Happy Weekend!

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I’ve found that the mind does stretch, so to speak, with every new lesson we learn and every new awareness we gain. New perspectives change you because once you are able to see something in a new way, you will always be able to see it in that way. Pushing yourself to think in new ways, see things from new perspectives, or experience the world from another’s point of view will expand your mind, but there’s no turning back once your mind has expanded. John Lennon talked about how the love for and from Yoko Ono changed him forever, so much that he could no longer maintain the same role in the band that he had before he met her. His mind expanded and, as a result he was changed forever. Great experiences do this to a person…expand one’s dimensions forever. My hope is to continue expanding, learning, growing and taking on new dimensions for as long as I exist. Happy Weekend.

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Creating Space

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I was recently watching Kris Carr (author of “Crazy Sexy Diet” and “Crazy Sexy Kitchen”) talk about vacations. On her website she posts information about health and wellness from a variety of professionals. Kris met with a well-known holistic oncologist for a personal check-up, and also to discuss his potential contributions to her website. During her visit, this doctor prescribed her more vacations, and emphasized the importance of taking vacations regularly. He recommended at least one day/week and 1 week of vacation every 6 weeks. These “vacations times” are times when everything is turned off (e.g. email, television, cell phones) and I would bet that almost none of us get this recommended dose of vacations/year. Kris Carr emphasized the importance of “creating space” and it got me thinking.

In yoga, we try to create space in asanas, moving our shoulders away from our ears to create and open space in our shoulders, performing back-bends and chest openers to create space in the front of our bodies. When we are tired, or depressed our tendency, physically, is to scrunch and shrink…to diminish space in a sense. When we are feeling powerful we often stand up straight, open our shoulders and assume a stance that occupies more space. So, what is the importance of space, and what is the link between creating space and the way that we feel?

In today’s American culture, a sense of busy-ness and constant cognitive stimulation is common. You can browse the internet while you watch the morning news, simultaneously eating your AM oatmeal and checking your emails on your smartphone. It’s also not uncommon to have your entire week planned out, weekend activities included. Current technologies provide us with entertainment at our fingertips, but also make it harder to create space and downtime from being “tuned-in”. The trend of busy-ness has almost (if not already) become an expectation. Email and cellphones allow employers to feel entitled to contact employees anytime. One didn’t have to worry about getting called into work while grocery shopping, or receiving a work related email on a Saturday morning and the boundaries between personal time and “official business” were much more clear cut before these technologies were created.

Certain things, special things can only happen during open space. Inspiration, creativity, emotional connection, clarity, and introspection can only happen in an environment free of distractions and pressures. I remember reading a book called The Psychology of Romantic Love written by Nathaniel Brandon a psychologist specializing in couples counseling. He explained that one thing he prescribes his couples is an entire day spent in the same room with one another completely unplugged. He described that when couples spend an entire day in the same room together, absent of distractions, they begin talking about things they never talked about with one another before. They open up. They connect. The thing is, you can’t plan for these things to occur. You can’t pencil in “inspiration” to your daily planner and yet current cultural values don’t necessarily support the notion of making oneself “unavailable”. So what would happen if you rebelled against this notion and asserted, your right to free space, open space. What if you set aside weekends for you and the people you loved just once every 6-weeks….set an automatic email that let people know you were unavailable until Monday, updated your Facebook, Instagram, twitter of your temporary absence and then unplugged? What could be created in this space? You’ll never know unless you try.

Date Night In

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Steamed salmon with roasted red potatoes, broccoli and roasted garlic!

Last week Matt and I had a date night at the house instead of going out. What was on the menu? Steamed salmon with roasted garlic, roasted red potatoes and roasted broccoli. I decided to roast the broccoli instead of steaming it because it’s so much easier to roast veggies when you are already roasting other things. So this is how I made the meal.

Starting with the garlic and potatoes. Preheat the oven to 425F. Then chop the potatoes, add them to a glass baking dish, and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon pepper and italian seasoning. If you have garlic powder this is good to add too! I also threw in a sprig of rosemary because we have a rosemary bush in our yard but don’t go out and buy it if you don’t have it readily available.

For the garlic clove, simply chop the top off, set in the dish with the potatoes and drizzle olive oil over the top finishing with a sprinkle of coarse salt. This is what it looks like pre roasting…

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Cover the dish with foil ( I use a piece large enough for the salmon so I don’t have to then cut another piece of foil for that. Bake for 20 min before removing the foil and then bake uncovered for another 20-30 minutes (depending on how brown and crispy you like your potatoes).

