Author Archives: Sasha Bronner


Manal al-Sharif May Be Saudi Arabia’s Most Awesome Woman

Manal al-Sharif, the Saudi Arabian woman who sparked a protest movement when she defied the ban on women drivers with a YouTube video of herself behind the wheel, has been called the Rosa Parks of her country.

But don’t call her an activist.

Al-Sharif, honored Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif., at a Women In The World luncheon hosted by former Daily Beast editor Tina Brown, said she resents the label. The annual event, begun in 2009, aims at “telling unknown stories of the women who live behind the lines of the news.”

“To me, if you see something wrong, you have to speak up,” al-Sharif said in an interview with Brown on stage. “Labeling people who speak up against horrible things makes other people not want to be labeled,” she explained. “So I’m totally against the word. I’m just a human being who would not accept being wronged.”

Al-Sharif, a columnist, blogger and women’s rights advocate, told the luncheon audience of mostly female media and entertainment figures the harrowing story of her 2011 YouTube video.

“I almost got kidnapped trying to find a taxi in the street,” she said. “In Saudi Arabia, it’s not normal for a woman to walk in the street alone, and I don’t cover my face, so I am an open target. I was walking at 9 p.m. trying to find a taxi for a ride home, and someone followed me and I had to throw a stone at this guy to protect myself. That was very defining for me. So many things lead to other things,” including the video.

Saudi law bans all women from driving, so her video ignited a storm of conversation — not just in her country, but all over the world.

“I had no clue when I posted that video online that what happened would happen,” she said. “It was part of a movement called Women2Drive. I had no clue it would be a trending video that day on YouTube and that it would put me in jail,” al-Sharif said.

“It got a lot of talk. I remember one guy from Australia commented on the video asking why everyone was watching this video! Because it was me speaking in Arabic and it hadn’t been translated. It was just me driving.

“The government stayed very quiet while the whole country went really crazy over this video. ‘How could she dare to drive and post it online?’ they said. I was very anxious about what the government was going to do.”

While waiting, al-Sharif got into a car with her brother and drove past a police car. “They called the religious police, I was taken into interrogation and then they let me go. But they came again to my house at 2 a.m. and took me to jail,” she said. She spent the next nine days in prison.

“It was shocking even to the people who were against me — those who hated me for driving. Because even though I had broken the law, I was a mother and they were really shocked and mad at the government for putting me in jail. So they started a petition. The whole world knew about it. The news traveled to Japan, Malaysia, India, you name it. Everyone knew that I was the woman arrested for driving a car.”

Al-Sharif explained that Saudi clerics believe allowing women to drive will lead to broken marriages, low birth rates and adultery.

“Nothing pisses off Saudi men or religious people like a woman behind the driving wheel,” she said. “It was very interesting because you can talk about women’s rights all your life, but nothing will bring attention to the issue like this video a woman driving. One religious opinionist said a woman driving will damage her ovaries. So now it’s not just religious — it’s scientific!”

The mythology of women in the Saudi culture goes much deeper than the ban on driving. “In Saudi Arabia, they always tell us we are queens. We are pistachios. You know the nut? Like something that is protected. So even if you have a very good education, restraints are put on women. It’s like saying, ‘I know you have feet, God gave you feet, but I’m going to cut them off and put you in a wheelchair — and wherever you want to go, I will take you,’” said al-Sharif.

“I went to a technology conference in Germany and there were these beautiful, model-like women standing there in front of the products. I asked a question and she had no clue what the product was. She had to call someone from the back to explain it to me. To me, that’s using a woman as an object. To me, that’s totally wrong.”

She continued: “In Saudi Arabia, it’s the opposite side. It’s demonizing the woman. Her body is demonized. She is told not to use her body. Both ways are totally extreme. There should be some moderate way.”

Al-Sharif’s defiance has inspired change in her country. More women are now driving.

“If we keep quiet, nothing will change,” al-Sharif said. “And usually the regimes are very comfortable unless you shake the ground under them. What you do is keep shaking the ground.”

Tina Brown and Women In The World will celebrate its fifth anniversary in April in New York City. Learn more here.

