Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Finding Balance

"There is eternal summer in a grateful heart."
Celia Thaxter


Summer is here, the Earth is in bloom. Hot, sunny days are balanced by cloudy, cooler days, and just like the shifting of seasons, there is transition of darkness into light. As visitors upon this Earth, all living beings are a part of nature. Influenced by changing conditions, we move through cycles, and are made up of native elements. Our bodies are a microcosm of the earth, full of rhythms, transitions, adaptation, and vibrant energies.

The season of summer reminds us that everything alive is made up of energy, which is the capacity or power to do work. Energy can exist in a variety of different forms, such as electrical, mechanical, manual, thermal, or nuclear, and can be transferred from one form to another. Active or passive, a balance exists in the nature of energy.

Understanding the nature of external energy is the first step in opening up to the internal energy that exists within each of us. There are ways to find balance in the mind, and in the body. In yogic philosophy, energy is broken up into feminine and masculine energies, known as Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is pure consciousness, Purusha. A primal masculine activating power pulled from the symbol of the sun. Shakti is the maternal provider of nourishing Prakriti. A comforting feminine principle of nature, symbolized by the changing phases of the moon. When these two energies unite, action, movement, and creation arise. This connection provides a pathway toward pure consciousness. Combining loving care, protection, vitality, clarity and knowledge.

In Taoism, the yin/yang symbol illustrates this essential balance that exists inside each of us. Qualities of these energies intermingle to create a balanced whole. The feminine yin energy connects us with the left side of the body. A darker, slower moving, passive, internal energy. The masculine yang energy connects us with the right side of the body. A lighter, faster-moving, active, external energy.

There are many layers of our inner and outer world. What is happening around us in our daily schedules or routines, universally and globally impacts our inner world. Practicing the art of silent observation, reflection and surrender can help us to adapt and survive the spontaneous qualities the external layers of our world throw at us. I like to relate these energies to actions that can stimulate the sympathetic response and the parasympathetic responses of the brain. Life is a constant balance, and we are intuitively searching moment to moment to find this balance within the mind and body. It is a safe, natural way to cope with the external world around us. Finding creative ways to bring an effort and an ease into our daily lives is a wonderful utilization of accessing the energies that already exist inside of us. Finding what is unique and preferred is the interesting part of the journey. Enjoy the guided breath described below, known as alternate nostril breathing. After 10-20 cycles of this breath, your mind will feel calmer, and your body more relaxed, creating a harmonious state of peace and balance.


"Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body."
Thich Nhat Hanh
Connect to Breath

Alternate nostril breath is a transformative breathing technique that brings a sense of peace and calm into the mind and body. Breathing in and out of each nostril independently, allows the feminine and masculine energies to move into balance.

Find a comfortable seat or lie down. Begin to relax your body, and breathe. Close your eyes. Noticing the inhale followed by the exhale is the first stage of finding balance. Slowly inhale through both nostrils, feel the ease of pulling the breath all the way into the body, fill up, and then with control exhale completely, allowing the breath to flow up the spine and out through both nostrils. Feel the warming breath on your upper lip. Pause. Hold the breath out of the body, and when ready, choose to breathe in again. Inhale slowly through both nostrils, fill up, and with control exhale completely. Take time to enjoy a couple more cycles of natural flow of breath. Inhale followed by exhale. Readjust your seat or body if lying down, make any adjustments to align your spine and relax. Rest your left hand down, and bring your right hand toward your face. Place the first two fingers on your forehead and press gently there. Close your eyes, returning to natural flow of breath, inhale followed by exhale, draw your awareness to the center of your forehead. Honor the sacred center of trust, intuition and inner wisdom that lies within each of us. Pause, linger in this place of breath and being. When ready exhale completely, and place your thumb over your right nostril. Slowly inhale through your left nostril. Take the time to fill your body up with breath, then place the first, second or both fingers over the left nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Notice the length of time it takes to fully release your breath, pause, then inhale through your right nostril. Close off your right nostril with your thumb, lift the fingers off your left nostril and exhale completely through your left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, close left and exhale right. Inhale through the right nostril, close right and exhale left. Inhale through the left nostril, close left and exhale right. Inhale through the right nostril, close right and exhale left. Continue for a total of 10-20 cycles. When you feel ready, exhale slowly through your left nostril. Release your hand back down, realign your seat and spine. With focus and control, inhale slowly through both nostrils, feel the ease of the breath pull into the body. Enjoy the inflation of breath, hold for 1-2 seconds, and then exhale the breath through both nostrils. Return your breath to a natural awareness of inhale followed by exhale. Open your eyes, notice the state of your mind and body.


"What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What  you imagine you create."
Buddha
Connect to our bodies and minds.

Daily Meditation can enhance your focus and concentration, bringing more space into your life.
Be gentle with yourself. There is always room to grow. Loving kindness meditation is a form of metta meditation, a connection to love. Set simple intentions, tangible goals, and be a positive support to others. Send healing energy to those people and places who need it the most. One minute, five minutes, ten minutes, or more, carve out a small pocket of time to just sit or lie down. Close your eyes, connect to your breath, one inhale and exhale at a time. 
Connect to the Earth

Enjoy the warmth of the sun on your skin. Lie down in a garden, or the grass, and feel the soft Earth beneath you. Settle down into gravity, and sink into the arms of the Earth. Simply enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. Look, listen, feel, touch, and taste all the experiences. Eat foods that are locally grown, and in season. The five senses are our superpowers. Nourishing our bodies and minds with rest, healthy food, clean water, and exercise intensifies them. Create beauty around you. Plant and grow your own garden. Find ways to mend the damage done to our Earth. Reuse and recycle resources. Bring your own bags when shopping. Collect rainwater in a barrel for outside watering. Hang clean laundry on a line, and let the sun dry it instead. Bring your own bags to the market when shopping. Light a candle instead of using electricity. 

Being present without an agenda, provide time and space to listen, stay patient, peaceful, and open to connections that may otherwise be invisible to some. Enjoy a leisurely walk or a hike in nature. Go for a swim, or take a long bike ride. Notice the changing phases of the Moon, the Earth's seasons, and honor Mother Nature's oceans, lakes, mountains, and forests. 


"If your compassion doesn't include yourself, it is incomplete."
Buddha

Finding balance within ourselves acknowledges the importance of who we are. When we feel validated, there is more patient space to offer to others. We need to love, support, and strengthen ourselves, so we can then love, support, and strengthen those who need our nurturing, our care, and our attention. To empower and accept each other is crucial to our survival. Surrendering to the magic of our divine feminine and masculine energies, creates a universal peace.

We must believe that it is possible to share knowledge, to provide health care, to improve the safety and sanitary conditions of children and families globally, to protect our planetary resources, ~ such as food, water, air, soil, energy, and connecting to the goodness that all living beings require and deserve to thrive.

I have not been drawn to write. The transient, temporary seasons have served as an inspiration, a reminder of the constancy of change. Large and small, change is inevitable. Exposed, vulnerable, raw, my words are hanging on an extended branch for all to see, but only few to read. I accept that. I persevere. Writing provides a platform for me to let go of what no longer serves me. This blog is a gentle offering, subtle suggestions that have softened my resistance, and helped me to adapt to change.

