This is an offering to all- use this as a Summer Solstice meditation to guide your practice and inspire your thoughts. From my Summer Solstice Yoga Class, 2018.
Summer Solstice 2018 Meditation
Each day we follow the pulse and stride of the sun. Many of us rise from our slumber as the sun appears to rise on the horizon, and we yawn and turn ourselves back into that deep slumber sleep as the sun appears to set. Our own internal rhythms syncopate with each revolution of the earth around the sun. Both the winter and summer solstices mark a time to pause and reflect on the qualities of balance. While the winter solstice marks a time to pause on our internal stillness and inner darkness, the Summer Solstice, the time of greatest light, marks a time of buoyant expression, enthusiasm, fearlessness, and confidence. Cultures throughout the ages have paid homage to this time of great light with festivals, song, dance, and reflection.
In yoga, we seek to cultivate and grow the qualities of light within, and grow the radiant abundant prana- life force. Summer surges with life force energy- prana, and we yogi’s soak it in. We owe our very existence to the light of the sun as it offers us inspiration on our path of evolution. Through our asana, our breath, our lifestyle, and our thoughts, our work in this path of practice is to build and grow our light within. At this planetary juncture, may we pay homage to that life giving force, Surya, and the Jyoti- the illuminating light that is provided. May we reflect on our life path- What can we do to cultivate more light and illumination? How can we offer reflection of this light into our own lives? How can we live in a light and balanced way?
Bring your hands to the Manipura Center, Solar Plexus, right hand on top of left. Visualize the light of Surya within- illuminating all the centers of Self. With each inhale, breath in cleansing light. With exhale, release negativity and doubt. Draw from the potent Solstice energy of the Sun to grow what you seek to cultivate in your life. Let the vibrant solar energy inspire your thought and actions.
Sit for 3 minutes.
Surya Mudra- bring thumb of each hand over ring fingernail. Begin a few rounds of Ujjai breath.
Then begin 30 rounds Kapalabhati- (it is similar to panting like a dog- you learn it with mouth open, then close mouth and breath through the nose).
After 30 rounds, pause, then repeat two more times (total 3 rounds of 30 breaths).
Then 30 seconds of Ujjai.
Now engage Nadi Shodana. You can begin with simple visualization of this breath: Breath in through left nostril, then out through right nostril. Then reverse, in through right nostril, out through left. You can continue with this simple visualization, or you can use the hands to close one nostril at a time: index and middle finger to base of thumb, and use ring and thumb to close of one nostril at a time. Repeat up to 3 minutes.
Then return to Ujjai.
Gayatri Mantra is one of the oldest Mantras from the Vedas. It is a prayer to the sun, asking it to illuminate our mind and thoughts and to guide us towards awakening.
Om Bhur Bhuvah Svaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dheemahi
Dhiyo yo na prachodayat
Oh Divine Presence, Creator of the Universe, May your supreme light illuminate our intellect and guide us on the path toward enlightenment.
We meditate on that wondrous spirit of the Divine Solar Light, which shines in every dimension of life. May that Light inspire and guide our inner vision.
How we gain from our losses…
We have a tendency to think of ourselves, to define and celebrate who we are in terms of our wins. We come from a culture of sports where everyone wants to celebrate the win, nobody wishes to be on, or to be rooting for, the loosing team. But our losses might define us more than our wins. A quick scroll of any social media platform will reveal the same tendency. Everyone posts their most happy moments, their celebrations, those wonderful vacations in warm luscious locations. I am not saying we shouldn’t celebrate our joy’s and our wins. I am saying we need to give an equal standing to our losses.
The posts and shares that are the most endearing, the most moving, are the ones where people share their losses. The loss of a family member; the sad discovery of an illness; a tragic occurrence, a personal struggle, these posts speak to that part of us that has suffered and has grown from that suffering. I believe we can more accurately define ourselves in terms of our losses than by our wins. How did we react to the loss? Did we succumb to the sadness of it? Did we give ourselves time to grieve? Were we able to transform the sadness, to take the lessons of the loss and mold it into a new version of ourselves? How can we share with others that we love them not just because they win from time to time, but because much of the time they lose, and they fail, and that is what makes us all so intricate, so mysterious, and so alive.
These thoughts have been on my mind, inspired by a recent post by The Minimalists.
Balance is a myth.
