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!


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: 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:
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:

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!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Showing Up

"To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work."
Mary Oliver

Recently, I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine. Inevitably, we wind our way around to a topic of relevance that strengthens our connection, reminding us that even though our lives are very different, our paths are parallel. We discuss situations where feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and impossible ideals of ourselves and others infiltrate our lives. These negative feelings are like poison. The impact of these feelings play out a dangerous game with those we love. Thankfully, we are able to recognize this, frequently relying on each other for support, validation and a change of perspective. Wise words and experiences are shared in an effort to cope with whatever chaos we are dealing with in the moment.

We all have things in life we have to do. When we reflect on our daily actions, thoughts, and words and begin to make changes, however subtle and unconscious they may be, we are living true courage. Without judgment, negativity, or strain, acknowledge that your efforts have brought you to this moment. Trust the knowledge and insight you have gained up until right now, believe it is inside of you and show up.

Do the best you can and recognize 
that what you do is good enough.

Just be OK with you, what you have, what you do and the potential of who you are. Trust in yourself. Love yourself. Show kindness, empathy and compassion. Find your happiness. This is easier said than done. Life is complicated, even striving towards simplicity can be exhausting. I know when I try to do too much, I feel overwhelmed, the details begin to weigh me down. When the candle is burned bright, we are left unprotected against sickness, stress, frustration, and irritability. When we feel depleted, exhausted, and empty, we are barely able to care for ourselves or anyone else. This is the poison seeping in. The antidote is that the human spirit requires time to replenish, to mend in a way that only rest and nourishment can bring.

Fall in love with taking care of yourself. 
Mind, body, and spirit.

Take time to light your inner candle, recharge, renew and relax. Create an un-penetrable armor to fortify your defenses. Remember where your spark is and stoke it. Daily activities of life need to be directed at filling up one's inner abundance. Our basic fuel is adequate sleep, healthy food and water consumed leisurely and joyfully. Reading, writing, creating, expressing ourselves in an artistic way other than speaking has the power to heighten the physical senses. Move, stretch, breathe, exercise and enjoy the time to look, listen and feel. Observe the world around you. Your intimate environment can offer healing therapies that can be immediately available to you. A warm, safe, resting place, soft blankets to cocoon ourselves in until we are ready to emerge and experience. Food made with care, kindness, and love. Focus on what makes you feel good. Be around people, animals, at home, in nature, any place that fills you up and strengthens you from within.

We have the capacity to give love, care for each other and show generosity.

These last couple days have brought the rain, which felt good, cleansing, and healing. My garden is flourishing, my favorite flowers are preparing for their moment to shine in the sun. From seed to sprout out of the earth, pushing against gravity to call attention, they revel in the glory to just be. They have NO expectations, just a gentle acceptance of the natural cycle of birth, growth, decay, and rebirth. Sun, earth, water, and air help the flora extend and expand from root to stem. Rising up, standing tall, rain or shine, continuing to reach higher. The thin lavender stalks emerge, but the bright purple florets remain hidden. Young hydrangeas are peeking out from bright green fronds. The thyme is weaving along the stone path, the phlox is creeping, and the iris unravel to reveal the deepest, darkest hues of violet blue.  The delicate lilacs have all been clipped, wafting their fragrance into my home as large bouquets decorating my table. The elephant ear hasta leaves are strong and velvety. The gorgeous peony moves from bud to blossom, bursting forth with vulnerable petals that expose themselves to the elements. Without tension, anger, sadness, or remorse, they show up, just as they are. Their beauty lies in their resiliency, sacrifice, and surrender.

Be present.
Show up.

Surround yourself with what makes you happy, find respect in the challenges that you may face in attaining what you love, and persevere through them. Allow forgiveness, practice to make mistakes, live, learn, and listen.

Show up for who you need. Show up for who needs you. Show up for yourself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Morning Lullaby

In the wee hours of the morning, before the sun will rise. 
I hold you in my arms, close your sleepy eyes. 
Here inside the warmth of our soft and cozy nest, 
 we breathe beneath the covers and deeply rest.

Your head is on my shoulder, baby don't you cry.
Hearts beating together, in this morning lullaby.

In the wee hours of the morning, birds will start to sing.
Fall asleep again, before the day begins.
My babe, my child, my love, grow strong in every way. 
Be kind, be safe, be good, live, laugh and play.

