Friday, April 27, 2012

Helping

Baking with my 3 year old requires patience and letting go.  You have to experience it with all your senses, and plan to make a mess.  Little ones love to help, it is a lesson for both and a wonderful way to grow and understand together. How does your child think? How do they process sequential events? How do you create a bond of trust?

Listening and sharing builds a strong foundation of confidence and self-esteem in a child. It enhances a loving relationship, sets ground rules for the future, and a creates a beautiful moment of togetherness. Cooking and baking together instills the very foundation of caring for the self, nurturing a love for healthy eating and wholesome creations. I have so many warm memories of baking with my Grandmother and my Mother. When I put together a few ingredients, the taste and the smell of them remind me of their love.

I found this recipe for oatmeal cookies in my search for an allergen free dough, it is also adaptable for gluten free.  The best part is you can eat it raw, because no matter how many times you say, "Don't eat the dough!" They do it anyway....


Vegan Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (gluten free: rice flour, almond flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

3/4 cup safflower oil (vegetable, canola, or flax seed oil)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon molasses
1/4 cup dried fruit, nuts or seeds

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, dough will be crumbly.  Fold the dried fruit, nuts or seeds.  Using your hands, roll tablespoon-size scoops of dough into balls.  Press down on the balls to flatten the tops.  Bake cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Cool cookies completely, they will be crumbly.

Get creative with add-ins of your choice; chocolate chips, and finely shredded coconut.  The texture of these cookies add a nice crunch to a cup of yogurt or fruit too.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Giving

"And the tree was happy...."
The most amazing accomplishment in my life has been becoming a mother to my beautiful boys.  It is a challenge and the greatest joy I have ever experienced. My heart hurts when I think of them feeling pain, sadness, or loss.  My rational mind knows this is inevitable, and realizes how important it is for them to feel such discomfort.  My emotions can be overwhelming, even my happiness can appear as sadness to them as my eyes start to tear up with a kiss, hug, or a laugh.  I am sentimental, and hold on to things that remind me of a special day or feeling.  Bittersweet moments of my ordinary days linger lovingly in the journals I have kept for them.

My favorite time of the day with my boys is story time.  We snuggle into bed and read a couple books together.  I set my littlest boy on my left and my older boy on my right.  Typically, the larger, brightly illustrated books are winners and engage them both in rapt attention, but today we read, 'The Giving Tree' by Shel Silverstein.  I had never read this one out loud to them before and found myself with so many mixed emotions by the middle of the book, I had to compose myself in an effort to finish it.  This small story brought me to tears as I reflected on my actions growing up with my parents, and then becoming a parent.  I remember the love that my parents have given and continue to give to me, and now, give to my boys.  I feel ashamed at my selfish ways and reactions to their love.  I understand so much more now, and am humbled by the knowledge of it all.  I have never experienced a love so great that I didn't expect anything in return, until I had my boys.

Although Silverstein's story has some differing interpretations, I identified with the selfless giving tree and understood its happiness when the boy came back, and to give him all that he desired.  Another layer can be added by staying connected to my children.  Fulfilling all aspects of mind, body, and spirit for myself, sharing what I know and what I have with my boys, in hopes they will sustain and fulfill themselves.  Attention, time, and discovery between each other is the blessing, creating moments of real love.  Giving of yourself should feel good and when it is true, it nourishes and sustains us through difficult times in life.

Right now, I can only imagine my boys around me, wanting and needing me.  Although, I crave for solitary moments in my day, just to breathe, think, shower, or go to the bathroom.  I know that this time is a gift, it will change and evolve into something different.  As a new parent I have and will make mistakes.  I try to focus on love, discipline, support and guidance for myself, so I will have the tools to share the most important things with them when they are ready to receive them.  The precious moments I have with them now will soon be few and far between.  Already, my older son isn't hugging me goodbye when I am off to work, as he is too busy to tear himself away from play.  I am happy he is excited and curious to discover, and enjoy all life has to offer, but I am grateful I have another little baby to adore for another couple of years.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Loving Kindness

In my ongoing efforts to be a calm, happy, mother, wife, and working woman, I attempt to embody the four Noble Truths in buddhist philosophy: suffering exists, attachment causes suffering, suffering can end and there is a path to end it.  The Divine Abodes of loving kindness, along with compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity are important tools to assist us in finding a release and a way of ending our suffering.  Moving out of unhappiness into wisdom and joy is possible with one wish for ourselves and others, 'May all beings be happy and free from suffering.'