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David O. Russell And Florence Henderson Share A Special Spiritual Bond

Harvey Weinstein isn’t the only one with the Pope in his pocket.

Actor Florence Henderson joined Vanity Fair and Chrysler at a cocktail party Thursday evening in L.A. to toast director David O. Russell and the cast of “American Hustle.”

After overhearing that Henderson was holding Russell’s Pope-blessed rosary in her hand at the party, The Huffington Post stole a moment away to ask her about it. “I have that in my purse. But I am holding something else from him tonight. He gave it to me at the beginning of the evening and I won’t say what,” Henderson said. “But at the end of the evening I’ll give it back to him. And I’m just praying for him to win the Oscar. I do believe in prayer. And I have such great respect for his work.”

The two met at the premiere of Russell’s “The Fighter,” which scored seven Oscar nominations at the 2011 ceremony (it went on to win Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress for, respectively, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo). Having never officially met before, Henderson said of Russell, “I was invited to the premiere and he was so gracious. I didn’t even think he would know who I was. But then he went on stage and said, ‘Tonight is very special for me because two of my heroes are here. Florence Henderson and Gloria Steinem.’ That was the beginning. We have sort of formed a spiritual relationship.”

Russell has proven himself to be an Oscar-whisperer of sorts. His films “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and this year’s “American Hustle” have scored multiple nominations and wins. One of Russell’s hallmarks as a director is wringing emotional and unexpected performances out of top-notch actors, including frequent collaborators Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper, all of whom were nominated for their work in “American Hustle.”

The Huffington Post spoke with Russell about Oscar pressure and if arriving at the Academy Awards is always his goal when he starts a new film. After hollering politely at a friend for “Wine. Red. Pinot,” Russell said, “No you can’t think that way. The Oscars motivate me. They motivate me to make the most emotional, impactful movie I can make. I have to weave a tapestry. If the movie isn’t good, it doesn’t mater if the performances are good. The movie has to be propulsive.”

In terms of sitting at the awards anxiously waiting for his categories to be called, Russell said, “That’s what you get. That’s the price of admission. If you get to be a part of it, you have to go in expecting nothing and you have to really, really meditate on that. And be okay with it and just be happy to go.” Russell is nominated twice this year, for Best Original Screenplay (with Eric Warren Singer) and Best Director.

Russell said he grew up watching the Academy Awards, and one of his favorite Oscar memories includes a Hollywood legend. “I remember Warren Beatty hosting the Oscars. He was real dry and sardonic. Which is kind of a ’70s luxury,” Russell said. “I also remember him winning for ‘Reds’ [1981] and giving a very beautiful speech to Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson who were sitting there. I have been fortunate enough to become friendly with him over the years.

“I also remember Dustin Hoffman winning for ‘Rain Man’ [1988] and he forgot to thank Tom Cruise,” he continued in reminiscing on Oscars past. “He went backstage and Ryan O’Neal or somebody came out and said Dustin Hoffman is freaking out, he forgot to thank Tom Cruise. I experienced that last year when Jennifer [Lawrence] forgot to thank me and Harvey [Laughs]. She has spent the last year thanking us. Which, hey — I’ll take it!”

Come Sunday night, there might be a lot more thanking in order. “American Hustle” is nominated for a whopping ten Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay.

Vanity Fair’s “American Hustle” event was held in support of the Ghetto Film School, an organization that educates, develops, and celebrates the next generation of great American storytellers, and is a cause very close to David O. Russell’s heart.

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Why Gloria Steinem Says She And Jennifer Aniston Are In ‘Deep Shit’

“If women could sleep their way to the top, there’d be a lot more women at the top,” said Gloria Steinem during a Q&A with Jennifer Aniston last night at the first-ever MAKERS Conference.

The documentary “MAKERS: Women Who Make America,” narrated by Meryl Streep, aired in February on PBS to 2.6 million prime time viewers. The production was a joint venture between PBS and AOL, parent company of the Huffington Post, which hosts the MAKERS website — which has the largest video collection of women’s stories on the Internet.

