How to make 2018 the most badass yet

As a cup-is-always-half-full, silver-lining, eternal-optimist type of gal, the phrase NEW YEAR, NEW YOU makes me cringe.  

As much as I love the idea of a New Year, New You, from an Eastern Medicine perspective, it’s misleading and impossible.   It implies you haven’t been YOU all this time in 2015, 2016, 2017…and poof, all of a sudden 2018, here I am, new and improved.  You don’t just wake up one morning a new person. While that might have worked for Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, that is not reality and we all know that.  Yes, you may wake one morning with a new attitude; but a new attitude is not a new you.  A new attitude is the same YOU with a new attitude.  

But let’s stay optimistic here and focus on the motivating intention of making 2018 you the person you know you want to be, dream of being, the “real you” inside, without all the BS.  How you doing with that?  I hope you’re doing awesome, staying motivated, and committed more than ever to make 2018 your year.  However, if your New Year’s resolution is slowly falling to the “well maybe next year” priority list, keep reading.  You’re not alone for many reasons.  Below, I’ll share my 5 reasons why I don’t like this impossible phrase, but I’ll also share 5 ways to mentally prepare yourself if you truly are ready to make 2018 the biggest, the brightest, the most badass year yet.

So here are the reasons the NEW YEAR NEW YOU is misleading and makes me want to shake my computer every time I read it:

  1. A NEW YOU DOESN’T EXIST.  It’s an illusion.  You have always been you.  In yoga lingo, we call this your “True Nature.” Most of us are just out of touch or disconnected with our “True Nature.”  And to reconnect with that True Nature–what I believe the saying “New You” is trying to get at–doesn’t just happen when the clock hits midnight, or when you lose weight, or when you can do a handstand, or make your clothes look like you jumped straight out of Pinterest.  
  2. STARTING A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION IN JANUARY IS OUT OF ALIGNMENT WITH THE RHYTHMS OF NATURE.  And yes, no matter which way you look at it, you are part of nature.  January in the Northern Hemisphere is the dead of winter.  In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the middle of summer.  Neither of those times are conducive to truly making and sticking to a plan.  Winter is all about self-care, slowing down, and reflection.  Summer is about playing, partying, firing up your life, and shining brightly.  Hard to follow-through with new plans when everything about you is wanting to hibernate (north) or play and have fun (south). Truly, the best time to set a resolution or new year plan would be in SPRINGTIME!   If you want to stay in touch for my Integrated Yoga and Eastern Medicine Springtime workshop (online and in-person), make sure to sign-up for my Instragram feed and newsletter.
  3. NEW YEAR, NEW YOU MARKETING ASKS YOU TO THINK OF YOURSELF AS LESS THAN WHOLE.  In some way, you are broken and you need to be fixed.  This type of messaging is fear-based.  Sadly, it works.  For the majority of people, it’s easier to believe “there’s something wrong with me” or “I’m not good enough” so therefore, I need to buy this product or that program to make myself new.  Again, your inner-YOU is not broken, it’s totally enough, and doesn’t need fixing.  Your inner-YOU may be covered by years of bad habits, trauma, unfavorable experiences, and lack of self-care but all that, all those layers are not YOU.  The real you, under all that, is still there and is waiting for you to uncover, rediscover, and love it like you do your phone and gadgets.  
  4. MOST PEOPLE WANT A QUICK FIX.  Most people don’t want to take responsibility for their own life. [sigh] Most people want a quick fix, someone to tell them what to do, how to do it, and what it should feel like.  Truth is, only YOU know if it’s working for YOU!  Life is not like a yoga class.  You don’t just show up, listen to a teacher, totally trust them 100%, feel good, and say “I’m fixed.”  If it were that easy, every yoga teacher would be out of work.  Life is not a quick fix.  It’s a journey.
  5. PEOPLE DON’T MAKE SELF-CARE A PRIORITY.  Most people don’t want to do the work it takes to uncover their True Nature.  Uncovering the layers of bullshit, drama, habits, guilts, fear, beliefs is exhausting…but also exhilarating.  You do the work because the work is the most important thing you can do for yourself, your family, your community, and the global family.  Living in your True Nature is the most important work you can do in this life.  

So maybe you’re like, but yeah, yeah, that isssss me.  Everything above.  Yes, that’s where I am.  I’m ready for all that.  I want to do the work.  I’m tired of hiding.  I know there is a me inside just waiting to be uncovered from all the dust that has slowly built up.  If this is you, AWESOME! Amazing!  Get it. 2018 is your year!  Don’t let any amount of my realism get in your way.  Here is a reality check for truly taking on this New Year, New You mindset, so when February 1 rolls around, you’re still motivated and when January 1 rolls around next year you can look back and think, “wowwwww, that was quite a year.  I DO feel like a new me, a version of me that’s more ME than ever before.

  1. STAY COMMITTED.  MAKE YOURSELF A PRIORITY.  Ask yourself daily, “Do I really want to uncover the real ME that has always been inside?” Meaning, do you really want to do the work: physical, mental, emotional, digging up the past, learning new habits while ditching old ones, making new relationships, letting go of patterns and people who no longer align with who you are?  You know, really doing the work to uncover the layers of what you believe, why you believe it, and ready to think, act, create, and grow based on who YOU are, not what someone told you to be?
  2. DON’T GET ATTACHED TO THE UPS AND DOWNS.  It’s not all golden rays of sunshine and happy Care Bear clouds.  The process, the journey (not the destination), the work (possibly the most important work you’ll ever be a part of), is a rollercoaster.  This rollercoaster is what most people jump off of at some point thinking, wtf, this is not what I thought it would be like.  But really, what did you think it was going to be like?  Be ready for life to feel like it got turned upside down, shaken, kicked, and rattled…but believe me–IT IS WORTH IT.  YOU ARE WORTH IT!  Also be ready for some really high times too.  Like some of the most elated, unforgettable feelings of freedom, bliss, love, relaxation to name a few. Don’t get attached to these either.  Life is always up and down, like rollercoasters or waves.  What goes up, must come down, and luckily it will go up again–as long as we don’t get attached to these ups and downs.
  3. FIND SUPPORT.  Ask for help and seek support from friends and professionals in areas you find challenging.  For years I tried to do this “life journey business” on my own.  I barely talked to anyone about it.  I used my mat, my journal, and my escapism (literally to the middle of the Pacific) to try and figure it all out myself.  It was about 5-6 years into this path that I really truly realized, I didn’t have to do this on my own, there were a LOT of other people who shared similar experiences and it was actually not as scary, frientening, and tough when I reached out and allowed my life to be surrounded by people, friends, and health care providers who I TRUSTED with my stories, experiences, and body.  With this said…
  4. BE WILLING TO CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIORS.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  Be open to trying new modalities.  Ask friends and other mentors if they have personal recommendations for supportive health care providers.  Thinking outside the box might mean changing your Primary Care provider, or consider seeing a Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Physical Therapist, Private yoga classes, Reiki healer, Sound therapy, Homeopathy.  With this said…
  5. YOU’RE WORTH IT! Your health, your physical, mental, emotional, health and wellness, are priceless.  Just because your insurance doesn’t cover it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the types of treatment or support you need.  You may have to pay out of pocket to get what works for you.  Sometimes this requires creative money planning and a re-evaluation of financial priorities.  You might find excuses not to pay out of pocket because you don’t believe you are “worth it.”  Believe me, YOU ARE!  Without you, no amount of money or success in your life matters.  Your physical and mental presence is the most priceless asset you have.

