yoga is a way of life.. For inner peace and good health, practice yoga

yoga is a way of life.. For inner peace and good health, practice yoga

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Teachings: A Respectful Being

In the past few weeks, I have noticed a flood of wonderful teachings come my way and I want to share some of them with you. I find they interlace with each other and have a common bond, which is respect: acting from an awareness that everything is sacred and our bodies and the world are the same temple.

When visiting the Rubin Museum of Art in the city (which specializes in art of the Himalayas) on Valentine's Day, there was an exhibit of Jain Images of Perfection. Jainism has an ancient past and is one of India's three classical religions together with Hinduism and Buddhism. According to the brochure, "At the heart of Jainism is an ethic of nonviolence, ahimsa, and a respect for all living things. Ahimsa continues to guide the daily lives of all Jains, who are strict vegetarians. An ancient faith emphasizing the sanctity of all life, Jainism was an influence on the nonviolent political movement of Mahatma Gandhi."

In this month's Yoga Journal, a short article is centered around having respect for all things, living or not. Showing respect for your home by removing your shoes when you enter. Not slamming doors. Hanging your clothes instead of dropping them on the floor. Being grateful for a warm blanket. Leaving a place better than the way you found it. The author says, "When I respect my wife, she is kinder to me. Likewise, with loving care, a tree will bear us sweeter fruit. If we do not respect other people, they will not be willing to help us when we are in need. If we do not respect the planet, it will not remain habitable."

An article I read in The New York Times Magazine recently talks about a new theory in psychology, called "ecopsychology," which is dedicated to the relationship between environmental issues and mental health and well-being." Glenn Albrecht, a professor in Australia, writes about the term he devised called solastalgia, a word that comes from Latin and Greek and is defined as "the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault, a feeling of homesickness while still being home." Albrecht estimates that solastalgia "is a global condition, felt to a greater or lesser degree by different people in different locations but felt increasingly, given the ongoing degradation of the environment."

And in my "More Language of Letting Go" daily reader, the entry today shares a few words about work. You can do an average job of it, or really put your best into it and make it a wonderful, rewarding experience. It shows a tremendous amount of self-respect when you take charge and give your very best to everything you do. I have success with it when I do... clients respond, work seems to pour in more and more, and I feel more fulfilled with my career.

I find that when I have respect for the tiniest of creatures (I always escort ants and spiders outside in a glass and never, ever kill them), for my home, for my body, for those close to me, for strangers, for my work, for the earth itself, I feel better about myself because good energy goes out and returns to me. I have much more I would like to do, like walking more instead of driving/polluting, being more compassionate when out in the congested area where I live. It certainly is challenging to find peaceful solutions in our complicated modern society. But I think it is the many small efforts of respect we make that add up to truly living in the present moment, and when we live in the present moment, we find the luxury to be in harmony with all that is.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Body: Spring-Cleaning

My niece Laura just joined as a follower of this blog, and I am thrilled! For her 21st birthday this past December, I gave Laura a necklace that her Uncle Joe (my late husband) had given me. It is a pretty chain with a silver pendant that is inscribed, in Chinese, "Bone & Spirit" and I wanted Laura to have it because she is a girl who exemplifies being able to exist with "her head in the sky and her feet on the ground." A very balanced individual, she is! Welcome Laura, to Auntie Audrey's blog world.

All this rain and hearing the birds singing is giving me confidence that spring is just around the corner. When the seasons change, my body wants to change, too. I know this because my taste in foods changes and I am itching to move around more. I promised you all the cleansing diet, "Jumpstart Detox Program," passed along to me by my sister in law Adele, and will post it at the end of this entry.

Adele and I had attended a workshop last spring that introduced springtime foods and the concept of eating a seasonal diet. It makes so much sense to be in tune with our natural surroundings! Macrobiotic diets are basically made up of local, seasonal foods. Why do we eat tropical fruit in the middle of winter in the north? It is contrary to our natural existence. But we do indulge because we can, living in a global village where goods are available to us from far-flung places in all seasons. For me, I keep these regional/seasonal oddities to a minimum.

