The transition to Bahrain

Note: In retrospect, my first blog about Bahrain titled “The first 30 days in Bahrain” should have been titled something like, “What I’ve observed in the first 30 days”  because this blog is really more about the first 30 days.  I’m new to this blog thing.  I’ll learn.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.

The most common question I keep getting asked is, “How was the move?  How is it? What is it like?”  The answers to these questions are not so straightforward.  The short answer is, “it’s good, same same but different,” a phrase often heard when traveling abroad.  The more truthful answer is…

We landed here on June 30th after six flights. Yes, SIX, with Trace who is 2.5 years old and Izzy who was 15.5 months old.  Why six flights you ask?  Because the military booked them for us.  Period.  Need I say more?  Tad came home excited (clearly he hadn’t flown with the children before) that we were flying from Tallahassee to Orlando to Dulles to Norfolk.  We’d spend the night in Norfolk to start our outbound rotator flight (military flight) from Norfolk to Spain to Italy and finally Bahrain.  My grey hairs started sprouting immediately.

IMG_20160629_223844

Trace finally sleeps on the airplane.

Our first flight out of Tallahassee proved to be the biggest test and an act of trust and constant prayer.  The airlines the military booked us through, a smaller partner of United, was not ready or prepared to handle a military family moving abroad with our extra luggage, overweight, car seats, and stroller.  While Trace was totally excited that it was a propeller airplane, like Dusty Crophopper!!!, I kept praying that our bags, strollers, and car seats with HANDWRITTEN baggage tags (yes, their printers happen to break the morning of our flight) would make it to Norfolk.  I didn’t hold my breath and immediately knew we would be shopping for new stuff in Bahrain.  To my delightful surprise everything made it to Norfolk.  I can’t say the same from Norfolk to Bahrain but everything eventually caught up to us and for that 6 flights to Bahrain was a miracle.  

IMG_20160628_222757

So cute it hurts. Miss Iz sleeping on the airplane

The flights were not as bad as I had anticipated (no, I didn’t bootleg some Xanex), thanks to introducing Trace to the tablet and movies. Best move ever.  Izzy had more stir crazy moments but I don’t blame her. She finally figured out that flying is boring for a 15 month old and slept.  The hardest part was keeping them from going absolutely bonkers at the airport in Spain and Italy. That’s when I needed a drink and Xanex. Too bad for me.  So all-in-all, the kids did great, waaaaay better than I expected for six flights and three days in airplanes and airports.

We landed in Bahrain at 0230 (that’s 2:30 am) three days after leaving Tallahassee.  It was 99 degrees.  It was a slap in the sweaty face of reality.  Luckily, Tad’s sponsor (the guy he replaced) met us at the airport and took great care to make sure were shown the ropes for the first few days.  He set us up to live at the Elite Resort and Spa until we could find our own house.  No, there is no Base living here.  Everyone lives out in town.  We did find our place to call home relatively quickly but here we are on day 32 in the hotel due to logistics and paperwork.  Patience is definitely the theme of my life right now.  The hotel is a large international hotel (mostly Saudi’s on vacation, their nannies, and other US military personnel moving to or leaving Bahrain) with amazing customer service.  Our room is a large two bedroom suite with a kitchen on the 14th floor overlooking the capital city of Manama and two bays.

PANO_20160706_055223

The view from our hotel room. Looking at Manama, Bahrain.

Hotel living seemed daunting at first but now I think it was a great way to adjust. Everyone here is so nice and helpful. They love, LOVE, Trace and Izzy…a lot! Almost too much contact for my liking but it’s just the customs here. Trace and Izzy have handled it well though. Izzy typically gets this look of fear, finds me, and then runs to me saying, “Mama. Mama.” Trace sometimes lets people hold him. The creepy ones he runs. His judgement of character is on point. Thank goodness.