New You really means a new attitude and commitment to finding time every day to peel back the layers of all the bullshit, drama, and habits that limit your ability see, think, feel clear, and to heal the parts that feel broken or out of alignment.  It requires taking “me” time every day (some days more than others) to do the work. So, I don’t mean to burst your New Year Resolution bubble if you’ve been flying high on the global energy created by the changing of a year, but I do hope you find more truth and lasting motivation for your New Year mindset.  

From my heart to yours…Aloha & Namaste

 

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Living in the illusion

Note:  I allowed the following to flow through me this morning.  I use to write this stuff on paper and in my journals in the past.   They are buried away in boxes (so is the life of a military spouse).  Today it came out on computer.  It is incredibly scary and vulnerable to share what comes through me at times like this.  This is a cathartic blog.   Having caught up on my morning World news, I  was balling.  From violent shootings in the US, villages being raped and torn to pieces in the name of dogma, starvation and lack of fresh water in the Middle East, and millions of people being displaced around the globe due to catastrophic weather patterns…it felt, and feels, too much.  It makes me so angry, so sad and then when I just let it out, cry until I can barely breathe, I begin to hear a calming voice that keeps me focused on something higher than myself.  Honestly, to me it feels like my version of “God” trying to talk me off the roof, bring more love into my life, and to make sense of all the suffering.  

To share the following is terrifying.  However, in the last year something shifted in me.   I use to be more reserved and afraid of what others thought of me.  Now, if something terrifies me, I say “fuck this shit” (meaning the fear) and I do it.  This FTS attitude, has been incredibly healing for me and for many others who have written to me encouraging me to keep up the online presence, or writing, or authentic shares.  So yes, I’m sharing the following below, unedited.  I’m not even sure if it makes sense. Maybe there will be something in it.  Maybe not.  But at least I feel better now that it’s out than keeping it in stuffed in some corner of my crying heart.  

I use to tell my mom as a child, “If I can positively impact the life of one person before I die, then I will have lived a fulfilled life.”  She reminds me that I have already done this.  I now realize I’m upping my own game.  From here on out it is my heart’s and life’s mission to positively impact the life (i.e. reduce suffering) of as many people on this planet as possible, including myself. My own experiences and past will not control me.  I will use them as tools for my own growth so I may shower as many people on this planet with love and aloha as possible. 

With this said, I’m giving you a huge hug right now. No, even bigger than you imagined.  I love you!
H.

—–

There is a saying in Chinese medicine, “When treating a person, above all you must treat the Spirit first.”  It sounds woo-woo, sounds out there but it is Truth.

The biggest cause of fear in our World is our disconnection being talked about as our “differences.”  The biggest cause of illness and dis-ease is STRESS from this disconnection.  No, that is not empirically researched, that is straight up living, learning, and dedicated observation in trying to understand life.  This country, our world, our communities and our families are divided not by a real division but an ILLUSION of a division that stems from a lack of connection with their True Nature, their Spirit, and a belief that different means bad or wrong..  The only Truth’s I know are: everything is always changing, death will happen, and we are already whole.  However, most people choose to live out and live in their illusion of their lack of wholeness.

The Founders of the US Constitution, pure geniuses imo, were correct when they said, “we were all created equal.”  Truth.  However, the interpretation that we all have equality from that moment forward is an interpretation.  It is false and another illusion to believe that each person born into this world is equal.  The only equality that exists is the unity of a whole being that is uniquely different from all the other 7 billion other people on this planet.  What is true is that each person on this planet is uniquely there own and whole just as they are.  Nothing else is equal.  Rather than push a false narrative that we are created, born, and live equally is just false.  What makes this human existence truly our own, divine, and unique is that from the point forward after creation (when the sperm meets the egg) a whole host of factors beyond our control and within our control begin acting on us and it is how we respond consciously, physically, and unconsciously that make each of us uniquely our own person.   Created equal and get to live equal are NOT and will never be the same human experience.   We are different and we need our differences in order to be uniquely our own self.  But there exists an illusion that differences equal bad and since we do not want to support the “bad” we disconnect.  The illusion exists that because you are different, we cannot connect, or share similar experiences, bond, or have discussions regarding our differences.  The illusion is just that, a false veil.  Differences are good.  Differences are what makes sushi, sushi and lasagne, lasagne.  What gets us in trouble, what divides us, what makes us want to be right over the idea of being free is when we begin to live disconnected or separate ourselves from things that are different than us or our beliefs. Difference’s exist.  Disconnection exist.  But differences does not have to mean disconnection.  Disconnection will always lead to suffering…as every traditional healing method that has survived the test of time all say…disconnection from our Spirit brings about death.

What I see, what I feel, what I witness, what I have learned every time I fear and work with people in a studio or clinic setting is that people are living in their illusion of separateness and disconnection rather than allowing themselves to live in connection with self, others, nature, and hence the world around them.  And I don’t care how religious you are, how many times you pray or meditate or do a sun salutation, religion is not a deep connection with your higher self and your version of God, Universe, Love, Oneness..  It might mean a connection but if it is, than you’re not offended by the above statement because you know you’re connection is Divine and doesn’t need labels.  Connection is about something deeper than a weekend pot-luck and group or affiliation or how far back you can bend.  Connection takes you deeper to a place that is about walking your talk and living your message.

Perhaps if we all asked ourselves these questions everyday we would know if we were living connected or in the illusion that disconnection.

Do you care about how you treat yourself, and what you say to yourself in the silence moments when the lights are out and you’re about to go to bed, when someone is attacking you physically, emotionally, or mentally?

Do you care about how you treat others when they are right in front of you but more importantly when they are not in front of you?

Do you care about how you treat Nature, the very Earth that gives you all your sustenance (food, water, sources for shelter, cars, and technology).

Are you walking your talk?

Do you care more about being right or free?

Have you sat with your own fears and really analyzed them?  Have you sat with your past? Your trauma? Your experiences?  Those skeletons in your closet and really allowed yourself to heal and get help?  Or did you disconnect with that part of yourself and push it aside.  Whether you were raped or are the rapist, the child being hit or the one hitting both are whole people just responding and protecting their illusion to fit what they thought was their reality, what was real, what right, what was needed to stay “safe” or in “control.”  But surprise, you are whole (always have an always will be) and it, all that stuff, your past, your experiences, are still with you, just stuffed away in some corner of your consciousness, heart, and tissues persistently trying to have a life of its own until one day you have a break down and it can finally release itself.  It doesn’t mean you’re broken.   It doesn’t mean you’re bad.  We are just Spirits having a human experience and the rules are not so black and white.

We are trained from a very young age to protect ourselves, and figure out what is “right” and what is “wrong.”  As we get older though, we have the ability to think for ourselves and to wake up to the illusion.  Wake up to the fact that you’re living in an illusion that you choose to live in or live out.  If you’re living to be “right” than you are not free and you’ve pushed your Soul aside in favor of your mind’s ego, little brain, cultural norms, or safety, literally the caveman/cavewoman aspect of yourself.  And that’s fine if you want to live that way.  Honestly, the majority of our planet has to live that way because of safety and needs based living (think Maslow’s hierarchy here).  But if you’re reading this, if you are part of the population that gets to live life outside of your minimum and basic needs of food, shelter, water, and physical/mental safety then it’s time to wake up.  You ask yourself why the World looks the way it does?  It’s because the people who have the ability to wake up AREN’T.  They are choosing to be RIGHT over FREE.  They are choosing to hold on to an illusion that our differences are somehow bad, wrong, ugly, or unsafe and disconnection is the solution.   It’s time to DISCONNECT with the illusion and CONNECT with your Spirit, your true nature under all the veils you, your family, your culture has placed on you.  It’s time to wake up.  Enough is enough.  Wake up.  Wake up.  Take responsibility for YOUR life, for your choices, for your words, your actions, your thoughts and reconnect with what matters most…your connection to your Spirit, that silent voice within that is trying to be FREE. Stop stuffing that voice away and needing to be RIGHT.