"When words are both true and kind they can change the world."
Buddha


"To write is to seek the truth behind one's inner chatter and then to put it out there. It is to believe we can improve upon the silence. It is to have faith in the power of words to provoke us, connect us, heal us. It is to have faith, period." 
Katrina Kenison




This post is dedicated to all those who are in the changing seasons of joy and blessings or heartache and loss, we are all in this together.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Green Smoothie

"When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need."
Ayurvedic Proverb



Here is my green smoothie recipe for increased energy and vitality! A great way to boost your metabolism, and help shift your body from winter into spring. This is a basic recipe tested and tasted, it works well with creative options (protein powders, collagen, spirulina) added in for a nutrition boost. If you want a sweeter version, a spoonful of raw honey or pure maple syrup will do the trick. So try it, experiment with your ingredients, and share your results!




For best results use a high power machine for breaking up raw vegetables and fruit fibers.

You will need:

1 washed organic green apple, a ripe pear or both! (cut up with skin on)

1/2 ripe avocado and/or 1 spoonful of *coconut oil

2 washed organic celery ribs (sliced to fit in your blender)

1/2 frozen banana (pre-peeled, cut up and frozen into chunks for easy use)

1 whole organic orange, clementine or lemon (ends cut off, freshly squeezed with a few slices of rind)

1 small washed organic carrot (cut up with skin on)

1 thumb-size piece of raw ginger (peeled and roughly cut-up)

moderate handful of organic washed baby spinach leaves or *super greens

1- 1 1/2 cups *coconut water, *aloe vera juice or cold spring water

Puree all ingredients and enjoy! Best if consumed in the morning.




*Benefits:

Green apples and pears are full of fiber! They promote cardiovascular, digestive and respiratory health. Best stored in refrigerator or cool environment.

Celery is an excellent source of antioxidants, beneficial enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Celery lowers inflammation assisting in balanced cholesterol and blood pressure levels. A wonderful digestive aid, reducing bloating, protecting the liver and decreasing ulcers. It has amazing anti-microbial and chemo protective compounds called polyacetylenes that help reduce toxicity, and fight against cancer cell formation.

Bananas are instant energy, full of natural sugars (sucrose, fructose and glucose), amino acids (tryptophan boosting serotonin levels), iron, potassium, magnesium, and are high in soluble fiber.
The ripened dark patches on banana skin produces a substance called TNF (tumor necrosis factor) which has the ability to combat abnormal cells, promotes higher immunity enhancement and chemo protective qualities.

Avocado are high in heart healthy monounsaturated fats, promotes eye health and brain function, improving nutrient absorption. They are full of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Coconut oil is a natural saturated fat, that increases healthy (HDL) cholesterol levels in the body. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids that are metabolized efficiently creating energy, boosting brain, cardiac, kidney and immune function. It is an anti-inflammatory, chemo protective oil that helps skin glow, prevents gum disease and tooth decay.

Citrus fruits are powerhouses with too many benefits to list here, but some amazing qualities enhance your brain, heart, kidneys, skin, bones, digestive and immune systems. The citrus peels contain 5-10 times more vitamins and nutrients than the fruit itself, so if you are using the rinds, buy organic and wash the fruit thoroughly. Citrus fruits are a solid source of fiber, folate, antioxidants, phytonutrients (biologically active compounds found in plants), and Vitamin C assisting in the absorption of iron.

Carrots are full of vitamins A, K, folate, B6 and minerals of manganese, potassium, copper and iron. They help balance blood sugar levels, assist in healthy heart and eyesight function, and boosts digestive and immune systems.

Ginger is a wonderful anti inflammatory digestive aid. It is a chemo protective, immune boosting and pain sensory inhibitor root spice. Best consumed raw, sliced or grated.

Super greens are kale, spinach, collards, beet and turnip greens, red and green romaine, swiss chard, arugula, parsley, and many more. They are full of vitamins A, C, E and K, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory. You really can't get enough of these nutrient dense greens filled with immune boosting power and cellular regenerators. Super greens can be eaten in their natural state (green leafy vegetables, broccoli), or in a compressed green powder, easing their way into smoothies. I personally like to promote the lesser processed foods, this smoothie tastes great with fresh green leafy super greens. Check your local health food store and explore the different options.

Coconut water has so many health benefits. It's an excellent anti-inflammatory, rehydration drink, full of electrolytes, amino acids and trace minerals boosting energy and balancing blood sugar levels. Coconut water contains cytokinins, the plant version of human cytokines. This hormone like substance enhances the reproductive, growth and development, skin repair, cellular healing, homeostatic regulation, blood clotting and immune systems of the body!

Aloe Vera juice is a rich source of hydrating antioxidants, cell growth stimulators, pain inhibitor properties, and essential nutrients. It's a powerhouse of calcium, sodium, iron, potassium, manganese,  zinc, folic acid, Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E and amino acids.



Sunday, February 5, 2017

Super Bowl 2017

"No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted." Aesop


Friday morning. Spirit day. Sean says, "Mom! Where's my Patriots shirt?" Finding it in the bottom of the drawer, he put it on and the sleeves ended two inches above his wrist. "Mom, can I please wear it anyway?" Heading into school with a shirt too small for his growing body, we talked about getting a new Patriots shirt to wear on Sunday. After drop off, William and I visited my Mom for breakfast, then we started our list of errands. Four stores later, we discovered all Patriots gear for kids SOLD OUT!  I was becoming weary, and William was losing patience with me. Our last ditch effort to one more stop closer to home brought us to a small sports gear shop in Woburn. We walked in and saw lots of Patriots accessories, but again Patriots shirts sold out. All that was left were the expensive Super Bowl 2017 Jerseys at $75 a shirt! We talked with the young store clerk about the upcoming game, thinking it was just the three of us in the store, I heard another voice say, "Excuse me, but would you buy the jersey if I paid for half?" I peered around the large football display and saw an old man sitting on a bench trying on shoes. His bright blue eyes twinkled from under his tweed scally cap, his large belly shaking as he smiled, and asked me again, "I'm an old man with nothing but time and money, please let me donate half of the money for your son to have a jersey to wear on Sunday." I looked over at the store clerk, who was beaming from ear to ear, of course my eyes started to well up.

I walked over to the kind man, as he proceeded to open his wallet, and hand over $40 cash to the store clerk. Denying such a beautiful gesture would have been a sin. I squeaked out a "thank you", and the tears kept rolling. "Why are you crying?" asked the old man. I took a deep breath to compose myself, and started explaining how this is the first Super Bowl without my Dad, and how he would have bought my son a Patriots jersey already in anticipation of Sunday's game. I sat down on the bench next to this sweet old man, I gave him a hug, we exchanged warm introductions and talked more. He asked me about my Dad, his name, and how he came to pass away. It was easy to tell him what happened, and the similarities between this stranger and my Dad became quite palpable. My Dad was a giving man, he was all about my boys. He was also a businessman, and would frequently offer up deals and transactions with me. We had such a genuine exchange of understanding and connection, turning the conversation slowly into a more up-lifting one, "My name is Paul", he said. "I'm a retired dentist from Woburn. I have 8 children and too many grand children to keep up with. What is life without small happinesses in your day? Let me give you this gift in honor of your Dad. A little present from Phil in Heaven."

20 minutes passed before I made it up to the counter to complete the purchase of the Patriots jersey for my son. The store clerk commented on how Paul came in the store all the time, and was a great guy. The clerk proceeded to give me his employee discount, and knocked off another $10 from the jersey! Thanking him too, I ended up paying $20 for a Super Bowl 2017 Tom Brady jersey for my lucky 8 year old son.