Tad started work…yes, the day we arrived. He truly is a juxtaposition of lazy and hard working. I can learn a lot. The Navy Base where Tad works is nothing exciting.  Just a bunch of square buildings (with frigid AC…hallelujah!), lots of imported palm trees, and sand.  Really describes the whole island.  Trace insists on wearing his flip flops then immediately cries and complains of getting sand in his shoes. He’s a smart boy, except when it comes to his flip flops and sand. Bless his two and a half year old heart.  I have felt very grounded by a steady yoga and meditation practice that somehow feels easier to find the time to do here than back in Virginia.  My travel bug has been reborn and despite having two toddlers in-tow, I want to see, really see, smell, feel, hear, taste, this place.  #Bahrainorbust

Trace and Izzy are adjusting as well as possible but it’s not easy being a toddler anywhere in the world, let alone during a big move like this. Yes, Izzy entered her toddler stage sometime between Tallahassee and Bahrain.  Let’s really add some fuel to the fire, yippeee.  She’s discovered her voice, opinions, and screams a.k.a death squeals.  Why didn’t any of my mom friends with girls tell me of this horrible noise?  The first five days were the most rough due to several factors, 1. everything–the sounds, smells, clothes, beds, food, brightness of the sun, dust, taste of water, weather, EVERYTHING–was new to the kids which was fun and exciting until it wasn’t, 2.  Trace and Izzy had to learn to share a room for their first time while having troubles adapting to the time change (no big surprise), and 3. Ramadan was in full swing.  Eventually total exhaustion won and the kids got on schedule but that was right around Eid, the last day of Ramadan.  Ramadan is a holy month for the Islam religion.  Not being Islam and arriving during their holidays with two toddlers in 100+ weather was quite a treat (insert loads of sarcasm).  Out of respect, we did not eat or drink in public, show public displays of affection, or wear anything a typical westerner would in 100+ degree weather.  100+ degree outings with two toddlers who can’t have water is not a reality I wish on anyone.  Trace made us pay for it.  I don’t blame him. So for selfish reasons, Eid (the last day of Ramadan) was something I celebrated too.

I think changing routine is exactly what every psychologist and toddler book says not to do.  But we did it.  We had to.  Overall, they did great and I don’t blame them a single bit for crying more, being more clingy, and a little more irritating. I feel the same towards them. Locals seem to love, maybe tolerate is a better term, Americans so nothing but good vibes so far.  Almost everyone speaks English, or some version of it.  People seem utterly surprised when I share that I’m from the United States.  Maybe I should begin asking where they think I’m from.  My hunch is they think I’m from the Philippines (refer to First 30 days in Bahrain blog).

Sorry there is a lack of photos so far.  Honestly it just looks like an urban city with a lot of dust. Well, and the photos on Google are better.  Just do a quick Google search.

A hui hou…until next time…

Aloha & Namaste

IMG_20160801_183435

A beautiful sunset view from the master bedroom in our hotel room.

Advertisements

First 30 days in Bahrain

Booom! Just like that we’ve been here for 30 days.  So here is what I’ve learned.

Time flies. Duh, we’ve all heard this. Let’s get to something better. Moving on.

You pronounce the H in Bahrain. It’s a small gutteral sound. Ba-hrain.

Tall ceiling houses are awesome and why don’t we do that in States? Kyle Zerbey, or any other architect, can you comment on this?

IMG_20160712_092358.jpg

My version of an abaya.

Abaya, the Bahrain name for their version of the burqa. Click here for some middle eastern education on women’s thobes.  While they make my independent American woman privileged feminist shreeeeek, there are many reasons why they rock: 1. I wouldn’t have to do my hair or dress nicely, in fact I’ve thought many a time, how many of these women are naked under their abaya. I doubt any of them are but that’s my nudist independent American privileged feminist making sense of it. I’d go naked. 2: It hides the sweat marks that will inevitably show up in 106 degree, 80% humidity weather. Think about it. Crotch sweat. No problem, I’m wearing an abaya. Armpit sweat that blends with your boob sweat. No problem. Abaya. Butt sweat because I had to drive somewhere and my car seat absorbed the 106 degrees and holds it like an oven therefore cooking my muscle and flesh like a turkey in a deep fryer. No problem. Abaya. 3: It’s true that it cools you down. I know it sounds counter intuitive and while I haven’t tested the full head to toe thing, I am learning through my own melatonin prone skin that a tank top (yes, I can wear one here on Base and at the International resort where we are staying) is way hotter than if I wear a light cover up, like my fun Wrightsville SUP hoodie (no, Jarrod didn’t pay me. I really just love my hoodie). The cover provides your own shade. Yes, I sweat like crazy (see #2) but my body temperature immediately drops. So YEAH for abayas. No, I won’t be buying one anytime soon.  Never say never.