When night time folds it's blanket over the world. 
 Stars shine bright above, the moon hangs low and full.
I wish for joy and love in all that you do. 
Before the sun will rise, sweet dreams will come to you.

In the morning, I am alone with my thoughts. Yes, I would prefer to be sleeping but little feet and kicking legs have woken me, rather than be upset, and begin the day in a negative way, I accept what is. Me, awake, with precious time that is mine. Soft breathing beside me, reminds me to stretch and feel alive. A hundred thoughts run through my head, lists begin to form, my mind is running away from me. I am being pulled from my warm, safe haven of rest! 



I take a deep breath. I can choose how I begin my day.

The most sacred space that exists is in our minds. Take care of it, feed it, exercise it, and rest it. Healthy habits of nutrition, adequate sleep and meditation have many benefits, but it takes practice and a willingness to try. Carve out the first few minutes of the day by being mindful. Before you get out of bed, your mind is awake. Stay fully present, and aware moment to moment. Pay attention to your first morning thoughts, acknowledge them without judgment, without analyzing, without reacting, and then let them go. Guided meditation is helpful when you are struggling with distraction or resistance. Using the breath as an anchor, guide yourself through physical sensation starting with toes and work your way up to your head. Inhale, and contract your muscles, and then exhale while releasing muscles. Another technique notices all aspects of the breath. Take note of the moment before you inhale, then inhale. Feel the breath rise up in your body. Your diaphragm contracts and moves down to create space for the breath as your lungs expand. Fill up and retain the breath in the body for one to two seconds. Slowly begin to exhale and release your breath. Hold the breath out of the body, hollow out your belly by pulling your naval in towards your spine. The diaphragm slowly relaxes and moves back up to allow the process to begin again. Inhale passively, exhale actively. As you continue to breathe deeply, the mind becomes focused and calm.
In the wee hours of the morning, before the sun will rise. 
Press and rub your hands together, bringing warmth into the palms. Place your warm hands over your eyes and let cool fingers press against your forehead, and thumbs press over ears, take a deep breath. You have knowledge and wisdom inside you, to trust your intuition.  Hands slide down below your eyes, finger pads press along cheek bones, lower jaw, and chin. Gently massaging the face, breathing in and breathing out. Cross your hands over your chest and pause here. You have a voice, and are able to communicate clearly with confidence and compassion. Stay positive and hopeful. Your heart is full of love. Patience is a friend and kindness will shield you. With a renewed energy, focused and strong, lungs inflate with breath, the spaces between the rib cage widen, stretch your arms overhead. Pause. Hold. Exhaling, hands rest on your abdomen. Holding the breath out of the body, with control, slowly, inhale again. Feeling the fullness of breath here, you are empowered. This is your life, take control, create your own happiness.

All we have and all we are is here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Lovin' Spoonful

L-O-V-E, such a small word for something so intense and powerful. It peels away all layers and exposes our vulnerability on our sleeves. Hearts ripped open, raw, leaving us defenseless, enchanted, dazed, and confused as if we are under a spell. All our senses are heightened with the feeling of love. To see, hear, taste, smell, and feel our way into a euphoric ecstasy.

A vision of beauty, an image of seduction, can excite an attraction or infatuation. A fleeting glimpse, a photograph, a movie, even your own imagination can create images of love. PEA (phenyl-ethyl-amine), is a molecule that speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells. It is an amphetamine-like chemical that assists the brain in feelings of increased excitement, energy, and optimism. This chemical assists us in feeling the initial exhilaration of meeting someone. PEA is also associated with a "runner's high", the state in which one feels elated from physical exercise. Love chemicals assist in the physical rush of falling in love and being in love. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, is known as the "pleasure chemical" and makes us feel really good when it is released. Norepinephrine is similar to Adrenaline, a stress hormone, and evokes the excitement and racing heart that can be caused by love or attraction. Certain foods stimulate the central nervous system and pituitary gland when consumed, and can produce pleasurable sensations inside the body. Indulge in melted, sugary, sweetness and increase your PEA levels, which are associated with chocolate consumption.

This February, we are buried in a deep, coat of snow, thanks to the blizzard of 2015. Due to the weather, more time is spent indoors, staying warm, and snuggling. Closeness is enhanced by physical touch. Kissing, caressing and massage increases the release of the "cuddle chemical", a hormone called oxytocin, found in men and women. Oxytocin stimulates the smooth muscles and sensitizes the nerves, and is heightened during sexual arousal. The more intense the arousal, the more oxytocin is produced, naturally igniting our minds into a state of bliss, rapture, and pure joy. Sometimes called the maternal hormone, oxytocin stimulates a physiological response of interest and increased sensitivity.