According to the organizers, the purpose of the two-day gathering in Palos Verdes, California is to “gather prominent leaders and innovators from corporations, not-for-profits, and government organizations committed to women’s and working family issues for a 48-hour action plan to help defined the agenda for women in the 21st century.”

Conference speakers include Sheryl Sandberg, Geena Davis, Gloria Steinem, Martha Stewart, Gwen Ifill, Gabrielle Giffords and Chelsea Handler.

HuffPost Women attended the one-hour long conversation with Steinem and Aniston Monday night. Here are some highlights:

Jennifer Aniston: This is so unbelievably exciting. First of all, I just want to start by saying that I am an actress, not an interviewer. And although I have the utmost respect for Barbara Walters, I am not Barbara. So I hope that this goes well. When the amazing women of MAKERS called and asked if I would sit here with this incredible legend, trailblazer, goddess, my friend — I of course said yes.

I’m going to jump ahead and ask about some of the reactions that came out of feminism. You talk about being very thin-skinned, which I am actually surprised by, because you’re this amazing powerhouse. What was the most hurtful thing you found yourself coming up against as you were fighting this fight throughout the years?

Gloria Steinem: The most hurtful thing is not what comes from our adversaries, it’s what comes from our friends. Because for the most part, if my adversaries liked me, I would know I was doing something really seriously wrong [laughs]. Being misunderstood by people whose opinions you value is absolutely the most painful.

JA: Have you stopped feeling misunderstood?

GS: No. I try to realize that some of it is my own feeling of control. You know, “You don’t agree with me? Let explain it again.” So I try to be self-critical.

JA: You have always been very outspoken about women and body image. I read a quote recently that I loved. You said, “Boys are told their bodies are instruments, but women are made to feel that our bodies are ornaments.” What did you mean by that?

GS: We are made to think so much about how we look on the outside. That’s why I think sports for girls is so important. It depends on strength and agility and it’s one of the ways we learn what our bodies can do. Boys actually suffer too. If you ask men about their body image, they will tell you they look better than they do. And if you ask a woman, she’ll tell you she looks worse. So I think we each need to come to some point of reality.

JA: The public has a great interest in our personal lives. I know you’ve come up against this, and I certainly have too — where being a woman and our value and our worth is basically associated with our marital status or whether or not we have procreated.

GS: Well, I guess we’re in deep shit.

JA: That’s what I thought. Just wanted to make sure that was the case. That we are, in fact, in deep shit [laughs]. In the ‘60s and the ‘70s, as a woman who was fighting for women and our equality and our rights, how did you deal with that? Women weren’t seen as much as a voice but more barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

GS: I accepted it for a long time and I thought, well okay, I’m getting married and I’m having children. I’m definitely doing that. Just not right now. I’d put it in the future. And then, fortunately, the Women’s Movement came along and made me realize I was actually happy. And that there were more ways to live than one. So it came as a great revelation.

GS: In a community center in India once, somebody said, ‘aren’t you sorry you don’t have children?’ And I thought if I answer truthfully, I will lose them, because it was a very different culture and a different place. And then I thought what’s the point of not answering truthfully? So I told them the truth — I said not for a millisecond. And they all applauded [laughs]. Because they’re living in a culture where they had to have children.

JA: In the President’s State of the Union speech recently, it was very exciting to hear him talk about equal pay for women. Do you think that it is a true priority or that he will be able to move the dial on that issue?

GS: It’s sort of up to us as much as it is to him. I was grateful to hear him say it in a speech and he also talked about Gay and Lesbian and Transgender issues. No president has ever done that before. But I think that we have to demand it. We have to say it. Men have to say you’re not paying this woman equally, so I’m leaving. We all have to work on it.

We also have to understand that equal pay for women is not just for women — it would be the greatest economic stimulus this country could possibly have. If you just paid women equally to men for the work we’re already doing, it would be $200 billion more a year into the economy. Women are not going to put it in a Swiss bank account. They are going to spend it. It’s going to create jobs. But when you hear about economic stimulus, you hear about rescuing crooked bankers. You don’t hear about equal pay for women.

JA: Why have you never run for office?