William gave Paul a high-five, and he received one more hug from me. I left the store with a full heart, a renewed sense of hope for humanity, and the realization that Earth Angels do exist, we just have to stay open to finding them.

Go Patriots!


"The heart that gives, gathers." Tao Te Ching


"It's not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of spirit." J.R.R Tolkien


"All you need is LOVE is all you need." Lennon & McCartney

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yoga for Everyone


"True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn't care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga its essence must be embodied. "  A. Palkhivala



Yoga is a movement based therapy that offers benefits of stress reduction, increased strength, balance, and flexibility. The sanskrit word, "yoga" is defined as "to yoke", "draw together", or "unite". Yoga combines and coordinates breath with movement. There are many different types of yoga to explore, finding a specific style of yoga that suits your needs is personal preference. Take the time to read the details of a specific class, arrive early to meet the teacher, and ask questions as yoga classes can vary in levels. A beginner class is gentle on the body, and can offer specific instruction for alignment and safety. A basic flow class is low impact, informative and energizing. Intermediate or vigorous can be challenging, postures build upon each other to strengthen and balance the body. Many teachers and studios offer private yoga classes to help you get started. Yoga is for everyone. It can be done anywhere, anytime. It's non-competitive and adaptable. Yoga harnesses the power of your breath, elevating and empowering your potential, strength, and confidence.


Yoga helps to create the mind, body, breath connection. 


The mind can be a complicated, layered and chaotic place to be. Time travel is alive and well in the mind as we move from the past, present, and future within our thoughts. We all have responsibilities in our lives to fulfill, and the lists of things to remember and accomplish can get long. With an awake mind we can begin to concentrate, focus more clearly and bring space and balance into a busy mind. Mindfulness is the active awareness of what is happening to us and in us moment to moment. It is an access point to which we can begin to explore the interior landscape of ourselves without judgment. Utilizing the breath as an anchor, we can gently begin to stay present with all aspects of the breath. We are always in transition. Change is constant, our bodies teach us this everyday.


The breath is essential to life. 


Learning to breathe consciously can help restore balance in the mind and body. Some benefits observed are reduced feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, blood pressure stabilization, increased energy levels and relaxation. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts can be influenced by our breath. Physiologically, the stress response triggers the sympathetic nervous system which prepares your body for perceived danger, rapid, shallow breathing, increased heart rate and blood pressure. When you consciously breathe deeply, slowly, and with awareness, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This can help bring a sense of confidence, control and calm into the mind which assists in slowing down the breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.


"Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together." B.K.S Iyengar



A purposeful and attentive yoga practice has been my focus over the last 12 years. A slow flow yoga class emphasizes mindful breathing, being, and moving of the body. Deliberate movements coordinated with breath gently increase circulation within the body, adds fluidity to the joints, provides strength, balance, and mobility in the extremities and spine.

As we become more connected to what is happening while moving and breathing, physical sensation is explored. Engaging and experiencing slower movement is about learning how to stay in the present moment, to let superfluous thoughts go, and start to craft non-judgmental emotions towards ourselves, to find contentment, healing and well being in mind and body.  Just as every experience has the potential to teach us, moving the body slowly with purpose, while keeping the mind awakened to the breath builds a greater whole body awareness.

~Addendum~

On January 12, 2017, I had the privilege to host a workshop introducing and discussing the benefits of yoga for a group of people looking to develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle. The information I have written for this blog post was the foundation for the presentation, but an instinctive need to embody the experience of yoga persisted. At the heart of the discussion and the practice was the breath, as it continues to be the spark, the greatest connection of mind and body. Perhaps it was the auspicious nature of the full moon that evening that allowed such an open, honest flow of conversation and insights. I would like to take this opportunity to further explore some of the amazing questions that were asked that evening. Expanding on the concept of creating an imaginary tool box filled with unique ways of coping with the ordinary stress of life, and assisting in the process of positive lifestyle change.

1. What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a term used to describe a more attentive way of being. Staying focused on the present moment, staying aware of one task at a time, consciously noticing, watching, and observing what is happening to us and in us without judgment or reaction. There are so many distractions in today's society, the immediate access of information can be a blessing and a curse. Mindfulness helps to break down what is important moment to moment. What can wait? What can be deleted from our "to do" list? What is necessary in this moment? Subtle questions to ask to keep us on track, a reminder of what our goal or goals may be. Synergistically, the term Mindfulness works easily with meditation. Meditation is a quiet practice of sitting or lying down where the focus is to go inside and explore the layers of the mind, the sensations of the body, and the inflation and deflation of the breath. During my yoga training at the Kripalu Center of Yoga and Health, I was taught the Practice of Being Present, which included 5 principles to help stay on track. "BRFWA" is an acronym for Breathe ~ Relax ~ Feel ~ Watch ~ Allow, a simple technique for being present with our moment to moment experience.

The Practice of Being Present

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

2. How does yoga help me to stay healthy?

As described above, yoga is an exercise that guides the body to move in conjunction with the breath. Moving the body burns calories, improves circulation, builds strength, balance and assists in the process of becoming more flexible. Stretching muscles, tendons, ligaments and massaging inner organs are the key intentions of a yoga practice. Breathing in and out with awareness, and moving the physical body helps to keep the mind focused on the present moment. In life we must have balance. Most of us have to work and that is different for everyone. Sitting, standing, lifting, or driving, work can offer may hazards to the body. Making choices over meals that bring us energy may or may not be that easily accessible due to time or financial constraints. Practicing yoga or any exercise can help keep us healthy by increasing our heart, and working out the body in different ways than our profession or job position allows. The practice of yoga can help us make better choices about what will truly nourish and benefit the mental and physical body. A yoga practice helps to gently guide how we can listen to our bodies. We are encouraged to find our "edge", a place where your body feels challenged. Yoga is an effort and it is also easeful. Being guided by comfort and breath, we rest when needed. Yoga teaches discipline, with a regular practice of showing up on your mat, and showing up for yourself. Yoga opens space for kindness and gratitude that what you are doing is enough in this moment. At the end of a class, thankfulness and appreciation is a closing intention. Try your first free yoga class with me every Wednesday evening 730-9p in Winchester, MA at Yoga Mandala.
3. What does connecting to the breath mean?

In a normal busy day we breathe quick and shallow, it becomes automatic. The breath is a necessity of life, the body knows this, and helps us out by doing it for us. When we take the time to regain control and focus over our breath we bring back a powerful tool to help rebalance our mind and body. Connecting to breath means noticing, watching, becoming aware of how it feels to breathe deeper, causing an expansion of the upper chest and rib cage and fullness into the lower abdomen. Filling up our lungs with breath increases the availability of oxygen to our bodies, actively exhaling, releasing the breath from the body, helps to create a sense of calm and peace in mind and body. Dr. Herbert Benson of the MGH Mind Body Institute wrote a book in 1975 called, 'The Relaxation Response.' His research, studies, and published articles discuss the body's response to stress. The findings discuss how the relaxation response alleviates symptoms of anxiety, and also affects factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, and brain activity. The body interacts with the breath at a specific point in the breathing cycle, the exhale. The moment the breath is completely out of the body is the exhale. This conscious pause has a great effect on our ability to learn new information, to take control, and to refocus. Acknowledging the breath, and its subtle changes, helps to change the way we think, opening up possibilities of behavior modification.