As a parent, I have discovered how love takes on different forms of care, concern, protection, and endearment. Once again, Oxytocin plays an important role in the survival and healthy growth of babies and children. As we get older, we cherish the love and wisdom from parents, family, and friends. The chemical reaction of specific hormones enhanced by being spoken to or touched in a gentle, loving manner encourages and strengthens a bond of togetherness.

Valentine's Day brings a universal celebration of love, affection, and sensuality. There are so many forms of love, and abundant ways to show love. An easy and fun way to show someone you care is to make something for them.  Giving someone a Valentine is a genuine act of kindness and a simple way to show your love. Receiving a hand written note card or a love letter awakens our sense of belonging, allowing us to feel special and adored.

With two busy, creative boys, I have paper hearts, lace cut-outs, crayons, glue, and glitter all over my table. They pour their signature style over cards, pictures, and crafts for friends and family. Hearing these words, "I Love You, Mom! Will you be my Valentine?", my heart warms with the shower of affection they give. Besides making hearts and cards, my boys and I spend a lot of time baking cookies, muffins, and breads. A wonderful way to teach important life skills, with math and science, as well as patience, listening and a sense of wonder. Baking is a creative, calming, and meditative activity. All the senses are stimulated, boosting those "feel good" endorphins, helping to find balance and peace in an otherwise chaotic world. A spoonful of melted chocolate, a drizzle of honey, a slathering of butter, a sprinkling of sugar, the smell of warm, spicy vanilla and cinnamon, create a special sweet for the one you love.

Here is a recipe combined with one of my favorite winter fruits that is in season right now, the blood orange. The burst of flavor and color excite and brighten this hearty dessert, making it a wonderful after dinner treat or a special breakfast dish. The amazing smells created in your kitchen will spark memories and trigger your emotions. Certain smells activate the olfactory receptors, these sensations are relayed to the cerebral cortex where cognitive recognition occurs. These receptors are directly connected to our limbic system, and can trigger deep emotional responses when stimulated. This explains why when you come home to delicious creations being baked in your oven, it immediately makes you feel comforted and relaxed. When you bake from the heart, you drown the ingredients in positive, healing, loving thoughts, the confections blend together, and create a mouth watering bite of heaven.

Blood Orange & Raspberry Brioche Pudding

1 loaf Brioche bread sliced in thick layers (any bread of choice can work, pick your favorite)

2 eggs

2 cups Milk (Coconut or Almond milk is especially rich)

2 teaspoons Vanilla extract (Madagascar Tahitian (fruity), Mexican (spicy), or Bourbon Vanilla)

2 blood oranges (Peeled, pithed, and sliced with seeds removed)

1 cup thawed raspberries

Zest of 2 blood oranges (slice in thin strips, then grate the rest)
*This is the most time consuming part of the recipe. Take care with peeling and pithing your blood orange, and make sure you taste the juicy sweetness as you go.

2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large baking dish with butter, and set aside.

Pour the milk into a large pan and heat until simmering, keep stirring to ensure the milk doesn't burn. Add the vanilla and 2 teaspoons of orange zest to the milk.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined.

Once the milk has come to a simmer, add the egg and sugar mixture. Continue to cook on a low heat, stirring continuously until a thin custard forms. Remove from heat and continue to stir for 2 minutes then set aside to cool.

In another smaller pan, whisk together the sugar, water and butter with the sliced and grated orange zest. Heat on low for 5 minutes until a syrup forms.

Arrange the sliced bread in the greased pan and sprinkle over the raspberries. Pour the custard over the layered bread, so it soaks through and covers the bread. Leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Lastly, pour the orange butter syrup over the top. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve up a lovin' spoonful of this decadent dessert, pour over the leftover orange butter syrup and enjoy this scrumptious sweet with your love!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sangha: Creating a Yoga Community

"Vasudeva Khatumbhakam" translated as The Whole World is One Family.  Swami Kripalu

In the place you live, there is a yoga studio close by. This studio is filled with yoga teachers who hold a space with love, patience, and persistence. They show up to their class ready to teach, to breathe, to feel, to share, to watch, and allow you an opportunity to let go of whatever is not serving you. As a woman, I perceive my work and life experience as stepping stones to a path that led me here. I chose yoga.

