Discover Your Recipe for Happiness

By Jill Leslie
Owner and Founder
Kitchen Alchemy

In “The Art of Happiness,” the Dalai Lama wrote: “Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, the very purpose of our life is happiness, the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”

In fact, there are times in all of our lives when despite the struggle, our stress seems to fade into the background. These are times when we feel a sense of contentment with “what is.” We may even take secret delight as we hear ourselves respond to the question, “How are you?” with a genuine, “Life is good. I am really happy.”

Recently, I have had a few of those ‘unreasonable’ moments of light-hearted equanimity. As a chef, when I have a mouth-watering, delectable experience, I try and figure out the recipe so I can recreate it. I examine the more subtle flavors of life, too. After a particularly wonderful night’s sleep, I review the prior day. Was there something I did or didn’t do differently that may have contributed to the blissful quality of sleep? Perhaps an earlier supper than usual, followed by a walk around Lake Merritt with a friend were the ingredients for a sumptuous slumber.

In the Vedic tradition, we call this karma. While we often consider this concept only when we stumble on a date with destiny, or experience a mysterious twist of fate, karma is simply the law of cause and effect. It refers to the mundane aspects of life as well as those moments of serendipity that leave us feeling a sense of awe or bewilderment. (I jokingly say that the headache you feel after celebrating with a bit of bubbly is a citation from the karmic police.)

What Is Your Perfect Recipe for Happiness?

Consider the possibility that the formula for happiness is not as complicated as you think. It can be as simple as what your grandma told you: “Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, fulfill your potential, and appreciate your friends and family.”

This is what the Ayurvedic practitioners in ancient India recognized thousands of years ago. When it comes to the “life is good” department, they gave us recipes for everything from diet to daily routines, and guidelines on relationships. (Remember, India is the birthplace of The Kama Sutra).

So lighten up with this recipe, and my favorite 10 tips for healthy living.

If The Buddha Ate Coleslaw, It Would Taste Like This


1-½ cups shredded cabbage
1-½ cups shredded fennel
½ cup grated carrots
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 Tbsp toasted fennel seeds
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup unrefined sesame oil
¾ finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt to taste, 1-2 tsp.
1 T. black sesame seeds (optional)
Ground black pepper

Pecan Dressing:

½ cup sesame oil (not toasted)
½ cup pecans (optional, replace pecans with sunflower seeds for a lighter dressing)
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Raw honey
Salt to taste

Here’s how:

1. Mix all the ingredients, except the pepper and sesame seeds.

2. In a separate bowl, blend ginger, garlic, maple syrup, and sesame oil at high speed for about 30 seconds.

3. Coat the cabbage and cilantro with the dressing.

4. Garnish with black sesame seeds, and a sprinkling of black pepper.

Just Decide: Life Is Good

1. Wake up with the sunrise. The early mornings are the most peaceful time of day.

2. Prepare at least one homemade meal each day. Use only whole foods and fresh ingredients. Check out my coleslaw recipe. Try it the next time you barbeque.

3. Eat when you eat. Put down that book, turn off the TV, and step away from the computer. Food is far more satisfying when you eat with mindfulness. Taste the flavors, and enjoy the textures, colors, and aromas of the food on your plate.

4. Smile at a stranger. Start a conversation with someone you do not know. I usually do this while I am in line somewhere. It is far more satisfying than checking email or texting.

5. Exercise. Take a walk, fly a kite, practice yoga. Just do it every day. You’ll feel better. I promise.

6. Throughout the day, stop and take three deep breaths. Notice how something as simple as this can affect your mood and your energy.

7. Take a break. You may not have time for a three-hour siesta. Even five minutes of downtime will help revitalize your mind and your body.

8. Meditate. Yes, I said it, the ‘M’ word. If you have never meditated before, or have been slack in your practice, commit to sitting quietly for five minutes. A very simple technique is to place your awareness on your breath. As you inhale, mentally say to yourself “inhaling.” As you exhale, say to yourself, “exhaling.” When your mind wanders off, and it will, simply come back to the breath.

9. Review the day. Feel gratitude for at least three things each day. Write them down in a journal. At the end of the month, you’ll have nearly 100 items listed. Now that’s pretty amazing.

10. Go to bed before 10. We catch our “second wind” around 10:00. Going to bed by 10 ensures a better night’s sleep.

About Jill Leslie and Ayurveda Alchemy

Jill Leslie is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, herbalist, wellness chef, and yoga teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area who, for more than two decades, has been immersed in the study and practice of natural healing.

The entrepreneur, who has owned her own businesses since graduating from the University of Maryland in 1986, founded the award-winning retail shop Milk & Honey in Sebastapol, CA, in 1999. She sold it in 2006 so that she could delve deeper into her study of yoga and Ayurveda.

Ayurveda Alchemy: As she discovered the life-changing wisdom of these ancient practices, she began sharing her knowledge at wellness retreats, yoga studios, and through cooking classes. Her passion for herbal medicine and nutrition, and her love of sweets, inspired her in 2008 to found Ayurveda Alchemy.

In addition to hosting classes and events, and providing consultations and dietary advice about Ayurveda, she has created a line of healthy and delicious confections, which are available online at Kitchen Alchemy Treats. “When I learned the adage of Ayurveda, ‘Let your food be your medicine,’ I put on my apron and said, ‘Let your medicine be delicious,’” she says. Learn more at