Women are women are women anywhere. I don’t speak Arabic, or Hindi, or any other language I’ve heard here well enough to understand it. However, I have spent enough time traveling and a lot of time in nail salons to know when someone, meaning the ladies next to you, are gossiping. While I haven’t spent a ton of time hanging outside the hotel (shameful head drop), breakfast time is when everyone in the hotel comes together in the Noor breakfast tent (jump two paragraphs). What I do know from being a woman is, all the ladies who sit together and are close enough to my table to hear…talk in the same intonantions, giggles, laughs, gasps, and tisking that you would hear if you were overhearing a gaggle of my friends at a hotel all you can eat buffet on vacation (check out #ladiestakeSB on my IG for a visual). Women talk. We talk about everything and anything. And for some reason food makes us dive into the best conversations. Yes, I realize we could be part of the topic of conversation, especially since I confuse the hell out of the guests with my half Asian looks with kids calling me “mommy.” Read on…

Moms are moms are moms…unless they think you’re the nanny. Ugh. I will probably write more on this because it’s really a brain teaser and lesson for me. In short, Filipina and South East Asian women make up the majority of the service staff here in the Kingdom of Bahrain. [Note: Yes, it’s the official name. I live in a Kingdom! Ha. Except read on because I’m the nanny here.] Housemaids and nannies are almost a given. Every family I’ve seen stay here at the hotel so far, mostly coming from other Persian Gulf states, mainly Saudi Arabia, bring their nannies, mainly Filipina, with them on vacation. So, if you’ve never seen me, click to see my Instagram feed, or just know I’m half Asian half Caucasian. For an untrained eye, I can EASILY pass as Filipina. Even for a trained eye, I pass as a Filipina. The 2nd week here one of the Filipina nannies whom I’d seen a few times at the pool with a gaggle of kids asked me if the two kids I was with were my own. When I said YES, she told me she was surprised. She then asked where I was from. When I told her USA, she laughed and giggled, leaned over to the other Filipina nanny sitting next to her (yes, this particular family had two nannies with them. I think I counted 7 children they were watching) giggled, chatted quickly in their own language (see paragraph before this on women) and then turned to me and told me she thought I was the Filipina nanny. I was not surprised but at the same time my heart ached a little. I mean, I guess I am a nanny too but “EXCUSE ME?!!! I’M THEIR MOM” is what I really wanted to say. I have a feeling this is going to be an ongoing conversation with every Bahraini/Bahrahn and Saudi I meet. “NO, I’m not their nanny. Their mine,” immediately giving me the mommy street cred I deserve. Moving on…

Breakfast in a Noor tent tastes TEN times better. OH wait, maybe it just tastes better because it’s an all-you-can-eat international buffet that I DID NOT COOK. Woot woot! A Noor tent, at least at the Elite resort looks like this:

IMG_20160707_080101.jpg

Breakfast tent at the Elite Resort & Spa

Now tell me breakfast doesn’t taste 10 times better?!

Buying food here will break the budget. God bless the families who have teenagers. $8 blackberries, $7 raspberries. I was so shocked, I pulled a very Asian move and took a picture.  Proof.   IMG_20160720_171255.jpg“OMG” is f&cking right. I hear you can get cheaper produce on the island and you better believe I’ll be looking soon. Until then, please eat all the berries you can for me and my children and enjoy every little bite and seed stuck in your teeth. I refuse to pay $1/blackberry. Yes, there were 8 blackberries in that container. I counted.