It was a pleasure and a humbling experience to engage such a wonderful group of people. I look forward to the next workshop on March 14, 2017!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Full Moon 40

"Pay attention. Be astonished. And tell about it. We're soaked in distractions. The world didn't have to be beautiful. We can and should think about that beauty and be grateful." Mary Oliver


Last Saturday, my mother and sister took me out for an early birthday dinner. Driving into Boston in the late afternoon, stuck in traffic, we chatted with ease, jumping around to different topics without worrying about making sense of any of it. I was happy to be together with my family, and they made me feel special by carving out time to remember my birthday. After discussing why we always forget to get in the HOV lane, I asked "Where we were going?" My sister laughed and said, "It's a surprise!"

Moving at a snail's pace, I gazed out the car window and saw myself staring back at me. I haven't been looking forward to turning 40. I'm not in any mood to be contemplative, no mood to think, no mood to feel, needless to say, this blog post has been a challenge. These days I am moving from task to task. I've been playing out the repetitive motions of daily life, filling it up with the details of getting things done. Crossing off lists, and quickly making new ones, which doesn't leave much time for having fun or making social plans. Most days I feel like I'm treading hard to keep my head above water, and other days I feel like I've been hit by a tidal wave. I'm pretty good at hiding my emotions, but not to my immediate family. My mother insists I am doing too much, and I know she is right. As I'm writing this now, I realize that I have been staying busy on purpose. I want the distraction, to tire my mind and my body out so sleep will come. For the last part of this year, change has been so harsh, so finite, and so shocking. My Dad's fast illness, and passing left us all in a state of distress. If I call my sister, she answers by asking, "Is everything okay?" immediately jumping to worst case scenario conclusions. We are both living out of fear. Fear, a word that has different meanings for everyone. Fear of loss, fear of change, fear of exile. Fear takes on so many forms, and sneaks into your life and sleep. The news is a constant living nightmare, the world at unrest, injustice, endless and senseless violence is overwhelming. I know I am not alone, darkness is balanced by the light. Mostly, I've been taking care of my health and my body, but my mind is anxious. Any actions that cease my worried mind are welcome, and I do seek them out. Being with my boys is the best, they are filled with so much positive, present, palpable energy I can't help but keep my full attention on them. Exercise and yoga helps, but my husband's calm, confident strength carries me. He helps me to see how the burdens of everyday life can turn into blessings. Recently, my clothes dryer broke, and I've been driving to my Mom's house every couple days to do loads of laundry. At the kitchen table of my childhood, I sit across from my mother. She listens, I listen. She justifies my worries, validates my concerns, renews me with her experiences, and I begin to understand how reaching out to others softens sadness and suffering. Life is precious, fragile, and grief is stifling, confining and energy depleting.  It's these small moments of time and togetherness with my family, that offer the most healing.


"The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It's always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it's a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections."
Tahereh Mafi


Our car turned into the archway of the Boston Harbor Hotel. The warm orange glow of the low setting sun erased from our view. We parked easily, and walked along the wharf.  My Mom and sister moved quickly through the cold winds that blew over the water. I lingered to look at the bright moon that was rising fast. This year my birthday falls on the full moon, and I am trying to maintain my faith in humanity in a world full of uncertainty. Even in my daily life, I seek out the moon as it changes, and observe its phases in a state of wonder. It's a constant I find comfort in, so I made an early birthday wish on the gorgeous supermoon. A wish for peace, love, happiness and hope.

We found the only open door into the hotel, and peered around at the lavish details of dignified nautical interiors, and warmed our hands before checking our coats. Fresh greenery, red poinsettias, and festive ornaments decorated a large Christmas tree in the center of the lobby. People were talking closely in cozy sitting areas as we walked towards the restaurant. As my family confirmed our reservation, I locked eyes with my sister, all at once I knew she had done something. I can get caught up in the details of my life, this dinner with my family was on my calendar. I wasn't prepared for a big social event, and I was pretty sure they knew I didn't like surprises.

The next couple moments played out like a slow motion movie scene. I was truly surprised by old friends and new friends who had taken time out of their busy before Christmas weekend to celebrate me. Tears and pink champagne flowed, personalized pots of tea were steeping, cakes and sandwiches were served, and rose petals decorated the table. My friends and family surrounded me like shining jewels of a treasure I spent my whole life mining for. The friends you choose, and the friends that stay with you, are a reflection of your true self. These women are genuine, caring, salt of the earth angels. Friends that you can visit after a long time has passed and the conversation picks up easily right where it left off. Friends you can call day or night when you need help during tough times, or just to hear a reassuring voice. Friends that save music, books, magazines, and clothes for you because they know what you like to hear, to read, and what your style is. Friends that pop over just to give you a hug because they were in the area. Friends that buy tickets to a concert knowing you would change whatever plans you may have to go. Friends that send two pieces of a chocolate hazelnut torte home with your husband clearly stating they are for you, and you only. These are my people, my tribe, my community of love and support. I am the lucky one. We all enjoyed a late afternoon tea, and I couldn't stop smiling. I knew I would see everyone soon so there were no long goodbyes, but on the way out my sister whispered to me, "You know Dad would be really proud of you and all that you do."


"Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel, energies are contagious."
Rachel Wolchin


Today is my 40th birthday. I feel good, comfortable in my skin. I know who I am, what I want, what I need, and have the courage to pursue my dreams. To not celebrate gratitude, kindness and generosity is a sin. So, I am rejoicing my life, my health, my family, my friends, my work, my passions. 

Every day is a gift, and I welcome a future unknown.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Healing Gardens


"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." May Sarton


The summer, like all seasons, people, and living things has passed. We are heading into the brisk winds, and golden hours of fall which marks another time of change, the constant state of all things. Really every moment brings something new, it's up to us to see it, embrace it, and accept it.

With new seasons comes new blessings of gratitude. I really wanted a garden this year, but last spring brought another plan for me. I am now enjoying the bounty of garden tomatoes, green tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, sweet peas, zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, peppers, and rhubarb. The sweet remembrance of rosemary, the cooling bite of mint, the cleansing quality of sage, the gentle calm of lavender, and the adventure of wild thyme. Honoring the gardens of family and friends, and acknowledging that sometimes leaning on others is necessary. Life is about sharing, receiving, and giving. I feel blessed to have stolen a few moments in the summer sun, and lingered in these beautiful gardens. We truly reaped more than what was sowed. 

Thank you

"Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden." Robert Brault





"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrows." Audrey Hepburn




This post dedicated to all those who have showered us with love, attention, support, and smiles. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Force

"The Force is strong in these two."

"There are moments which mark your life. Moments when you realize nothing will be the same and time is divided into two parts- before this and after this." Lauren Kate

It's been three months of swift change, an April 1st joke that wasn't a joke. My Dad was diagnosed with end stage renal cancer, and he survived for 74 days post diagnosis. As I come away from an intense family experience of taking care of him at home, I feel depleted and saddened by his loss. My mother and sister stepped up to the hospice challenge like professional sports players.  It was what my Dad wanted, to be comfortable, to be home, to be surrounded by those he loved, to have closure with his family.  In a weird way, it was a gift to have these last couple months with him, he was aware of everything, and wise words flowed from him like he was a sage waiting for this moment to share deep and important mysteries learned in one lifetime. To say I loved my Dad completely almost doesn't do our relationship justice. My Dad taught me to be strong, independent, to pursue education fiercely, to be kind, to love, and to be happy. A family man to the core, the best Dad I could ask for, adventures around every corner, music, laughter, joy, and the most amazing Papa to my boys. So, while going through the transitions of change, losing my Dad, my friend, my co-grandparent, I am now faced with my first summer without him.

