Comfort Zone

It makes me laugh sometimes when I realize what an intensely “creature of habit” individual I am. I love my comfort zone, hard, and yet some of my most joyous memories have been created in realms outside of said comfort zone! It’s like the part of my mind that is habitual and regimented has no short-term memory; it’s like “Woooo that was so FUN!!!!!!! I’m going to step outside my boundaries all the time!!!!!!!!!!” Then ten minutes later when the awesome storm has cleared and habit has resumed it’s like, “Oh yeah, this is my spot, I’m not going anywhere.” 

This came to mind this morning as I woke (today is my “Sunday!”) after a very tumultuous night of sleep, feeling mostly happy but wit a little feeling of dread for tomorrow – seriously, though, I was awake from 3:30-5:? a.m. including lots of tossing and turning, outfit planning, 5-year life-plan planning, a trip to the fridge for a glass of almond milk, designing and redesigning of today’s to-do list, changing of breakfast ideas, copious drinks of water which only prolonged the falling asleep by increasing the bathroom trips…you get the picture, I’m sleepy today. Good thing I’m not perfomring brain surgery today! 😉 

So anyways, I awoke feeling a teensy bit dreadful about the fact that I have an obligation to step outside of my boundaries tomorrow as a one-time thing at work. I couldn’t help but feel a bit irritated at my feelings, even though my intention was to acknowledge the dread, honor it, and let it pass. I felt a bit stuck on why I felt the dread. Which led me to this blog post.

I’m constantly talking about being the captain of our own ship and navigating even choppy seas with deep breath and tranquil focus. That is like, my mantra. So why the bubbling dread over a silly afternoon spent doing something I’m unfamiliar with? And tomorrow, no less! I’m not even focusing on today because I’m already worrying about tomorrow! Not cool, Sara, not cool.

So I set out to devise a little formula for myself. I don’t want to just speak and write inspirational words but not live them, that would be a terrible waste. I want to live them everyday. I want to be understanding of my thoughts, but rational and present in my awareness. The formula I’m coming up with is this:

[Emotion pops up] + [Emotion is recognized as helpful or harmful] – [Emotion is given equal weight and importance regardless of helpful/harmful nature] – [Helpful nature of Emotion is extracted] + [Emotion is released and awareness of the present moment renewed] = [Healthy Recognition of Emotion and Sequence of Acknowledgement]

With this equation, one is left with a positive. A plus one. A lesson 🙂

Notice that “justifying/analyzing” the emotion is not present in the equation. It’s often not necessary and often only keeps the emotion alive and nagging at the mind for even longer. Instead, by extracting the helpful nature of the emotion (and there’s always something positive even in the most negative of emotions, a silver lining if you will) before releasing it, one takes away something positive.

So here’s how I’ll work out my dread today:

[Dread] + [Harmful] + [An emotion that popped up for a reason and is worth recognizing, respecting and feeling] + [Feeling this dread has allowed me to devise this very equation, it has unveiled to me that I tend to fear the unknown and end up loving the atmosphere, and to remind myself that my attention ought not be directed towards anything but today] + [My awareness of the present moment, and this one glorious August 30th, 2012, is renewed by this little talk with myself] = [My dread was acknowledged, seen in a helpful light, and has been released from my being so I may focus all of my light and love on the one true thing I know I have: this beautiful day].

 

It worked for me, my friends, maybe it’ll work for you next time a nagging emotion pops up. Namaste!

 

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Happy Wednesday!

How funny is it that our society operates, generally, with the mentality that Monday-Friday is the workweek while Saturday and Sunday are the weekend, when so many of us work unconventional schedules. While I personally think the ratio of five days working to two days off is totally imbalanced, it’s all the more reason to chase one’s own bliss and hopefully have the opportunity to make a living doing what one loves. That being said, today is my “Saturday” and for that I am so happy it’s Wednesday 😉

I’m starting the day off with a super awesome Green Shake, the recipe for which I will share with you shortly. The weather is beckoning me out into it, so I think some more introspective reflection may surface on this blog come Sunday/Thursday night in regards to what nature unveiled to me over the course of this “weekend” of mine.