The detox diet below is not the one and only answer, but it is perhaps a start towards cleansing the body of toxins that have built up after being indoors too long without enough exercise, and living in a polluted environment. Adele and my niece Victoria both took on this week-long diet and I think were aided by having each other as a team. Victoria, who is 20, showed amazing willpower and even took some "ribbing" from friends who seem both impressed and horrified by her ability to be so healthy in the face of Taco Bell and other tempting junk food that her pals eat regularly. In fact, Victoria found new energy to get up in the morning more refreshed with plenty of vitality all day long. She glows with good health and that is rare in someone so young to embrace a healthy lifestyle. She says she is trying to stick to the diet as much as possible because it makes her feel so good!

The diet might be difficult during the first couple of days, but you will find your rhythm and start feeling lighter and brighter. As you can see, it is not a starvation diet! It might encourage you to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables and fewer processed grains or sugary and fatty foods. As Michael Pollen says in his new book, "Food Rules," if it's a plant, eat it. If it's made in a plant (factory), don't eat it. I don't eat frozen foods at all except for pesto that I freeze after making it from my garden herbs. I avoid food that comes in cans (except sardines) since cans have BPA leaching out of them. I cook from scratch every night or make batches that I can eat as leftovers within the next day or two. Fresh, baby, FRESH!!! I like knowing exactly what I am eating.

I hope you will enjoy either embarking on the detox diet, or contemplating it. Read through and see if you can at least make changes along the way. Awareness is the goal. There is no pressure or competition here! They say, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." A healthy, natural diet is important to health. Finding the right diet for YOU, at this phase of life, is the most important thing. If you are not feeling as good as you'd like to, then you can make changes. You will thank yourself! Good health is important for inner peace and vice versa... and leads to peace everywhere.

"Jumpstart Detox Program"
Duration 1 Week
Dietary Recommendations:
1. No sodas, alcohol, gluten (wheat, rye, oats, barley, spelt, corn, soy) or dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt) or any foods NOT listed below.
2. Start your morning off with hot water with fresh lemon 1/2 hr. before eating. Drink at least 64 oz. of fluids/day.
3. Have 1 or more servings of 1 teaspoon flax meal in 8 oz. of water in between meals. Drink 3 hrs. away from any medications or supplements.
4. Organic ingredients are always best.

"Fabulous Fruit Smoothie" (see recipe below), or veggie omlette with 1/2 cup berries on the side, or 1/2 hard-boiled egg with celery stalks and 1/2 cup berries on the side.

Mid-Morning Snack:
1/2 to 1 cup low glycemic index fresh fruit (apples, blackberries, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears, raspberries and strawberries) and nuts (raw, unsalted, no peanuts--almonds are a good choice): 5 nuts for women, 10 nuts for men.

Start with 1 cup Alkaline Broth (see previous blog post, Feb. 18, "Healthy Broth: Listen to Your Body" for recipe). 1 or more cups mixed greens and non-starchy vegetables (avoid primarily beans and potatoes) with olive vinaigrette and 1 teaspoon flax meal. 4-6 oz. of protein (turkey, chicken or fish--no red meat) or eggs if vegetarian.

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 cup raw veggies with 1/4 cup guacamole or salsa (no sugar, low salt).

Similar to lunch: Start with 1 cup Alkaline Broth (see previous blog post, Feb. 18, "Healthy Broth: Listen to Your Body" for recipe). 1 or more cups mixed greens and non-starchy vegetables (avoid primarily beans and potatoes) with olive vinaigrette and 1 teaspoon flax meal. 4-6 oz. of protein (turkey, chicken or fish--no red meat) or eggs if vegetarian.

Throughout the Day:
Drink decaf green tea, herbal tea, or warm water with lemon.

