February 24, 2011

Turning 34 and loving it.

I was hoping to have something really profound to write as a birthday post (birthday is not until the 26th but I will be celebrating and not have time to post). After all I recognized that this is the first birthday that I have felt fully content. I like where my life is at and where it's going. It feels good. 

The reason it feels so good is because I have gained comfort in the space in between, the grey area. So rather than re-invent the wheel, here is a post I wrote almost one year ago that speaks to just that.

Grey Matters

When we are young we need rules. This structure and guidance is what allows us to grow while being safe. Children (and many adults) often don't recognize that just because you "can" it doesn't mean you "should". So as children we are given rules. They are usually black and white: Don't put your hand on the stove, Do not cross the street without an adult, Don't run with scissors, etc.

As we get older and learn that rules are conditional we still crave structure. As teenagers who are stretching wings and learning to analyze situations and make our own decisions we often find structure in another way, our identity. Look at the movie The Breakfast Club with a Delinquent, a Basket Case, a Geek, a Prom Queen, and a Jock. We flock to identify with a group because black and white is easy. Black and white is comfortable and safe.

As we emerge from this safety of being in a group and the rules of our parents we find ourselves in our early 20's. We make our own rules, we find new groups, and we discover it's not always so easy to apply black and white thinking to situations. Yet, many people stick with this. It's what we've known for so long. It's worked well so why change it.

The "why" is simple. The most well-rounded, insightful, and open-hearted people find solace in the grey area. For example, in yoga, there are so many paths yet the most successful teachers have explored the variety in order to find their own style. When asked "What style of yoga should I do?" they will usually ask "What do you hope to gain from your practice?". The same can be said of career advisors, spiritual leaders, friends, and all the influential people in our life. Those who are willing to step back and say "I can't tell you what to do but I can tell you what works for me" are able to help us become stronger by asking more of us. They ask us to build our own path rather than walk blindly down one set for us. This is finding comfort in the grey area.

It's not easy but when you allow the grey area in and learn to be comfortable you will easily find peace during the ebb and flow of life. As Rufus the Apostle said in the movie Dogma, "I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant."

February 21, 2011

Gratitude and Grace

At the beginning of yoga class, we're often asked to set an intention or to send our practice where it needs to go. This is a practice I have extended to other parts of my life like climbing, hikes, bike rides, the activities that help make that connection between the body and soul easy to see.

Sometimes setting that intention is really easy. There may be an area of your life where you're struggling or a loved one in need so your intention is very clear. Other times it's not that easy. Maybe all is going well or it's just too messy to bring it to the mat. At those times I have always had a staple intention, simply to practice for those who can't. Move for those who can't. Be present for that period when others can't. This intention has served me well.

Recently, I began to think about that a bit more. Sending your practice out to an anonymous stranger who can't practice is a lot like praying for someone you've never met. I think that's something we've all done. Whether we've been sending good vibes out to our co-worker's sick daughter or keeping good thoughts for someone we heard about on the news, we all do this to some extent.

Chances are if most of us pray for a stranger in some way, well then a stranger has sent good energy our way. Have you felt that before? I have and it's pretty awesome. So now when I am not sure where to send my practice I still send it to those who can not practice but I also send it to every person who has ever prayed for me, those I know and those I will never meet.

So I invite you,  the next time you're on your mat or about to begin a hike, walk or ride to send it out to all those who have ever given you energy when you needed that extra bit of love, even if you've never met them. Be mindful, be thankful and be present for them.

February 15, 2011

Review: Yoga for Shoulders with Andria Davis, RYT

I have been a fan of Yoga Ventures DVDs ever since I bought "Yoga for Climbers" a few years ago. While beautifully filmed in gorgeous settings the videos are produced simply without a lot of fuss. The beauty of the instructor, Andria Davis, shines through with her soulful practice. I love how Yoga Ventures has catered to helping balance out outdoor enthusiasts activities with yoga for Cyclists, Paddling, and Hikers as well as Climbers. When I got a chance to try out the "Yoga for Shoulders" DVD I jumped at it.

First and foremost I love the set-up of this DVD! When you put in the video there is a big menu, it may be overwhelming at first, especially if you want to just dive in start some yoga. But diving in defeats the purpose of this DVD. It is designed to help people with shoulder injuries, shoulder pain, or to just strengthen and increase mobility of healthy shoulders, so  it's good to go through and read the descriptions and start with the recommended routines whether you're a beginner or experienced yogi. In the introduction you learn about the various sequences as they are designed to build on each other as well as what props are suggested for the various practices and how to use them.

You start with the breath sequence then work your way through a total of seven practices that align and strengthen your shoulders while releasing tension and increasing mobility. Once you've worked your way through the seven practices and can do them in a comfortable manner you can then pick and choose from the various component. Or if you're ready for a longer session there are additional combinations of the routines. Whether you're in the mood for standing poses, core work, or restorative work there is something for your mood.