I think it’s an appropriate time to adopt the mindset (perhaps it’s easier for me to do considering it is my “weekend” right now, but I’ll elaborate nonetheless…) that, what with the imbalanced schedule that most adults work, we can have a sunny outlook regardless of where we’re headed. It’s much easier said than done, I know this, but I can’t help but frown at how easy it is to be drawn into the “workweek slump.” Oftentimes I’ve found my mood to be completely based upon what day of the week it is, mentally tracing out just how many more days, hours and blocks of time I’ll have to spend working and crossing tasks off a to-do list before my glorious “empty-space” time will arrive. I watch people sitting in traffic sometimes in the late evening and picture how much more difficult it must be for someone with a long commute to cut away time for themselves during their workweek. I can’t help but feel grateful that I don’t have a commute and realize that my morning yoga practice, my evening reading and my freedom to do rather a lot outside of my work schedule would be severely hindered if a long commute were thrown into the mix. I admire folks that have to do that, and admire them even more if they manage to enjoy it. I suppose this is bordering on “rambling” if it hasn’t already delved into full on maundering. If I could wrap up one single point of this paragraph I suppose it would be this:

Chase your bliss. Do everything in your power to make a living by doing something you love. If, in the meantime, you’re not enamored by your job then turn inward and make your true home (your mindset) a stunning, sunny place to be no matter what day it is. Take the power back from the “workweek” and allow yourself to view the blocks of time that you have to yourself as free, empty space to be filled with what you desire. Let us not become slaves to a schedule. Mix it up. Wake up early and practice yoga, or go for a bike ride, or even go down to a cafe and have a coffee while watching strangers whose lives you haven’t an inkling of knowledge about. Or get off work and go see the film you’ve been wanting to see, or take a sunset hike with your dog or partner or best friend or gloriously alone. Don’t save the things you want to do for days off because they are far fewer and farther between than days we must adhere to a schedule. Take control of your life and live it fully no matter the day of the week. Be present. Don’t waste breaths and moments simply because you have to be somewhere later, or “do it all over again” in the morning. Be alive now. Have “weekend” moments sporadically throughout each day, whenever time allows. It is our choice how we design our lives 🙂

Phew, I digress…

So now, without further ado, the Green Shake Goodness of this beautiful Wednesday/Mittwoch/Mercoledi morning!

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I couldn’t wait to drink some ’til after the picture hehe…so pardon the few sips missing.

Green Shake Goodness:

1 ripe kiwi, 2 handfuls spinach, 1 heaping tsp spirulina, 1 tbsp ground chia seeds, 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder, garden of life RAW protein powder, 1.5 cups almond milk, cinnamon, and a dash of honey. Mmm, mmm, mmm good 🙂

Now, I’m off and away to spend some time with my best friend before enjoying the sunshine and seeking out a place to practice yoga this evening. I hope you are all well and blissfully present on this gorgeous Wednesday August 29th…it is, after all, the ONLY August 29, 2012 we will ever have, so let us not waste a single moment of it! 

 

• Namaste •

 

 

The Subconscious: Our Best Friend and Greatest Enemy

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I’m certain that you’re familiar with the ever-present internal monologue and, if you’re not, then that’s a separate discussion entirely and I’d love to hear your secret…

I am a chatter-box both externally and internally. Through my yoga practice, however, I have begun to embrace a quieter state of existence. I find myself wanting to speak less, actually thinking before I speak (how hard is THAT one?!) and even pausing my internal monologue mid-thought. I read an article on MindBodyGreen last week (http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4169/5-Warning-Signs-That-You-Should-Stop-Talking.html) that I’ve not since stopped thinking about. It actually had a profound effect on me. I’ve noticed that every time I want to say something but precede the words with slanted darting eyes, and a vast change in body language (surely to be followed by a hushed voice), that I had probably better keep quiet. Not only for the sake of others, but for my own sake. It causes internal stress, both mentally and physically, to try and hurriedly utter a thought that one knows one ought not be uttering. 

Perhaps all of the deep breathing and meditation has really affected my mentality as well because, quite often now, I find myself quieting my mind when harsh thoughts begin to surface. When my internal monologue turns snarky and beings to cruelly berate a perfect stranger for the terse manner in which they treated me, I have found myself stopping that train of thought and derailing it entirely. I feel as though I’ve found the key to unlocking positivity (do not fear, I’ve not turned this piece into a “tooting my own horn” soliloquy), but the key is slippery. It’s hard to hold onto. It’s small and can easily slip through the fingers of a loose grip.

I think that part of this whole “I’ve found the key” feeling comes from the profoundly inspirational message that meditation and mindset need not be devoid of thought entirely. The concept of the “stream of consciousness” resonates with me in that the stream will indeed have thoughts bobbing in it, and it is up to us whether we observe the thoughts as they float by, or reach in and pluck one out. Stillness versus silence. 