For the salmon and the broccoli. After the first 20 minutes are up for the potatoes, remove the foil and retain it for baking the salmon. Place your piece of salmon in the middle of the foil and then pull the foil up around the salmon so that you can pour the liquid in without it spilling everywhere. Pour in a little lemon juice and wine (whatever you are drinking. I usually use white but this night I used rose because that was what I bought to drink). Then, sprinkle the salmon with dried dill, salt and some peper. Thrown in a couple cloves of crushed garlic for added flavor and another sprig of rosemary and then tent the foil over the salmon. You want it to create a little bubble of foil over the salmon that is sealed so that the liquid inside can steam but not evaporate.

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For the broccoli simply cut to desired size, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet beside the salmon. Place in the oven with the potatoes for approx 15 min. No longer or the salmon could over cook.

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When you open the salmon tent, be careful because while the foil won’t burn you, the steam could. This dinner is one of my favorites.  The buttery salmon with the crispy, brown potatoes and roasted garlic is such a good combo. Roasted garlic seems like such a treat, but it’s really super easy to make. I also LOVE roasted broccoli because the bushy tips get a little crispy and it’s such a wonderful texture combo.

If I’m not also roasting, I like to bake the salmon at 375F for a little longer. You can get away with the high heat, however because I think the liquid inside the salmon pocket helps to keep it moist.

Cheers, and enjoy!

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Happy Weekend!

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So many of us play it safe our whole lives and risk taking is often looked down upon. I’m not talking about taking risks at your local casino (gambling is a fabricated risk, created for monetary profit). Everyday, we are afforded with the opportunity for taking a risk like making yourself vulnerable, apologizing when you are in the wrong, placing yourself in a situation where you could  be rejected, being honest even though you know the other person may not agree with your belief/point of view. We are also afforded the opportunity within our lives to take even greater risks like quitting that job you hate and going for your dreams or traveling for a year. The point is that if we don’t take risks, we can’t grow, or fail, or learn. In exchange for safety, we often agree to a life of monotony and mediocrity but this is not the type of life we were meant for. Be bold. A boat is safe in the harbor, but this is not the purpose of a boat.  Happy weekend!

14-Day Bikram Yoga Challenge Complete!

I never thought I would do a Bikram challenge and I still haven’t participated in a real 30 or 60-day challenge, but 14 classes in 14 days is still more extreme than I thought I’d get when it comes to yoga.

So today marks the final day of my 14-day Bikram yoga challenge. For those of you familiar with the Bikram culture, 30-day and 60-day challenges are super common. A day challenge simply means that the participant commits to taking one class for every day of the challenge, so for me the 14-day challenge was really just taking 14 classes in 14 days. I made it, and it was actually easier than I thought! I did hit a couple of walls along the journey and had some aha moments. I’ve always been someone who shies away from extremes and therefore I’ve avoided participating in the challenges since now so why did I choose to do a 14-day challenge (BTW my yoga studio wasn’t hosting this challenge I just decided to set this goal for myself and stick to it)?

As many of you know I’m on summer break now and if there was ever a time to focus on yoga, now is it. All of the time I spent on taking classes, writing and researching papers, and working at my internship is open to fill it with yoga, or creative endeavors. I got to a place where I just wanted more. I’ve been practicing Bikram consistently 4days/week for over a year and a half and I just came to a place where I wanted my relationship to this practice to change. I wanted it to have more of a presence and less of a presence if that makes sense. I wanted Bikram to become more of a daily practice, more of a priority, but less of a big deal. When you do something everyday, it doesn’t seem as daunting, and simply becomes part of your everyday reality. When you do something repeatedly, you become desensitized to it in a sense. That is why when you fear something (like public speaking) it is suggested that you expose yourself to this fear consistently to decrease the stress response to it. Bikram teachers must undergo 9 weeks of double classes daily in rooms heated above your normal Bikram studio heat. I think that this process, in part, is to change individuals’ relationship to the class, to the heat, and to change their ideas of this practice.