Prayer for Loving Kindness

May you be filled with loving kindness
May you be peaceful and at ease
May you be well
May you be happy

I try to remember this at work, throughout my day, and when my older son continues to whine, not listen, and scream his way to what he wants.  In his world, there is only passion and desire to be fulfilled.  My attention, be it positive or negative, is what he craves.  Life is diverse, complicated and confusing on best days, there are challenges and stressors everywhere.  I speak from a truthful heart, sometimes I am quick to judge, angry, bitter, guilty, or sad.  The raw emotions of my children are real and my reaction to them is not always calm, clear, or loving.  I may be holding on to a situation from work, thinking over a discussion with a friend, or coming to a decision about an important life matter.  Practicing the art of cultivating loving relations with all living things is one path to follow. My husband is a constant support to me, as I am to him.  When I react quickly, raise my voice, and take my day out on him, I am not practicing loving kindness.  I am being selfish, as I do not know what he has experienced throughout his day.  Take a moment to look at the other side, there is always another way to see things.

Our relationships with children, partners, family, friends, foes, co-workers, and strangers offer us many opportunities to utilize the Divine Abodes.  When we truly love another, it is easy to be happy when they are happy, to feel sadness when they feel sadness.  The act of loving kindness is effortless as we feel compassion and sympathetic joy.  It is most difficult to practice these efforts with our enemies.  Let go, stay free of attaching yourself, try to acknowledge, love and support without becoming one with the situation, emotion or person.  There is so much unknown in this world, we have no real control over anything, but we do have the power to stay calm and react respectfully, with compassion, and kindness.

"So if you wake up to the sunrise, and all your dreams are still as new, and happiness is what you need so bad, the answer lies with you." ~ Page & Plant

Monday, April 9, 2012

Patience

What if an act of patience had the ability to change the outcome of events in your life?  A small hesitation before moving toward something, pausing before answering a question or statement, sitting with an uncomfortable feeling for a while before reacting to it.  I find the quicker I respond or act, the more I worry or agonize over what I could have done differently.  Living in the past instead of the present, offers no growth and only disillusions us to what our future can offer.

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday." A.A. Milne

Teaching patience to my little ones is a challenge in itself, especially when I am still learning it.  The simple moments in our daily life offer an opportunity to learn, listen, and practice patience.  With an infant and a toddler that crave my immediate attention, my time is spread thin.  I need to speak with truth and clarity, keep it simple and communicate exactly what is happening and what will happen.  Children interpret what you say literally, and figuratively.  As explained by Sarah Napthalie, "listening can be a form of meditation requiring concentration, restraint and a degree of silence."  If we want our children to listen, it starts with our ability as parents to practice the same openness and patience we expect from our children.

My older son experiences many situations where he can practice patience. Today, I couldn't get breakfast together in our usual way, as I was delayed.  Hunger rage was in full effect.  My effort to communicate begins with, "patience, grasshopper."  We have been using this imagery for a while now as it was inspired from friends.  It is fun to say and envisioning a fast, jumping, grasshopper being patient mimics a toddler being still and listening.  On another level, patience teaches us the value of sitting with discomfort.  All life is filled with suffering, this is one of the first Noble Truths of buddhist philosophy.  As we sit and experience a thought or feeling that is uncomfortable, the value of impermanence is alive and well.  Impermanence is knowing that everything must and will change into something else.  Experiences vary in intensity and form, practicing patience assists that energy to pass.  I want my children to grow into responsible, strong, loving, kind, and compassionate people.  Teaching my children that they will have to experience discomfort of the mind, body or spirit is important in creating a favorable outcome.  There is unknown joy and surprise in life, experiencing it fully allows us to explore, observe and notice every moment.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Measures of Mindfulness


Be happy.

Be grateful and thankful for everything.

Inner beauty reflects outer beauty.