GS: My job is to make people in office look reasonable. I would not be good on sewers and highways. I would not be a good elected official. I can’t even campaign for people as part of their campaign; they have to disown me. Because then I can only say what they say or believe. So I campaign separately.

JA: Now I’m going to ask you about the F-word. Why is it such a complicated word, Feminism?

GS: Because it’s a big revolution. Feminism, or Womanism, or whatever it is you call it, is taking away the single biggest unpaid labor force in the world, the single biggest underpaid labor force in the world. And it’s taking away control of reproduction. And reproduction is even more important than production. So it is a serious threat. It’s common sense — most people believe it. But it isn’t in the power structure. Some people are against it because they don’t know what it means. Some people are against it because they do know what it means.

JA: And that terrifies them. When did you realize that this movement was your job? That this is what you were put on this planet to do?

GS: I don’t know that I ever thought that. It’s just that it made sense in my life. I suddenly thought: I’m not crazy after all. The system is crazy! And I thought it would help so much, if men raised children as much as women do, for instance. And I was lucky to have a father who did that — which saved me from many terrible men — because I knew that there were good men.

It just made sense. And I wanted to explain it, which is how I got out there speaking in public, even though I didn’t want to do that.

JA: How did your father and mother react to that?

GS: My mother was living with my sister, who had six children, and when I came home to see her she would say your sister got a new winter coat and she didn’t have to pay for it herself. And that was not because she didn’t support me; she had been a newspaper woman who had to give up her work. But she was afraid for me. Afraid that I didn’t have protection — meaning a man who would take care of me. Even though I was making more than my brother-in-law, who bought my sister the coat.

And as for my father — my father was a special case, actually. He thought I was overeducated because I had gone to college and he hadn’t. He would send me ads from Variety. There was one for Las Vegas and it was an ad for a chorus line and all you had to be was under 22, 5’ 7” or more and have a Phi Beta Kappa key. So he wrote me and said, “Kid. Here is something, finally!”

JA: You describe your father as a dreamer. And you’re such a realist.

GS: Well I’m a dreamer too because I’m not just a dreamer, I’m a hope-aholic. I think it’s all possible.

JA: Let’s do the speed round. Fill in the blanks. “The best advice anyone has ever given me was…?”

GS: Don’t worry about what we should do. Just do what you can do.

JA: “The best word to describe me would be…?”

GS: A hope-aholic.

JA: “Above all, I’d like to be remembered for…?”

GS: Ugh. You know I used to ask this question when I was an interviewer. And now it’s my punishment! A person who had a good heart, and tried to leave the world a little more kind than it was when I got here.

JA: “Three things I always carry in my purse are…?”

GS: My house keys if I’m lucky. What else? My house keys, money and some kind of lipgloss.

JA: “If I could have dinner with one historical figure it would be…?”

GS: It would be one of the women who was here before the Europeans showed up, when there were about 500 or so different cultures here but they were egalitarian. These were the women who inspired the suffrage movement. I would like to talk to one of them to understand what it was like to live in a society in which people were linked and not ranked. Where the paradigm was a circle, not a pyramid. Because that’s what was here before.

JA: “The question I’m most sick of people asking me is…?”

GS: There are all kinds of peculiar questions. Here’s the worst one: “Where has the Women’s Movement been and where is it going?” It’s like describe the universe and give two examples. You want to kill yourself. It’s huge. You can’t answer that.

Below are a selection of questions from the audience:

QUESTION: What do you think the most important thing the next generation of feminists can do is?

GS: I think they know and they don’t need me to tell them. They are living both in a world I know and in a world I don’t know. They are living in the future and I’m here to support them. When people say to me, ‘what should I tell my daughter?’ I always say, ‘I don’t want her to listen to me. I want her to listen to herself.’

QUESTION: What do you think the biggest problem with feminism today is?

GS: Anti-feminism [laughs]. The work that women do is given no economic value whatsoever. We could go on about that. But we all know that. What we don’t talk about enough is religion. I think that spirituality is one thing. But religion is just politics in the sky. I think we really have to talk about it. Because it gains power from silence.

QUESTION: How can we build bridges across racial lines?