What I’ve noticed along this journey is that my relationship to the practice has changed. For one, I had to put yoga first because there was no room to miss a day of yoga. There were no good excuses I could tell myself to skip a class and everyday I had to think and plan around when I would take the class. Yoga became a priority and therefore other behaviors changed in accordance. I began eating to fuel myself for my yoga workout and drank A LOT more water to avoid becoming dehydrated. This daily practice became a means of feedback for how I was living my life. If I was stressed, or didn’t eat right, I felt it in class. It is interesting because I’ve been learning a lot about inflammation in the body and its relationship to disease as well as which foods cause inflammation (e.g. meat, gluten, diary, alcohol, sugar, processed foods) and I started the challenge directly after having a “cheat” weekend for food. I felt the inflammation in my body through the amount of flexibility (or lack of) I experienced in class. I could also feel stress (especially emotional stress) during my yoga practice, and yoga class became an opportunity for a daily check in with my body.

I also had to chill out. I couldn’t kill myself in class everyday for 14 days. I had to learn how to back off (especially because I have been nursing a pulled muscle). I had to learn not to compare myself to others in class and how to sit out when I needed. I had to detach myself from the results of each posture and just accept that I may not be as flexible today as I was yesterday or that I may not be able to get myself fully into standing head to knee today. I could let go easier because I knew I would be back tomorrow, and the next day, and that these days brought new opportunities for breakthroughs, or growth. I was also able to let go of trying to decide whether I should go to yoga today or not, there really was no choice. I just accepted that today I would go to yoga, that it was part of my everyday reality, and that I would just breathe and relax in class, and rest if I needed to. There’s never enough time to do everything we want and what we do choose to do is a direct reflection of our priorities (much like what we choose to spend our money on). I had to make yoga a top priority.

I learned that I am stronger than I think, that often it is my mind that makes the excuses, that my body and mind are connected, and if I’ve experienced any kind of emotional stress, my body has internalized and experienced this stress along with my mind. I’m typically not someone who climbs a mountain to conquer it. The motivating factor is whether I will enjoy it and whether there will be a nice view at the top. However, this Bikram challenge was to conquer and to enjoy the view. I’ve become stronger mentally and physically, I’ve conquered some of the mental roadblocks I created against taking my practice to the next level and realized that the breathe is the door to relaxation during a Bikram class. Breathe correctly and you can relax in almost any situation.

Matt has also been super supportive! He even practiced 6 days this week with me (he’s normally a 3-4 day/week guy). It’s really wonderful to be able to practice yoga with your favorite person in the world; to be able to give one another a knowing look when it’s especially hot, or to motivate each other just to go in the first place.

Juicing!

ImageMatt and I have been drinking green juice everyday for at least 2 weeks and we have been noticing some wonderful changes in the way we feel since staring this new regimen. We bought a Breville Juicer (if you buy it from BB and B, you can use the 20% off coupon they give out like candy) last June and were juicing mainly sugary plants (e.g. carrots, beets, apples). The juice tasted fantastic, but it really did a number on my stomach. Finally when watching this video I figured out what was going on. Kris Carr the author of “Crazy Sexy Diet”, “Crazy Sexy Kitchen” and a plethora of other books related to cancer and health explained that a juice too high in sugar actually feeds Candida (yeast) growth in the body subsequently creating an environment that diseases (like cancer) really enjoy. Kris Carr was diagnosed about 10 years ago with an incurable cancer and basically stopped it in its tracks through diet and lifestyle changes. She discusses the importance of chlorophyll for health and energy and, therefore we have been making sure our juice is always green. She also recommends a 3:1 ratio of vegetables to fruit and I found that when we make juice using this ratio, the juice actually makes my tummy feel better, not worse.

So what changes have I noticed since beginning juicing? I’ve had more energy. I’m also doing a 14-day Bikram challenge (14 classes in 14 days) and I think that this juice has been my saving grace in keeping my energy levels up. I’ve also noticed healthier looking skin both in tone and clarity. I suffer from mild adult acne (usually one break out on my chin) and my skin has been clear since beginning the juicing. The tone of my skin has also improved (I think it may have to do with the fact that we add one or 2 carrots to every juice). Also, my fingernails are looking clear, and pink, and just better. I looked down at my hands the other day and was surprised to see how healthy my fingernails looked…Lastly, my digestion has been on point lately and I think it has been improved by the juice as well as the ginger root that we add to each juice. I feel great.

So here are some tips for juicing: We always make about 32 oz. and then fill mason jars up so we can drink it throughout the day, bring it to work, or whatever. Separating it into mason jars and sealing also helps to prevent oxidation of the juice (this is a tip I picked up from Kris Carr’s video).