Normally I have a really hard time with yoga DVDs. I miss the energy of a class or the freedom of my own home practice. I think that is why I enjoy Andria's style so much. It's a unique experience that is enjoyable in it's own way. The slow pace of the sequences feels nourishing and energizing at the same time. While doing the various routines I really enjoyed how I could close my eyes and just enjoy, the verbal directions were soothing yet detailed. Andria has a great way of speaking so that you know where to go with your body and movement but feel the warmness you expect from yoga.

As part of my yoga teacher training I have learned that the shoulders can give out very early in life if you practice in a certain way. I feel very good about Andria's "Yoga for Shoulders" DVD that it not only helps repair some of the hardship our shoulders experience but also helps us build better technique to keep practicing yoga into our 80s. I love this DVD and can't wait to check out more of her DVDs.

February 14, 2011

The "Heart Healthy" Winner!!!

Well I have to say, I was fairly surprised by this contest. The entries were very few but the feedback was plentiful. I heard a lot on my Twitter stream and through emails that many of you are  currently subscribed to Door-to-Door Organics (or you live outside the delivery zone). I am delighted to hear that so many people are eating excellent organic produce!

The contest winner, David R., will be receiving a complimentary Bitty Box from Door-to-Door Organics. While David didn't submit a recipe I loved his response. It's very much in line with my own eating philosphy.

While there are a lot of great heart healthy recipes out there I personally want my organics to achieve their full nutritional potential, which means having them raw and having them within reach at all times.  Not to say I don't appreciate cooking, I just love the taste of crisp, fresh organic produce and build my meals around that on a daily basis.  

In addition, one generous ready, Peter West Carey, was outside of the delivery zone, but suggested if he win I give his prize to someone deserving. Check out his recipe here.

Oven Roasted Portobellas with Potatoes, Onions and Squash

Portobello Mushrooms
Red Potatoes
White Onions
Italian Squash
Several cloves Fresh Garlic
1-2 teaspoons Mustard Powder
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup (or to taste) Balsamic or Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoons honey

Directions: Chop potatoes, squash and onions into similarly sized pieces. Mix together in oven safe cookware. (Note: If you have a quicker cooking squash, you may want to reserve it and add midway through the cooking process.) Slice the mushrooms into generously thick portions and spread over the top of the other veggies. In a bowl or liquid measure, whisk together the garlic, spices, salt and pepper, oil, vinegar and honey. Drizzle over the top of the vegetables.
Roast in 350-375 degree (F) oven for about an hour or until veggies are tender, stirring once or twice to make sure the vegetables are evenly coated.
This one tastes prettier than it looks.

February 11, 2011

The Yamas and Niyamas - Cupcake Style!

I have been fairly quiet about my Yoga Teacher Training experience so far. It has been great but also a lot of work and something that pushes back. We were recently tasked to write out our perception of the Yamas and Niyamas. I thought it might be worth sharing, below is what I came up with.

Sometimes the Yamas and Niyamas are very easy to understand and conceptualize. Other times they’re like a painting by Salvadore Dali, just when you think you get it, you don’t get it. So I like to look at them from a contemporary point of view.

The Yamas

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all” Thumper from Bambi.

Sure he is a cartoon rabbit but he’s got the idea. Don’t be hurtful, don’t be harmful. Speak kindly, act kindly, think kindly. It’s not limited to your actions towards others but also toward yourself.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

Sometimes the belief in Satya is so strong that we lose sight. Do we insist on being honest to the point of hurting someone, thus violating Ahimsa. Don’t lie, don’t betray, but recognize as Oscar Wilde said, it isn’t always simple to be truthful. Practice kind honesty.

“If you have to lie, cheat, and steal, you just aren’t doing it right” – Donald Trump

Donald Trump, one of the wealthiest men in the world, who has seen fortune come and go and come back again, doesn’t believe in stealing. If you have to take what is not yours then you’re doing it wrong. Do not take what is not yours, whether it is a material item or credit for someone’s thoughts and ideas.

“It means something to me. You can't just go off shagging anybody anymore. And if you could, I wouldn't because I'm not like that.” – Vanessa, Austin Powers

Often interpreted as “celibacy”, Brahmacarya is more about keeping your connections sacred. Guard your body, heart, and mind. Don’t share your essence until you know the person you’re sharing it with is someone who you treasure.

“If you’re not greedy you will go far, you will live in happiness too... like the oompa.... loompa.... doompity do.” – Oompa Loompa, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Greed is consuming, greed has consequences. Whether you’re hording money, power, or the spotlight it will come back to harm you. Don’t do it. Be like the Oompa Loompa. Be blissful by living with moderation and balance.

