In March, we “spring forward” into all of spring’s budding possibilities and “Kiss me I’m Irish” shenanigans. We see St. Patrick’s Day decorations and flowering plants begin to sprout up, decorating our world with green.
Green is one of my favorite colors. To me it inspires a sense of grounding and feels clean and crisp. But culturally, we have much conflicting symbolism connected with the color green. Green is as eco-friendly as it is envious, vile as it is lucky, ill as it is fresh.
The fact that the color green symbolizes luck and simultaneously characterizes envy is actually a contradiction that I wrestle with in my own spiritual life. How is it that at one moment I can feel as lucky as a four-leaf clover and the next minute I forget all my blessings and become green with envy over the blessings of another?
The entire first chapter of the Yoga Sutras help us to identify mental pitfalls such as greed (aparigraha) and give us practices to help us transcend. As for eliminating envy, the yoga sutras suggest cultivating happiness for others with grace for ourselves even if it is not our initial response.
Sutra 1.33 In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil. (maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam)
If we still can’t clear up our misperceptions, the more tangible practices of physical yoga, breath work and meditation can help us untangle many of these knots and create a sense of equanimity in our hearts and minds.
Sutra 1.34: The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice. (prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama)
If all else fails and you simply can not get out of a green envy funk, the Yoga Sutras suggest practicing contrary action, or ACTING AS IF YOU WERE GRATEFUL:
Sutra 2.33 When these codes of self-regulation or restraint (yamas) and observances or practices of self-training (niyamas) are inhibited from being practiced due to perverse, unwholesome, troublesome, or deviant thoughts, principles in the opposite direction, or contrary thought should be cultivated. (vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam)
Contrary action and contrary thought are some of my MOST useful spiritual tools. Nothing cures inaction like action. Can’t get your mind off of jealousy? Write a gratitude list. Stuck in a self-centered pity party? Go volunteer to help someone in need or simply call to check on someone and ask how THEY are doing instead of getting stuck in yourself.
We all fall into less-than-fresh thinking from time to time. The key is to keep growing, keep practicing and springing forth. As we continue to cultivate clear perception and still the fluctuations of our mind, we will be able to recognize our own truths and see that in our own individual way we are more than lucky, we are complete.
This is one of my new tactics against my annual sinus infections.
Go to your health food store and buy a small amount of each: cardamom, cinnamon stick, ginger root, turmeric root, black pepper, orange peel, cloves, astralagus root, ashwagandha, juniper berries and a box of rooibus tea for taste. Put about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of each in a tea ball or straight in a pot. Simmer 15-20 minutes – sip and enjoy taking care of your immune system this season.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde
A few days ago I was asked by a friend what the topic of my upcoming newsletter would be. “Self-Love!” I replied excitedly. My friend paused, and asked, “Shouldn’t we be focusing on loving and serving others instead of loving ourselves? Isn’t there enough self obsession in the world?”
This might be true if we were to confuse Self-love with self-obsession.
One need not be consumed with love for themselves to be self-obsessed. In fact, most people who are self-obsessed are gravely insecure. We live in a very judgmental culture. I would venture to guess that way more of us struggle with self-criticism than with self-congratulation. The truth is, we are constantly bombarded by an achievement based and materialistic culture that suggests we need to do more, buy more, and be better. This can consume our minds and obscure our true Divine Nature.
So, what I am speaking to here is not self-obsession. Nor am I suggesting you can gain healthy Self-love through pampering the physical body, or taking self-seeking actions that would harm another. Instead, I urge you to explore the practices of self-care as discussed in theEight Limbs of the Yoga Sutras.
The Yoga Sutras define the Self as your Soul or your Divinity, your Self with a capital S! Call it Energy, call it Spirit, God, or Universal Consciousness, but when I talk about you loving yourself I am recognizing that you are a Divine Creation. If you have even the vaguest sense of a Spirit/Energy/God within you, then why wouldn’t you treat yourself with the love you would extend to That which you honored and appreciated?
The very first verses of Patanjali’s yoga sutras help illuminate this concept. We have an authentic Self with in us, but often we cannot see it. We mis-identify ourselves with our egos. We compare ourselves with others, and try to figure out if we are “good enough” based on how we measure up to some arbitrary cultural expectations.
Yoga Sutra 1.2 states that, Yoga is the practice of controlling the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind. (yogash chitta vritti nirodhah) and that once we clear out the clamor of the mind – all the mental junk – then, like a dirty mirror wiped clean, we can begin to see our True Self.