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We also add 1/2 a lemon to each batch of juice we make. Lemon juice is supposed to create a more alkaline environment in your body (which prevents disease) and it’s just good for detoxifying the body. We also ALWAYS add ginger root. Ginger helps with digestion and just makes everything taste better! With ginger, you always want to add less at first, and then add more if needed. If a vegetable isn’t organic I’d recommend peeling it first. Certain veggies yield a lot more juice than others (cucumbers and celery are two good ones). You can use the throw away parts of veggies for juicing (e.g. the stalks of broccoli). Also, don’t be afraid of throwing herbs in there. I made a juice the other day with a little bunch of mint and it freshened everything up.

So what goes into a typical batch of juice for us? Kale, 1 cucumber, celery, broccoli stalks, 1/2 lemon, 1/2-1 inch of ginger, 1 apple and 2 carrots.

Some tips to cut down on cost include going to farmer’s markets or fruit stands. Sometimes you can get really good deals here (e.g. a massive bunch of kale costs 1.50 at the farmer’s M, but 2.50 at Whole Foods). Use the stalks of veggies (like broccoli). Juicing does cost more money but you could probably offset the cost by packing a lunch a couple days/week instead of buying lunch on your lunch break : )

Lastly, this juice actually tastes good. Everyone who has tried it has been super surprised because you think it’s going to taste disgusting but it actually tastes earthy, fresh and delicious. It’s even better cold.

Less Space, Less Things, More Life

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Matt and I at Earthbound Organic Farm in Carmel, Ca.

I have been a very lucky grad student in that I have a lot of financial support from Matt and I have been lucky that I’ve been working only 1 day/week during the school year and 2 days/week during the summer. Of course during the school year I also have to work an additional 16 hours unpaid as an intern, but I still feel like I have more free time than my classmates who are also working part-time paying jobs, and raising children. It’s been two years, and I had forgotten how miserable I was when I was working 40 hours/week and taking a prerequisite statistics course in the evenings for the social work program but reading this article brought it all back for me.

I remember that when I quit my full-time job and began school, I felt this tremendous amount of space open up in my life. I felt joy, I felt relief, and I felt a lot poorer. I began going to yoga in the mornings, keeping the house clean, cooking healthy meals, and taking the scenic drives more often. In the raptitude article David talks about how he found he was spending a lot more money when he was working, than when he was traveling because what he found was that he had a lot more money and a lot less time. The things/activities that fell to the wayside when he began working 40 plus hours a week again were the activities that cost no money but took time. When you work full-time, what you get is more money but less time (forget about it if you are also trying to raise kids and care for a house at the same time. I don’t know how you mothers and fathers do it. You are superhumans!) This was true for me, as well. Although I had less money, I was able to fill the space with taking care of myself (walks and yoga), planning and cooking healthy meals, taking a drive for pleasure (not just to get from A to Z in the shortest amount of time possible). Suddenly, an hour long $2 cup of coffee at a café was a great luxury that I was able to afford. While it cost just a small amount of money, what it took was time, but this was time (that was time enjoyed).

Matt works only 4 days/week and we get to spend 3 days off together. What this means, however is that we are only able to afford renting a very small, 1 bedroom cottage, we often split meals out at restaurants, and I always pack my lunches on days when I’m working. Forget about going clothes shopping, or getting drinks and appetizers when we’re out for dinner. Forget about having cable television (instead we rely on Hulu and Netflix), but what we do have is time. This weekend we went out for breakfast and the bill came to $20 (excluding tip). Then we went to Earthbound Organic Farm and walked around the garden, shared a $5 cup of coconut chocolate ice cream and just felt grateful for the weather, for the way the garden flowers smelled, and for the time that we have to spend with each other.  It was a simple pleasure, but it felt real, and powerful, and pure. It felt like I was living life exactly the way I was supposed to, that these types of simple moments would be the ones that I look back upon with gratitude some day.

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This $5 gave us a wonderful experience and quite a bit of pleasure

I was watching an Oprah episode years ago that she did on Denmark, and it is, supposedly, rated to be the happiest country. She took a tour around a “typical” Danish apartment which was very small and very simple compared to American homes. The Danish had a saying “less things, less space, more life” and this saying has stuck with me ever since. More life. Life is what is important right? I remember when I was working 40 hours/week and then attending classes in the evening two days/week. On those days I would get home at 9:30, get ready for bed, and then get up and go back to work. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my life, like my life was filled with obligations on those days, and I often felt like I was failing at living life to the fullest. I wasn’t doing any activities for pure pleasure. I wasn’t feeling joy.