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - that is to have succeeded." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

My boys are 7 and 4, their whole lives revolve around family. They know love through the support of family and friends. My husband is a man with quiet, compassionate strength, who stood by me like the magnificent redwoods we traveled to visit on our honeymoon. Over the last 74 days, I drove to my parents house and helped my mother care for my father. All our efforts focused on his comfort, we cleaned, cooked, washed everything, assisted my Dad to shave, shower, and get dressed. The best days were when we could get him outside, he felt the springtime breeze on his face, and he enjoyed special time with my boys. The importance of showing my children the reality, and inevitability of death wasn't something I thought about, but exposing them to a dying man who was their hero didn't faze them. Hugs, kisses and snuggles abounded, and it was exactly what we all needed. Children have a way of staying right in the present moment, and that's where we should be.

"Change is the only constant in life." Heraclitus

My Dad believed in the right to die. Long conversations with his oncologist revealed that if my Dad couldn't live the life he wanted to live, why would he want to prolong an illness that isn't curable? He posed textbook ethical questions to us, and to his doctors. We talked about maintaining dignity, and respect for the human body. He endured 3 weeks of palliative radiation to help alleviate some pain, as the cancer spread to his bones and his spine. My Dad had some serious courage; having the strength to face the inevitable without fear. To seek comfort with quality of life as the goal is what drove his decision to not pursue chemotherapy. I believe my Dad confronted his diagnosis with bravery and honor. Of course there were moments of doubt and fear that crept in, and I rallied my inner reserves to have the most difficult discussions of my life with my Dad. I helped calm his anxiety with deep breathing, and we talked extensively about meditation, finding peace, and letting go. One day we used the imagery of a caterpillar going inside its chrysalis to wait patiently for the metamorphosis to occur.

"Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation." Rumi

When someone you love dies, they still live on in your heart and mind. The memory won't let go, and the ache that sustains never really goes away. Everyday, my younger son asks where Papa is. Why can't we see him anymore? Where did he go?  We talk about Heaven and how it is all around us, in the sky, the sun, the moon, in the earth, the trees, plants and flowers, in the air, and the water. It seems natural to discuss the tangible qualities of our beautiful planet that surround our senses. My older son says Papa is in the wind that rustles through the leaves, the grass that tickles our feet, the warmth of the sun that we feel on our skin, the repetitive sound of the rain, or the constancy of ocean waves rolling in and rolling out. Our church, our sanctuary, is in nature, and we feel it everyday.

My grief is ongoing, I try not to dwell on the loss, but focus on remembering all I have because of my Dad. I think a lot about my Mom, and how she faces her future after 45 years of marriage to one man who is now gone. Smile, live, love, that is what he would want us to do. I gather my strength, my perseverance, my love, and push on.

"Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is." Master Yoda

There are moments of solace and refuge that come in the sweet faces of my boys. Their ability to understand the tragic and complicated events of life continue to impress me. Their faith in what they know is true, consoles my heart. My children are huge 'Star Wars' fans, they believe in the Force. Both boys play out detailed scenes of Han Solo and Chewbacca flying the Millennium Falcon, battling the Empire in their quest of freedom to the galaxy. Yoda, Luke Skywalker, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are the Jedi Knights they strive to be. One night in April we were reading our bedtime stories, and 'The Legendary Yoda', was part of the book stack that always seems too big to get through before bed.  In the fictional series 'Star Wars', Yoda was defender of the galaxy, Master of the Force, and the greatest Jedi who has ever lived. He was 900 years old when he passed away.  Below is a summary taken from the book we read that night, written by Catherine Saunders.

The "Force" surrounds all living things. This powerful energy has a light side and a dark side. The light side is used for good; expressed as love, kindness, caring, compassion, empathy, and joy. The dark side is used for evil; expressed as hate, sadness, jealousy, regret, fear, anger, and confusion. Those who live the light side of the "Force" are respected by those who value peace, justice, and freedom, and feared by those who use the dark side of the "Force". When living beings of the light side of the "Force" pass on, the wisdom and knowledge of the "Force" shows that death is simply a part of nature, and not to be feared because death is not the end. They live on through all light users of the "Force" and surround us always. These powers are strong and the spirit becomes one with the "Force".

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Just a Little Green

"Just a little green, like the color when the Spring is born."

Spring feels early this year, my bulbs are pushing through the dirt, they blossomed beautifully, and then were promptly blanketed with a last minute snow fall. I watched the clock switch from 1am to 3am during the Spring Equinox, we celebrated many birthdays, and our St. Patrick's day dinner was followed by an enormous sugar loaded Easter. The month of March is closing out, flying into April.

My life is moving in fast forward. When I am home, the minutes fly by like seconds, my hours feel like minutes. The pull of this chaotic energy has me less engaged, disconnected, floating around on auto pilot. I'm a zombie, going through the motions of breakfast, morning, afternoon, and bedtime routines, school drop off, school pick up and work. My small tasks turn into large tasks, and distraction is ever present. Long to do lists, high expectations, and the daily activities of life's responsibilities are overwhelming. Despite all this, one foot shuffles in front of the other. I stand strong. I persevere.

"Call her green and the winter's cannot fade her."


With my life in the fast lane, I need to slow down. Actually, I want to stop!  I don't want to go to work, I don't want to run another errand, I don't want to do anymore laundry, dishes, or make one more snack. Everyone has something they gravitate towards when life feels like it is spinning out of control. I remember time lingering when I was young, the changes in one day seemed to last forever. A pale pink, and orange sun rising, a leisurely, golden afternoon rolling into my favorite blue hour of the evening. I found time to have fun, and enjoyed the small gifts that life had to offer.  Lounging in a ray of sunshine, hidden away, I would get lost in reading books, lots of books. The first book I read all the way through was "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My Grandmother gave it to me as a gift, she wrote a full inscription on the title page. I was so proud of myself for reading such a long book, all 298 pages of it. The simple descriptions of beauty created a world I longed to jump into. I wanted more. So, I read more, and soon I began to write.



"Might I have a bit of earth?" F.H.B


Words that flow from heart and mind are glorious, putting pen to paper is a way for me to set aside fears, anxiety, worry, and to stay present in my life. Writing offers an opportunity to stop and reflect on everything, I find clarity by giving my feelings and emotions value. I have kept a journal for 29 years now, lots of aggression, frustration, and inspiration have been written down in many different forms of handwriting, and grammatical configurations. When I was 11 years old, my best friend gave me my first journal. I wrote in it everyday. When I look back and re-read some of my old entries, I am immediately transported. It's like a form of time travel in my mind. Current situations are given perspective, as I remember that I've been through tough times, I've made my way through, and now I'm stronger, resilient, less vulnerable.

These days the best gift of all is a journal or a book. Both of which take time to enjoy. Time waits for no one. We are here today. Take it by the reigns, ride it, and make the most of it. I keep a journal with me at all times, you never know when a free moment may randomly pop into your life. I just need a few moments to gather my thoughts, acknowledge them, validate them and let them go. Prioritizing responsibilities, setting aside the things that are not necessary right now, creates more space. When you take your time back, it opens up like a vast plain that wasn't visible before.