GS: In the first issue of Ms. Magazine, we did a poll about feminism and it was the first of women about women’s issues. And African American women by 60 percent supported the issues and white women only by 30 percent. The truth of the matter is women of color have always been in the leadership of this movement and far ahead for a series of reasons. We need to know the history. If we behave as if this movement belongs to white women, then we render invisible all of the women who are real leaders. When it comes to us as individuals, I think we just need to know each other. Nothing works without trust. This works as a great rule: if you buy shoes together, you can do politics together.

QUESTION: As a man in the room, what is one thing we men can do to keep this issue moving forward?

GS: Just think about fairness. Suppose you were the same person with all the smarts and humor and everything that makes you unique, and you were born female. How would you feel and what would you want? It’s all about empathy. There’s no emotion more revolutionary than empathy.

QUESTION: Do you feel that the portrayal of women in film and TV is improving?

GS: We are younger than the guys on screen, that’s a problem. Women reporting the news are 15 years younger than men. Couples in movies — it’s okay for a guy to be 60. It’s not so okay for the woman. What I’m even more worried about is pornography. Because there’s now such access to it technologically. Pornography is about violence. Rape is not sex, it’s violence. Porn means female slavery. Erotica is something quite different. Eros means love and free choice. But the combination of the right wing suppressing sex education in the schools and the availability of pornography is making pornography into sex education. And it’s really very dangerous.

I support the first amendment. We are not going to sensor people. But we can say I am not having this in my house, I’m not pretending this is okay. Pornography is to women what Fascist literature was to Jews.

QUESTION: How do you feel about women using their sex appeal to advance their careers?

GS: If women could sleep their way to the top, there’d be a lot more women at the top. I’m just here to tell you it doesn’t work. You just end up humiliated and inauthentic.

QUESTION (asked by actress Jane Lynch): What makes you hopeful, optimistic?

GS: Just listening. Because I’m accidentally recognizable as part of a movement, I get to hear stories. People come up to me in the street, in the supermarket and tell me how their lives have changed and it is just so incredibly moving. There is one story that always comes to mind. A woman came up to me in a book signing line. She was an African American woman, wearing an elegant red suit. And as I’m signing, she said I first read Ms. Magazine in prison. She was in prison for prostitution and after she read the magazine, she wondered why the John was not in prison. So she asked for law books but in that state, they only had law books in the men’s prisons, not the women’s. But she eventually got them and started to help the other women with their child custody problems. And she got out and worked at a law firm. And she told me, “and now I’m a lawyer. And I just thought you’d like to know.”

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These Restaurateurs Found Their Path (And Huge Success) By Creating A Cult Of Gratitude

cafe gratitude
Stepbrothers Ryland Engelhart and Cary Mosier have the “glass half-full” philosophy nailed (…to the wall. Literally.)

The family behind the Cafe Gratitude empire has been at it since 2004, when Ryland’s dad and Cary’s mom, Matthew and Terces Engelhart, opened up their first location in San Francisco — a fresh vegan restaurant founded on the idea of practicing gratitude in our daily lives.

And it’s truly a family affair: at the first location, one son was behind the bar, another was the manager, the mom was the cook, the dad was the server, and the sister-in-law was the bookkeeper. Today, Ryland and Cary run the wildly successful Larchmont and Venice locations in Los Angeles and their sister runs the equally booming vegan bistro Sage in Echo Park and Culver City. The highly-anticipated vegan Mexican joint, Gracias Madre, opens in LA in late December.

When Matthew and Terces originally met at Landmark Education (a program that offers guidance in personal development), they never thought about starting a business, let alone a restaurant. What they had was a “clear intention that they wanted to have their life make a meaningful difference in the world,” Ryland tells The Huffington Post from the communal table at the sun-splotched Venice Beach Cafe Gratitude.

What started off as a simple board game called The Abounding River, which they deigned to inspire people to practice being grateful, later ended up serving as the model for the first Cafe Gratitude. The menu is broken down into affirmations, so instead of asking your server for the cereal blend of coconut milk, pecans, seasonal fruit, vanilla and cinnamon, you say “I Am Bright-Eyed,” and the server repeats back to you “you are bright-eyed.” They also ask you a question of the day, like, “What moves you to your heart?”