I’ve realized that, for me, “less space, less things, more life” is really a mantra; one that makes me feel like I am living life to the fullest. I would rather have a house someday with one less bedroom if it means one less day of work/week. I’d rather forgo a fancy vacation if it means I can pay for a year of unlimited yoga (something I get pleasure from all year round). I’d rather pack my lunches and then go out to eat with Matt after work instead because this will give me the most pleasure for my money. We are all different, however and I think it’s important to discover for yourself what makes you happy. Maybe you get real pleasure from ordering that glass of wine at dinner. Great. Maybe you would get more pleasure from a fancy vacation than a gym membership. Cool. I think that the most important thing is to ask ourselves “will this make me happy, and is my money being spent in a way that provides me the most amount of pleasure?” When we think about it, money is basically an exchange for our time right? Is the cost of that new item worth giving up whatever amount of time you have to exchange of your life to pay for it? Are you spending your money in the most efficient way? The part of our brains that is responsible for the wanting is very minimally in communication with the part of our brain that processes emotions. Therefore, we often want things without really thinking whether they will make us happy, and that’s the problem. We think we need something, or want something without really thinking whether it will contribute to our happiness and what we unknowingly exchange for that shitty new nail polish that we won’t even wear again is time and life.

Happy Weekend!

Happy Weekend Sir Ken Robinson, one of the leading researchers on creativity found that most children at kindergarten level test on the genius level for divergent thinking (a type of thinking that is necessary for creativity and innovation). However, after a few more years, most of these children’s ability for divergent thinking drops drastically. He argues that as we get older we are taught that there is one right answer, one right way to be, and specific traits/qualities are praised while others are ignored (e.g. schools only measure a specific set of skills deeming those valuable and others, like art, are often ignored). We are also inundated daily with messages from advertisers with a very specific goal to make you feel that you need something, or should have specific values, and that there is one right way to be. In this context, it is clear to see why it may be so difficult for us to discover who we really are, what we truly believe, and what values align with our souls. If you are lucky enough to discover who you truly are, it’s then a constant battle to remain true to yourself when you are bombarded with these messages of what is valuable, what is “success” and what should make you happy. When you think a “should” ( e.g.” I should do this, or I should achieve that, or I should be…”)  ask yourself “Is this true? and..why do I think this, where did this message come from” ? Question everything and make sure that the everyday “truths” we take for granted are really aligned with who you are before you blindly believe something as fact. Few are those who see with their own eyes, and feel with their own hearts. Be an original.

Gluten Free Pesto Pasta With Veggies

ImageI loved pesto pasta before my gluten free days. We used to buy fresh pasta from this little pasta shop in Carmel, Ca. and had this dish almost weekly, however, if you’ve eaten fresh pasta, you know that there’s something very special to fresh pasta that the dried stuff just can’t imitate. Luckily, if you have a pasta maker, or a mother who has a pasta maker (like I do), then you can still enjoy gluten free pasta!

Below is the pasta maker recipe that my mother perfected. By the way, both of my parents have become gluten free and my mother has felt improvements in the level of pain she still experiences after carpel tunnel surgery (she has gotten surgery, physical therapy, and regular acupuncture treatments but still suffers from residual pain) and my father has experienced improvements in his arthritis (before going gluten free he couldn’t bend his fingers completely and now he has full range of finger flexibility!).

If you have a pasta maker you know it comes with a special measuring cup they call a CTC. This is equivalent to 1 1/3 C.

Ingredients:

1 tsp salt

1 CTC of All Purpose Gluten Free Flour (we usedBob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour)

4 tsp Guar Gum (or xantham gum)

2 eggs

2tsp olive oil

Warm Water as needed to fill 1 CTC after the eggs have been added

Directions for the pasta maker:

Mix the guar gum, flour and salt and then add it to the pasta maker. Then crack the eggs and add to the CTC (which is equivalent to 1 1/3 C remember). Add the olive oil and then the warm water (enough warm water to fill the CTC to the top). The amount of water added depends on the size of the eggs so if you don’t have a CTC for some reason remember that you can use a 2 C pyrex measuring cup to do this and just fill the water to the 1 1/3 C marker after the eggs are in. The pasta maker will do the rest : )

As for the pesto dish, I usually buy the fresh pesto at the store or farmer’s market, saute 1 white or yellow onion, 2 cloves of garlic and then whatever veggies I want to add (I used broccoli and cherry tomatoes). Once the pasta and veggies are cooked, I just combine with the pesto. It’s as easy as that and pesto is often a plant-based spread with tons of flavor so if you haven’t tried traditional basil pesto before, try it. It’s also good spread on baguette, or as a crudite dip.