A journal is personal, a sacred space to write for yourself, honestly, and non-judgmentally. A blank page filled with the possibility of hopes, dreams, and the things that are cherished deeply and gratefully. For me, writing is like pushing away the cobwebs, or dusting off an old piece of furniture. I clear away mental clutter and regain my energy. Writing about difficult situations, and challenging decisions helps me to not waste time overthinking or over-analyzing things repetitively. I need to write to remind myself that I am on a path that makes me happy and satisfied.  I often write letters to myself titled, "Do not open until 21st birthday", or "Do not open until 40th birthday".

I kept journals for both my boys while I was pregnant, and through their first few years of life. Small moments of the day during their naps, I heard the church bells ring, I heard the birds sing, I truly enjoyed the gifts of those slow, beautiful early days of motherhood. I really didn't want them to end. We were on our own time schedule. While I wrote, I kept thinking how wonderful it would have been to have a journal from my Mother, with details of my likes and dislikes, or experiences and decisions I had made at an early age. When I write for my boys, I include quotes and song lyrics along with my thoughts and observances about them. My goal is to raise kind, compassionate, smart, sensitive boys who turn into men that are able to communicate clearly, form coherent thoughts and execute them gracefully, and ambitiously. With a strong sense of self awareness, and self identity at an early age, I hope they will have more of a chance to find happiness in their work, love, and life as they grow older. With the pulse of the universe pushing us forward, we must pause, take a deep breath, and remember, all we have and all we are is here.

"And the seasons they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down. We're captive on the carousel of time. We can't return, we can only look behind from where we came, and go round and round and round in the circle game."


Picture caption words by Joni Mitchell

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Soul Care

"When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos, introduce yourself to each color of the sunset. Reacquaint yourself with the Earth beneath your feet. Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take. Find yourself in the appreciation of life."    C.A. Martine


We all breakdown, we all do too much.  Life is difficult, unpredictable, scary, it causes physical stress, anxiety and a worried mind. Finding time for self care is almost non-existent in the hurry of everyday life. For those that regularly take time to care for your mind and body, congratulations! If you are like me, daily activities can provoke hectic situations, with constant allowances made when you are responsible for other people's health, safety and care. Work and financial stress is a major prohibiting factor in finding that extra time needed to rest, gather your thoughts, or even take a breath. There are days when I feel like a toy wound up too tight, and I am spinning in all directions. These crazy days weaken me, and then I go to work without my armor on, feeling vulnerable, and overly sensitive. Not performing at my best, my defenses are lowered, miscommunication and mistakes happen, the heavy weight on my shoulders pushes me down, everything seems more overwhelming than it actually is.

It is from this point of depletion that I am in need of strength, support, and love.  I could close myself off from others, lash out with anger to those I care for, keep my feelings inside, let them fester and eat away at any healthy piece of goodness left, or I can reach out to my trusted network of friends and family, and slowly begin the process of replenishing body and mind. Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband and caring boys who are on the ready to give me what I need, when I am down and out. They can help me physically, by allowing me rest time, they make me meals, clean the house, and keep up with the mundane tasks of dishes, laundry, and home maintenance. But, in order to feel whole, to pick up the pieces of my broken self, I must do the inner work.

No matter what your situation, there will always be struggles. We are all unique and must forge our own paths of health and happiness. Listen to each other, lift the weight off another shoulder, find support, utilize resources, ask for help. Nourish and care for yourself from the inside out.

As we close out this year, and prepare to begin a new one, I would like to share my tools for inner healing with you. These are just ideas and suggestions, that I know from experience work for me. One of the greatest delights of life is finding out who you are! Recognize that you grow, change and develop constantly. Every experience, positive or negative helps to reshape your confidence, worth, motivation, power to love and be loved. Discover what heals you, what makes you happy, and what makes you feel better in a wholesome, beneficial way.

"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."  C.S. Lewis

When we are born, we are born with a soul. Our soul is made up of everything that can't be seen, touched, or held. Your soul connects to your personality, feelings, thoughts, morals and values. It is your inner identity and has many layers. Each layer comes together to form the person you are right now. As you experience life, there are growths and hindrances that steer us toward or away from our purpose. Find the elements that strengthen your soul, this is the key to engaging a more fulfilling, and universally connected life.

"Home is a refuge, not only from the world but from worries, and terrible concerns. Surrounding yourself with beautiful things delights the eyes and lifts up the soul." M. Angelou

Your home should be havens where quiet, rest, and security abound. It is your sanctuary from excess stimulation, fill it with love and a sense of ease. Find a place in your home where you can go to sow down and feel content. If you live in less than 1000 square feet, like I do, add two young children with wild spirits and very loud voices, then finding that space may pose a challenge. But, if I can do it, I know you can too! Find a corner, near a wall, or a window, make it cozy, lay out your yoga mat, use cushions and pillows, or sit in your favorite chair.  Enjoy natural light and celebrate the season of your day. In the morning or afternoon, allow the rays of the sun to warm you, in the evening, let in the moonlight if possible. Soak in a cloudy day, listen to the thunder, rain, the whistling of the wind, or feel the stillness of gently falling snow. Create your own sacred space, set up an alter, light a candle, find strength and beauty in your surroundings.

"Quiet the mind and the soul will speak." M.J.S. Bhagavati

Time. There is goes...ticking away the moments that make up your day. Take it back and slow down! We are talking five minutes here. I have an egg timer that I use to help me make a commitment to myself. If five minutes seems excessive to you, start in smaller increments that seem attainable. Sit or lie down, start by breathing in and out. A whole breath is a full inhale and a complete exhale. Five whole breaths can easily turn into ten whole breaths, and before you know it, you are on the path of inner calm and rediscovering balance to your soul. Either way, if you choose to take back a moment for yourself, I guarantee you will feel better after.

"Dining with one's friends and beloved family is one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul satisfying and eternal." J. Child

Eat good food. Delicious food. Enjoying warm, comforting, nutritious dishes should be an exciting and pleasurable experience. The texture, smell, and flavors of different foods hold memories and create new ones, specific moments in time are captured. Eating food you love is healing, prepare it slowly and with care in your home. Create a sense of wholeness as you care for yourself. Reliable recipes, or new and inspired, the possibilities are endless, choosing foods that are fresh and in season is a good place to start. Stock your kitchen with healthy foods closely connected to their source. Sharing a meal with those you love is a meaningful experience, and fills you up in more ways than one.

"My soul is in the sky." W. Shakespeare

We have enjoyed mild weather for December, and this alone we can all be grateful for, but no matter what the weather is, get outside and enjoy nature. All the seasons offer wonderful ways to move your body, get your blood flowing, and your lungs working. Breathe in the air, near the ocean or the mountains, in the forest, or after a rain storm. Feel the earth, the sun, the wind, watch the clouds go by, observe, and listen to all the life around you. Surround yourself with trees, plants, and flowers, dig in the dirt, or relax by a fire. Enjoy the elements, they are grounding to the soul, use them as healing sources. Connect yourself to a larger world.

"Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow." K. Vonnegut

Be inspired! Art is expressed in many forms, go to a museum, listen to music, play music, take photographs, read a book, write, color, enjoy a live performance, go to the theater, see a movie or a concert. Seek out experiences in life, reflect on them, and see how they can shape your soul. Travel the world, find your muses, watch people come and go, life is one big free show if you take the time to look and linger. Creativity feeds the soul.

"When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy." Rumi

Take time out of your busy life to do what makes your soul happy. Find moments in your day to laugh. Let your inner light shine, radiate and lengthen in all directions. Stretch out and enjoy the space around you. Sometimes the simplest, most unplanned things bring the biggest peace into our lives. Allow yourself to be spontaneous, to change course, and be free.


Thanks for reading, and for the continued inspiration. May you find joy, comfort and stillness in many moments of your day. Wishing PEACE & LOVE for ALL now and throughout the New Year!

Namaste 

My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, and peace within you because it is also within me. In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Uneven Wings

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Dragon-Fly (1833)

As I slowly press my body up away from my yoga mat, I walk my hands back under my shoulders, pull my forehead away from a supportive block, and lengthen my spine. My eyes open, and I see the simple beauty of the sunset through a stained glass picture. A strategically placed frame in the center window of the yoga studio, where I have the pleasure of practicing and teaching every week. The multifaceted rays of the sun create a more vibrant hue of blue, green, purple and orange. The image of a Dragonfly radiates its light towards me, uplifted, engaged and powerfully present. The Dragonfly has caught my attention.

I look down and see another image of a Dragonfly on my yoga mat. Why have I not seen this before? My old, thin, frayed, yoga mat? The black outline of one large Dragonfly and two smaller ones underneath.  Here, now, I am awakened by the delightful surprise of noticing these small, vibrant beings.

The Dragonfly belongs to the order Odonato, the suborder Anisoptera, which is Greek for "uneven wings". They have inhabited Earth for almost 300 million years and exist on every continent except Antarctica. The metallic iridescence on the wings of a dragonfly can show different colors depending on the angle and polarity of the light. With a short life span, the dragonfly truly lives in the moment. Almost 80% of it's brain power is dedicated to sight, and it can see 360 degrees around. There is a long history of folklore and myth associated with the Dragonfly. In many cultures, the dragonfly is revered as an image of victory, prosperity, harmony, happiness, speed, and purity. The dragonfly symbolizes change in perspective and self realization towards a deeper meaning of life. With strength and agility, the dragonfly can move up, down, forwards, and backwards at 20-30 miles per hour, twisting, extending from side to side or hovering like a helicopter, with minimal wing flapping. Like the dragonfly, the human spine has the ability to move in all six directions. The practice of yoga is a concentration on the simplicity of the moment, the dragonfly is an inspiring creature of precision, elegance and grace.
The dragonfly’s agile flight and its ability to move in all six directions exude a sense of power and poise - something that comes only with age and maturity.
The dragonfly can move at an amazing 45 miles an hour,  hover like a helicopter fly backwards like a hummingbird, fly straight up, down and on either side. What is mind blowing is the fact that it can do this while flapping its wings a mere 30 times a minute while mosquitoes and houseflies need to flap their wings 600 and 1000 times a minute respectively.
- See more at: http://www.dragonfly-site.com/meaning-symbolize.html#sthash.mg2CKaQy.dpufThe Dragonfly symbolizes change in perspective and self realization towards a deeper meaning of life. This amazing insect is agile, graceful, strong, moving in all six directions. They can fly around 20-30 miles per hour, backwards, up, down, hovering like a helicopter, extending and twisting on either side, with minimal wing flapping. Like the Dragonfly, the human spine has the ability to move in six directions.

YOGA is the union of MIND, BODY, and BREATH.

There are many different styles of yoga, but the heart of the physical practice focuses on the breath and movements of the spine. The six movements of the spine interweave into every yoga posture, providing a solid base from which to flow from one pose into the next. When we can gather energy and strength from the ground, the body is able to rise up, extend, open and release the spaces between the vertebrae. Vanda Scaravelli describes this freedom of movement in her book, Awakening The Spine. "Gravity is like a magnet attracting us to earth, but this attraction is not limited to pulling us down, it also allows us to stretch in the opposite direction towards the sky."

The world around us is a busy place, there are distractions around every corner, constant noise, interruptions and chaos. In an effort to find wholeness and pull the pieces of the self back together, it is vital to find space and time to relax, observe, connect to breath and physical sensation. This series of postures strengthen the spine and corresponding muscles, improving posture, alignment and chronic back pain. A consistent practice of yoga offers many benefits of a healthy body and mind. Move slowly, guided by comfort and breath.

Back-bend (flexion)
Forward bend (extension)
Lateral side stretching right and left
Spinal twist right and left

Begin in table position, on your hands and knees, elongate the spine in a neutral position of the pelvis. Lengthening through the crown of the head, and base of the spine, while pressing down through the pads of the fingers, base of the palms, and tops of the feet. Allow the breath to move in and out freely.


Inhale deeply, widening the rib cage and pulling the breath into the belly. When you are ready to release your breath, tuck your chin towards your chest. Tuck the pelvis, shifting towards the first movement of rounding the spine, a forward bend. On your exhale, pull the naval into the spine, hollowing out the belly. You may sway from side to side to squeeze the breath out completely.


When you are ready to inhale, pull the breath in through both nostrils. Feel the upper chest lift, the rib cage widen and the breath in the belly. Shift the front of the pelvis forward, extending into the second movement of the spine. Lift your heart and your gaze directing the breath into the belly. When ready, exhale, rounding the spine, tucking the pelvis and the chin. Continue with these movements until you feel complete in coordinating your breath with the movement of your spine.


The third and fourth movements of the spine are lateral stretches. Keeping hips aligned over knees, with a neutral spine and pelvis, reach toward the top right corner of your yoga mat. Soften the forehead down onto the right forearm and tuck your chin to your chest. Allow the left hand to lift through the fingers or press down at the base of your palm. Draw the breath into the left side of the body, feeling the extension of the stretch, exhale slowly. Inhale, lifting forehead away from your forearm and walk the hands toward the top left corner of your yoga mat. Release through the right forearm and draw your forehead down, tucking your chin as you exhale. Continue to reach, lengthen and activate the right hand as you breathe in deeply, opening the spaces of the right rib cage. Exhale slowly and return to neutral spine. 


The fifth and sixth movements of the spine are twists. From a neutral spine, widen the knees to the width of your yoga mat and press the hips down and back towards the heels. Slide the hands under the shoulders, then lift the right arm out to the side and inhale. As you exhale, thread the right arm under the left arm pressing down through the top of the right hand. Enjoy the ability to spiral the spine and extend as you press the right shoulder and side of the head towards the yoga mat. Inhale into the twist, filling up the back body deepening the stretch around the right shoulder and scapula. The left arm may be relaxed under the left shoulder (as shown), or walk your hand forward towards the front of the yoga mat. Exhale slowly. When you are ready to release and switch sides, inhale and press into the left hand, lifting up and unraveling the right arm from the twist. Exhale, realigning hands under shoulders. Press the right hand into the yoga mat for stability, inhale and lift the left arm out to the side. Exhale as you thread the left arm under the right. Walk the right arm forward, lengthening into the stretch or draw the left hand underneath the left shoulder. Breathing in and breathing out.