The Niyamas

“Tonight's lecture: ‘What's wrong with celebrating sobriety by getting drunk?’" Betty, 28 Days

Cleanliness and purity….yes this is Sauca. However, it also goes further for me. Be introspective about what you’re doing to your body and mind. Are you working against yourself? Do you make it through a gorgeous and detoxifying session of yoga to then go out for martinis, bar food, and gossip? If you work hard to keep yourself clean, then keep it clean.

“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today.” The White Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass

Sometimes everything in the past looks great. If only you could be back there you would be happy. Or you know that once you get that raise, lose those 10 pounds, have a beautiful house, your life will be wonderful. Sure, maybe. However, Santosa isn’t about finding perfection. Santosa is knowing that life will never be what it was, it will never be what it is, however knowing you’re doing what you can and on the right path and being content there.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” Tom Robbins

Dedication, commitment, igniting the fire within and keeping it stoked. This is Tapas. However recognize that in our austerity we sometimes have to evolve and change in order to maintain the commitment.

“To acquire knowledge, one must study. To acquire wisdom one must observe.” - Marilyn vos Savant

The quest for knowledge is not limited to books and classes. Observe the world, observe yourself. Learn by looking out, learn by looking in.

Isvara pranidhana
“At fifteen, life had taught me undeniably, that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.” Maya Angelou

Sometimes all we can do is let go. Often people recognize this in our darkest hours, surrender to your higher power and you will find the path. This is true of the brightest times in our life as well, when you’ve reached that peak, surrender to find the next path.

February 8, 2011

You Gotta Have Heart

February is American Heart Month in order to bring awareness and prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. Combined these are our nation's number one killer but there is a lot you can do to maintain your health and lower your risk. The American Heart Association has a lot of great tips to keep heart healthy. One of these key items is to stick with a healthy diet including 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day.

One way to make sure you always have plenty of fruits and veggies on hand is to subscribe to Door-to-Door Organics. This company will deliver fresh fruits and/or vegetable right to your doorstep or work location. Having fruits and veggies available makes it much more likely that you'll choose them to snack on or cook with. Also, developing a base of good heart-healthy recipes will ensure you always have a healthy option for meals. To help jump start some heart healthy eating I am having a contest. Submit your best Heart Healthy recipe by this Friday, February 11 at 11:59 pm MT and you will have the opportunity to win a free bitty Box from Door-to-Door Organics! Not sure what qualifies as a "Heart Healthy" recipe? Check out the AHA website for tips.

Please email entries (with pictures if available) to thecupcake@mycupcakemafia.com. Voting will be held from Saturday- Monday, with the winner being announced on Tuesday, February 15. You must live int he DTDO delivery area to qualify for the prize.

If you don't have a recipe to submit but are in the DTDO delivery area and want to try it out you can sign up and enter "cupcakemaifa" as a promotional code to save 40% off your first Bitty box!

Already receiving a Door to Door Organics delivery? Current customers can add Valentine’s Day goodies to their order, including items from local Colorado companies Beautiful Sweets Organic Bakery and Seth Ellis Chocolatier. Door To Door Organics will donate 10% of the proceeds from the purchase of these special Valentine’s Day items to the American Heart Association.  Orders must be submitted by February 13.

February 1, 2011

If You Planted Your Heart, What Would Grow?

It's the beginning of February and smack dab in the middle of the month is Valentine's Day. For some of us it is a  wonderful holiday, for others it's just another day, and for some it is a heartbreaking reminder that they're single. I have been guilty of responding in all of these ways and probably various combinations. However in the past few years I have been using the holiday as a reminder to check in on my heart.

One of my favorite questions to meditate on is "If you planted your heart, what would grow?". It's a tough question to answer and even more difficult to answer truthfully. Sure, I would love to say that my heart would only grow a tree of fruit that is made up of beautiful light and nourishing love but the reality is my heart would also grow some less than favorable fruit at times. As someone who is comfortable wading in the light and the dark, and the area in between, I have grown comfortable seeing the bruised fruit.

When you think of nature and the fruit that gets damaged on the tree or is stunted and ceases to grow, you know it falls down to the ground. It falls and the nutrients seep into the soil. This enables the tree to grow. I relate this to the darker parts of my heart. The dark comes from experiences that may not have felt great, but those experiences provide for me. They nurture my soil and allow me to grow bigger, brighter, healthier fruit.

So in honor of a month where we are surrounded by hearts in one form or another I invite you to sit for awhile and ask yourself "If I planted my heart, what would grow?". Don't shy away from the ideas that are less than lovely. Embrace all the bits and pieces and honor the dark and the light in your heart. Once you take ownership of all parts of the tree of your heart you will be aware of it's strengths on all levels and see all the wonderful areas that it will continue to grow.