1.3 Then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-realization.
(tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam)
When we take actions toward Self-love and self-care, through the practices of meditation, asana, and the rest of the eight limbs, we are not so caught up in the mental pitfalls of competition, comparison, and self-doubt. When you love yourself, you can see that you were created perfectly imperfect just as you are. So go ahead, give yourself some love. Accept yourself as you really are and use the tools of Yoga to explore a deeper personal understanding of the Spirit within you.
This is a fast and easy breakfast I eat on the run before my morning classes. The chia seeds give the body sustained energy, and the hemp seeds are an excellent source of protein.
I make a mix of the following seeds ahead of time and store it in a jar in the fridge. I buy all the seeds from the bulk section which you can find at any WholeFoods or health food store. Basically, I add 1/4cup of the seed mix to Greek Yogurt or instant oatmeal and usually add nuts and berries to make it a full bowl. Its SO EASY AND GOOD.
Power Seed Mix:
2 Cups Chia Seeds
2 Cups Hemp Seeds
1 Cup Buckwheat Groats
1 Cup Ground Flax Seeds
You may notice that in the photo there is a second jar. The smaller ball jar pictured contains the flax seed. I grind the flax seeds in an old coffee grinder because the body can absorb more nutrition from the flax seeds when they are ground. The reason I keep them separate from the rest of the mix is that flax seeds will go rancid quickly once ground. Click here for more on storing and using seeds.
When I add the mix to oatmeal I usually add a little more water to the oatmeal, as chia seeds are hydrophilic and will absorb some of the water. You can use quick oats or traditional oatmeal, whatever method you prefer.
That is pretty much it! It is easy, delicious and a great start to your morning.
#1 – Connect with others. Yoga builds a sense of community, co-opportunity and collaboration as you meet and share your journey with others.
#2 – Connect with yourself. A yoga practice allows you to set aside some “you time”. Practice provides an opportunity to regulate your energy, emotions, intuition, and overall state of mind/soul/spirit.
#3 – Maintain a healthy happy state of physical well being. Hatha yoga builds strength, flexibility, balance and prepares the body for the demands of everyday life. We all know physical exercise is good for us, and a spoon full of Asana makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way!
#4 – Breathe deeply. Breath practices help to build present moment awareness of the life force within you and the spirit that surrounds you. Plus, breath work helps to strengthen the respiratory system, and regulate the nervous system.
#5 – Practice detachment. Modern life can be so full of unwanted stimuli, it can be difficult to sort out which elements are actually worthy of our attention. Our yoga practice demands present moment attention, and as we practice this attentiveness we learn to let go of the past, weed out distraction, and detach from the future (which doesn’t even exist .
#6 – Learn to concentrate. Once we become well versed at detachment, it becomes easier to focus on the aspects of life that do matter to us. As we learn to concentrate, our mind sills and we find we have more time for study of self and study of Forces outside ourselves.
#7 – Meditation. The benefits of meditation are well documented. There are many techniques and paths towards meditation. Experiment and find a meditation practice that works for you and reap the benefits in your body, mind, and Spirit.
# 8 – Open to Bliss. Allow yourself to investigate what Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras describe as freedom through surrender to God. Surrender yourself to a belief, a hope, and investigate the power of faith: faith in the effects of your yoga practice and faith in a Power greater than yourself.
Embrace each of your senses in turnSeeing as being touched by lightHearing as immersion in an ocean of soundTasting as enlighteningSmelling as knowingTouching as electrifyingFollow the subtle pulsationsInto the spaciousness of the heartIntimate with the unknowable-The Radience Sutras #9 as translated by Lorin Roache
Over the past four years I have been making a concerted effort to re-define my understanding of God. Not an easy task as old ideas and sanskara run deep.
As I child I was very interested in religion and took it upon myself to walk to church and get to know Spirit. I loved Spirit! I remember reading the Psalms of David in my little pink Precious Moments Bible and mulling over “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1)
But somewhere along the way I started to develop a strange understanding of god. As I transitioned into adulthood and maturity, I somehow failed to grow in spiritual maturity. I came to know the god of my youth as a god of trials, and when I fell ill with Lupus and RA I came to believe that I must have these diseases because either, a)I did something wrong and deserved these trials, or, b) that god was using these diseases to “teach me a lesson”
These false ideas stayed with me throughout my 20′s. God was to be feared and suspected with a new “lesson” to anticipate around each corner. Prayers became selfish bargaining sessions begging for an easy way out. I was simply incapable of seeing the Good and the Blessing in life because of this strange fear of god.
Letting go of these false beliefs has been very difficult. Basically, I had to get into enough spiritual pain to admit that my views just weren’t working.
With the help of yoga philosophy, 12-step programs, and amazing mentors, I have been SLOWLY turning over my ideas and am becoming open enough to accept the possibility that GOD IS GOOD.