As you release from the spinal twist, walk your hands forward (as shown), or wrap your arms around your lower body. Realign your knees and press your hips down towards your heels. Soften your forehead down towards the yoga mat or onto a block for support. Inhale filling your upper spine, rib cage and low back with breath. Retain the breath as long as it feels comfortable, then slowly exhale as you pull your naval into your spine, shifting the breath up and out through your nostrils. Allow your mind to be anchored by the constancy of your breath, thoughts will flow in, release them gently. The stillness of the physical body will transform into a subtle, rhythmic movement guided by your breath. Gravity takes hold of the lower body, and at the same time brings lightness to the upper body, creating an image of  uneven wings folded along your spine.



BREATHE ~ Relax ~ FEEL ~ Watch ~ ALLOW ~ Let Go

The dragonfly’s agile flight and its ability to move in all six directions exude a sense of power and poise - something that comes only with age and maturity.
The dragonfly can move at an amazing 45 miles an hour,  hover like a helicopter fly backwards like a hummingbird, fly straight up, down and on either side. What is mind blowing is the fact that it can do this while flapping its wings a mere 30 times a minute while mosquitoes and houseflies need to flap their wings 600 and 1000 times a minute respectively.
- See more at: http://www.dragonfly-site.com/meaning-symbolize.html#sthash.mg2CKaQy.dpuf
The dragonfly’s agile flight and its ability to move in all six directions exude a sense of power and poise - something that comes only with age and maturity.
The dragonfly can move at an amazing 45 miles an hour,  hover like a helicopter fly backwards like a hummingbird, fly straight up, down and on either side. What is mind blowing is the fact that it can do this while flapping its wings a mere 30 times a minute while mosquitoes and houseflies need to flap their wings 600 and 1000 times a minute respectively.
- See more at: http://www.dragonfly-site.com/meaning-symbolize.html#sthash.mg2CKaQy.dpuf

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer Bounty


Holy Basil!

Sunshine, water and earth create the most amazing things. Flowers, plants, herbs, and vegetables fill up the senses. When I was younger, my Grandmother maintained a small vegetable garden of carrots, radishes, tomatoes, and leafy greens. In her later years, perennial herbs became the easiest to maintain. Her most cherished herbs were marjoram, oregano, basil, and thyme. The small flowers that blossomed off of them only enhanced the flavors. I remember her in the kitchen, whisking up her favorite breakfast of Dr. Suess's "green eggs" made with pulverised herbs and spinach added to beaten eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Herbal flower bouquets of purple chive orbs, golden chamomile bulbs with soft white petals, yellow and green dill crowns, rosemary branches, and silvery gray sage leaves were picked for every table.

My sister and I would gather spearmint and peppermint leaves, rinse off the extra dirt, boil water in the tea kettle, and pour the hot water over the leaves. While the leaves steeped we would spoon out honey, tasting more than what ended up in our cups. The sense of smell can make a memory linger and become so much more vibrant. Sitting in the dirt, pulling lavender buds off the stalk, pinching and squeezing the delicate purple flower, until I inhaled all of its hypnotizing, calming, scent. Time seemed to stop, while I was hidden away among the plants and flowers. I have memories of great discovery, recognizing the different textures and tastes of nature.  As the breeze moved gently through, I would lift my nose to follow the trails of scents that circled around me. The sound of summer bugs composed a symphony of crescendo and decrescendos for my listening pleasure. Fuzzy, round, black and yellow bees buzzed and hovered close to my face, as I watched them float from flower to flower drinking the nectar and shaking the pollen.

3 year old Sean picking veggies from my Grandmother's garden.

How does your garden grow? Urban or suburban, you can grow wonderful things to eat and enjoy. Herbs are easy, aromatic, and versatile. A small container garden for tomatoes or greens is a smart way to start with minimal effort. As I grow older, I am more interested in where things come from and where things go. I have two curious monkeys who ask many questions about things I don't know the answers to.  They keep me on my toes and inspire me to be a worthy example of whole, healthy, happy living.

Eating food should be an exciting and pleasurable experience. Create new and old recipes, share them with those you love. We can't survive without eating. In our fast paced society with high expectations, limited time and impatient attitudes it is easy to make the wrong decisions. We are surrounded by temptations and ease of access to unhealthy food that encourages over eating. Food that makes us feel bloated, heavy, and energy depleted. Most of us are guilty of making regretful decisions about what we put in our bodies. These weak moments are driven by food rages, and hypoglycemic outbursts. Stock your kitchen with fresh, colorful, wholesome ingredients closely connected to their source. Know where your food comes from. Choose snacks with little to no preparation, for a grab and go lifestyle. My boys love apples, they sometimes eat two a day! Bananas, carrots, oranges, grapes, cucumber, celery, string beans, and snap peas, are some examples of on-the-go eating. Take the time to make food that you like. Even though broccoli, cabbage, and lima beans are good for you, they may not digest well in your body or taste good to you. Try spinach, kale, or leeks instead. Saute or grill zucchini, summer squash, and peppers. Spice up your dishes with this simple pesto recipe, no pine nuts needed.

In a food processor, combine basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, sea salt and pepper.

Add this creamy sauce to pasta, sandwiches or veggies.

Certain combinations of foods allow for better absorption of their benefits. Lemon and parsley offer a light and delicious addition to your diet, and are featured as main ingredients in home made tabbouleh salad. Fresh garden tomato, cucumber, and flat leaf parsley loosely chopped create a wonderful side to couscous, quinoa, chick pea or hummus. Raw honey, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, sea salt and pepper whisked together as a dressing provides the finishing touch.






The health benefits of eating mostly vegetables has been well documented, changing the outlook on American eating. Organic produce is best, but it can be expensive. With minimal effort, we are able to grow our own food. It is possible, and it doesn't take a lot to yield a bounty of goodness. Indoor, outdoor, vertical, or horizontal, there are so many ways to start growing your favorite things. Most home improvement stores carry inexpensive gardening containers that take the hard work out of moving earth and tilling soil. Recycle old pots or buckets for your plants, you don't even have to buy dirt. Make your own dirt by composting fruit and vegetable waste, scraps, leaves, and grass clippings. Be careful not to put any animal products into your compost, egg shells break down well, but meat and dairy do not. Coffee grounds and tea can be composted too, just be sure to remove the tags on the tea bags, as they may be plastic coated or have a metal attachment. Compost is known as black gold for your garden. The nutrients in the leftover waste increase nitrogen levels, enriching your soil. Banana peels and coffee grounds can be placed directly under your plants without composting at all to enhance the health of your garden.

Finding ways to use recyclable waste is exciting and creative. I have been saving my egg shells for seed starters next Spring. Cardboard and old newspaper can be placed over sections of earth where you don't want weeds growing. Large bins or barrels can be used to collect rain water for watering your plants, just add a water spout and a mesh filter cover to keep debris from clogging the water flow.  Rubber maid plastic bins are perfect for year round composting. I have had mine for almost two years now and the soil is unbelievable. Drill two holes on each side of the bin and on the bottom, so those helpful earthworms can get inside and do their work.  Fill the bottom with dried leaves or plant matter and begin saving your leftover vegetable scraps. Remember to rotate the contents every few weeks. I like to cover my compost so I don't attract skunks, racoons, or other wildlife. The rubber maid bins have a snap lid that works well.



Support your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms, pick your own fruit and berries at local farms, read and understand food labels, start your own container gardens or begin composting your kitchen waste. Learn about exciting ways to explore where your food comes from!