Where is your paradise?  Is it a tropical, exotic destination-with white sandy beaches and hot, sticky whether?  Or, are you more adventurous and love to hike in the mountains, or forests with huge redwood trees?

me: really loving my version of paradise, right before a tropical storm in Thailand
me: really loving my version of paradise, right before a tropical storm in Thailand

For me, being in nature is almost always paradise.  One of my favorite destinations isn’t too far from home.  Esalen Institute is in Big Sur, California.

My husband, Joe and I feel absolutely blessed to assist our Tantra teachers, Elsbeth and Freddy Zental, co-founders of TantraNova institute.  We’ve spent weeks with them at Esalen over the past 3 years.

If you have the opportunity to visit this magical place in the world; do it!  It’s perched up high, right on the Pacific coast-the edge of America!  Thus, you have on one side, the incredible Pacific ocean, with frequent sightings of dolphins,

Taking in the beauty during a past visit to Esalen
Taking in the beauty during a past visit to Esalen

whales, sea lions and all kinds of incredible sea creatures.  Opposite of the ocean, are huge, powerful mountains.  I could go on forever about this gorgeous location.  What really gets me excited is the massive organic garden, growing right next to the cliff!  The big, colorful leafy greens growing in the garden are so delicious after the chef at Esalen dresses them up for their debut on the salad bar.  Oh. Yum.

One of the perks of spending time at Esalen is eating this delicious produce, grown right on the land beside the sea.  Okay, let’s be honest-it’s not just a perk-it’s quite a luxury.  The second a bright leafy green is cut from it’s roots, is that moment when it can offer your body the most nutrients and

mmm! Organic, local produce on the salad bar!
mmm! Organic, local produce on the salad bar!

provide you with the most benefit.  Eating close to the source is a practice for true health and longevity.  The people who live at Esalen really have it made!  Quite frankly, anyone who grows their own garden has the best of the best.  Fresh food, grown sustainably and prepared close the source-best flavor you’re going to get!

I’m just as tempted to indulge in the freshly baked banana fritters that were staring at me during breakfast.  Not only were the banana fritters whispering sweet nothings to me, the bread box is the most alluring area of the dining room.  Homemade bread?  With blueberries?  I’m not supposed to eat the whole loaf?  Yes, I’ve considered it.  Here’s the trick, and also lesson number one that I’ve learned from Esalen’s buffet.  Eat greens first!  I literally skip the meal line, and head to the salad bar, when my mouth starts to water as I read the menu.  I fill my plate with leafy greens and get so full I can only handle a few bites of the heavy, rich dishes being offered.

Oh how I love the texture of  golden beets!  Chewing is fun.
Oh how I love the texture of golden beets! Chewing is fun.

What’s important to note here, is that produce becomes the main course.   This follows the thread of chewing,  and is a prime example of this important advice.  Most of the tasty food on the salad bar at Esalen is high-fiber, nutrient dense, and locally grown.  This is near-perfect cuisine, though it can have some unpleasant effects.  If you read carefully last week, you know that chewing food well that is high-fiber and plant based, can help you avoid gas!   Avoiding gas and getting the full benefit from this highly nutritious food are two major reasons to chew, chew, chew!

I did mention that I can only fit a “few bites” in after my big plate of veggies.  This is lesson number three.  Word to the wise is portion control. Of course this is a no-brainer, but that is precisely why I head to the salad bar first.  It’s more difficult to indulge in a pound of roasted beets than warm, gooey lasagna (this is exactly what I encountered the first day I arrived). Make it easy on yourself, load up on veggies, salad and any greens first, before you go in for the main entree.

This next lesson goes for every single day, but really helps me out when I encounter the buffet.  Drink as much water as possible, and then some more-throughout the day.  It’s common for the body to resort to food when dehydrated.  When you’re hungry, drink water first and notice if the urge to eat diminishes.  When we’re dehydrated, sometimes we mistake this feeling for hunger, but what truly needs to be replenished is water.

see that 1"x 1" slice of pizza hiding under that salad?
see that 1″x 1″ slice of pizza hiding under that salad?

Lastly, my foodie lover and I love to eat together and try new things.  Buffet style meals are perfect for the foodie adventurous type.  Always take less.  As I walked behind Joe, while we filled our plates, I noticed that we were (as we almost always do) selecting the same things.  The advantage of taking on the buffet with your lover, is sharing.  We all know that sharing is caring.  I’ll check and see what Joe put on his plate before I choose the same.  If I am just wanting to try something-I’ll ask him for a bit-which is usually just enough to satisfy my desire.

So there you have it!  If you’re in paradise (and assisting an intimate couple’s retreat), you don’t want to end up bloated and farting.  Well, I don’t.  These are my lessons, learned through a few mistakes and indulges after many encounters with the buffet at Esalen!

Just one more tip, but not something I needed the buffet to learn: RELAX!  The most important thing to remember after you enjoy a yummy meal is to just give yourself a moment to breathe.  Life can be fast, but a huge gift to ourselves, is literally taking 60 seconds to pause after a meal and be grateful that we’re nourished and full.  It is, in fact something to appreciate.  It’s easy to take this for granted.  Oh how I love food!  Don’t you?

Do you have any buffet tips and tricks?  Any experiences of traveling with your lover and having success or failure with mealtime? Please share in the comments section below.   Do you have any friends that you know would just love this 5 lessons?  Share this article with them!   They’ll thank you, and we certainly will thank you-in advance 😉  If you just love food and want to express your love, we always want to know.  Share below!