"Fabulous Fruit Smoothie"
Organic ingredients are best
1 cup fresh fruit ( berries, peaches, pineapple, etc.)
1/2 banana
1 scoop protein powder ("Whey Cool" is a good brand)
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
8 oz. cran-water or plain purified or filtered water
Big dash of cinnamon
Dash of vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Mix until rich and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. To make cran-water, fill a 32 oz. container (glass or stable plastic) with 4 oz. unsweetened cranberry juice and 28 oz. of pure, filtered water.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Affirmations: Connecting Peace & Health

Sometimes at bedtime, or on Sunday night, I like to read soothing wisdom that both helps me make sense of my day and prepares me in a positive way for the day/week ahead. We all have successes and failures each day and I find solace in readings that acknowledge the journey. Again and again I discover how intertwined good health is with inner peace, and how our thoughts and actions ripple out into the world. These affirmations, more than anything else, help me be kinder to myself. I actually feel myself sighing as I read because I feel I have permission to stop being so hard on myself for what I did or didn't do "right."

My life coach Joy ( shared with me and other students in our teleclass a set of affirmations from Bellaruth (a guided imagery pioneer and psychotherapist), 30 in all, which flow in a sequence that is to me relaxing, full of inner truth, empowering, and reminds me of the important connection between peace and health. I hope you will enjoy reading these simple and powerful affirmations. You can copy and paste them into a document to keep by your bedside, as I have done! Please share them with your friends, and the recipes and entries on my blog. That's why I write to you! My next blog post will feature the detox cleansing diet of which the Alkaline Broth is one component, this week.

"Affirmations from Bellaruth"

I know there are times when I become worried, pressured, angry or sad and I accept what I feel as my inner truth of the moment.

I know that the more I can acknowledge and accept my feelings without criticism or blame, the more I allow myself to become peaceful, calm and well.

I know that the more I clear my mind and set aside needless worry, the more I allow myself to become peaceful, calm and well.

More and more, I can release the thoughts and feelings that disturb my inner sense of balance and peace. I can send them out with the breath in the interest of my own well-being.

More and more, I can let go of worrying about things I cannot control and focus on my own inner peacefulness.

More and more, I am in touch with the peaceful stillness at my center… sweet, balanced and steady.

I know that when I can soften and let go of harsh expectations and unrealistic demands on myself and others, I allow myself to be peaceful, calm and well.

I know that when I can forgive myself and others for errors of the past, I allow myself to be peaceful, calm and well.

More and more, I see that when I can love and appreciate myself and take time to care for myself, I am giving my body a powerful message to be calm and well.

I understand that the time to be motivated by guilt or fear or mindless pressure is over. Now is the time to do things out of love and celebration and the joy of self-expression.

More and more, I can appreciate my body, respect it and take good care of it.

I call upon my intention to bring more calm and well-being into my life.

I engage my powerful will to help me with this.

I invite assistance from my friends and loved ones – past, present and future – to lend me their support and strength. I see myself surrounded by their love and caring and I feel it all over my body like a warm wave.

The blueprint that I hold in my mind’s eye is the picture of myself – vital, strong and active… focused, joyful and fulfilled.

I see my body for what it truly is, my oldest friend and my steadiest companion.

I am no longer willing to push and pull myself around without regard for my own health and well-being. I’ll show the same love and concern for my body as I would for any dear and valued friend.

More and more, I can consider the possibility that my body is trying to teach me something useful and that these times of stress are simply signals to slow down, focus inward and be kinder to myself.

More and more, I can notice when muscles tense and tighten in my body and I can soften and release them with my awareness and my breathing.

More and more, I can soften and relax tension in my scalp, face, neck and shoulders.

I know that when I stay connected to my body when I am truly conscious of how it feels, I allow myself to be peaceful, calm and well.

I know that when I can live in the present taking pleasure in the beauty and aliveness of each moment, I allow myself to be peaceful, calm and well.

More and more, I can see the beauty of others and the beauty of my surroundings. More and more, I can see the beauty of my own being.

I can see and feel radiant sunlight entering and warming my body, penetrating into the places that are tight or tense or sore, and loosening, dissolving and dispersing them.

