We spoke with Nimai Larson about growing up Hare Krishna in BBQ country, extreme skateboarding, giving up drinking, the power of mantra and why nobody is above eating.
Everyone needs to eat – no one is above eating food.
I feel like most items at the grocery store count more as expensive mind control than actual, nourishing food. But when I eat from the produce section, I feel like I can do anything! Do you feel your mood, or energy lifted, when you eat correctly?
Oh yeah, for sure! The closer the food is to the source of where it was grown, the better it is for your body because it’s easier to digest. I’ve heard that margarine is one molecule away from being plastic. Plastic. How in the world could our bodies digest that? This issue– that healthy food is expensive and therefore only available to the wealthy– drives me crazy.
Eating is the most unifying, harmonious, and inclusive activity on this planet. Everyone needs to eat – no one is above eating food. When I eat simple, mostly plant-based foods, I feel energy. When I eat trashy, complex foods, I feel lethargic. I’m not a fanatic about what I eat, I just know I like to feel good!
For all of New York City’s majesty, living there sometimes means being around an endless, alcohol-fueled Disneyland for adults. I love being social, but some people’s lifestyles seem really unsustainable in the long run. How did you step away from that scene?
It’s easy to drink all the time. There’s definitely a huge scene in New York for that and plenty of people that support it. When I got burned out, I discovered that there’s a flipside to that coin – there’s also a huge sober scene in New York and plenty of people that support it. Stepping away from partying came down to honesty for me – am I honestly finding nurturing friendships and relationships with people at bars?
Am I honestly being productive with my time and money? Am I honestly drinking my way closer to loving myself or am I drinking my way closer to hating myself? Do I honestly respect who I have become? When I realized all of the answers to those questions were depressing, I decided to create a new, peaceful life for myself which I have been dedicated to for three years.
That is really great and commendable! Can you describe what an evening for you might be like now, as opposed to when you were partying? Can you compare and contrast the two?
Thank you! It’s wild comparing a night three years ago to a night now.
The biggest difference is my frame of mind.
When I was drinking, I wasn’t relaxed at all. Which seems counterintuitive to the stereotype that drinking is a social lubricant and makes us all more at ease. When I went out, I started to get this feeling like I was going to jump out of my skin – like a caged tiger that only had room enough to turn around and around in their cage. The second I would get to the bar, I would hold my money out, or rather I would wave it, hoping to get the bartender’s attention quicker than the other customers. I liked to arrive first on dates so that I could have one drink first and be on my second when my date would arrive. My mind would race until that first sip hit my lips and I could feel a smile spread across my face. The happiness came from alcohol. Alcohol in which I placed a great deal of hope – hope that it would make me more attractive, hope that it would make me funnier, hope that it would erase my jealousy or anger, hope that it would relieve the insecurities that constantly gnawed at my insides. I would always leave the bar feeling like A. “I wish I had more money to buy more drinks!” or B. “I better clear my schedule tomorrow because I know I’m gonna hate myself in the morning when I’m painfully hungover and it’s useless trying to get anything done.”
A night now is a lot different. I’ve worked through so many of my anger issues and insecurities that I used to drink over. I no longer drink poison and then hope YOU die. I feel a great deal of freedom through discipline. Which also seems counter-intuitive to the stereotype that discipline and guidelines keep us tethered to a schedule and stifles our creativity. It’s the opposite for me. I feel so much more useful now that I know I won’t be hungover ever. My world has expanded beyond the bar – on any given day, I meet friends for nice dinners, go on lovely walks, make cookies together, meet for coffee and a run in the park, or explore museums. I even DJ bars – I just stay hydrated instead of schwasted. Business opportunities have expanded exponentially now that I am reliable and sober, so my days are very full and busy. And when a smile spreads across my face now, it’s because I have confidence in who I am, not what I’m hiding behind. Without the aid of alcohol, I have relearned my sense of humor and social graces. My ability to socialize doesn’t come from a lubricant, it comes from my bright spirit that is allowed to shine on.
I once taught guitar lessons for a living. One day, apropos of nothing, one of my six-year-old students calmly went up to the whiteboard and drew a devil face that was crying. Currently, you’re teaching kids the joys of cooking… what’s the funniest, weirdest, or most psychedelic thing a child has told you?
One little girl was trying to impress me by letting me know that she’s “mixed baking soda and vinegar before!” I was like “Cool, why don’t you do it again so we can make these pancakes fluffy?” Then she said “I also put all of the framed pictures in our house into a bubble bath!” To which I said “I’m sure your mom loved that!” She said “We did it together.”