Find your true self, speak from your heart, and communicate in a loving and nurturing way.

Strive toward your highest potential and enjoy it.

You have the possibility to make anything good become great.

Create art from everyday life.

Tend to daily tasks in a meditative way.

Simplify as much as possible.

Stay organized, efficient, lighthearted and flexible, enjoy the spontaneity in life.

Be kind to yourself and others, encourage compassionate self talk.

Respect yourself; respect others.

Value the dignity of all life.

Allow every action to be rooted in love.

Be patient.

Let go of worry, fear and anxiety.

Believe in Truth.

Your whole life is a discovery of who you are; find your passion and pursue it ferociously.

See the difficult moments in life as a challenge and an opportunity to grow stronger and confident.

The expression of love is the most powerful healer of all.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reiki Energy

Anahata


One of my students recently asked, "What is Reiki?" my attempt to respond after class in a simple and broad statement about a complex system of healing leads me to this post.

Reiki
REI (ray) means universal
KI (key) means life force energy

The Chinese identify this energy as Chi (chee), in India it is called Prana (prah-na), and the Japanese know it as Ki (key).  Reiki is a gentle Japanese technique used to transfer universal life force energy through various hand positions over the body.  Reiki is a subtle form of energy work that can be done hands on, hands above, or across a distance.  The energy transferred goes wherever it is needed in your physical, mental, or energetic systems.  Reiki promotes the relaxation response; activating the autonomic nervous system to lower blood pressure and heart rate, relieving tension and anxiety.  Reiki augments the immune systems defenses and stimulates the production of endorphins, decreasing pain perception and creating a sense of well being.  Reiki addresses both chronic and acute conditions, gently and powerfully promoting and restoring balance to all the systems of the body and the regenerative processes of the mind.  Many hospitals and medical clinics are recognizing the benefits of Reiki and offering it as a healing option in their facilities.

The practice of Reiki is based on the teachings of a Japanese monk, Dr. Mikao Usui, who taught and practiced Reiki in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The origins of Reiki are found in the Tibetan sutras, cosmology, and philosophy.  Quantum physics has demonstrated that all substance is composed of invisible energy fields.  These energy systems sustain the body and mind.  The chakra-nadi system (India) and the acupuncture meridian system (China) are two ancient models describing the flow of universal life force energy through the body.  These energy fields are known as Chakras, which is Sanskrit for wheels, as these energy fields are believed to be moving and spinning.  There are seven major chakras located from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.  They correspond to endocrine glands and the six major nerve plexuses of the body.  Conditions of imbalance are thought to be rooted in the human energy patterns, Reiki offers the possibility of bringing a healing balance back to the body and mind.

For more information and links on this subject:

The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui ~ Dr. Usui and F. A. Petter

Reiki Energy Medicine: Bringing the Healing Touch into Home, Hospital and Hospice ~ L. Barnett, M. Chambers, and S. Davidson

www.reikienergy.com

For an opportunity to experience a wonderful Reiki session contact:

Michelle Heron RN, BSN, E-RYT
Kripalu Yoga Teaher
Yin Yoga & Mindfulness
Certified Usui Reiki Master

978 314 1156
heronyoga@gmail.com


Reiki I $100 3 hour session with initial attunement, focusing on self-healing and the ability to perform Reiki on others.

Reiki II $200 3 hour session with 2nd attunement, focusing on harnessing Reiki for travel over time and distance.

Reiki III $300 3-4 hour session with 3rd attunement, open discussion of Reiki treatment, fine tuning chakra awareness using crystals, and grids.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mind ~ Body ~ Breath



Yoga is the union of mind, body, and breath.  Utilizing gravity, the body can be manipulated into various postures enhancing the flow of energy.  Yoga affects the whole body, the poses produce a balanced foundation for the breath to move in and out.  My yoga practice is based on two distinct styles of yoga, of which there are many more.  My training is built on the principles of Kripalu (Krih-PAH-loo) yoga and my advanced training focus is on Yin yoga and Mindfulness Meditation.