Just days before our one month mark I got my first parking ticket. Actually I got it the first full day as a new car owner in Bahrain (did you pronounce the “H”? Just checking). I got the ticket right near Base. Ironic thing is, I was going to base (yes, with Trace and Izzy on a nice balmy 101 degree morning) to get my Base parking pass for my new car. The extra dirt lot the only place to park if you don’t have your Base pass (yes it’s name is perfect description) was full so I parked where other cars were near sidewalks. Something inside warned me I may end up with a ticket but there were cars parked ON the sidewalk. “Clearly the locals know something I don’t, I’ll be good” and marched off to get our pass. No pass (printer was broken) and two very upset kids later, we arrive to our parking ticket. I wish I had taken a picture. All the cars parked ON the sidewalk had no tickets. My car, nicely parallel parked 6″ from the curb had the parking ticket. Because I knew it was a possibility I wasn’t too upset but bummed nonetheless. Having registered the vehicle the day before and witnessing firsthand the organized chaos and lack of logistics at the Traffic Department, I am glad I know what I’m in for to pay my ticket and laughing thinking about the reality I’ve created for myself. I will make sure to stop at the wine store today just for the post paying off a parking ticket with two kids on a weekend in 100 degree weather extravaganza. #Bahrainorbust

I’m not sure where this blog site will take me. It use to be devoted to yoga, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and mostly holistic health topics.  I thought about starting a whole new blog, but why?  I do love writing. I’ve been encouraged to write for a long time and have been asked to write several books by clients and students. Who knows. Maybe my time in Bahrain will be more focused on writing. If you support this idea, want me to write more, have topics or questions for me, please let me know. And please share the blog if you feel like you know someone who’d appreciate the insightful shenanigans of an aloha hearted yogi military wife mommy. And please always feel free to start a mindful dialogue in the comments section below.

Aloha & Namaste

Asian Medicine Wisdom for Late Summer

Even if you don’t fully experience the dramatic environmental changes of the Seasons, everyone knows them: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Did you know in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is a celebrated fifth season?! Well, it’s not celebrated in the sense of holidays, Hallmark cards or other hooplah, but it is acknowledged as its own distinct time of the year and has dramatic impacts on our health if we are not mindful or aware of how it may affect our overall health.

“Late Summer” is known for the final days of summer when the temperatures are typically very hot, humidity increases but there may be a day or two of surprising cooler temperatures, as Autumn approaches. This time of the year is all about building reserves, like our ancestors who were preparing for long cold autumns and winters. Late Summer is ruled by the Chinese Medicine element of Earth. The Earth element symbolizes, and is closely related to the organs of digestion, particularly the Spleen (a not-so-talked-about organ in Western medicine unless you need it removed) and Stomach. Because Earth likes to be warm and dry, the excess heat, or surprising cold, along with humidity (a quality of wetness) has the tendency to challenge our digestion system in Late Summer, especially if your digestion system is already prone to being out of balance, are overweight, or have congestion in the body. Since the tendency int he Summer is to party, be more laid back and enjoy we tend to eat more foods that can challenge our digestion system: frozen drinks, frozen blended drinks and smoothies, overly cheesy or oily dips, more processed and sugary food to accommodate the long road trips, travels, or BBQ’s like chips, hot dogs, soda, ice cream and cakes. If we don’t take time in the Late Summer to get-back-on-track, it is common to see the following ailments, or signs of being imbalanced during Late Summer appear:

weight gain
lethargy
chronic fatigue
cloudiness of the mind
lack of motivation
feeling “burned out”
muscle weakness
flare-ups of chronic pain or injuries
exasperated fibromyalgia
digestion troubles even with no desire to eat or drink
feeling “ungrounded”

There is a famous, and misleading, saying, “You are what you eat.” After years of clinic practice and learning more about the digestive system than most (due to my own challenges with digestion growing up), I truly believe and teach my patients about the importance of “YOU ARE WHAT YOU DIGEST” (not what you eat). This concept was taught to me by the renowned International Ayurveda Physician, Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, who has just released a new book The Hot Belly Diet. The difference is, you can eat as “perfectly” as possible but without the digestive fire and balance, your body is not necessarily benefitting from the organic, free range, non-gmo, etc. food. If your body is not properly digesting the foods and drinks you consume, your body is not sorting, absorbing and processing what your body really needs. Remember, every-body is unique with individualized needs.  And if the body is not digesting properly, or is out of balance, the mind is not properly digesting experiences and chronic mental and/or emotional stress build as well. Overtime if your digestive system is chronically imbalanced, other organs, tissues, bodily systems and the mind begin to suffer. Our Diegstion System is considered to be the utmost importance when it comes to building immunity, improving overall health, maintaining weight, feeling vital and motivated and having clarity of the mind.

