Toshala Elliott manages The Blue-Bird Cafe, one of Auckland’s most popular vegetarian establishments.
What does happiness mean to you?
With the aid of meditation and sincere effort I discovered that happiness is more than just a few moments of joy bubbling up inside you, or an ephemeral pleasure because you are doing very well in your worldly endeavours – it is a lasting peace and fullness that abides inside you that the happenings of life going on around you cannot take away. At least not for long.
What have you learned about happiness?
That it cannot be taken for granted! Imagine this: you’ve got it made – you have a happy life, you are loved, working hard and achieving levels of success beyond your and your family’s imagination. You’ve got it down and the world is your oyster. You are happy! Then… bang, pow – it’s over. Over a short period of time your life circumstances change completely… and you find yourself… really not happy.
This is a biggy that has been faced by myself and a few billion other people. A stop-in-your-tracks-and-sincerely-look-at-what-life-is sort of thing. While it is unfortunate that one sometimes has to go through a huge (at least for one’s proportionate capacity) crisis before stopping and taking stock, hindsight reveals (in my case at least) that the brakes were destined to come on to give the truth a bit of a chance.
Luckily I was fortunate enough at that time to meet up with the Sri Chinmoy Centre. I say luckily but it was far less serendipitous than that suggests because my circumstances were the harbinger for change, for which I was finally ready. Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy was exactly what I was looking for and precisely what I needed. What did I receive? Tools for life and a change of perspective. Therein I discovered a knack of sifting the real from the unreal.
Now – years later – I am grateful for the experiences I have had, despite being very hard at the time, that have brought me to my current state of understanding. One day I will look back on my life experiences and laugh heartily. (Not yet though. One day I will.)
Tell us about your café!
I became a vegetarian in 1991, cold turkey, just like that. And to my surprise I never looked back! I gave it a go to see how long I would last before cravings for meat overtook me – arising from some mad dietary imbalance – however none have yet, and it has been more than 20 years since I started.
One of the theme goals at The Blue Bird vegetarian café is to provide a tranquil oasis for our customers. Over the years we have changed and evolved – as has our menu! However two things have remained constant: we all love spirituality and are avid foodies!
At the cafe, I occasionally offer general introductory workshops in vegetarianism to those who are either interested in becoming vegetarian (for whatever reasons – be it for better health or global awareness or humanitarian reasons or spiritual or because the food is tasty, or anything), or who are just interested in what we eat and would like to try some.
More about The Blue-Bird here…