When was the last time you really looked into someone’s eyes?  Not an IG feed eyes or a FB feed eyes but the eyes of your neighbor?  The stranger walking past you?  The person making you your favorite $5 coffee drink?  And people get all up in arms about people who cover their hair, or wear veils, or wear booty shorts but does anyone look in the eyes anymore?  This is what I’m talking about.  I’m guilty of it too but when I catch these things in myself I really want to make a difference and take the steps to make a change within myself.  This doesn’t make me better or worst, maybe a little self-centered, but I’ll take it.  My form of self-centered allows me to feel good about who I am and give my love openly despite your color, race, cultural background, or disease.

Reconnect to your Spirit and you will find at first that it feels like your life is falling apart.  It is, because if you want to live connected with Spirit with your True Self than you can’t continue to live the same way you have been in fear, illusion, and disconnection.  But not all things that fall apart are broken.  Things falling apart is the illusion of your separateness and disconnection breaking apart allowing your life to reflect something more connected. Will it feel like you’ve lost control? YES, 100% but that’s the point.  When you try and control your life, that being “right” is better than being free, you have to build up a lot, A LOT, A LOT of barriers and walls to maintain that disconnect and way of life.  However, the more you continue to allow yourself to be connected with your Spirit you will begin to see your life take shape in ways that feel easier and more alive, and things you once would have dismissed as weird or from the twilight zone are now signs and serendipitous messages.   The differences won’t seem so scary anymore and the fear based living will slowly subside.

So yes, treat the Spirit first, not last.  Treating the Spirit is treating the body and the mind.  It’s all connected.  Disconnect with the illusion that different is bad or wrong.  Reconnect with your breath.  Reconnect. with Nature.  Nature has always healed, always will heal, and will always continue to heal for those who want to reduce suffering.  So go outside.  Take a breath of fresh air.  Put your feet in the dirt.  Get dirty. Worry less and embrace all of it as if it were your own child.

 

Even bees get “Bahrained”

#bahrained is a common hashtag used in conversations among my American friends living in Bahrain.  It’s hard to describe #bahrained unless you live here.  It’s kind of like an inside joke but the joke is on you.  Bahrained is typically an unfavorable outcome or describes a situation that only seems plausible and acceptable in a place like Bahrain.  In addition to #bahrained there are also the regularly used #bahrainproblems and #inshallahtiming.  Let me use my week to shed light on insiders’ terms and give you a glimpse of what life can be like living in Bahrain.  Note to reader: I did not make up any of this.

I pick up my car, the Island Beater, from the mechanic on Sunday night.  I don’t drive it at all on Monday. On Tuesday, as I’m driving to teach my first class at a new yoga studio, my Island Beater overheats because the water tank decides to fall apart.  I’m stuck turning the AC off and turning the heat on in 118F/48C degrees hoping it will help cool the engine off.  Simultaneously I pray to God, and every remover of obstacle deity I know, that I can make it over the one stretch of highway that is a bridge with  no shoulder and no exits.  #bahrained

I make it across the bridge and even further than I had anticipated.  Eventually, my car finally dies in the middle lane and everyone honks at me and gives me the Bahraini hand swat in mid-air as if I’ve purposely let my car die in the middle of the road trying to ruin their day. #bahrained

#Luck: My car turns back on.  I go back into prayer mode, “please car, please car just get me to the studio.  please.”  I’m giggling with how ridiculous my morning is.  It’s only 7:48am.  At snail’s pace,  pleaful chanting, and reassuring car talk like my car is trying to have a baby, I putter my way to the yoga studio.  The car dies as I turn into the parking lot. BUT I MADE IT!!!  I think, “it’s not a bad day after all.”

I’m dripping sweat because I’ve been driving with the heat on in 118F/48C degrees.  I run into the yoga studio for a sweet surrender and cold escape only to discover the studio’s AC and electricity are not working.  Not joking.  Seriously #bahrained!

I pull my phone out of my bag only to be reminded my phone died the night before (not joking) and I’m using a back-up phone with no contact information for any of my “guys”–not the car/mechanic guy, not the tow truck guy, not even my Bahrain friends. The only number I have is Tad’s because it’s his old phone but then I realize he isn’t allowed to have his phone with him at work so I’m texting all my updates to a turned off phone sitting in a locker. #bahrained

#smartphonesforthewin:  I go to open Facebook to start my search for phone numbers, tow trucks, mechanics, etc. and discover the FB app is not loaded on the phone and there isn’t enough memory to download it.  Thank god for plain old internet on a phone.  I think, “I love you Steve Jobs.” 

I have to choose where to rectify my situation: inside the studio with no AC but a roof to cover me from the blazing sun OR outside with a slight breeze.  It’s now a feel temperature of 122F/50C degrees and the iPhone6 is beginning to get hotter and hotter with every search and phone call I make and the battery is draining like crazy. #bahrainproblems

#LifeisGood:  It’s now Wednesday…I go 24 hours without anything “exciting” happening.  My car actually got towed to the right mechanic.  My kids are sort-of listening and not draining my soul with whining.  It’s a good day. I’m also headed to a sunset SUP yoga paddle session with a Bahrain bestie.

I’m being a good global citizen by picking up the trash in the water as I paddle around only to pick up a bag of ground beef and half of it is still filled with flesh (semi-cooked because the water is so warm) and it flies across my legs, arm, and board.  Beef?!  Who finds ground beef in the ocean?!  #bahrained.

It’s still Wednesday, the sunset was beautiful and I’m relaxed knowing I got all my #bahrainproblems out of the way for the week.  I was wrong.  Just as I’m finishing up I receive a text from our nanny that there is no running water at the house.  Surprise, I just got #bahrained…again.

On the way home (my friend is driving) the mechanic calls to say he thinks he’s fixed the car but he can’t be 100% sure. Furthermore, I can come pick up the car tonight and hopefully it doesn’t overheat again or I can leave it with him until tomorrow and he’ll double check the engine in the morning. I decide to go another day without a car and now start to realize I may have to cancel work because I don’t have a car and possibly running water.  #bahrainproblems #bahrained

It’s evening prayer time and close to dinner so my landlord and his brothers are not checking their phones and receiving my calls.  I need the plumber guy ASAP but I don’t have his number because, remember, I still don’t have any phone numbers because my phone is dead.  #bahrained

My landlord comes over and realizes he can’t fix the water, he’ll send someone over in the morning…Inshallah.  I don’t hold my breath because that literally translates to, “someone will come check out the water situation in the next week.”  Let me introduce you to #inshallahtiming.