If you choose yoga and stay with it, the practice has the potential to uplift, strengthen, and transform your body and mind. Finding the right teacher to lead and guide you in a neutral, safe, calm, and supportive environment is important. Recognize that each teacher has different gifts that are waiting to be received. When you find yourself practicing yoga led by a teacher who can gently shine a light into the darkness, you become a precious gem with a translucent quality, radiating from the inside out.

Every teacher is a student. Every student is a teacher. Every person has a story, an inspiration that led them to the point at which they are. The path you choose will ultimately unfold your way of thinking.

Being a part of a yoga community filled with diverse, knowledgeable teachers that offer various classes in different schools of thought is a strong resource. As a teacher and a student there is constant learning. Open yourself to an experience in a gentle, non-judgmental, honest space, and meet yourself where you are. Today is not yesterday or the day before, what is happening now will not be what happens tomorrow. Most of us are going through similar motions to get through our day with a smile and keep our heads above water. Share your life with others, and you will find a friend, a kindred spirit, a family.

My yoga practice offers more than just 90 minutes of exercise, it is a way of life. It allows for an opportunity to be in the present moment and take a conscious effort to stay there, even after the mat is rolled up and put away. To share words, actions, freedom of expression, a calm silence and peace of mind with others creates a universal connection that transforms. This quality of interconnectedness reminds us that we can learn from those around us, drawing from their experiences and knowledge. We are all one living, breathing being reaching toward a common goal.  Rise up, take your happiness. Connect with others in similar situations, and know you are not alone.

As I climb the stairs to the yoga studio where I teach and practice, I am filled with gratitude. This small studio has opened her arms to me, created a place of refuge, wrapped me in love and support, and handed me a plate full of gifts in the form of a family. My Sangha, is a community of people who practice mindfulness, respect, and approachability. I have shared the essential elements of life with these people; conversation, meals, support, child care, tears of sadness, tears of joy, births, and grievances. These interactions assist me along my journey in a life of integrity, truth, and dignity.

Laying out my yoga mat, I remember all the people who support me in my efforts to find inner calm. The benefits of my practice extend outward, in my actions and reactions to family and friends.  My mind is able to focus, and I feel I have been given time and space to just be.  This is my life in balance.

While I sit and connect to breath, I notice individual thoughts arise, scatter, and melt away.  The gentle offerings and guidance conveyed by the soothing voice of my teacher, remind me that I am not alone in the struggles of life. There is inspiration in the beauty of a pose, strength, balance and focus to achieve and strive towards. There is a receptive quality in yoga, a quiet grace in shared moments of stillness, to feel and see all that is around us. Beside me, others are stretching out their worries and responsibility, easing their way into coordinating movement and breath.  I know they have the pressures and stress of life, as well as family and friends that require attention and care, just like me.

We all need food, water, warmth, love and support around us to survive.  When there is an abnormal level of imbalance, then life spins out of control. Yoga is a conscious effort of mindful prevention, resistance to reaction, and purposeful intention. The practice of yoga can be challenging. You must have no expectations, anything you are holding onto, will hold you back.

Most look outward to find happiness, rather than inward. Relying on an external source to give us freedom from stress, worry, grief, loneliness, or sadness is only temporary.  Sooner or later, the issues arise and need to be dealt with.  Yoga gives you the power to open a door to the unknown, lifting up a window to breathe in the cool, fresh air. If you have found yoga in a studio that you keep coming back to, you have found a home.

"We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness." 
Thich Nhat Hanh

Lying on my back, with the weight of my body sinking down into the earth, I relax my muscles and awaken my mind to the breath.  The first jewel of yoga is inner wakefulness and insight, an awakened mind is known as the Buddha.  Inhale followed by exhale, thoughts move in and thoughts move out. Softly and slowly, the awakened mind arouses the physical body to move, transition and pause.  The second jewel of yoga, known as the Dharma, is reflecting and receiving the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of your practice. With eyes closed, hands press together toward an open heart, a humble bow is exchanged to the self and to others. A light has brightened and awareness of darkness has lifted. The lightness and the darkness exist in equal parts, shifting and flowing through life. The third jewel of yoga, known as the Sangha, is a sacred space that holds a sense of belonging, growth, and discovery. It is the universal connection of life, sharing, supporting, and trusting ourselves and one another.  Knowing we are all finding our path under the great big sky.