After some thought, contemplation, and reflection from my own life experiences, I have decided the idea that we can bring our outer lives to a state of equipoise and order is completely untrue. Yes, I actually believe that ‘balance’ is a myth, and when we work to seek that mythical state of balance, it only serves to cause more harm to ourselves because it will always be elusive. It is easy to wish for that idealized state where we won’t feel like we are running around in 1,000 directions, trying to filter an endless stream of information and communications, finish our work, meet deadlines, attend meetings, and go to the next appointment. The truth is, we will always be running around, feeling stress and fatigue, dreaming of a better life when situation ‘x’ changes. Life will frequently feel like an overwhelming stream of endless demands when we only seek to change the outer circumstances in aim of that sense of peace.
I say this not just because I am self employed and the mother of two busy teenage daughters, one with a chronic illness. I say this because I see it in everyone I meet. I have yet to meet the person who says “Yes, I figured it out. I have my life in perfect balance.”
A balanced outer life is like a unicorn. Introduce me to one in real life, and I might begin to think it is possible.
So what is to be done. Shall we slave away in misery and accept that life will always feel out of balance and probably overwhelming? I actually am an optimist at heart, and I do think there is a way forward. I accept that my outer life will never meet that place of perfect equipoise. Instead, I realize that the pendulum of my life will always be swinging and swaying. I am going to work to keep those swings closer to center, and the only way to do that is to observe and be the caretaker of my inner world.
Here are 3 ways that I try to keep sane in
my out of balance life.
1: Rhythm and Routine
It really does make a difference to wake up and go to bed at about the same time each day, and to eat your wholesome plant based meals at about the same time each day. I read this as parenting advice for babies and toddlers many years ago and I found it to be my anchor during those demanding years. In fact, I still require it of my teen children. We have regular wake up and bed times, and regular meals, and family dinner is a must.
2: Make time for the people and activities that you love
I do two things in this category. A few years ago my younger brother started coming over for Wednesday dinners. He is only over for a few hours each Wednesday, and some weeks he can’t make it- but we work to prioritize that family time. It has strengthen our relationship and it is as precious as gold. I also decided to prioritize my art making. I knew that booking a few shows would help me to stay focused on art making. Working creatively feeds my soul as much as meditating and doing yoga. So I decided no more excuses, it had to be done. It did lead towards my decision to take time away from the Yoga Teacher Training. Prioritizing time for the most important people in your lives, and your most nourishing activities has to happen on a regular basis. With so many people making so many demands of our time and attention, it can be easy to forget about those people and things we love. Examine your life and you will intuitively know what needs to be released in order to let in more love.
3: Seek Gratitude
Sometimes I think this is the most important factor. In yoga philosophy, it is one of the Niyamas: Santosha- or contentment. When we are constantly seeking and or complaining, we will never even come close to feeling balance. That pendulum swings at its greatest peaks when we are complaining and in a total snit. So when I am feeling crazy about driving to my third appointment in the week, I have to remind myself to be grateful that I have health insurance and a car to bring me to the appointment. When I am doing the 4th load of laundry in a day, I feel grateful that I have a washing machine and electricity to do the washing, and that I have a family at home whose clothing needs cleaning. Those little shifts of perspective help me to master my mind and thoughts. I actually believe if we could master gratitude, we might actually feel that thing called balance. It wouldn’t mean that our lives were any less busy or any simpler. But our minds would be in a greater place of peace.
I find great value in seeing the recommendation of other bloggers and online professionals. Many of the wonderful new books I learn about, websites I visit, information and ideas I learn about come from these recommendation and links. So, in the spirit of sharing the work of others, here are some links that have been inspiring me.
I always enjoy receiving emails from Carrie-Anne Moss, you might recognize her as Trinity in the Matrix movie. She is also a yogi and runs the site Annapurna Living. Her post on peri-menopause meant a lot to me.
We all need to prioritize scheduling rest. I find myself constantly thinking I need to do more, schedule more, teach more, make more… and then I realize I want to drop it all. I am meditating on how to schedule rest and do less. This is a deep process for me and I haven’t figured out how to balance it.
In this growing age of digital and instant everything, the world of Analog is making a radical return (think watches and clocks with hands, vinyl records, real books, and daily printed newspapers). I have been interested in David Sax’s book, Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter.
Sarah Clark: An inspiring African American Yogi. Her recent Instagram post on Abundance as resilience moved me to deep thought.