Affirmations aside, the restaurants are packed to the gills and high-profile celebrities like Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix, Alanis Morissette and Ashton Kutcher have declared their allegiance to the feel-good Vegan dynasty.

The Huffington Post sat down with Ryland and Cary to learn about their own practice of gratitude, why some people think it’s a cult and how the key to happiness might really be as simple as shifting your focus.

cafe gratitude
(Pictured left to right: Cary Mosier and Ryland Engelhart)

The Huffington Post: You guys do business through a practice you call “Sacred Commerce.” What does that mean?
Ryland Engelhart: Sacred Commerce is a business that is guided by the heart. It’s a business that considers that we all are connected and that the only real win is the win-win. The business practices are good for the planet, our employees, our investors and customers all in one.

The whole concept was to create a work environment that doubled as a school of transformation for our staff as well as the customers. Our parent’s experiment was: What will happen if we use the workspace to cultivate the most important human values — such as love, gratitude, connection and trust? The fresh, organic and mostly raw menu, coupled with the good community vibration, had customers coming in in droves. The restaurant quickly became a cultural Bay Area hub. It was like the hippie, healthy version of “Cheers.”

cafe gratitude

What is the Clearing Process?
Ryland: The clearing process is designed to get our staff present each day. The present moment is where we can feel joy, love and gratitude. Before starting work, our staff members sit down with another staff member and take five minutes to “clear.”

They ask a series of two questions and those questions change daily. The first question invites the participants to inquire into what’s distracting them from the present moment. An example: “What are you concerned about?”

They will share back and forth, and this gives an experience of being listened to and connecting with their feelings. They then ask each other the second question, such as: “What do you love about your life?”

This part is intended to shift their attention to some aspect of gratitude or fulfillment, reminding them that the experience of gratitude is a moment-by-moment choice. The second question becomes the question of the day, which we ask our customers in the restaurant as part of our service.

cafe gratitude

Some examples of the question of the day?
Ryland: What’s your dream? Who can you forgive? What’s your passion? What are you committed to? How can you be generous today? What are you grateful for?

You have received your fair share of criticism, lighthearted mockery, and actually have even been called a cult. Why do you think that is?
Cary Mosier: You come in here and see affirmations on the menu and there’s the new age vibe that people see. But it’s authentic for us. We want to promote a business that’s purpose isn’t just serving food. It goes beyond that. It’s about creating an environment where people celebrate the abundance in their lives and show appreciation for all that we have.

Ryland: When your attention is on gratitude, you are grateful and you feel blessed and you actually live in the experience of fulfillment. There’s a beautiful quote that’s in the artwork of Cafe Gratitude that says: “Abundance can be simply had by consciously receiving what has already been given.”

Cause, really, we live in Venice Beach, California, we eat organic food every day and we have access to everything and anything. It would be warranted if we walked around saying, “Thank you, thank you! This life is amazing.” Because really, it is. And yet, human beings have an unlimited capacity to take things for granted. But they also have an unlimited capacity to be grateful.

cafe gratitude

Based on your success, there’s clearly a real appetite for this kind of community — both in Los Angeles and up north in San Francisco.
Ryland: Essentially the biggest cause of suffering in all of humanity is a sense of feeling disconnected. Any place that’s practicing more connection, more authenticity, more intimacy – we’re starving for that because we live on our separate houses and our separate cars and the culture is very divided and there’s not a lot of nurturing and community.

Cary: That’s why yoga has blown up so much. Granted, on one level, it’s exercise. But on a larger level, it’s a connection with your inner-self. Twenty years ago, the majority of Americans weren’t doing yoga and tapping into the conversation of “what’s it like in my head” and “where’s my attention?”

And it’s why Cafe Gratitude gets called a cult. Some people say, “What the hell are you talking about? Just serve food, bro.” And that’s okay. If you want to come in and have a healthy vegan meal – absolutely. And if you come in and find a deeper significance around the environment, the people and the type of food, then that’s available as well.