I smell like dying flesh because I haven’t showered all day but have sweat like crazy teaching yoga both on land and in water and had to walk to and from the yoga studio in 110F/43C degrees (because my car is still at the mechanics), and I still have remnants of semi-cooked beef juice on my arms and legs.  HOWEVER, Tad tells me there is water in the upstairs bathroom.  YES!!!  So I squat under the trickling stream of water, lather up and scrub the beef juice areas extra hard, turn the water on to finally wash off and THERE IS NO MORE WATER.  NONE.  NOT EVEN A DROP. I’m forced to wipe off the soap with drinking water, a wash cloth, and baby wipes.  #bahrained.

#Luck:  It’s now Thursday morning, less than 48 hours after my car died and about 60 hours since my phone died, and the plumber guy actually shows up.  It’s the first time in a full year someone has shown up when they said they would.  Inshallah THAT!  It’s going to be a good day.

Thank goodness I took the day off because not only can the plumber not figure out why our water isn’t working (and I’m now wondering if I need to move us into a hotel), I now also have the Civil Defense Department at my front door.  What? Where did they come from?  Why are a bunch of very official looking men standing at my front door.  Oh wait, the landlord this morning saw a bee hive in our yard and is having it taken care of. #bahrained  This is a good time to insert a joke: “How many men does it take to remove a bee hive?”  Apparently in Bahrain, about 10.  No surprise though for anyone who lives here and constantly sees one man working and 3-8 on-lookers…I mean helpers.  We’ve finally arrived to the title…

Even bees get #bahrained.  The Civil Defense’s solution for a bee hive is to blast it with water.  No joke.  The very official men all arrived on a florescent yellow fire truck.  They drug a fire hose into our entry way and blasted the poor hive to pieces.  I didn’t want them to do it but the order was called in by my landlord out of wanting our family (mostly the kids) to be safe.  When I saw they were honey bees I lost it.  Honey bees are like GOLD!!! I thought I was doing so well this week given the onslaught of #bahrained moments but it was the bees that broke me.  I started crying for the thousands of bees dying and drowning in my entry way while the Civil Defense crew picked dates off my tree.  Even bees get #bahrained.

#Life:  So there you have it.  It’s now 2pm on Thursday [deep breath of relief].  I’m still using a back-up phone because the phone plan we use (Google’s Project Fi) only has a few specific phones that work with its plan and NONE of those phones are sold in Bahrain.  Surprise.  And YES, if you just silently said to yourself “Bahrained,” you get it. You got it.  By noon I got to bring my Island Beater back home and our water was turned on while I was getting the car (it’s a miracle).  Life is good.

Honestly, I’m not really surprised by this week.  About one week ago I heard that voice within warn me, “Are you ready?”  I knew what it was talking about.  I hear this voice and have glimpses of what-might-come-to-be in the most random times, doing dishes, opening a car door, brushing my teeth.  Life’s been really smooth lately—no major bumps, a few house issues (but what’s new), and overall we’re all in a really good Bahrain groove.  The voice was letting me know the pot was about to be stirred.

The old me, the version of me I still have memories of in college and even in my 20’s, would have cried, lost it, complained, and even thought the world was out to get me. Now, I know these weeks are here to test me.  I see weeks like this as a check-in to see if I’m really walking my talk.  They are also a good reminder that life is good.  I mean really, the truth is if I’m texting my Bahrain besties #bahrained or #bahrainproblems, it means we’re making light out of an annoying situation.  No one is hurt.  No one is in serious danger.  I’m overly grateful to have the means to take care of each situation as well.  We’re turning our complaints into jokes and trying to just do the best we can given our western upbringing in a same same but different country .

During weeks like this I can’t help but think about all the people who move to the United States and have to adjust to life there.  Do they have a term with their friends that helps them get through their adjustments?  Like ‘Merica’d, or “RWB’d“?  That culture shock and adjustment just seems unfathomable to me.  Like all things, living in Bahrain is another great test of letting go of the things I can’t change and learning how to be more adaptable, open minded, and even accepting of the things I don’t wan to accept.  I know not everyone moves as much as we do but maybe my week, my #bahrained vignette will help you to be more compassionate to people in your neighborhood, city, office, or school.  Please, next time you meet someone who has moved to the United States, might I suggest you think of Tad, Trace, Izzy, and I. They are likely going through a similar adjustment period but uniquely their own in a foreign land.  Rather than see them as different or not fitting in, maybe just realize they are a son or daughter making the most out of their given situation and likely getting there version of #bahrained.   

From my heart to yours…

Aloha & Namste

 

Toddlers are a yoga practice

If you didn’t know, yoga is a BIG part of my life.  What began as a simple idea of, “I should try every exercise class on this schedule,” at the Walla Walla YMCA turned into an obsession and eventually a way of life.  I didn’t know it then but I do now, yoga gave me a framework to relate to the world, a paradigm that I finally felt connected to with all my heart and soul.  I’m not sure if I found yoga or if it found me but either way, it saved me (physically, mentally, spiritually) and has continued to be the biggest teacher in my life.  Until I had kids.

Trace is now 3.  Izzy is 2.  [eyes bulging out of my head]  No, we did not “plan” on having two toddlers but clearly I needed this in my life for some reason.  Izzy, right on queue, began having tantrums (the reeeeeal ones) two days before her second birthday.  For a moment, I had forgotten about tantrums because Trace is now old enough and smart enough to just get angry and scream bloody murder rather than be two-year-old-irrational-crazy.  I hate tantrums (said every parent ever).  In my mind it is an ice pick cracking my soul in half, my brain in two, and every foul word out of my mouth before I can catch it.  No, I don’t swear at my children (not yet) but the things that come to my mind are not pretty.  I hate tantrums.  They suck my soul right out of me and leave a skeleton of hate cooking a meal (because for some reason tantrums happen when I’m trying to prepare a meal…or maybe I’m just in the kitchen a lot. So cliche.  I know.  But true.)

do not use or copy this photo without mother's permission

Being 2 is hard.

Since my yoga practice has been more focused on the meditation practices rather than the asana (postures) recently, I decided to “meditate” through some of Izzy’s tantrums over the past few days.  I didn’t sit in lotus pose, close my eyes, and “oooommmmm” it away, I simply took a few deep breaths when they began and really listened to what she was saying, how she was saying it, and how I was responding.  In doing this, I realized my response to her tantrums (typically irreverent, eye rolling, patience that quickly turns to yelling, or laughing) is just as much a “tantrum” as hers.  #TruthHurts

I knew I needed to flip a switch before I flipped-out-of-my-mind. Yoga reminds us to look within ourselves when external things are triggering, upsetting, emotional, reoccurring, hurtful, etc. One of these self-inquiry practices is to ask, “How is this [in this case Izzy’s tantrums] a reflection of my own life?”  While sitting with this question over the past 24 hours, as I watch and listen to Izzy maneuver through her world with mommia’s and daddia’s rules and expectations, I have begun to think that my toddlers (including their tantrums) are meant to be a direct reflection of the relationship I have with Universe and God—deeply loving, comforting, give me-give me-give me, no No NO, lots of unnecessary crying, and yet utterly devotional.