I can see and feel a powerful blue-green wave of peace and healing washing through me from head to toe, clearing out tension and taking it out with the tide.

I can see and feel a warm, pulsing, glowing blanket of magical comfort surrounding me, enveloping me with a feeling of peace and safety as it soaks its healing warmth into me.

I salute my own courage, commitment and strength in my efforts to take charge of my own health, calm and well-being.

I know that I have things to do, gifts to give, purposes to accomplish, and I require a strong, health body and clear, peaceful mind for this.

More and more, I know I will look after myself, not out of fear of illness, but out of love and respect for myself and my life.

More and more, I know that I am held in the hands of the Divine and I am perfectly, utterly safe. And so I am.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Healthy Broth: Listen to Your Body

When you have nothing to say, best not to say anything. That's how I've felt the past week, but here I am again! I go through periods of activity/inactivity, as we all do, and take time to process experiences and feelings before feeling ready to share my thoughts.

I have been inspired in this post to share a wonderful, super-healthy broth recipe passed along by my sister in law, Adele, which I hope many of you will want to try making... and enjoying. Adele has spent many years in her own health quest and has been a constant source of helpful natural remedies and food knowledge, and I am very grateful to her for this as I feel healthier as time goes on.

Our American-style diets tend to include foods that are on the acidic side (coffee and tea, vinegar, sweets, dairy, meat), so it's good to balance ourselves out by consuming foods that are alkaline. (You can Google acid/alkaline charts to see what foods to eat and/or avoid). The broth recipe that follows is an Alkaline Broth (the photo above is my soup pot last evening with everything ready to start simmering before I put a lid on it). It's really easy to make from common ingredients, and you drain everything and keep only the broth. I made a batch last night and drank several cups of it today and I feel great! There is nothing but the vegetable juice--no salt or olive oil or anything added AT ALL. It's very pure in other words. A good way to de-toxify, too! You can drink it hot, warm, or cold, and sip it during the day. Adele suggested drinking a glass before a meal and that way you are partly filled up and won't tend to stuff yourself as much with your meal. I can see the value of making this broth before each new season, to cleanse the body.

After you go through a few days of drinking this special and pure broth, see how your body feels. Check in with it and see if it responds favorably... More energy? Feel lighter? Is your body thanking you for this gift? After all, you really are giving it a gift and that intention is full of positive energy in your self-care. Paying attention to the needs of our body and showing it respect is important as this is the shell we exist in all the days of our lives. For me, protecting my health is my primary job. Without my health, everything is more difficult. With my health, everything is possible.

Bon appetit! Please, let me know how you enjoy this simple and yet powerful "elixir." Thanks, again, Adele!

3 stalks celery or bok choy
3 carrots
1 large onion or 2 garlic cloves
1 cup spinach leaves
6 red-skinned unpeeled potatoes

All veggies should be organic. Cover vegetables with water in a big non-aluminum soup pot. Let cook until broth has a rich flavor (approx. 2-3 hours). Strain and discard vegetables. Drink hot or cold.

(Notes: I put in a small handful of carrot greens since I didn't have many parsley sprigs on hand. I also used both onions and garlic. After straining, I kept the cooked veggies to puree and either use as a thicker soup base or sauce).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Inspired by a Little Girl

On my refrigerator, I have a "Peace Display" that includes a tiny photo of Anne Frank, the little girl who penned the famous diary before she was killed by the Nazis. It seems to be a part of human nature, an ugly part, that we are afraid of "the other" and I notice I feel shades of it from time to time. An uncomfortable feeling when I'm out in the world and around people whose culture or customs are foreign to me, feeling uncertain if I like them or not. When I hear about atrocities that some people commit towards other fellow human beings (and other living beings), it is beyond comprehension that humans can be so cruel. Yet, I can feel inside of me the fear, condescension, and even anger that arises when my cultural upbringing differs with another's.