Late Summer is associated with building nourishment at the body, mind and spirit level.  If we enter Autumn with healthy, balanced digestion, strong immune system and clarity of mind, we have the reserves and stores to last through the drying, cold and harsh months (can be harsh mentally and emotionally–think SAD, Seasonal Affect Disorder).  Furthermore, when we are full, we have enough to share with others and won’t be as drained or get as sick, especially in preparation for the busy holiday season.

Preventative medicine begins NOW in Late Summer to build the digestive fire and immunity.  If you enter the Autumn and Winter with low reserves of physical, mental and emotional energy, you are much more likely to experience the reoccurring cold, flu, respiratory conditions and bodily pains of the winter.

Tips for Late Summer:

  • Begin to create your daily routine you’ll carry over into the Autumn with exercise, meditation, yoga, sleep, food, rest.
  • Visit your acupuncturist to get a digestion tune-up.
  • Movement: Take a walk after every meal.  Minimum 1000 steps. Ideally, until you build a light sweat.
  • Exercise: sweat at least 4-5 days/week, if not every day. If you feel more exhausted or lethargic after you exercise, you’re sweating too much, in Chinese Medicine lingo, loosing too much essential qi. Ideally, you want to feel energetic and vital after you exercise.
  • If you practice yoga asana, focus on the Prana Vayu of Samana, twists and wide legged forward folding poses.
  • Meditation: Samana meditation, color yellow, themes: grounding, nourishing, filling the vessel/body, releasing the emotion of “worry,” feeling whole from the inside out.
  • Food:  Eat more warm, cooked, foods and beverages. Add ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and cardamom to your meals and beverages (even your smoothies!). Avoid icy foods and beverages, cold foods, overly fried foods, high sugar foods and overly processed foods. Overtime, these will quell the digestive fire and throw your digestion out of imbalance.
  • Recommended food choices: soups, stews, casseroles, baked or roasted food.
  • Beverage: Twig Tea, Barley Tea, Oolong Tea, Chai, sip on warm lemon water throughout the day.

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! 

Gratitude as an Act of Devotion

When the hustle and bustle of the holiday season grabs you by the arm, neck, throat, or well, you know what, rather than fight back, smile at it this year and say “Thank you.”

Huh? Thank you???

Yep, “Thank You!” with a big smile of course.

With this week being Thanksgiving we are constantly being reminded to be grateful. I love it! A week where everyone is practicing and engaging in yoga. Alright, I have to admit, I tend to view my life in terms of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, the five elements, the eight limbs of yoga or Vedic wisdom. That’s just how I see things.

http://haunanichong.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/gratitude-sunset.jpgIshvara Pranidhana is a sanskrit term used and practiced a lot in yoga. It means “Devotion to Supreme God.” It’s one of the Niyamas, or personal observances, outlined in the Yoga Sutras by Pantanjali. If the word “God” freaks you out, like it did me for many decades, use a term that does resonate with you like “Love,” “the Universe,” “Divine,” “Nature” or “All Things.” One of the easiest ways to practice Ishvara Pranidhana is by feeling, being, and acknowledging gratitude in your life. When we truly feel and share our gratitude internally and externally, magic happens all around–improved energy, better sleep, people treat us better, random acts of kindness come out of nowhere (and really, they aren’t so random). Don’t believe me?

My mom just shared a story with me the other day. She travels a lot for work and got stuck on the east coast due to a broken airplane part. Her flight to San Francisco was delayed for 48 hours. While the majority of the people were kicking and screaming over the situation, she decided to take another approach. She surrendered to the situation and decided to take the perspective that “everybody is trying to fix the situation (flight mechanics, customer service representatives, etc). I should be grateful for all these people working to get me home safely.” While others were shouting and yelling at the ticket agents, she decided to smile and let them know she was thankful for their hard work. Just by expressing her sincere gratitude, not getting upset or blaming the people who were trying to help her get home sooner, she was rerouted and given a first class seat for no extra fee. Presto! A random gift based in gratitude.