When I say our subconscious can be our best friend or our worst enemy, I am referring to “the choice.” The choice is different for each of us in that our subconscious is suited to our own life, experiences and pre-disposition. A universal choice, however, is to opt for positivity over negativity. We will all have our negative moments, this is a truth. Without the negative moments, the positive moments would not be as recognizable, I believe. I simply strive in my own life to fill the overwhelming majority of my thoughts will a positive filter.

By stopping myself from unfairly chiding a perfect stranger, I am making myself all the more able to abstain from chiding my own Self unfairly. Cue the subconscious in the role of “best friend…” Similarly, if I were to not stop that harmful thought pattern, I would be less likely to stop it when it’s directed towards my own behaviors or experiences. The concept of positivity and kindness is truly cyclical. It’s an attitude of change. By calming our mind towards the world, towards others and towards the Self, we are setting off a chain reaction.

Be kind with the subconscious. Would you tell a friend, “Shut up, stop talking, I don’t want to hear that.” Probably not. You’d probably find a more tactful and peaceful way to verbalize such feelings. So let’s give our minds and our internal monologues similar respect. “This is not a positive thought process. It’s unfair. It’s as detrimental to my own energy as it is detrimental to the subject of these thoughts.”

My mom always tells me that continuing to harp on something keeps it alive. If you’re angry at yourself, let it go, rather than continuing to play it over and over in your mind. If someone rubs you the wrong way, try to acknowledge your conscious reaction and urge the subconscious to not keep this experience alive by analyzing, repeating and obsessing over it. It’s the same in verbal conversations. I am guilty of always wanting to retell, re-analyze and relive experience, particularly those of a stressful nature, with the hope that it will “put to rest” the experience. Au contraire!

There is no final lesson to share with you, nor is there a right or wrong way to deal with the fragile feelings of the internal monologue. I simply suggest that we all embrace a respectful, observant approach when it comes to the thoughts that bounce around within our minds all day (and sometimes night) long. We are the captains of our ships, we steer these vessels, and with a thrashing mind comes thrashing waters. We will benefit ourselves, others, and our precious mindset by seeking out stillness, the occasional silence, and unending Self-love.

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Individuality and Degrees of Separation

The world is brimming with wildly unique individuals, and that is a truth devoid of exception. I am uniquely me, as you are uniquely you, and we could never be the other. I feel as though I have a pretty good idea of what I like and dislike, believe and detest, am passionate about and indifferent towards…yet I still find myself recognizing and admiring contrasting elements in my fellow human beings on a daily basis.

It’s a confusingly simple concept to me, that of individuality. I’ve always been one to admire and even mimic others, adapting qualities and behaviors that I commend to suit my own individual Self. As much as I scavenge my fellow beings for new and improved ideas, looks and answers, I continue to cultivate my own deeply distinctive traits. This occurs both consciously and unconsciously, day in and day out, in all of us. This is the nature of being human. We look to one another for fresh, satisfying concepts to adopt, and the change is cyclical. We are all connected. Six degrees of separation.

I get to thinking about this sometimes, particularly after days spent in San Francisco. The exhibition of individualism is intoxicating. I feel alive in my own skin, deeply curious, and powerfully, profoundly mySelf.

I also feel inspired by this notion as Autumn, my favorite season, approaches. I adore the season for its refreshing, detoxifying, renewing, comforting essence…the boots, scarves, pumpkin spice baking, candles, Harvest wines, crisp air bike rides, fingerless gloves, knit hats, coffees and teas, seductively breezy evenings, crunchy colorful leaves, local squash, Ayurveda detoxification, afternoon skies bathed in gold and amber…I could go on and on. I’m enamored by Autumn.

While you may be wondering where I’m heading with this piece, I might surprise you by saying the direction is one of introspective foraging. Getting to know oneself better. Embracing the dichotomies within.

I thought of some simple things that I love today…yoga, writing, baseball, family, cooking, nutrition, eating and living close to nature, baking, tea, seasonal produce, wellness, sleep, meditation, long walks, riding bikes, good coffee, colorful sunsets, red wine, goat cheese, warm evenings, scented candles, pumpkin pie spice, living simply, fashion, being in love, animals, adventure, Europe, Autumn, learning, holidays, laughter, being madly in love with the life I lead…

These are all truths. My truths. Some of them even seem to clash with one another – but then I realize, they only clash if I say they clash. So, I say they don’t.

