishment.
Molly Brett has been learning, loving and teaching yoga for 15 years, and pilates for 10 years. In fall of 2016 she plans to open Origins Pilates and Yoga where she will teach private and group lessons. She believes embodied work is a gift and she strives daily to feed her inspiration. You can contact her at email@example.com.