We thought can we have things on the menu that have people think about the words they use? Like why does it say I Am Connected? That has nothing to do with food. We could have just called it the guacamole and chips. But it sparks a conversation.
cafe gratitude

How do you come up with the affirmations for each item on the menu?
Cary: It’s usually playful. At this point, it’s a complete lack of creativity. It’s like what affirmation haven’t we used yet?

Ryland: Some of the original ones were simple. There was the pure salad, which was just greens, seaweed, avocado and cucumbers. It’s the cleanest possible meal. So we named it I Am Pure. We used to have a seaweed salad called I Am Giving, and the idea is that the ocean is one of the most giving things on the planet.

Cary: I’m the cynical, sarcastic one. So I like to make it cheeky. I think I put I Am Crunchy on the menu.

Ryland: The idea was people will come in for the food and we’ll give them a little uppercut of transformation and a little love and little warmth and a little shift in their attention and see if maybe that ripple effect will make a difference. It is all about shifting out attention from the glass half empty to the glass half full.

cafe gratitude

You weren’t always on this path. What were you doing for work before Cafe Gratitude?
Ryland: I was living in LA and my sister and I were running a recording studio. That was right when the recording business kind of tanked. It was a completely different life and I was very different. I was wearing Fubu jumpsuits and a Puerto Rican chin strap.

Cary: He walked with a limp and had an accent. He was living in the hip hop world. It was hilarious.

Did you enjoy the work or did you feel like you were meant to do something else with your life?
Ryland: Bringing Cafe Gratitude to LA has been a complete personal triumph for me. It was a crusade of sorts, because I had been completely eaten up by Los Angeles. I had lost my sense of self. I got into things that were not of my ethic and were not of my highest intention or highest self. We got into a business of wheeling, dealing and hustling.

I had a big revelation that I was in LA trying to prove to my dad that I could make it on my own. But then I saw that what my family was already doing up north was my complete self-expression — creating community in the workplace, serving healthy food and inspiring people to take on their life, health and well-being.

How did you come to that realization?
Ryland: It came through me looking very transparently at what my resistance was about. Why would I want to do what they’re doing, but not want to do it with them? And I saw that it was a complete pride thing.

Cary: I had a similar moment in my own life. I was in the Navy, actually. It was totally not my scene. I did that for a year, then went to film school and started working at Cafe Gratitude. It became so successful and we were starting to expand, so I decided I wanted to help open up the other restaurants.

cafe gratitude

What’s the biggest challenge in running this business on a day-to-day level?
Cary: Keeping the bigger vision in mind and reminding myself about everything that is working, even when it feels like everything is not.
Ryland: Managing personalities, keeping people inspired, keeping a handle on all the moving parts and delivering a consistent service to over 1,200 people daily in Los Angeles alone.

What is your definition of success?
Cary: Being happy.
Ryland: Success is how much love can we give in this lifetime? One thing that Cafe Gratitude seeks to do is remember the ageless tradition of the dinner table. This was a place where we sat with our family and loved ones and enjoyed a meal after giving thanks. This tradition has been mostly forgotten in our fast-paced world. We are bringing it back through serving healthy organic food and asking a question like, “What are you grateful for?”

cafe gratitude

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Nakoula Basseley Nakoula To Be Released From Prison

LOS ANGELES — A California man behind an anti-Muslim film that led to violence in parts of the Middle East is due to be freed from federal custody in a separate case, an official said Monday.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 56, is scheduled for release on …

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Nakoula Basseley Nakoula To Be Released From Prison

LOS ANGELES — A California man behind an anti-Muslim film that led to violence in parts of the Middle East is due to be freed from federal custody in a separate case, an official said Monday.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 56, is scheduled for release on …

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Best LA Retreats According To Hollywood’s Most Famous Psychic (PHOTOS)

This story comes courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

By Jimmy Im

For almost a decade, psychic to the stars Aiden Chase has been high in demand for his intuitive business strategy consulting, healing capabilities and good old-fashion psychic readings. One of Hollywood’s Must-Have Psychics, Aiden — aka “Hollywood’s Healer” — is a bastion of knowledge for L.A.’s best spots (energetically speaking). Aiden spoke with The Hollywood Reporter and revealed the top places he sends his clients for making deals, boosting energy and besting selves.