Last evening, my husband and I watched a wonderful documentary on PBS called, "P-Star Rising," about a little girl from the Bronx who is a recording rap star with many difficulties in her life. I wasn't expecting to like her or the film much, but I began to see that even though I didn't "relate" necessarily to her form of expression, I discovered that Priscilla (P-Star) is a bright, soulful, adorable little girl just like any, and her family's struggle to survive and thrive under very difficult circumstances is the same world over. There is wisdom in P-Star and her father's frank and open conversations with each other, heartache in the reunion with her mother, enthusiasm and natural talent in her performances. I felt grateful to have been given an opportunity to see this little movie and get to know a culture that I didn't know before, and really appreciate it.

There is more than meets the eye when we get to know people who are really different from us. Or as Atticus Finch says to another outstanding little girl, Scout, in "To Kill A Mockingbird," you have to walk in the other person's shoes to understand what they are going through. To create meaningful peace in the world, it starts with being open and really listening, taking the time to get to know someone who is from another world, even from the same town where you live.

To learn more about "P-Star Rising" and Priscilla herself, check out these links:
View the trailer:
Two music videos:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Walk: Exercise for the Soul

Walking has been a big topic for me lately. I love walking for exercise and have felt disappointed about how cold it is and how little time I want to spend outside, just counting down the months till it's warm and conducive to walking again regularly. And then the other day, my life coach, Joy, sent me and our teleclass a wonderful e-mail with a short and inspiring article about walking which I will put at the end of this post.

Walking, for me (as it might be for you, too), is about more than simply getting somewhere or for exercise of my body. It allows me the time and opportunity to enjoy nature (even though I am in hypersuburbia) and to either empty my mind or allow it to process feelings I have been having. I find I often work out a decision or issue that was bothering me at the same time I work out my legs! Today I went for a brisk walk in the bitter cold when the sun was at its highest and warmest. There were lots of crows and other birds up and all around and they were delightful. I took off my sunglasses to allow the rays right into my eyes so as to receive the most benefit of the vitamin D from the sun. I noticed that I started getting a bit pre-occupied about a matter in my life right now, and made a conscious decision to simply walk and make this time about taking a break from everything else. That is how I feel I am in the present moment, that moment you hear so much about!

Sometimes we need to take a break, a real break, so allow space for who we really are, simply us. Walking is like a mini-vacation. You get out into the world, your immediate world, to see what's going on in your neighborhood and be reminded there is a natural world out there. I feel somehow more connected to peace this way. Instead of stressful excursions, walking for the sake of walking is a way I find that peace is possible. You bring so little to walking, just comfortable shoes and layers of clothing, and nothing in your hands. Simplicity is freedom! With all the very challenging and dangerous things going on in the world today, it's important to take a break now and then and be reminded that peace in this world starts with each of us. As the wise Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hahn, says, "Peace is every step." I hope it's warm enough for me to walk again tomorrow!

Here is the article. Thank you, Joy, for sharing it with me!

by Clarence Thomson

We have several ways of making any changes we want. One is by trying to change our feelings. The assumption is that if we can change our thinking, we'll change our feelings and then we will behave in new ways.

This belief reigns supreme in all talking therapies; it under girds nagging, preaching and cheerleading: think better, feel better and you'll behave better.

There is another tradition. An older spiritual tradition, newly embraced by brief therapy and in some practices of NLP says that if you change the way act, your emotions will follow. The medieval principle was "solvitur ambulando" ("it is solved by walking").

An example: if you came to me with depression, I would not try to talk you out of your misery. Instead I would ask you to change the way you sit, stand and walk. You cannot stay depressed standing up straight, breathing deeply and walking briskly. So go for a brisk walk and see what happens.

I learned this working in a high school. I was not given an office, so when students or faculty came to my office, we would discuss their problems while walking. I got a reputation for being able to help with depression. I assumed it was my brilliant conversation, but gradually came to realize it was the walk that helped, not my counsel."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Work: In the Throes of Yin

This week seems so different from last week... I am whirling faster, clients are pushing my good intentions to the limit, and I am feeling "burnt" which is a sign I recognize as "Hey, wait a minute. Let me step back and decide what is the best way to go forward from here."