I recognize that we all have vastly unique traits swirling within us, polar opposites agreeing to exist peacefully within one body. Sometimes, this can be confusing. For instance, I occasionally feel as though I ought to give up coffee in order to be true to my desire to embrace Ayurveda and nurture my yogic lifestyle. But then I realize I love me a cup of damn good coffee. Yep, I also like an artfully placed curse word, which clashes with my “good girl” image. I sometimes feel compelled to defend my adoration of greek yogurt and goat cheese since I’m otherwise dairy-free. Then I remember, who cares? Why would I need to defend myself to anyone, particularly on such trivial matters? I know what my body likes and what it doesn’t. It’s my call. I love to bake healthful, vegan goodies, but I also swoon at the mention of chocolate truffle cake. I love European fashion, chunky boots and rich scarves; I also love traipsing around in yoga pants and moccasins. I don’t have one single “look,” in fact I have more like seven “looks.” It’s like playing adult dress-up, based on the mood I am in when I rise. I am a naturalist, but I love fine perfume. I care deeply about animal rights, but I’m not a strict vegan. I adore quality literature, but I also watch some mindless TV. I blast country music in my linen pants and Toms.

I sometimes feel like a walking contradiction, which used to bother me. I even wrote a poem about it my freshman year of college. I think it was called Vegan Cowgirl, or something like that. My coexisting polar opposite traits used to confuse me, I used to feel like I had to “choose.” Now I embrace them. I explain my ways to no one but myself. I answer to no one but myself. I have no titles apart from “Me” and “Sara” and I love it that way. I highly recommend it, too.

So, dearest friends, I urge you to look within and embrace your uniquely divine Selves! Let us say CHEERS the innumerable, differing, outstanding qualities that are alive within us!

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Friday Night Dessert/Antioxidant-Fest!

Okay, so for those of you who know me, you know I love the following things:

1.) Nutrition

2.) Chocolate

3.) Feel-Good Foods

I’m a nutrition nut, if you read my blog then you know this; I love chocolate, the darker the better, yummy yum yummers; and I believe that, to best serve one’s own body, food should make one feel good and not weighed down, ill, icky or guilty. 

That being said, I’ve created another dairy free “ice cream” this evening.

In the interest of dedicating myself to “feel-good foods” gave up dairy (apart from protein-rich greek yogurt, whose probiotics counter the digestion-irritating lactose properties) not because I’m violently lactose-intolerant, but rather because my body has not properly digested dairy products for years now. Why fight what your body is asking for? I make sure to get ample calcium and protein and enjoy almond milk, greek yogurt, and sheep/goats milk products on occasion.

I’ve already posted a very similar “ice cream” recipe, but added this one because it’s a little bit different in nature. This concoction had frozen dark cherries, one frozen banana, unsweetened cocoa powder, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, almond butter (about one tablespoon or so I suspect, the remainder of the jar I had in the fridge) and almond milk. The addition of spice and almond butter somehow gave this dessert a whole new twist and I figured I just had to share. Happy Friday, friends!

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3 Super Foods for a Pre-Yoga Smoothie

3 Super Foods Ingredients for your Pre-Yoga Smoothie

How many times have you been advised not to practice yoga on a full stomach? Surely this advice has surfaced many times and, if you’re primarily a morning practitioner as I am, you’ve probably often wondered how to appropriately fuel your practice. I practice Vinyasa yoga, typically an energetic and heated flow, and sometimes a banana just is not enough to offer stability and focus to my practice.

I have always loved making smoothies, and have devised ways to create nutrient-rich, filling blends to really keep me full. I usually have smoothies as a snack or light meal, rather than a frequent meal replacement. I just like to chew my meals more often than not! I also like to fortify smoothies with as many nutrients as possible.

I often start with a bit of old-fashioned rolled oats, ground to a powder in the blender first. This provides a serving of fiber-rich, gluten free, and ultra-satiating whole grains as a hearty base. I then add kale, spinach or collard greens (frozen greens add some frosty awesomeness to smoothies, and I recommend keeping your freezer stocked with frozen greens as a back-up to fresh greens). I personally use almond milk instead of dairy, a bit of cold water or ice, and either a green protein powder (Garden of Life RAW and Vega are favorites) or sometimes FAGE Greek yogurt for a protein kick. A frozen banana or handful of blueberries adds sweetness, and blueberries are a potent antioxidant source. For those who like a sweeter smoothie, a teaspoon of raw honey adds a natural antibiotic to a breakfast smoothie. The aforementioned ingredients make for an excellent health tonic, but I’m about to share with you three additions that will fortify your smoothie to powerfully fuel an energetic yoga practice!

1.) Chia Seeds

I prefer two tablespoons of ground chia seeds in my smoothie (I also add them to yogurt, oatmeal, pudding, you name it). These little gems offer fiber, antioxidants, Omega-3’s, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, some protein, and tons of energy. They also expand! So, when added to smoothie, they offer a thicker consistency; when ingested with liquid they expand and result in a fuller, more satisfied feeling.