Before I go on you have to know that I am not a Bible-type and I am also not a religious person.  I didn’t grow up in a “church” and in fact, probably have entered a church more times for weddings than for a sermon—but I am deeply spiritual and have a very deep connection with God…thanks to Yoga.  This is probably worth a whole blog on to itself.  What I’m getting at is this: I know the word “God” can be off-putting to some. I was that person once.  I invite you to replace the G word with something like “Love” and see if that resonates with your own life.  Back to my point about toddlers, tantrums, and God…

What really gets my blood boiling is when Izzy asks for help and then when I help she SCREAMS at me for helping her, “I do it!!!  I do it!!! I do it!!!!”  It makes me want to throw her out a window.  Of course I won’t but her vacillating is the hardest on a daily basis.  When I stop to reflect I realize this is how I use to feel when adults would ask for help and guidance and then when I offered a solution or course of treatment they would tell me, “no thank youbut continue to complain about said challenge in their life. Either take the steps to fix it or shut-up would be my internal monologue. It used to drive me craaaaaazy. I eventually grew to understand that sometimes asking for guidance or help is part of the journey.  The actual work, treatments, or solutions are just another level of response, self responsibility, and commitment that is difficult in our bandaid-make-it-go-away-now culture.

The other big trigger is when Izzy asks for something and then when she gets it flails into a storm of irrational hatred and disappointment, a.k.a a tantrum. So with my new attempt at looking at tantrums as a reflection of my own life, I pondered…do I ask for help (ehem, pray for things) and then when I am offered help, guidance, signs, direct outcomes do I pout about it? Scream about it?  Push it away?  Yikes, [swallow of truth] I think I do.  Maybe I don’t scream bloody murder and yell, “I’ll do it!!!” or throw it on the ground and stomp all over it but in more subtle adult ways I talk myself out of the signs, or tell others who are offering their support or advice “thank you, no thank you,” or even feel down in the dumps that my life isn’t the way I planned, or the way I asked God to make it look like.  Again, [sigh] humbling.

I actually wrote out this conversation I had with Izzy the other day as part of this process. It was EYE OPENING to say the least.

Mommia: What would you like Izzy?
Izzy: I want a cookie.
Mommia: No cookie right now. [Izzy starts crying the second I say this.] Maybe later. What about a banana? Would you like a banana?
Izzy: [trying to stop crying] Yes, ba-ba-banana.
Mommia: Here you go. Would you like your water too?
Izzy: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a banana. No banana. [Throws it on the ground.]
Mommia: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no banana then. [I pick up the banana and put it on the counter, potentially for later]
Izzy: I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa! [crying and screaming] I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa!
Mommia: Izzy, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your banana.
Izzy: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. Baa-banana please.
Mommia: Here you go. [Eyes rolling behind a loooong blink] Thank you Izzy for using your big girl words and tone of voice. —-End Scene—–

I then decided to flip-the-script with my new insights. Mommia is now “Universe” or “God” and Izzy is now me, Haunani. [Note: in no way am I insinuating that I am equal to Universe or God, it is merely an exercise of reflection. Keep reading.] Cookie and banana are now name your desire: a car, husband, soul mate, new career, patience, health, freedom, abundance, etc. For the sake of this script, I’m going to use car for cookie and lasting relationship for banana.

Universe: What would you like Haunani?
Haunani: I want a ­car.
Universe: No car right now. [Haunani starts crying the minute Universe says this.] Maybe later. What about a lasting relationship? Would you like a lasting relationship?
Haunani: [trying to stop crying] Yes, lasting reeee-reeeelationshiiiii-shiiiip.
Universe: Here you go. Would you like Love in that relationship too?
Haunani: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a lasting relationship. No lasting relationship. [Throws it on the ground.]
Universe: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no lasting relationship then. [Universe picks up the lasting relationship and puts it on the counter, potentially for later]
Haunani: I want the laaaaa-laaasting re-re-relationship! [crying and screaming] I want the relationship!
Universe: Haunani, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your lasting relationship.
Haunani: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. La-lasting relationship please.
Universe: Here you go. [Eyes rolling] Thank you Haunani for using your big girl words and tone of voice. ——-End Scene——

This exercise rocked my Mommia world. I was immediately humbled. It’s become so obvious to me that my kids are reflecting my true expectations and relationship with Universe and God that I began to change how I relate to the laws of karma, God, and Universe overnight.

Not that I respond to life all the time like the above scenario, but neither does Izzy. She’s just being a two year old with no books, no guidance, figuring out a new language, figuring out everything—being a two year old is hard. What’s my excuse? OK, so I don’t have a book on being a mom but at least I know my language, know how to listen, understand responsibility, have some emotional awareness, know and use logic, etc. I have no excuse. Being so humbled by this newfound awareness, I then made a list of the other things Izzy does that make me “lose it” rather quickly.

  • Only use the word “please” if reminded to.
  • Only use the word “thank you” if reminded to.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you’re not going to get what you wanted.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you ARE getting what you asked for.
  • Purposefully do things after being told not to.
  • Purposefully doing the same thing after falling, getting hurt, or watching others (her brother) get hurt or in trouble.

Now I feel like a do a little better on some of these than Izzy and other adults I’ve encountered but woah, apparently my expectations of God and life are a little unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  And now having this realization, I now see I react to Izzy’s two-year-old nature because I feel she is being unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  Clearly my expectations are too high.  How is she suppose to know?  [My heart softens and I take a long slow sigh]. I’m not proud of this realization but acknowledgement and acceptance is the first step in choosing to make a change or not.

It’s hard being a two year old.  It’s also hard being the mom of a two year old. Many days I wish I worked full-time just to escape the irrational tendencies. I didn’t like it with Trace and I definitely do not like it with Izzy.  And here in lies the teachings.  Izzy is my major teacher right now. Like all good teachers I’ve discovered she’s shining right back at me like a pure reflection.   I am humbled, embarrassed, and at the same time completely motivated to make a shift TODAY both in how I respond to Izzy and my relationship with life, the world around me, and God.

Note to reader:  Overall, Izzy is an incredible child and I know this.  I am not complaining in this blog but merely attempting to share my process of coming to terms with tantrums through a mindful and humbling approach.

The oven man

I’m still thinking about the 20 minute conversation I had with the oven repair guy yesterday. For so many reasons our conversation crossed so many cultural barriers and expectations–a real learning experience for both of us.

Before I get to the conversation I have to share that the reason why I even had this interaction is because when we moved into our villa, I discovered that only three of the five burners worked, the ignite for the burners didn’t work, the oven light didn’t work, there weren’t degrees on the oven dial, and the oven ignite didn’t work.  Nothing too extreme, especially since we found a long grill lighter (a.k.a “torch”…British terms make me giggle still).  But what it does mean is that I get to use my gumby-yogi-like-ninja skills every time I want to use the oven.  Picture me manually lifting the bottom tray of the oven, positioning the long grill lighter just at the right angle towards the gas hose as I turn the gas knob with the other hand, all while using my feet, legs, or hip to ward off two curious toddlers who would love more than anything to “help” a.k.a. catch on fire.  I know, I know.  “Booo hooo, I’m such a spoiled American,” I can hear my international friends poke at me.  But really, I have been taking my oven and stove for granted back in the States.  Luckily, we have an amazing landlord who is willing to play to my spoiled American ways and agreed to have our oven “fixed,” or some variation of that concept.

So jump ahead to the oven repair man returning our oven after being “fixed”…

The conversation started off by him asking me about the round thing that I hung in the oven.  He wanted to know what it was called, what it did, how much it cost, where to buy it, and why did I have it. When I told him it was called an oven thermometer, a $5 fix, probably found on Ebay, to an oven with no control settings that allowed me to cook better, he called me an “expert cook.” I laughed in his face. Then when he asked how I knew so much about cooking and I told him I do most, if not all, of the cooking in the house his jaw literally dropped. His eyes shot out of his head when I told him I don’t have a full time nanny or housemaid, so I do the cooking.  To confirm what I told him and to make sure he understood my statement correctly, he then asked in about three different ways who watches the kids and who cleans if I don’t have a full time maid. He really couldn’t believe that I did that too. I think he then gave me a compliment when he said “I hope for my wife to be as strong as you one day.”

