My sister Emma is a nutrition and fitness pro these days and I just love some of the recipes she’s been posting. Check out her website for some inspiration and enjoy these yummy sweet potatoes!


Agave Glazed Sweet Potatoes
3 sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
cinnamon
Directions-
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Peel and dice sweet potatoes into bite size pieces
Line cookie sheet with tin foil and place sweet potatoes in a single layer
Drizzle sweet potatoes with olive oil and agave nectar and sprinkle with cinnamon, salt, and pepper to taste.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until soft and enjoy!

 

So yummy! Clearly I should have used tin foil, but sadly I was all out 🙁

Last week, we spent some time talking about stress and the standard equation Stress x Resistance = Suffering. This week, I am taking a deeper look at resistance and surrender.

It makes sense that when life throws us a curve ball and something isn’t as we want it to be we resist. Our expectations prepared us for one thing and BAM; life hands us something different. You don’t want your boss to come down on you or to be stuck in traffic or to figh

t with your partner, but it happens. And, when these things do happen, we cross our arms, dig in our heels and RESIST. I get it. I mean who wants to sit and be present for an uncomfortable moment?!Doesn’t it feel better to say “no” that discomfort? To say, “I don’t deserve this XYZ…”

Sure it makes sense, but does it make life any easier? Does resisting and fighting against hurt and disappointment make it happen less often? Unfortunately, no. We encounter just as much disappointment, frustration and hurt whether we fight it tooth and nail or embrace each moment as it comes. If we can find a way to embrace each present moment exactly as it is, wouldn’t life be just a little easier? Not that we have to LOVE every moment, but could we accept each moment? Yes, I think so.

Soul Fire

Swaha can be translated as “into the sacred fire”. I love this thought when it comes to tough moments in life. Instead of stopping ourselves, we can move full force ahead into the sacred fire. We can feel the flames of tough times and move through to the next moment, and the next, and the next. Another way to think of Swaha is “so be it” – I’m stuck in traffic for two hours? So be it. There are only 4 Saturdays in a month and I have 47 things to plan for Saturday? So be it.

“This too” is another phrase I love to use in tough times. I wanted to have a pleasant dinner at home with my partner but life threw us an argument instead? “This too” is part of our present. “This too” needs to accepted – not just the argument, but the feelings around it. Anger can be accepted. So can frustration and pain. This too.

As I write this blog post, I am sitting at the car dealership waiting on an oil change, and I know that every single time I bring my car for an oil change I get hit with a surprise something that needs to be done to my car – new tires, a $500 service, etc. etc. It is so expected that I could feel myself tense up as I pulled in this morning. Just knowing that I was going to walk out with a bigger bill than I planned for caused me to cross my arms and resist the moment. So be it, I said. I chose to own the car I own. I chose to take it to the dealership for its maintenance. This is part of the lifestyle I chose. This too. Do I want to spend money on a car service? No. Am I suddenly happy to spend money on a car service? No. But can I accept the fruits of my actions and choices without letting it sour my mood or ruin my day by fearing a future moment? Yes, I can accept and surrender. So be it.

Stress, Recovery & Growth

August 15, 2014

As a yoga teacher, what I am about to say might seem a bit radical so prepare yourself… I don’t believe stress is a bad thing or particularly unhealthy. In fact, I think stress is universally necessary for human growth and evolution. What can be unhealthy is our reaction to stress.

Now, before I go any further, I want to be very clear that I am not referring to the stress the results from a traumatic incident (abuse, war, etc.). I am talking about the stress of everyday life – too many emails, a boss or co-worker that you don’t agree with, 1700 to-dos and about 17 minutes to get them all done… That kind of stress.

When we look at our typical reactions to this type of stress – blame, judgement, obsession – it is pretty easy to see that most of these reactions come from a place of fear. Our ego is telling us in times of stress that “something/someone is trying to hurt me” or “I am bad/wrong”. My personal example from this week: I just returned from a week on vacation and when I sat down Monday morning in front of my computer, my head almost exploded when I saw the amount of unanswered email waiting in my inbox. Irrationally, my first response was one of irritation at the number of emails and the time it was going to take to respond. But, a few minutes pause allowed me to see that truly I wasn’t irritated at the number of emails. I was feeling guilty and “bad” for not responding to these emails sooner. My ego-self was worried that people were mad at me for not responding. Hmmm. Another pause to ask, is this true? Happily, in this situation I could tell myself that no one was going to be mad at me for not responding to an email immediately. Nothing was urgent; I had an out of office that gave folks notice that there would be a delay in responding. It was with these two steps that my entire reaction to this stress changed.

First, I noticed what I was really feeling underneath the initial reaction. Second, I looked for the actuality of the moment. The truth outside of my own story. Then I was able to see that this was no crisis. I didn’t have to respond to these emails immediately. I could respond thoughtfully and honestly as time allowed. Ah, breath again.

Albert Einstein once said, “we cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them.”

We must make a critical shift in our thinking around stressful situations. Reminding ourself, nothing is wrong. Can we allow everything that happens in our day to be ok? Even the fender bender that makes us late to our meeting or the grocery store that doesn’t have the one thing we needed? If nothing is wrong, what are we upset about? Truly, what is the actuality of this moment? Is it that we are worried about losing a client if we miss the meeting? Or our families getting grumpy if dinner is an hour late?