Granted, I’m an optimist, but I know my life runs much more smoothly when I’m not fighting myself, the urge to be somewhere else (even if it’s in a long line at the store) or needing something else. I’ve learned through the years that if I ditch the December Downers, self-pity parties and let the Frantic Shopper or Family Drama Queen take a vacation, my life is so much richer and easy.

http://haunanichong.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/holiday-dinner-smiles.jpgThis holiday season, feel the feeling of gratitude and find gratitude in all aspects of your life (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual). You can express gratitude inwardly and silently or outwardly through gestures and words. Express your gratitude outwardly by smiling to yourself for no reason, smiling at strangers, listening to a friend, sibling, or person on the street who always tries to start a conversation with you. Inwardly, practice gratitude through how you perceive yourself, your state of mind as you move through the airport, cash register, and sitting with family. Most importantly, share your gratitude to the Universe, or Divine, by saying “thank you” and truly feel this gratitude in every cell of your being. When we acknowledge all the gifts and blessings in our life the Universe responds with “You’re welcome.” Don’t be surprised if “You’re welcome” is an unexpected gift you’ve been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for.

What “yoga is” to me.

At some point during my studies in Yoga, Oriental Medicine, Hawaiian Healing and Ayurveda a teacher once shared with me, “Until you can see Love in all things, until you can Love all people, you’re not ready to practice this medicine.”  I remember being floored, my gut turned inside out (at the time, not good for my IBS, which I’m happy to share is completely healed through Natural Medicine), my dreams dashed for a second, but my heart was racing and the internal me was shouting “Yes, Yes, Yes!”  This was a moment in time when I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Of all the modalities I have studied, in my own heart I consider them all a form and practice of Yoga.  Yoga, in the more general sense of “unification of the present,” is a path to seeing, feeling, hearing, observing and being connected to all things.

In an attempt to bring more clarity to what this means for me in a practical sense, I want to share what yoga is to me.

Yoga is…

Uniting the body, mind, emotions and spirit with the breath of all life.

A breath of life that eventually shows its identity of all things to be LOVE.

Feeling the breath of life breath you.

Where challenges become opportunities to grow and expand our boundaries, and deepen our relationship and understanding of God, of Love.

Hearing the sound of your own heart’s song in the stillness of your mind, and then living in accordance to your authentic heart song, without inhibition.

Choosing Love first.

Forgiving.

Seeing Transformation as a Way of Life.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of ALL life, including your self and choosing to live in HARMONY, in BALANCE, and with RESPECT for all things.

LOVING yourself, recognizing that before you can truly Love another, you must first begin to Love yourself.

The art of remembering, returning to your own Heart Light and refusing to let others tell you otherwise.

Yoga is YOU…You were born from yoga, born into yoga, and will die in yoga.  Yoga is your, his, her, my true nature.  The stillness of the mind simply reminds us of our true nature and our true nature is experienced in Yoga.

Asian Medicine Wisdom for Autumn

It’s Autumn which means several things in my world.  Autumn is a wonderful transitional season.  The mornings begin to have a nice crisp in the air once again that just screams to the lungs…Wake up!   And as soon as I take in a deep breath, my body responds with AAAAH!  Oh Autumn, how I love thee.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a.k.a TCM, Autumn is correlated to the element of Metal.  For all you non-TCM geeks, without even having to try to figure out what that means just consider what the qualities of metal are.  Don’t give yourself an aneurysm thinking about it.  Just consider.  Let me get you started.  Metal is ___(fill in adjective here)______________.  Voila!  Now you can begin to relate to the season of Autumn more personally.  Consider how these qualities apply to your own life, your relationships, mental state, habits, or more importantly how you can use these qualities to bring more balance in your life, i.e. cutting things out of your life that no longer serve you or help you to be the best you can be.

Yes, Autumn, as metal, is more sharp or cutting than the playful energy of summer.  Things all around us begin to show their life’s cycle: wilting, withering, changing colors, falling off trees.  Woah woah waoh, not to get you depressed.  This is a natural cycle and part of your own nature of being.  Asian Medicine is all about celebrating the nature of things and since YOU ARE A PART OF nature, this means celebrating YOU!  This is the perfect time to allow what needs to naturally die away, go.  Let go.  The nature of Metal.  AND when we let go, that creates space allowing for the opposite to occur…receptivity or filling.