The Beverly Hills Hotel
beverly hills hotel
9641 Sunset Blvd.
My No. 1 place is The Beverly Hills Hotel. There’s a vortex of energy underneath it that aligns to happiness, celebration and success. Not just any success but time-tested big success. This hotel is a huge power center of energy. It was built in 1912 and has been a landmark for Hollywood success stories ever since. Top deals have been negotiated all over the hotel by Hollywood execs and those in the industry from the bungalows to poolside. If I’m having a bad day, I will come here, meditate in the gardens and feel much better. My dreams have come true here many times. I believe there is a greater chance a business meeting will be successful here than anywhere else in Los Angeles.

Point Dume
point dume malibu
Westward Beach Rd.
My favorite natural place in all of L.A. to relax, restore and be inspired is the nature preserve at the end of Point Dume in Malibu. Few people even know that this beautiful park exists. It’s ancient Native American land that holds powerful energy. You may see Matthew McConaughey, Janet Jackson or even Kid Rock soaking in its amazing energy. If you squint your eyes you can see thousands of white spots that are positively helpful Native American spirits of long ago. There is a short hike to the top of the 360-degree ocean view mound that was the sacred place where the Chumash performed their sacred spiritual ceremonies to honor their land and the spirits of their ancestors. It also has a spectacular, almost secret, rocky beach complete with a legendary cave.

The Four Seasons Los Angeles
four seasons
300 S. Doheny Dr.
The Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills has positive energy, is the “it” place for big Hollywood business and holds an energy for prosperity. From an energy standpoint, this hotel is the best place to communicate your message in L.A., whether it’s during a press junket from a suite or pitching a business deal at signature restaurant Culina. It has big success energy. Celebrities and executives are attracted to the hotel like a magnet. The energy is reflected by the number of celebrities that stay here and the power events that take place. I recommend this hotel to all my international clients because it’s the best of all worlds — business, relaxation and Hollywood fun. True manifestation of wishes and dreams happen here daily.

Nine Treasures Yoga With Tej
nine treasures yoga
8182 Sunset Blvd. 2nd Floor
I have been practicing yoga with the legendary master Kundalini yoga teacher Tej for the last 10 years and most recently at her new Nine Treasures Yoga in Hollywood. For nearly 40 years Tej has taught the ancient yogic technology of Kundalini, a practice that brings healing and transformation to your mind, body and spirit. Tej creates joyful and meaningful yogic experiences that can help you grow into your own strength and potential. It’s so transformational that it is said that six months of Kundalini yoga is like six years of other yoga. I have seen the transformations with my own eyes time after time. Also, you just may come mat to mat with Tej fans like Demi Moore and Russell Brand, the latest starlet of the moment, and many of my clients.

Holmby Park
holmby park
601 Club View Dr.
“Surprisingly, just blocks away from the Playboy Mansion, the best energy park in Los Angeles to relax and restore your energy is tucked away between Holmby Hills and Westwood. Holmby Park, aka Armand Hammer Park (named after actor Armie Hammer’s great-grandfather), is a perfect spot of high-vibrating energy for enjoying a picnic from nearby Clementine’s or to sit on a Central Park style bench to really think. It is a mind decluttering place of clarity that helps you align your thoughts with your goals. When I go there and do a simple five-minute meditation by closing my eyes and listening to my breath, I always come away with several strategic ideas. Remember to jot down your ideas in your iPhone as a reminder to put them into action … and you just might find a Playboy bunny joining you.

Discover more stories from The Hollywood Reporter here.

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PHOTOS: Meet Your New Cult Leader

Brit Marling is a name that’s starting to roll off the tongue. The Chicago-born triple threat (she writes, produces and acts) is about to hit…

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Are Val Kilmer & Mark Twain A Recipe For Redemption?

Actor Val Kilmer’s once illustrious career has grown dim in the past decade. But over tea at the Viceroy Hotel on an overcast Santa Monica…

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