Once we can see the true reason for our feelings, we can allow them to be present with a deeper attention. If I call home and tell the kids to eat a snack will that allow me to take a breath and try the next grocery store?

We build muscle by stressing the muscle and then allowing recovery time. In the same way, our spiritual awakening or personal growth is strengthened when we experience stress and allow time to investigate and maybe change our reaction to it.

May whatever circumstances arise serve the awakening of compassion and wisdom. May it serve the awakening of my heart & mind.

~Bodhisattva prayer

Last week the A/C wasn’t working in the building where I teach one of my classes. It was hot, sticky and very definitely uncomfortable. The overall consensus was “let’s cancel class” among the group I was teaching, but something about the situation caused me to pause – wasn’t this why we practice in the first place? So that life’s hiccups don’t cause us to lose the calm, balanced disposition we’ve worked so hard to find?

It is easy to feel peaceful and calm in a yoga studio. With the lighting just so; temperature, music and ambient noise perfectly controlled to allow us to find space; this is the perfect training ground to explore the quiet space in our minds. But, if we only feel peaceful in a yoga studio, well, that isn’t much peace is it?

Swami Satchidananda said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

How do we bring our practice alive off the mat? Sitting in rush hour on 285, staring at the email that came in at 5:59 p.m. that can’t be pushed off until tomorrow, or while your kids do those adorable little things that make you want to scream – can we practice peace and equanimity in these moments?

At Kripalu, they teach an acronym that can help us both on the mat and off… BRFWA

Breath. Relax. Feel. Watch. Allow.

Start playing with this on your mat. In the middle of practice, in any pose, check in and notice your breath. Relax around the posture. Feel your body – the sensation, the energy, the emotion. Watch what arises. And, most importantly, allow what is there to just be – without judgement or needing to change it.

And, then, off the mat. Maybe standing in line at the grocery store. When you are stopped at a red light or washing the dinner dishes. Practice BRFWA and see how it creates a pause before reaction. It allows you to notice and experience how you feel without having to spiral into a bad mood that affects the rest of your day.

Life will never cooperate with our expectations, but our practice can allow us to enjoy a little more during these WTF moments without having to go into WTF reactions. Worth a try, right?

Intention & Attention

July 17, 2014

Gamble Everything For Love

“Gamble everything for love,
if you’re a true human being.

If not, leave
this gathering

Half-heartedness doesn’t reach
into majesty. You set out
to find God, but then you keep
stopping for long periods
at mean-spirited roadhouses.”

~Rumi

At the beginning of class, when your yoga teacher suggests you set an intention, what do you think? Do you come up with a goal for the day? Do you wish he/she’d hurry up and start the asana practice? Do you think about why you are on the mat in the first place?

As we set out on the path of yoga, whether we are there for the physical exercise, the relaxation or the spiritual benefits, we are all on a journey of discovery – of how our bodies can move, how busy and still our minds can be, how our breath can change everything from our mood to our ability to balance. Our intention should be one that arises out of this awareness. Not something we create but something that is innate within us. Something alive with energy and potential.

How do we find this intention? We simply pay attention. We pay attention to how we feel as we move; we pay attention to physical sensations, to emotions, to thoughts and to words that rise up as we sweat and stretch. Presence allows us to discover our intention and, in turn, intention encourages deeper presence. A powerful, self-repeating circle. And yet…

How often do we forget our intentions? I, for example, spend a good bit of energy and soul-searching to pick “my word” (my intention) for the year. And here we are 7 months into this year and I’ve pretty much forgotten to pay attention to this intention for 6.99999 of these months. Oops.

So, yes, intention encourages presence but it doesn’t happen on its own without our energy & effort to remain present. To continue to practice and be aware of breath. We set out to find God, but then we keep stopping for long periods at mean-spirited roadhouses…

What mean-spirited roadhouses are distracting you from your intention?

There Are No Words…

July 7, 2014

A friend just sent me a link to this article in The Atlantic… The title is, “People Prefer Electric Shocks to Being Alone with Their Thoughts”. Wow. Just wow.

Take a moment to read (don’t worry; it is short) and then take a moment to pause and reflect. How does sitting alone with your thoughts feel to you?

Normally, I am all about my meditation practice, but I’ll be honest – over the last couple of months as the little one has tried to kill me with morning sickness there have been MANY times that meditation was the last thing that was going to happen. Trying zoning out to crappy television for 7 hours; thank you very much.

So this article got me thinking about why meditation was the last thing I wanted to do when I was feeling bad. What is the point if you only do something when you feel good? Does that help you to learn or grow? I kinda doubt it. So, this morning, despite the grumpy internal moaning, I pulled out my cushion and sat. Was it amazing and blissful? No. If I had the choice to shock myself instead of sitting in silence, would I have done that? No.

In the end, it was somewhere in the middle. It didn’t end my nausea or help me see passed it, but it was much more helpful to see it and watch it for a few minutes in connection with my body rather than try to complete zone out and ignore it. Tomorrow I will sit again. Will you join me?

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