Your parents joined the Hare Krishna movement in the 1960s. What was you and your sister’s upbringing like in that community?
We were raised in Texas, far away from any large Hare Krishna community. However, certain spiritual beliefs that our family upheld – like being strict vegetarians – certainly made my sister and I total outcasts while surrounded by BBQ and cattle ranches! But it had a huge impact on our adult lives and the music we started out writing in the early years of Prince Rama.
We used to do a lot of mantras. But later on, we started to feel like any kind of song could be a mantra. It’s repeated “verse, chorus, verse, chorus” much like a Hare Krishna mantra. All of our music was a spiritual offering and a culmination of gratitude. Neither one of us strictly follow our parent’s chosen path now, but we both feel that our most formative years were steeped in Krishna music, food, and kindness. We’ll always take that with us in our hearts.
Do you still practice any mantras to this day? Is anything still stuck in your head as an adult? If so, can you recite it for us?
Different mantras have come in and out of my life at different times and served their purpose. A mantra, or prayer, that I have been meditating on every night for the past few months is “God, I pray for the knowledge of your will for me and the power to carry it out.” I’m not in control, nor do I want to waste any time obsessing over situations in which I cannot control other people’s thoughts, feelings, reactions or responses. With this simple prayer, I’m working toward trusting my intuition (which I believe is God speaking to me), taking the next right action, and then finding peace that I will be taken care of whatever the outcome may be.
It was skateboarding heaven in Texas until my Dad threw the skateboard into his burn pile and we never saw it again.
I feel like our most lasting childhood memories are often not graduations, big vacations, and life events… sometimes it’s a funny face someone made at dinner. Please describe one totally meaningless memory from your youth that you’ll never forget.
This should give you an idea of what it was like for us with no cable or internet or cell phones. We grew up on the side of a hill with eight acres of woods and creeks. When my sister and I weren’t hiking and coming up with super fantastic names for our forts like “Mystery Gorge” and “Bear Creek Canyon,” we were out on our big deck playing with our cats or skateboarding.
Our cats loved it when we would hold them over our heads and declare “SANCTUARY!” much like the hunchback of Notre Dame did.
Anyway, our Dad bought us this skateboard one day. We didn’t know what to do with it. Like I said, we didn’t have the internet to look up tricks or whatever. But, as I mentioned, we lived on the side of a steep hill with a concrete driveway. So my sister and I got up the courage (after daring each other a million times) to sit on our butts together on the skateboard, hang on for dear life and ride down the long driveway.
It was amazing! Soon enough, we were going by ourselves, laying down on our backs with our eyes closed, laying on our stomachs face first down the driveway, putting our cats on there and letting them go for a ride! It was skateboarding heaven in Texas until my parents realized what we were doing and my Dad threw the skateboard into his burn pile and we never saw it again.
What was the first meal you cooked yourself at a young age? Was it successful?
When I was ten, I asked my mom if I could take over making dinner. She took a chance on me and said yes. I wanted to make sauteéd tofu with melted cheese and tomato, smoky guacamole and homemade tortilla chips. So we went to the grocery store together and picked out all the ingredients I would need to prepare dinner for my family. This time together – strolling the aisles and talking about food as mother and daughter – made a positive impact on me. I learned about what ingredients are necessary for the dishes I loved to eat and in what way each ingredient was beneficial for my body. Cooking for my family that night revealed the work that actually went into meal preparation. My respect for my mom and the kitchen grew. In the end, the biggest gratification came from the service I had provided for my family – a healthy, tasty meal cooked with love. It was very successful and started me on my path of cooking!
I would hope that he had the courage to make a very exotic cuisine – like Mongolian or Ukrainian – but without meat! Find me that man and I’ll put a ring on it.
Lastly, which person on Earth, dead or alive, would you like to cook for the most? Who would you like to cook for you?
I would like to cook for my future husband already so I can win him over – and I would like my future kids to cook for me so I can know what it must have been like for my mom to have me take over the kitchen!
Can you describe what you might specifically cook for him? And, what would you like him to cook for you to return the favor?
I would want to cook something for my future husband that is impressive and shows him I have something very special to offer him– the ability to satisfy a hunger for food that is not only delicious, but secretly healthy! A good staple is smoked tempeh chili, maple roasted brussel sprouts, and guacamole with dried cranberries and – duh! – an avocado rose. Then dessert would be the vegan/gluten free donuts I’m getting into making with a dollop of chocolate coconut mousse!
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: June 21, 2017
Total questions: 10
Word count: 2007
Reading time: Eight minutes
Forts mentioned: 2
About the curator
Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.
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