According to what I've learned from my doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and eastern teachings, the seasons have yin and yang properties. In the fall and winter, we go into the "yin" time, when days get shorter, animals hibernate, plants die, and it is a feminine, introverted, inward time of year when we naturally want to hunker in. In the spring and summer, we begin the "yang" time of the year which is masculine, expansive, extroverted, outward, active. When we go against the natural rhythms, we risk becoming ill. It makes perfect sense to me. I can watch my cat Margarita to observe natural rhythm: She sleeps all day during the winter, waking up a bit in the evening to do her business, but it's cold and she sleeps all night too.

Right now the season is just beginning to swing towards the promise of a new season. But a promise is not the same thing as the real thing. Let's be realistic: It's still the dead of winter whether we accept it or not. The days are still shorter than we would like them to be. It's colder than you-know-what. We are feeling impatient. Perhaps the yin-inward-feminine part of nature is beginning to yawn. But we can't get ahead of ourselves. I know that I am pushing too hard right now and I need a long, long nap to return to a balanced state. I must make a choice (yes, everything in life is a choice) to give myself what I need. I need to stop reacting to outside opportunities, saying YES to everything and everyone. That can come in the spring, when nature is with me. Right now I need to pace myself so that my urge to spring forward is acknowledged, but not catered to. I must be patient. Or, risk illness. I'm burnt. And that is my sign.

You might be in the throes of yin like I am. It won't last forever! Just another month or so. Then the horses can be loosed from the gate to run free. In the meantime, let's all get the rest we very much need, and give ourselves permission to enjoy every second of it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Daily Life's Benefits

They say that daily life is where real life is lived. When I stop to think about how much time I spend conducting my daily life versus the occasional fun thing like vacation or a celebratory event, most of my life is spent bathing, cooking, cleaning, etc., and doing those routine chores for self maintenance. If life seems boring, just the "same old routine," be glad that there is nothing upsetting your ability to have a daily routine. I remember my first husband Joe (may his soul rest in peace) being adamant that even though he was dying of cancer, he was going to hold tight to one thing that he could control: his daily routine. It gives a person a measure of stability in this simple act of taking care of one's self each day.

So, how can a daily life be appreciated? For me, making self care the highest priority has lead me to really enjoy daily life and routine. I try not to get too rigid and set in my ways, which when it happens makes me unhappy until I figure out that I have gotten into that slump. I find that I am doing pretty much the same thing every morning and evening when I wake up and get ready for sleep, but most days there is variation on a theme. It gives me comfort to know that I have what I need at my ready to be my best: Things like making a fresh pot of espresso, doing a 10-minute series of slow stretches and gentle jostling exercises to wake myself up, making up the bed so it looks pretty, a warm and splashy shower, putting on an interesting outfit that expresses what I am feeling that day... and then, going backwards, putting on soft and cuddly pajamas, soaking my feet in warm water, drinking a glass of milk and then doing a set of stretches to work out the kinks of the day before hopping between the flannels with a good book. Now, THAT'S a nice life and I am lucky to find what works for me to feel safe in this crazy world.

It took me a number of years to find wisdom and power in daily life. I thought it was found in the outside world, that I had to be whirling around in a frenzy of activity to find meaning. Now I only buzz around in between the bookends of my self care routine of the morning and evening and am unsettled if I don't have this foundation of calm. There is a Zen in washing the dishes, in tucking in sheets, in folding laundry, in sweeping the porch. I concentrate on my tasks, but my mind is also free to think or ponder or do nothing at all. Sometimes I am like Jane Austen's title character "Emma" who was completely content to live in and never travel beyond Highbury, her home. I believe each of us can be at peace with our daily lives and find a Zen in the little things, magic instead of boredom, contentment in knowing we are taking care of ourselves. Only then can we help others.