I have been encouraged to share elements of my personal story so the greater EFFI community can understand the unique place from which my dream for EFFI emerged. Here are some blurbs of the life events that made a language teacher and textbook writer find a playground that codifies all passions and the essence of who I am - which is EFFI Foods.
Early Spinal Trauma — When I was four years old, I walked through the snow with my mother at 4:30am to train as a figure skater. That ended abruptly at seven, when I fell and suffered serious trauma. This marked the beginning of a life defined by surgical procedures and constant pain. At a very young age I was aware of the immeasurable importance of physical health and its relationship to emotional vitality.
“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan
Sustainability and Environmentalism —Expanding "Astronaut’s Effect" — When I was a little older, I had a chance to visit Space Control Center where I witnessed a live feed of planet earth from outer space. This vision of earth as a single, radiant thing triggered a swell of overwhelming feelings inside my chest. This phenomenon is called the "overview effect" or "astronaut's effect” which is usually experienced by astronauts seeing the Earth from and in space. The effect describes the profound cognitive shift in awareness and worldview and transforms the sense of responsibility for our only home. Without going to space I was able to experience similar emotions and I had the unshakable sense that the Earth was alive and deserved the same treatment as any other sentient being. I knew then that I would build my life's work around principles of sustainability and environmental protection.
“Fractures well cured make us more strong.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Surgery's Silver Lining — Through high school and college I faced chronic pain, breathing problems and was diagnosed with scoliosis. My conditions continued to worsen and it was decided that after graduation I would undergo a full year of surgeries at an institute in a small town, well known for bone/spine innovation. I underwent three surgeries with 2 month recoveries in between. It was long and painful but it was a powerful learning experience. Not only it increased my compassion for others but also showed me the architecture of my own character. It taught me what I can endure and what people are capable of — which is almost always much more than we think. I learned that determination and a positive attitude can measurably affect outcomes.
Nutrition and Healing — During my stay at the hospital I became close with my neurosurgeons and their families. I tutored their children and we discussed many topics. The most poignant conversation was about the role of nutrition in medical recovery. This is where the seed of EFFI took root. The doctors put an emphasis on anti—inflammatory diets, fortification of gut biome and nutraceuticals. They highlighted the correlation between digestion (which was severely impaired by multiple anesthetic procedures and antibiotics) and immunity. As a result of this information I stopped eating dairy products (due to inflammation), decreased meat consumption and increased all foods with probiotics to help my gut flora. With better digestion and greater immune health, there was quicker recovery. Later in life my research deepened and I completely freed my body from any animal products not only to benefit my health but to exercise my muscle of compassion towards sentient beings.
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them” — Leo Tolstoy
Grief & Passion — A few years after the initial round of multiple spine surgeries, I found myself in Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles getting ready to undergo a spine surgery for the 4th time. It was supposed to fix what the previous surgeries hadn't. Even though it went well, three months later there was a malfunction with the instrumentation in my spine which would have to be replaced. The circle of 'surgery-pain-recovery-surgery' seemed to be inescapable.When the 5th and final surgery was done my recovery was fast; I was hungry to live and to embark on the EFFi journey. Thirty days after the surgery, my father passed away of a suddent heart attack at the age of 55. I went to his funeral… the emotional pain was so isolating, it felt like someone switched off all of the lights.For the ensuing two years, I circled the globe attending exhibitions, conferences and seminars. I studied nutraceuticals and acquired an advanced understanding of the impact food chains have on the environment, as well as human and animal health. Everything I knew needed to be codified by the most recent information. I needed to embody nutrition, sustainability and wellness in order for my company to do so. In 2012, my endeavor became Eco Friendly Foods Initiative - EFFI. And the lights were on again.
“We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Diverse Roots & Quest for Connection — Members of my family represent a range of cultural and religious backgrounds. My mother is Balkar with Middle Eastern roots and my dad was Russian with Slavic roots. Over time I observed them pulling in the direction of their own traditions, religions and away from each other. In order to better understand this, I studied history, tradition and religion. I found amazing similarities that it seemed to me should bring people together not separate them. From this phase of self-education I learned to pursue ideas that unite people and promote inter-connectivity. This is another reason why a purpose driven business was the only natural direction for my life. I have an opportunity now to bring my diverse heritage into our food products to not only promote ‘worldliness’ but to increase nutritional profiles.
“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.” — Dalai Lama
In Conclusion — Overcoming adversity I faced realties that could have broken my spirit - but instead I’ve used them as inspiration. What I have suffered is trivial in comparison to what countless millions face around our globe everyday. I do not see myself as a victim, rather, I see myself as a survivor - fortified and strengthened by the wisdom gained from harnessing the lessons in what I went through. The reason I believe those around me encouraged me to share my story, is to show that there is truth and beauty even in the most unexpected places. I believe the same can be true of the planet. By observing it’s destruction, we can learn from it. New approaches to sustainability can be developed and implemented. We all have this potential. Imbalance demands attention! The vitality of our earth is diminished, and it requires that we make change now. We are connected to the planet in every way - from the water we drink, to the air we breath, to the creatures that inhabit every part, to the food we source from it’s land and seas. If we can honor earth and all the life it supports, and invoke the determination to heal that works in individual people - like in my own life - we can change the direction of our future.
The Best Advice I Ever Got — One day I asked my favorite teacher the best method to learn a foreign language. I wanted to know if I should spend my days reading, writing or speaking. He said, “There’s no such way. You will never master anything with a one-sided approach. Balance your efforts. Do it all." This was a critical and unforgettable life lesson on balance that I apply in my daily life, my work, my nutrition. This is how I hope to continue in my work with EFFi creating a more balanced world through balanced action.