This young, definitely younger than me, Pakistani oven repair guy shared that he and his wife just had their first baby and so she needs a full time housemaid.  I chuckled and called him a good man for making sure she had support.  I shared that I wish I had had full time help when Trace was born but that things in America were different.  When I shared that most of my friends in America didn’t have full time or part time housemaids, he again looked puzzled as if saying, “How could this be?”  A conversation about finances with the oven repair guy seemed a little too intimate so I just said, “you’re lucky to have a full time housemaid.”  We chuckled.  His smile lingered with approval.

What I keep thinking about is that we spoke with each other the way I would with anyone back in the States and by doing so I hope I didn’t offend him.  I looked into his eyes as we spoke, the way I would do in the States. Even in this “liberal” country, I rarely see women looking in the eyes of men.  I’ve even been told that looking in the eyes of men is not “recommended.”  I laughed at some of the things he shared, showed him how to look up the oven thermometer on Ebay, and then even told him if he had any more questions about cooking with a thermometer he could contact me–just like an expert.  Haha.  Every thing about our conversation seemed so natural, and yet, still thinking about it over 24 hours later, it was against the grain.

To all of you in the States, I know this all sounds so simple but it really was a perspective shattering moment that I got to witness and share.  Who knows if he’ll ever need my “expert” oven advice again (I can’t help but giggle a little every time I hear his voice in my mind say “expert cook”) or if he’ll even go out and buy a thermometer and try to explain to his housemaid why she needs to use it.  But for me, I really want to remember this moment (hence, this blog).  It represents so much of my experience here in Bahrain so far.  A melting pot of people just making the most of their opportunities while learning from each other, often without even trying.  Every day I learn so much from the people and culture around me.  Every day is like a 3rd grade field trip to the science center.  The world as you know it explodes into awesome possibility and understanding that what I once knew was so small and insignificant to what is out there.

One of the aspects of travel I have always loved is learning about others’ perspective and experiences in the world.  We all walk on the same planet and yet what we see, feel, hear, believe are potentially radically different.  It’s this realization of all the human potential that makes me really feel alive.  Makes me really feel like I know nothing and there is a whole Universe beckoning me to learn more and dive deeper into the human experience.  I feel blessed to be diving deeper in Bahrain and to be sharing some of my human experiences with others as well.  As I get to have these daily experiences, like with this young Pakistani oven repair man or the samosa man, I hope they feel or sense my genuine sincerity to just be present.  Maybe even capture a bit of the Aloha spirit.  After all, we are both spirits having a human experience…we just happen to be in Bahrain.

 

My wish for the World

Many of you know I meditate, practice yoga, and think about the World and situations slightly different than the average gal.  Right when we moved to Bahrain, in fact the same week we moved here, there was a slew of suicide bombings and mass shootings.  Reading the news was depressing, sad, frustrating, and for me, motivating.  Motivating because it made me really sit and meditate more, dig deep into my own fears, pray, send out more love, contemplate life, and question why we are all here together at this time.

Eventually, the big move, suicide bombings, missing my family, friends, and dogs, and trying to find a new home got to me and I lost it.  I just downright lost it.  Balling.  Crying.  And so sad for the World we live in.  Why?  How?  WTF? Can’t we all just get along?  I know it sounds so cliche but I know I was sobbing those words out loud.  Through years of a committed yoga sadhana practice, I now know when I start to feel like the external (environment, situation, reactions) is affecting my internal peace, it’s time for a little reflection exercise*.  With puffy eyes and little sob to my breath, I got paper and pen and wrote at the top “What I wish for the World.”  Then, I wrote.

I want people to wake up. To take responsibility for their life and footprint on this planet in this infinitesimal amount of time we are here. To realize they do make a difference and every action, word, though creates a ripple. To take responsibility for their physical health. Mental health. Emotional health. Spiritual health. To not fear but live. To stand tall in their physical body and be able to say in the mirror, “I love you.” To not get attached to the thoughts and monkey mind. To see others and other situations as a reflection of themselves. To not be beat down by challenge but to rise up and see it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and become wiser. To be okay with not knowing. To be okay with stillness. To love more than hate. To be aware. To stand up for your beliefs while being flexible enough to learn new things and change your beliefs. To create more smiles than frowns. To leave a place in a better mood than when you arrived. To not take anything for granted. To thank God for everything in your life. To let go of what people told you to think and believe and to think and believe for yourself. To share your passions with the World. To apologize when needed but to not give up your personal power. That’s it. My wish for the World.

I was so mad and angry when I first started writing but by the end I felt like I had gotten something out.  My breath had calmed down and I felt more at peace.

Recently, while I was unpacking and settling into our new villa, I found this piece of paper.  I read it again.  I was both embarrassed and totally inspired.  Embarrassed because it reads as if I have this all figured out myself, which I don’t.  Inspired because it sounds like a calling from within, a call to action to step up my own game as a member of this human tribe and to really live this way too.  By theory, I totally 100% believe in everything I wrote.  In action, life is not always 100% of what I believe.  So, when I read this, I feel inspired to make my actions align with my beliefs.

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So why share this?  Because if you look at the external–the news, world politics, race relations–it’s easy to point the finger, to get upset, and feel helpless.  But remember, when you point the finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.  It’s also the 15th anniversary memorial of 9/11.  For many people, this day represents a turning point in perspective.  The ripple affects of September 11, 2001 are still felt worldwide.  Indeed, it’s a day of reflection.   There are many ways to reflect.  I’m not biased to one way or another.  I do believe it’s beneficial for people to do self-reflection often though.  So if you’ve never done this type of self-reflection exercise, I encourage you to do it.  It is powerful.  Get a piece of paper, write “What I wish for the World” and just start writing without judgement or holding back.  Put it aside for a few hours or weeks.  Then read it and see how what you wrote reflects your own current life.  Are the theories and daily actions aligned?  In this reflection, hopefully you will glean insight into how your external environment and internal beliefs are aligned or not.  Some of you may even be inspired to be your own change you wish to see in the World.

Life is messy and confusing sometimes.  It can seem like life can be happening to us and we have no control.  However, it’s an even playing field when it comes to how we respond to life.  We all have the same chance to live in accordance with how and what you truly believe.  What’s your wish for the World?

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Quote by Courtney A. Walsh

*In yoga, the personal practices toward uncovering one’s true nature, self inquiry (svadhyaya) is a very powerful tool for releasing anything that disturbs the mind, especially feelings of fear, frustration, worry, jealousy, hate, and attachment to name a few.  The practice of self inquiry and self reflection have been very powerful tools in my own life and have played a major role in my own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing.

Fear. Oh how I’ve come to conquer thee.

July 17, 2017:  I jumped on WordPress just now (it’s nap time for the kids) to write a blog and voila I discovered a blog that never went public written one year ago.  Crazy!  So, I guess this is my post.  A little dated but still a good one.  And as always, it’s perfect timing and a perfect reminder.  Now on with the blog from July 17, 2016…

On June 30th our family (my husband, 2.5 yo, 15 month old, and myself) landed in the Kingdom of Bahrain to live here for a few years. We never know exactly how long, it’s a military thing. So you’d think there would have been many times in the months prior to this move where fear would have risen. From the time we got the news to actually moving fear was never one of the emotions I felt or experienced. Yes, a litany of other emotions I experienced but fear was not one of them.