Cal Newport’s post on The Disturbing High Modernism of Silicon Valley.
If you are interested in yoga as a movement and cultural phenomenon and the vast changes of yoga over time, you should follow J. Brown’s yoga podcast. I especially enjoyed this post on the Unexplainable Importance Of Yoga.
The new East Forrest music Video. I play East Forrest in most of my Yoga Classes.
I hope you find joy and inspiration in these posts!
Last week I wrote about why I no longer detox. I have found it to be a better choice for me to work on eating a fairly clean diet most of the time, meaning I eat a whole foods plant based diet most every day. I occasionally l consume what some might dub “junk food”- meaning cupcakes, or chips, or perhaps other processed foods once a month, or even less. I do not eat any animal products at all, nor do I drink alcohol, nor do I ingest any kind of recreational drug or other substance. I will repeat some of what I wrote about last week as I believe it to be so very important: I find that those substances (alcohol and other intoxicants) do not help me on my yogic path, or even just on my regular happy life path. They do not help me to see or to think clearly, and they are very hard on internal organs such as the kidneys, livers, and even the brain. Any presumed “benefits” which are questionable to begin with, are not balanced by their very obvious negative side effects, this is especially the case with alcohol. You can read more about the scientific studies that led to solidify my stance on these decisions regarding alcohol and other common intoxicants. As I said in that previous post, there is significant evidence showing that there is no safe limit to these intoxicants, and so they are not a part of my life.
Whole plant foods however, are big players in my daily life. These days you can hear our beloved Vitamix blender going off several times in the morning. All winter long we ate boring old oatmeal, but starting in early March, Josh, Ellessia, and I have been happily consuming smoothies again. Ellessia got me into smoothie bowls. I had never tried them before. She was looking at them online and thought they were beautiful and fun. When I saw hers, I agreed so I jumped in (figuratively of course). We have been having a great time with these fun new ways to have smoothies in the mornings! You can try this out too: mix and match the greens, berries, toppings and other extras to your preference. You can even replace the banana with an avocado and still get that creamy smoothie effect.
Yogi Smoothie Bowl Recipe
1 cup of your favorite greens: spinach, kale, romaine, whatever your prefer
1/4 cup of berries: Blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, etc…
1 Date (remove pit)
1 Cup or Water or Non-Dairy milk of choice
Chopped peaches or Chopped Mango also make nice additions to the smoothie.
Other extras: 1 tsp of Maca powder, and or 1 tsp of Moringa powder, and or, 1 Tbsp of Hemp powder or Hemp seeds
Possible toppings for your smoothie bowl: More hemp seeds, goji berries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, dried mulberries, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, bran flakes
Blend all the ingredients together. Then, pour into your favorite bowl and add the toppings. The fun part of the smoothie bowl is adding toppings and arranging them. The green color of the smoothie contrasts nicely with the bright berries. Then you eat this just like cereal! I have been pouring some of the smoothie into a jar to have later in the day, or even the next morning. It seems to save well in the fridge.
I hope you have fun making your own smoothie bowls and share your ingredients with me!
(*Note- there are many links in this post to one of my favorite websites, nutritionfacts.org – I hope you will explore them!)
Despite the occasional fall of fluffy white snowflakes, spring has surely arrived in Vermont. I noticed crocuses popping up in our new yard this week. I am so excited to see these flowers pushing through the earth and I wonder what other spring bulbs are here on our new property!
With the arrival of spring, many yogi’s start to think about practicing a “detox”. What is meant by “detox” is eliminating certain foods types to “clear out the digestive system.” Ayurveda traditionally recommends a detox diet of Kitchadi in the spring and in the fall. To be clear, I always think it is wise action to reconsider healthy food choices and to eat mindfully, so I don’t want folks to think I am “poo-poo-ing” the idea of a detox with this post. Instead, I am hoping to explain how my own path of mindful eating has evolved over the years, and where I sit with it today. This post is simply commentary and reflection based on my own experience and should not be construed as eating advice. Eating choices are very personal and I recognize that there are many reasons to eat or not eat something for health, religious, or other reasons.