Yoga is a return to wholeness.  Kripalu yoga is a compassionate, conscious practice of breath and movement through postures, meditation, relaxation, sensation, experience, and expression.  The practice of yoga lies in the understanding of Prana (life force energy) as a link between the mind, body, and spirit.  Kripalu yoga begins with listening to the wisdom of your body, focusing your mind on your breath while moving through various postures.  For your mind, the breath work can calm restless thoughts, cultivate concentration and support mental clarity and confidence.  For your body, the postures stretch and tone, release chronic tension and unlock hidden stress within the muscles.  For your spirit, the union of mind, body, and breath can encourage self acceptance, honor inner wisdom and invite peace.  A regular yoga practice initiates a process of personal transformation.  It is important to practice yoga with a caring and non-judgmental awareness of self.

There are three stages of Kripalu yoga:
1. Body and Breath awareness
2. Focusing Inward
3. Meditation in Motion

There are five elements of awareness in Kripalu yoga that enhance the practice.

~ BREATHE ~ RELAX ~ FEEL ~ WATCH ~ ALLOW ~

www.kripalu.org

Yin yoga consists of holding various poses for several minutes.  Yin yoga is preventative, nourishing, regenerative, stimulating, and balancing.  These holding poses stimulate energetic meridians which flow through the connective tissues of the body.  Meridians are pathways of energy that continuously flow through the body.  These pathways carry Qi (chi, pronounced chee) which is defined as energy, vitality, and the universal force in all life.  These energetic pathways are invisible, a comprehensive network of flowing that links all substances and organs of the body.  The pathways are unseen but embody a physical reality.  Illness is the body's way of communicating that one or more of these pathways do not have the proper amount  or the correct quality of energy flowing through it.  The care and strength of the meridian system is essential for maintaining the harmonious balance of the mind, body, spirit connection.  Before each meridian can be in harmony with other pathways, it has to be in harmony with itself.  This leads to the balance of yin and yang energy.  Yin yoga is a wonderful way to warm up the body before a yang practice, pranayama (breathing exercises), or meditation.  Yin yoga can draw insight into the body by staying and breathing into a pose while acknowledging sensations or feelings that may arise.  This act of moment to moment awareness in the postures is mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the direct registry of what is happening in us and to us at successive moments of our experience, without going into reaction for or against what we notice.

Tonight I am teaching for the first time in three months, since I had my second baby.  It has been twelve years since my first yoga class, I remember everything and how it kept me wanting more.  I have been teaching and guiding group yoga classes for seven years.  Attempting to re-inspire my skills, I am going back to those first days of practice that brought me increased strength and poise, while decreasing stress and anxiety.  Teaching yoga has given me a new reflection into my personal practice.  Connecting the mind with the breath to the action of the body, sparks intuition and alters perception from which creativity is born.  Let go, embrace truth, beauty, transform and breathe.

To share in a yoga class with me, please visit www.yogamandala.com for details.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Life Begins Now

Mindfulness refers to a quality that involves bringing one's complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.  To pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

Hope for the Flowers


In this moment, my maternity leave for my second son is coming to an end, but it is just the beginning of something new.  This week I will return to work and begin teaching yoga again.  This being my first blog entry coinciding with Spring and personal change, I will develop and learn a new routine to balance, life, love, and work.  Once a routine develops and runs smoothly, it will inevitably change again, it is a cycle.  The constancy of change can bring about many emotions; fear of the unknown, insecurity of how to handle a new situation, excitement, hope or anger.  These days my ability to cope with whatever happens in life is matched by my way of thinking.  It is impossible to not live in the moment when you are around young children.  They live, breathe, eat, sleep, cry, laugh, scream, procrastinate, and rebel.  Rather than become frenzied, irrational, or impatient, I just go with it.  My effort is to remain calm with whatever is happening, and perceive all aspects of life with acceptance and patience.  When I find myself overwhelmed, anxious or angry in any situation, which can happen often on any given day, I stop, breathe, and remember the big picture.  What is most important right now?  My goal is to not react with fear, anger or violence but with wisdom, kindness and compassion.  This morning my older son of three years, started to stand up in his chair and climb up and out the kitchen window, I stopped and before I reacted, I asked him calmly, "Where are you going?" and his reply was simple; "I want to see the world."