However, when we started looking for a house I noticed with every single hour that passed that I wasn’t being shown the “perfect place” by our real estate agent my liver was getting more and more bound up…Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) term for frustrated or angry. I would find myself going through the mental pep-talks, “Breathe Haunani. Let it go. It’s going to be alright.” But was it?! Would it?!

Luckily my yoga practice has continued to be relatively strong since arriving and when I sat to meditate on these feelings I realized the underlying emotion I was experiencing was not anger or frustration but fear. In my experience, most non-loving feelings boil down to fear. Try it, take a look at your emotions; easier said than done, but it becomes easier with guidance and lots and lots of practice…i.e. yoga.  When I sat with my fear, I realized what I was afraid of was not being able to live near the beautiful seas of Bahrain.  It wasn’t death I was afraid of or being attacked, it was afraid of my own desires not being fulfilled. How silly and selfish is that?  Haha.  I can see how ridiculous this is now, but at the time I was losing my appetite over it and becoming Mrs. Bitch Queen to my kids. Not fair to them…or anyone.

I try not to compare my emotions and suffering. I try to just see them as they are. Judgement arises, of course, but a healthy form that allows me to see the big picture laugh at myself and then find it easier to let go. So that’s what I did.   My kids were napping when I got to sit in this self-reflection and they were still napping so I decided to dig a little deeper.  What, really, is fear? I’ve asked myself this question for years. It’s a goodie. Something I enjoy contemplating.

As I sat there contemplating ‘what is fear?’, I really felt in the core of my being that fear is not trusting God, the Universe, or whatever you call your higher source.  In Pantanjali’s yoga Sutra, the eight path/branches of yoga is a guide toward living liberated from the illusions of the mind, discovering one’s true nature, and ultimately being liberated from our own suffering.  One of the eight branches is called Yama, or personal observances.  Within the Yamas, Ishvara pranidhana or devotion to Ishvara (God), is one of these self practices and observances.  When I was sitting and contemplating ‘what is fear?’ it became clear that one act of devotion is to trust.  To trust myself in acting with discernment and decision making with my husband.  To trust that our decision would not be the “wrong” one.  To trust that our decision would be the “best one given the information we were given.”  I do believe that we are all connected to all things, we are a part of nature, we are divine creatures that walk and talk with will and consciousness, then not trusting God, or the creator, is very scary. Simply not trusting God would mean not trusting all of my being. THAT is scary.

Good thing is, it’s been easier to manage this whole house hunting process in Bahrain now that I have that revealed. God’s got my back. I’m doing my due diligence, acting and choosing with discernment. If it’s meant to be then great but most likely where we end up will be better than anything I could have imagined or dreamed up for my family. This I have experienced time and time again. I limit my reality with my own desires or expectations. If I can trust God, the life I will get to live and experience will be brighter and more amazing than my little brain can hope to control.

So while I may not have totally conquered fear in all its forms, like my title would suggest, it does feel good to know that Bahrain is already turning into another great teacher.  I am not surprised.  I look forward to keeping my fears in check and coming back to “trust God” or “trust the process” as our time in Bahrain unfolds.

 

Six Tastes of Ayurveda

At the age of five, maybe even earlier, I was often plagued by stomach aches.  It mostly happened after I ate.  My parents, relatively western in their ways, did what any suburban middle-class parents would do, they took me to my pediatrician.  I loved my Pediatrician.  She was untouchable to me.  It was so cool when she used a tongue depressor that was individually wrapped.  I loved the pink syrup she gave me when I had sore throats and I loved looking through the drawers in my waiting room.  Unfortunately, despite her coolness factor, my stomach aches continued.  There was no definite diagnosis and only some mention after an allergy test that I might be lactose intolerant.  The tiny purple pill which was brand spanking new on the market (now one of Pharmaceuticals top sellers Prillosac) didn’t even help.  I did do a little bit better with lactose free milk but ice cream, cheese, pizza, all those yummy kids foods always made me sick and were out of the question.

In my teens, my stomach aches got worst and worst.  After a trip to France, where I had very little stomach issues even eating their stinky cheese, I returned stateside with horrible cramping stomach aches.  After several mildly invasive tests, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  They told me it was a newer diagnosis that was just being used.   The doctor told me, “Eat what you can and avoid the things that give you an upset stomach.”  Duuuuuuuuhhhh!  That’s what I was doing.  Eating rice and apple juice.  Do you think I would have spent my time coming to you if I didn’t already know that?!  I was frustrated.

About the same time, my mom had picked-up a book from a garage sale and gave it to me saying, “I think this is for you.”  The title was Yoga and Ayurveda by David Frawley.  I had nooooooo idea what yoga or Ayurveda was (neither did my mom) but when I randomly opened it up, I saw charts of foods.  With a quick scan I discovered a book that discussed food as medicine.  I began reading hastily.  Within days I was learning that people had different body constitutions and foods reacted differently to different people.  This all made perfect sense to me.  It was like a lightbulb turned-on, one that was familiar yet so new.  I felt like I finally found hope for reducing my stomach upset.  That was the beginning with my love affair with Ayurveda.  I still had no idea what yoga was and it would be another three years before I took my first asana yoga class.

Ayurveda is a complete system of medicine.  Where biomedicine treats diseases with biomedical pharmaceuticals and surgery, Ayurveda prefers to use food, spices, lifestyle modifications, exercise, meditation, aromatherapy, mantra, manual therapies like massage and herbal formulas, or surgery in severe illness or disease.  Ayurveda’s focus is on establishing and maintaining health and wellness in order to prevent disease.

Hippocrates Food MedicineWhile many people believe Hippocrates coined the term “food is medicine,” this is actually an old Ayurveda saying that dates back thousands of years prior to Hippocrates.  Food is such a key component to health and wellness because we eat several times a day.  Ayurveda has dissected food to a science.  The reason why food is medicine is because anything we put in our mouths has a taste and a post-digestive effect.  Each taste stimulates a different part of the tongue which sends signals to the digestive system to ramp up for ingestion and begin producing the right enzymes to digest the incoming food or beverage.  Furthermore, Ayurveda explains how each taste has a medicine value based on its qualities and elemental properties.  It’s these elemental properties that act on the body in a myriad of ways to create balance, cleansing, healing or even imbalance.

To date, I know of no other culture or medicine that looks at food and tastes so closely.  This is different from the western idea of nutrient and vitamin values.  Nutrients and values are just labels but do not explain why they do what they do to the body.  Ayurveda does.  Of all the years I’ve been studying Ayurveda (over 16 years now) I am still fascinated by the science of food and the six tastes.

I’ve compiled a quick .pdf (Six tastes handout) for you to look at which gives a more detailed description of the six tastes and how they affect the body.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.  Furthermore, if you have more to add, please do.  I am forever a student, willing to contemplate more.

Gift Yourself this Holiday Season

Whether you like it or not it’s the time of giving.  Giving gifts, giving your time to family, shopping, traffic, going to obligatory work functions, holiday parties and giving your immune system an extra test with travel.  Unfortunately, if we’re not careful and give of yourself too much you end up sick, stressed out, overwhelmed or the Scrooge.

Gift Yourself ImageThat’s why I’m dedicating this article to all of you who need permission to gift yourself this holiday season.  Sometimes we just need permission to do the things we know we ought to do.

