Meet Avital Sebbag, an Israeli Chinese Medicine guru who does seasonal food meditations, detoxing retreats and leads a movement of vegan foodies in Israel. Avital is part of a group of Israelis I met this October visiting various wellness hot spots with an organization called Vibe Israel. We ate good food, drank wine & spirits, met some of the most interesting people and of course, learned an incredible amount about Israel and the people inside. Meeting Avital Sebbag was delightful. She has such a peaceful and calm demeanor and after days of traveling, we were all very open to a slower pace of meditation and intention. She took us through a seasonal food meditation and it was so unique and I felt so connected with my food and the seasons afterward, that I had to share it with you. This special wellness travel series is part one of a three-part series covering our travels to Israel. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like for incredible Israeli food, & health benefits of the Dead Sea, now join us as we take you through a meditation that pays homage to the earth and the food that comes from it.
Avital Sebbag is an N.D.LI.ac certified natural therapist, specializing in nutrition and ancient Chinese medicine. Avital’s principle is that nutrition plays a crucial role in the healthy functioning of all the body’s systems and that dietary change should be used as a central tool in combined therapy. She published a cookbook called Five Seasons in the Kitchen: Zen-Inspired Vegan Cooking which takes you on a similar journey to what we did in person with her. Her knowledge of Chinese medicine, combined with her passion for seasonal vegan food, and angelic-like presence inspires a new relationship with the seasons and their importance to your health, mental clarity, and balance.
The Five Seasons of Chinese Medicine As a Meditation
In Chinese medicine, there are five seasons to a calendar year to celebrate instead of just four seasons: Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autum & Winter. This extra season, called Late Summer, is the last two weeks of summer when fruits are the ripest and they fall to the ground. The meditation I’m about to share with you takes you through the entire evolution of a year from spring to winter. Avital calls this seasonal food meditation “Zen Around the Table” which partially includes:
- An ancient, simple and precise Zen poem that matches the element and the season of the year and connects us to the momentary experiences of the great teachers
- Incorporates meditation techniques around the five senses: sight, hearing, palpitation, smell, and taste
- Connects to the elements of the season–flavors, aromas, cooking techniques, and serving
When you do this meditation, if you are with other people, sit in a circle with a platter in the center. The platter becomes a focusing point for everyone as they are meditating. Our platter contained five small bowls representing each season pictured above. If you have five people in the circle, give each person a chance to read a season and pass out a treat. When I did mine, the foods given to us were cocoa beans for summer, sweet dates for late summer, ginger for autumn, olives for winter and cranberries for spring.
Avital starts of the meditation by reminding you of what the seasons are about and how they benefit our body, mind, and soul. Everything happens for a reason, including the bitterness, and as you see the seasons progress, it all starts to make sense.
The seasons of the year represent change. Movement. The circular progression of time is reflected in the weather, in the color of the sky, in the clouds and intensity of light, in humidity and wind factors. The seasons are stations in time. They bring with them unique sensations associated with the smells, textures, colors and flavors. Living in harmony with the seasons means consuming seasonal foods that benefit body, mind, and soul for an overall constellation of good health year round.
After this reading, pass the responsibility to lead to another person to read to start off the meditation. Each season gets about 5-10 minutes of quiet meditation as you are experiencing the “taste” of the season. After each season is read, taste the flavor of the season and meditate on what happens in that season in silence. You’ll start to understand cold, bitterness, salty, sweet, spicy in terms of how humans interact with the seasons and what your role in all this is.
Spring is a time of light breezes, of awakening, motion and creativity. Feeding on sunlight, tiny buds quickly become beautiful blossoms–nature’s expression of determination, rejuvenation, cleanliness, and growth.
Sour Foods During Spring: Lemon, vinegar, green apple, blueberry, kiwi, Swiss chard, spinach, cranberry, mallow, kumquat.
In the summertime, nature presents itself in all its glory. IT’s a time for expansion and abundance. Breathtaking spectacles of blossoms and fruits express the potential stored in seeds. We are drawn outdoors to spend time with friends in an atmosphere of sharing, joy, and freedom.
Bitter Foods During Summertime: Cherry, watermelon, plum, peach, olives, celery and lettuce leaves, alfalfa sprouts, coffee, and tea.
During this transitional season between summer and autumn, the air is humid and dense. The heat is contained and intensified. Fruit rots and the earth is laden with organic nutrients.
Sweet Foods During Late Summer: Carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, beet, pear, banana, mango date, coconut, cinnamon, honey, rice syrup, jams and soups made from ripe fruits.
With winds and a melancholy atmosphere, autumn marks a beginning and an end. A farewell to summer and the start of a new year. A time for reckoning and promise, a time to let go of the past and plan for the future.
Spicy-Aromatic Foods During Autumn: Horseradish, radish, kohlrabi, onion, leek, garlic, miso soup
Winter is a time for slowing down, for introspection and preservation of body heat. In winter, our ancestors fed on foods collected during summer and autumn. As the days get shorter and the cold sets in, more time is dedicated to meditation, and to appreciate the quiet and stillness.
Salty Foods During Winter: Soy sauce, seaweed, root vegetables, lentils, stews, soups, sea salt.
Chinese Medicine Ties Certain Organs to Seasons
Chinese medicine also ties specific organs to specific seasons. And those organs function at their peak during those seasons. So as you are going through the meditation, you can also add this part into it so you understand what has to happen to your mind, body, and spirit during this season to be in balance.
- Spring: Liver. Detoxification and rejuvenation.
- Summer: Heart. Communication. Circulation of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
- Late Summer: Spleen-pancreas. Transformation and transportation.
- Autumn: Lungs. Protection and boundaries.
- Winter: Kidneys. Body wisdom. Ancestral energies.
Visit The Growing Movement of Buddhism, Chinese Medicine, Yoga & Veganism in Israel
You may find it odd that I went to Israel and experienced something more reminiscent of ancient China. But don’t be because more and more Israelis are practicing Buddhism, Chinese medicine, yoga & veganism. This growing movement is very popular among modern and millennial Israelis who live in larger cities like Tel Aviv. If you are up to experiencing that movement front and center check out Urban Shaman, a favorite vegan hotspot takeaway in Tel Aviv with a yoga studio in the basement.
Veganism unites Israel in ways you wouldn’t expect. Kosher determines how animals and the products they create are handled, fed, slaughtered and then processed. When you remove animals from the dinner plate, everyone can eat without restrictions. So it makes sense that Vegan cuisine is not difficult to find in a country like Israel. And if you are looking for some really cool spots to eat Vegan food in Tel Aviv, visit these restaurants Anastasia, Bana, La Shuk, & Opa.