More TCM geeky stuff that you should know is the metal element is connected with the Lungs and Large Intestine.  The yin and yang organs of receptivity and letting go.  These images and connections become the perfect guidelines for the natural processes in our own life, no?

In Ayurveda, Autumn is associated with the dosha, or imbalances, of Vata.  Vata is represented by the elements of Air and Space just like the Lungs and Large Intestine.  In fact, the house of Vata is the…drum roll please…Large Intestine.  Coincidence?  Never is.  More like Divine connection!  At this time of the year, it is natural for things in our lives to become irregular, mobile, quick, dry, cold, light, and rough.  Not just on a physical level (lungs and large intestine) but at the mental/emotional level as well.  Both TCM and Ayurveda give us guidelines of how to live with the seasons and not allow these qualities to take over too much and create dis-ease or illness.

During the change of the seasons, Vata, the energy of movement, is predominant. It’s important to avoid excesses in all areas of your life at this time.  Breathing exercises and meditation are important to practice every day.  Begin packing a scarf or top-layer with you every time you leave the house, just in case the weather shifts.  When the weather gets windy, protect your neck.  Most importantly, nurture moderation and stress-free living to keep the immune system functioning at its peak performance.

General food guidelines to follow at this time of the year include:
1) Eat foods that are sweet (whole grains, not cookies), sour & salty (rock salt, not potato chips)
2) Limit the intake of spicy, raw, cold, and light foods. i.e. cold salads, sushi, and cold bean salads.
3) Enjoy warm, cooked foods, a variety of proteins, and healthy fats.

Consider, sipping on the following Vata Balancing Tea throughout the day to help make the transition of the seasons easier on the mind and body.

Ingredients:
1C water
3 deep breaths
1 Intention of “Balance”
1/4 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ajwain (available at most local Natural Food store)
sweetener (optional): sucanat, rice syrup

Directions:
Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add spices. Cover and steep, or use a coffee/tea press, for 3-5 minutes. Sweeten to taste & serve. Serves 1.

Enjoy with balance and the intention of letting go those things in your life (thoughts, habits, relationships) that no longer serve you while being more receptive, or filling your life with things that DO serve you. This is Autumn! Enjoy.

Aloha & Namaste

To learn more specifically about your personal constitution and what foods, spices, beverages, breathing exercises and physical exercises or yoga asana are best to bring your body and mind into balance, call or e-mail Haunani today to schedule your private 1-to-1 session.

You are the difference!

Another blog discovered in my archives from January 10, 2010.

About two years ago, I was sitting with a close group of soul-sisters who are dedicated, beautiful, and ridiculously funny Change Leaders from the non-profit organization, Shakti Rising, in San Diego.  It was during a fun night of honoring the sacred feminine, speaking our Dharma, and uplifting each other to greatness, that I was introduced to this quote by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

We used this quote to inspire, thank, and remind the 100 volunteers that help run Shakti Rising that each person’s efforts were truly appreciated for the greater good of All.

As I do with most inspirational quotes, I place them on my altar.  This quote, in particular, I placed on my refrigerator next to the picture of Paramahansa Yogananda, Gandhiji, my family, and the Dalai Lama (the second altar in my house that reminds me of my abundant life each time I eat).  Each day reminding me that my thoughts, my actions, my words, my intentions are somehow in someway making a difference.  And if not in someone else’s life, at least in the experience of Love (God, Allah, Spirit, you name it)  flowing through ME in this body, this time around.

Recently this bright yellow reminder has been speaking to me differently.  It’s reminding me that transformation isn’t just possible, but that it is happening.  So, I want to share my “same-same but different” version with you as a source of inspiration, remembrance, and motivation.   A reminder of how AMAZING YOU ARE and how each and every one of your actions, interactions, and intentions are truly making a difference TODAY.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and passionate people can and will change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Here’s to being YOU…thoughtful and passionate, willing and able!!!  Have a wonderful day.

Aloha & Namaste