I personally use and recommend Spectrum brand Chia Seeds.

2.) Spirulina

One teaspoon daily is the recommended serving of this super food. Spirulina is a nutrient powerhouse providing vitamins A, B12 and K, Iron, Magnesium, Maganese, Chromium, Potassium, and even a smidgen of protein. This super food gives me an immense energy boost, and not the shaky caffeine-induced type, a pure and strong burst of true energy to sustain a dynamic yoga practice.

I use Pure Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica and this brand even dubs itself “Nature’s Multi-Vitamin” and lists “immunity, eye and brain health, and cardiovascular health” as being supported by the Spirulina supplement.

Plus this super food gives a bright, vibrant green hue to my smoothie that, when paired with leafy greens, makes for a gorgeous forest-like color!

3.) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

I’ve heard so many times that, had chocolate not been marketed in the form of candy, it would have been marketed in pill form as a medicinal superstar.

Unsweetened cocoa powder weighs in at only about 15 calories per tablespoon, which is excellent for the chocolaty goodness it can create. It offers iron, fiber, protein, zinc, potassium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and is a potent antioxidant.

Unsweetened cocoa powder also binds to the deep green goodness of spirulina and leafy greens, thickened by chia seeds, making for a rich and healthful morning shake.

These three super foods are versatile “must-haves” in every health-nut’s kitchen. They are all-purpose ingredients for endless nutritious and delicious recipes, many of which I post on my blog. What could be better, anyway, than a recipe that delights the taste buds whilst nourishing the body? Happy blending and flowing, yogis!

The Yogic Journey

I’ve been physically journeying much of this week with a friend in town from the UK, and have come to realize the word “journey” is so versatile. It can be a noun, as in “one went on a journey;” it can be a verb as “to journey” someplace; it can even take on a more descriptive nature if one were to say an event was “quite the journey,” implying an experience was long and perhaps even tedious. The word “Journey” also encompasses a philosophical concept because, after all, we as human beings are all on a journey through life.

This internal banter brought me an immense feeling of gratitude for my own life journey, as well as the present journey I was on driving through Northern California terrain. Gratitude is ever-present when one is soaking up vineyards, sunshine and the seaside. Then, naturally, the notion of my yogic journey came to mind. I practice yoga, in some capacity, everyday. Even if I’m only able to breathe in Tadasana or do a few forward folds, the journey of my yoga practice is very much entwined with my life’s journey. They are one. It was a developed blending on the path of my yogic journey, though, that this hybridization occurred.

Passions are essential components to leading a fulfilling life. Usually they are developed rather than being inherent. Yoga is a practice that I consider a passion, but on my journey it has become so much more than a passion and instead a practice that I inherently live and breathe. Yoga is a practice that I live on and off the mat. The moment when one’s practice becomes a permanent part of existence both on and off the mat is, in my mind, a fork in the road of one’s yogic journey.

Some of the Western world has painted an image of yoga as a purely physical form of exercise, even coining terms such as “the yoga butt.” While this is surely all in good humor, Eastern yogic philosophy encapsulates more than I may ever be able to properly to describe. I suspect that true yogis view the physical benefits of yoga as a by-product of the practice and life style. Seeing an attractive physical form as the main objective of the practice is, in my eyes, not just impractical and vain but also like only opening the curtains of the window a crack…there’s such a beautiful view to be revealed if one would only continue pulling back the curtains.

I am not trying to pick on Western philosophy or preach Eastern philosophy. I’m simply observing what I’ve noticed on my own journey through modern advertisements that seemingly sell a “yoga body,” and how I find it counterintuitive to the spiritual retreats/classes that have unveiled to me a deeply emotional and physical beauty that can be attained through yoga.

Yoga is a journey. This is a fact. In a year’s time of daily, or nearly daily, practice  one will see immense changes in state of mind, one’s soul, and also the physical body. The strength that one acquires through the practice of yoga transcends physical fitness. It is a mental strength, an ability to breathe through challenging times, and the cultivation of an indescribably personal strength that differs immensely between human beings. Yoga unveils to me vastly different epiphanies than it may to you, though we also may unite in mind and body around poses and concepts that feel deeply universal.

That’s what is so beautiful! The journey of yoga not only reveals truths of the Self, it also brings one’s own soul closer and in more level understanding with those of one’s fellow beings.

To warp up this philosophical, dreamy post, I will leave you with one of the most cherished quotes I’ve ever heard…

“Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.” ~The Bhagavad Gita.

Namaste.