As a stress reduction specialist (I’ve been using this term more and more since someone told me this is one of my specialties), I find that when people don’t take care of themselves during the year, the holidays become overwhelming, tiring and stressful.  In a time when there is much to celebrate, many people focus on the obligations rather than the attitude of gratitude or truly gifting another from the heart.  Furthermore, when it’s time to receive a gift from someone, people don’t know how to truly appreciate this act because we’re burnt out, feeling unworthy or again, being Scrooge.

There is a quote that I live by, “learn to love yourself before you can truly love another.”   This same psychology can also be used when it comes to gifting.  Learn to gift yourself before you truly give to others.  Easier said than done.  Learning how to gift yourself is learning how to appreciate and find gratitude for your own life and authentic self.  Learning how to gift yourself also teaches you how to receive.  Yes, RECEIVE.  Gifting is an act of moving energy from yourself outward.  When you gift yourself, you practice receiving, or moving energy from the external to the internal.  Receiving is just as important as giving but in a culture that is focused on the external objects to make us happy, many of us have forgotten how to receive with an open heart. I’m encouraging you this holiday season to gift yourself by taking care of yourself and doing things that you find indulgent but are actually very simple.  Watch your thoughts when you decide to gift yourself and notice how you receive.  Also notice how you give.  The holidays are such a beautiful time of the year for celebration and fun, take care of yourself and learn the balance of giving and receiving to truly optimize this special time of the year.

Top ten gifts to give yourself this holiday season:

Breathe! Take 5-10 releasing breathes in the car, in the shower, bathroom stall, really ANYWHERE.  How to: Take a nice deep slow breath in through the nose.  Hold the breath for 1-2 seconds and gather up any emotions or stress.  Then exhale, breathe out, with a sigh or the sound of ‘haaaa.’  Repeat as necessary.  Caution: you can cause lightheaded.  Please do not overdo.  5-10 breaths is plenty!

Mooooove your body.  Remember to move and stretch during your travels.  If you’re driving, during your rest stops walk around the parking lot, do some push ups on a bench or some squats in the parking lot.  Yes, people will look at you but again, by taking care of yourself (and having fun doing so) gives permission for all the other achy travelers to move too.  If you’re flying, remember to flex your legs, ankles and glutes/buttocks regularly.  When you’re waiting in lines try to balance on one leg.  Maybe even jog or speed walk to your next gate, not because you’re about to miss your flight but because you’ll feel better once you get there.

Foot massage.  Did you know there are millions of nerve endings that send signals through your whole body when you massage your feet. Foot reflexology is based on this principle.  How to:  Sit on the floor a comfy chair, cross one of your legs and begin massaging the heck out of your foot, ankle and calf.  Better yet, get a friend or loved one to do it for  you!  If you don’t have a foot or hate feet, keep reading to check out another gift you can give yourself.

Self Oil Massage.  That’s right, oil yourself up.  Use a natural oil like coconut oil, sesame oil (not toasted, it should look golden), olive oil or jojoba oil. gently warm the oil in a double boiler, coffee warmer or on the stove.  Be careful not to burn yourself or overheat the oil.  If the oil begins to smoke, start over.  With your warm, body temperature oil, begin by applying some to the scalp.  Then cover the body making circles at joints and long sweeping motions on limbs and torso.  Let the oil sit for 15-20 minutes.  Enjoy your favorite cup of tea (gift yourself #4) and then take a hot shower without soap to wash the oils off.  This is an ancient healing secret from the East.  It is a therapy to create balance of the body and all the tissues.  If you go to a spa and get this done you’ll be dishing out $150-$350.  Yes, gift yourself!

Hand massage.  Like the foot, did you know there are millions of nerve endings that send signals through the whole body when you massage your hands?!  Massage each hand for 10 minutes.  Better yet, have a friend or loved one massage it for you.  Kids are great at giving hand massages and very healing and intuitive by nature.

Indulge in your FAVORITE cup of tea or coffee.  Not sure about you, but I tend to buy tea in bulk, not a high-end tea but something I know will GET THE JOB DONE.  My husband who is a coffee drinker tends to do the same.  HOWEVER, why not give yourself permission to go out and buy your all time favorite tea or coffee for the holidays?  Sipping on it while you get a foot massage or after you’ve given yourself a full body massage will feel like you’re the Queen or King of the neighborhood.  Which I’m sure you already are 😉

Sleep in as long as you want.  Arrange with your partner, spouse or family to give you one morning where you can sleep in as long as you want.  Some of you already do, so don’t choose this as a gift to yourself.  Others of you, including myself, have pets or kids to take care of.  Sleep is so incredibly important to reducing stress from the body and mind.  When we don’t give ourselves permission to get sleep until we naturally wake up, we are adding more stress to our lives.

Do one thing you LOVE to do.  Novel idea, right?!  In the clinic, I like to give my clients homework assignments between sessions.  The most often “prescribed” homework is asking a client to do something they absolutely LOVE to do but never do anymore.  One lady in New York loved walking around looking at the old architecture and taking photos.  She hadn’t done this in over 10 years even though she walked everywhere and lived on the upper east side, an amazing area for her passion.  Another lady just wanted time to sit with her cat in her lap, turn off all the gadgets and watch the world walk by.  Another man wanted to continue to write on a screen play he began 18 years earlier.  By giving themselves permission, each of these people did what they LOVED!  You should have seen the smiles on their faces during our next session.  TRY IT, that’s why you LOVE IT!

Buy yourself a gift.  In the Business and Money section of the Times this week, there is an article New Holiday Tradition: Buying Yourself a Gift.  While I’m attempting to keep the gift yourself idea focused on health and wellness, I have to admit there is something incredibly satisfying and healing when you buy yourself a gift for no reason.  A REAL GIFT that is, not something for the house, your pet or work.  A gift is something you’d probably never buy for yourself because of the thirty reasons of why you could use something else…for the house, pet or kids.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, lavish or expensive.  Maybe it’s hand lotion, a favorite candle or a hard-cover book.  Imagine that, a real book?!

Write or express your dreams, goals and aspirations for 2013.  This is not the same as a New Year Resolution.  This is about giving yourself permission to dream and dream big.  Not only learn from the past and decide to move forward with all the wisdom you’ve gained but maybe in this process learn something new about yourself.  Attempt to get out of the usual things you dream or think about and go wild.  Questions to ask yourself: If money weren’t an issue, I’d__________.  If I had all the time in the world, I’d_____ or may day would ____________.  When I look back at this time next year, I want to feel __________ or be able to say, I did ______________.  I want to learn about _____ in 2013.  The biggest lessons of life have come from ___________________.  I’ll use this knowledge in 2013 to _____________.

Choose an Attitude of Gratitude.  The holidays are the perfect time to point out who’s glass is half-empty and whose glass if half-full.  Unfortunately, the half-empty mentality is much easier to follow and fall into its unforgiving jaws.  IF however, you are a half-full or overly full mentality type, keep it up this holiday, even around friends and family.  You may get picked on, you may even be asked the most silly questions like why or how can you be so happy,  but more importantly you give others permission to live this way as well.  I can’t think of a better gift…and it’s free!  Remember, even the smallest and most simplest things can turn our world around.

Caution:  If you feel silly gifting yourself, you’re not alone.  More importantly, you’re probably doing it right.  Don’t worry what others think, just have fun.  After all, the holidays are a time for having fun and being silly!