I have tried many types of “detox” diets in my adult life. As a kid growing up in the 1980’s (or as my girls like to say “way back in the nineteens”), I ate all the junk food you could imagine: Cheeseballs, Twinkies, hot dogs, burgers, Tang, and Little Debbie snacks. My favorite snacks were called snowballs- round chocolate cake balls with cream inside covered in marshmallow and coconut. By the time I arrived at young adulthood I was ready for some serious detoxing of my diet. For some reason I took to healthy eating with great interest. I remember sitting in our first apartment, pouring over nutrition and whole foods books, excited to try new recipes and cleanses. I have spent much time with these different diets: pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, whole foods, raw food, soy free, gluten free, sugar free, and Ayurvedic diets. I never fully followed a macrobiotic diet, nor a paleo diet. Not generally considered a “diet”, but certainly a detox- I also stopped drinking alcohol 8 years ago. I have participated in juice cleanses for a few days at a time. I find it difficult to only drink fresh juices so it never lasts very long and I haven’t done one in a few years.
After spending time with all of these various experiments, I would notice how I felt physically, energetically, and emotionally. Then, I would return to some foods to see how I felt with them in my diet after some time away. Today, I follow a whole foods plant based diet- you could call it a “Vegan” diet- as I certainly am concerned with the welfare of animals and the atrocious conditions of factory farms, and even some so called ethical/humane and organic animal farms, and I do eliminate these foods based on these reasons. However, I do eat honey from time to time, and if there are dairy products in something someone shares with me I don’t always refuse it. So for some people that kicks me out of the club. Cookies and soda can be considered a vegan diet- so I think whole foods plant based is a better term for how I eat. I eat seasonally as much as possible and we enjoyed a local winter CSA this past season. On a weekly basis, I do consume, and very much enjoy, soy products, gluten and wheat, and natural sugars (mostly maple syrup or dates). I don’t enjoy eating too much wheat or gluten (meaning I don’t eat them every day), but I have found that I can include gluten on a weekly basis without any adverse feelings and including gluten can make it easier to eat at family gatherings and at restaurants. I do eat whole grains regularly. I have found that eating a whole foods plant based diet gives me energy, helps me to feel full, and I consistently have blood pressure readings of around 110/65, and have no cholesterol or other health problems. Eating this way has also, to the surprise of some folks, solved many years of anemia that I struggled with. The non-heme iron and plentiful vitamin C seemed to help me with my iron levels. Recently, I switched from oatmeal in the morning back to my beloved green smoothies, and I am experiencing a fabulous return of my energy and a lift in my emotional state. It is amazing what little kale or spinach does for me in the morning!
Oh- I should also mention caffeine. I gave up coffee as my morning and daily drink about 10 years ago. I have spent time caffeine free- well 2 months exactly. I found that I enjoy the smell of coffee more than ingesting it- it just doesn’t sit well in my stomach, and I think one can avoid caffeinated teas and be perfectly healthy, but I prefer tea in my life more than my life without tea. I confess to be a tea addict. Both green tea and black tea are my very favorite things, and I always have a little herbal something (chamomile, mint, skullcap, etc…) before bed. The many health benefits of tea far outweigh any risks of the caffeine, and I personally do not feel any adverse effects. I consume tea daily with great joy.
Why I no longer detox
But back to the title of this post: Why do I not detox? Well, the idea behind detox is to stop ingesting foods or substances that are causing harm to clean out the system and reset. My days are spent eating the very foods one might choose on a detox- mostly whole plant based foods, and I occasionally consume some processed foods. I don’t eat processed, fried, packaged foods most of the time, and then sometimes reboot and only eat whole foods. But I do eat cupcakes on birthdays, and fried foods once in a great while (mmm… samosas…), and occasionally I do enjoy the crunch of Cape Cod Chips (they did not pay me to state that). The body is an amazing detoxifier. If we consume processed, fried, or other foods generally deemed “unhealthy” only once in a great while (monthly or yearly), the body will detoxify what is not useful for the system all on its own. You don’t have to do anything about it! But if you regularly consume those items, weekly or daily, then your body can not catch up with itself to clean it out. It is like hiring a monthly cleaning service for your house, but trashing the house every single day. The cleaning service will never be able to catch up with the mess. *I do believe that when foods are addictive- such as the case of alcohol, it can be very difficult to ingest them on a very moderate level that would be considered safe.
So instead of thinking about detoxing once or twice a year with the seasons, how about we eat healthy most of the time, and perhaps allow ourselves to enjoy something less healthy, much less regularly. Our bodies just might be thankful for our choices.