Fast forward, and today the Shakti is SO BRIGHT I gotta wear shades! No longer do I believe that pain is the only touchstone of spiritual growth, No longer do I feel that God puts obstacles in my path as my only means of spiritual growth. What about love? What about selfless service, what about devotion, dance, energy, beauty, senses, joy, peace? Can I not be taught just as profound of lessons through blessing as I can through trial?
My recent vacation to The Bahamas really sealed in this new assumption. Maybe, just maybe, God is beauty. Maybe God is love, selfless service, devotion, dance, energy, beauty, senses, joy, peace. This is God. And yes, there is a lot of MYSTERY… maybe God is all the Confusion too, that is all part of the messy Mystery, but as long as I keep my eyes off of myself, and on the blessings of creation, hopefully I can keep seeing the Good and ENJOY my life. After all, I am in remission from my R.A. I am safe, sober, sound and doing handstands in paradise.
Before taking a raw “cooking” course, I had this perception that preparing raw food would be difficult, timely or tedious. Turns out, it is totally fast and easy (just think, there is only prep time, no COOKING time!).
I remember it was about a year ago that a client gave me the book The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. Although I had every confidence in the healthy benefits of raw food, and was very interested in it, I just couldn’t find my way toward preparation of any of the recipes.
Thank Goodness the wheels of progress turn, and everything happens as it is supposed to, because now after three easy days with the guidance of a Raw Food Teacher, I am preparing raw meals each day, and experimenting with new fun variations.
My first experimentation with what I was taught is with raw chocolate. Earlier in the week my husband had purchased a chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt. This flavor combination may sound strange, but the sea salt paired with the almonds is a convergent taste bud delight! I decided that this combination would be delicious with the dark flavor of the raw cacao truffles, so: voila!!!
I just got back from a blissful trip to the Bahamas where I visited the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat and took a course on raw food preparation. We prepared many beautiful recipes, learned the power of raw super foods, how the enzymes in raw food bless your body, and explored raw food techniques such as sprouting.
I will be writing more posts soon documenting my adventures in sprouting, dehydrating, processing and assembling, and I can’t wait to bring some of my creations to class to share <3.
Like these Raw Chocolate Power Balls:
And everyone loves raw banana pudding (even The Gods):
My Teacher Grace Van Berkum making raw applesauce. Check out her website for more info on class offerings and retreats: http://www.gracevanberkum.com/
To prepare for my two week vacation to The Bahamas (with one week at the Sivananda Ashram on Nassau!!!) I will be subbing several extra classes to make up for my absence. In addition to my regular schedule, I am also subbing the following classes, starting TOMORROW April 16th.
There are a variety of times and class styles, so there should be something for everyone – including a Yoga Barre class that blends the strengthening aspects of Ballet barre work, sculpting exercises, and the fluidity of Yoga.
It is January, month of intention, resolution and perhaps life changing Sankalpa. As I understand Sankalpa, the purpose is to make a change that is positive and life-affirming, not one we will feel guilty about if we do not follow through, NOT AN EXERCISE IN SELF LOATHING!
With this in mind, please do not become overwhelmed when watching the movie trailer below (I become overwhelmed by these types of documentaries). Obviously, with the state of plastic in our world, we can no way avoid it all together. However, we can certainly take simple steps to cut down on our plastic usage and stop our waste of time, money, precious resources and of the planet.
Perhaps after watching this trailer you will want to join me in my resolution to cut down as best I can. Please post any ideas you have for cutting down on plastic usage, and check out the suggestions I have listed underneath the trailer<3
-refill old soap dispensers/shampoo/conditioner bottles at your local health food stores (The usually have liquids such as EO or Dr. Bronners in bulk)
-choose to buy grocery items with the least packaging possible. Avoid tiny plastic bags/packaged foods within a big plastic bag, all of which could be avoided from buying from the bulk bins at your local health food store)
-choose to buy products such as flour, grains, nuts and snacks from bulk bins. Bring your own paper or cornstarch bags to use if not available.
-bring your own bags to the grocery store (duh)
-when bags are needed (trash, etc) choose to buy those made of starches, such as corn based Bio Bags for trash and Pooch Pickups for dog waste and small items.
-reuse glass jars as to-go cups
-bring to-go mugs and cups with you to work, meetings, etc
-bring reused cups/jars/sigg/kleen kanteen, type bottles/cups with you to work-out
-in the moment, think about what you are buying/using, brainstorm and see if there is a less trash based choice
-Have some culinary adventures and cook for your family, friends and self with local fresh ingredients (farmer’s market time).
-bake some extra delicious home made cookies to avoid the packaging
-For some hard-core inspiration check out this zero waste family I read about in Sunset Magazine