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.

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Our new villa

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Front gate of our villa

Villa, a beautiful word I previously associated with southern France, green rolling hills, and lots of wine.  Now, scratch the wine and the green rolling hills, we are living in a villa in Bahrain, a desert flatland of cement jungles and no alcohol.  The word “villa” is just Bahrain’s term for “house.”  Villa does sound so fancy.  Just say it, “My villa is in Parkridge (our former suburb neighborhood in Virginia),” or “I’ll meet you at the villa.”  Fancy, right?  Not that I need fancy in my life, but it’s fun to say.

The Navy Base here does not have housing for most of the people, especially families, who move to Bahrain.   I hear the Embassy and some of the other DOD (Department of Defense) families are given housing but it’s too out in town.  When we arrived in Bahrain, we immediately checked into a nice hotel, acting as our temporary lodging, until we found our own villa or flat, a.k.a apartment or condo.  After a housing brief on Base, we were free to find our own place with a little pressure knowing we would only be allotted 45 days in the hotel.  45 days sounds like a long time in a hotel.  It is.  Although I have heard of some families living in their hotel for up to three months trying to find a place to live. At first, 45 days sounded like a nice retreat. Why rush?  In reality, 45 days was an incredible motivation tool to find a place as soon as possible because finding a house in 100+ degree weather was not as enjoyable as I would have liked it to be.

Finding a place was, in many respects, similar to the process you’d do in the States pre-Red Fin or Trulia.  Contact a reputable (in our case, Navy Base Housing approved) real estate agent, tell them your price range, furnished, partially, or unfurnished (we needed fully furnished), must have’s (i.e. bathtub for kid’s, washing machine, safe neighborhood), would like’s (i.e. pool, dryer, garage), and then off you go to look at places.  The difference is, we didn’t have a car, Tad was already working entrusting the process to me, and I had two toddlers who were still adjusting to Bahrain time and heat.  Luckily, in Bahrain the real estate agent picks you up at the hotel and drives you around to look at places.  Thank goodness, since Tad and I discovered very early on that Google is only about 75% correct and always 2 blocks slower than you need it to be.  The day after our housing brief (I was on it knowing other families were moving here in droves) our real estate agent and associate picked Trace, Izzy, and I up in their very chilly AC SUV (not all families are so lucky to have cold AC) and off we went looking for a place to call home.  Our version of House Hunters Bahrain was far from film worthy.  Trace and Izzy were beyond tired, hot, and realized very quickly that looking at houses was not fun, so started saying, “I want to go home” within 15 minutes of our 2 hour house searching time.  It made for an oh-so-awesome-stab-me-in-the-eye-with-an-ice-pick type of experience.  Except, I have a fascination with real estate and looking at houses, so I was also loving it…with an ice pick in my eye type of love.  Out of keeping my sanity and marriage together, I quickly figured out how to enroll our kids in the Base’s childcare center so I could look at houses while they enjoyed air conditioning and the comfort of other like-minded toddlers.  Win-win for everyone.

Before we moved to Bahrain I heard the place to live was Amwaj Islands. Beautiful blue turquoise beaches, many expat and American families, close community, and a great lagoon with outdoor shopping and groceries.  You should Google it, it’s gorgeous.  I started dreaming of Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga (SUP Yoga) every day.  What I learned very quickly is the Saudi’s, with their ridiculous amounts of money, have driven-up the market in Amwaj.  What an American family use to be able to afford with a housing allowance like ours, a 4-5 bedroom villa on the water, would now only get us a 3 bedroom flat maybe with a water view or a small 3 bedroom villa at best.  On top of that, logistically the Navy had recently changed the pay structure for housing allowances which the local landlords and property managers were either resistant to the change or just not “getting it” so made the negotiations and discussions beyond frustrating.  The ocean addict in me was heart broken but I was hopeful something would open up near the water.  We started looking all over the island (yes, Bahrain is a cluster of islands) and discovered, like in the US, if you’re willing to move away from the coastline, your money can go a long way.

Most of the villas the real estate agent showed us were in compounds, or gated communities.  Essentially compounds are clusters of villas gated off with security.  Some were gorgeous mansions but too far a commute for our liking.  Even though Bahrain is small and by Google standards 20-25 minutes to get to the Navy Base from some of the furthest places, the reality of Bahrain driving is that you need to double your travel time to get anywhere due to traffic lights, accidents, and getting lost.

The very first time we looked at the villa we are now living in we got lost zig zagging through the narrow streets (again, Google is 2 blocks slow and not super accurate).  When we finally found the general area of the house, we stepped out of the car and I had a deja vous moment of being back in Pune, India.  My heart fluttered.  When we walked into the house, our jaws dropped by the size of the place.  It was huge, peaceful, and way too much for our four person family.  I should note here, Lou and Coco, our sweet dogs are living with Tad’s mom and dad in Tallahassee, a.k.a Dog Paradise.  Dogs are not a common house pet in Bahrain and often frowned upon.  With the 100+ degree heat, six plane flights to get here, and the generous offer by Lisa and Van, we knew the best decision for their health and wellbeing was to leave them in Florida.

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Our street. Our neighborhood is very quiet, safe, and very Bahrain. Narrow streets, small local shops, smell of incense often wafting from a house, and friendly smiles.

 

After a week of looking at villas and flats (I looked at over 20 places) and being exhausted and frustrated by the process it came down to a three bedroom penthouse flat in Amwaj with tiny rooms and no storage but a killer view of the Gulf or a spacious stand alone (not in a compound) four bedroom villa in Adliya closer to Base and a lot of Bahraini culture. We, actually I made Tad make the final call since I’m horrible at making decisions, liked being closer to Base and being in a villa closer to the Bahraini people and culture.  We made an offer directly with the landlord and he accepted right away.  After a day of double guessing, I always do this, I settled into our decision and haven’t looked back.  I love it in Adliya and I love our villa!  It was definitely the right choice for our family and our landlord is AMAZING.  A really nice guy who has already welcomed us into his family.  Apparently most of the villas and flats within a two block radius are his family.

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A view of our neighbors and general neighborhood.

Adliya is a large neighborhood in the capital city Manama.  Maybe I’m biased or just not as familiar with some of the other areas of Bahrain yet but so far it really feels like Adliya has a lot of cultural heart.  A diversity of restaurants in both price and ethnic cuisine, street food (yummmm), a “restaurant row” of sorts where no cars can drive, local artist displaying sculptures and art, cafes to enjoy a small bite outside (when it cools down), live music on Thursday and Friday nights (our weekend nights in Bahrain), and many foreign Embassies are located in Adliya.  It’s not a place a lot of foreigners come to party, like the neighboring area of Juffair, but it is where locals go out.  Our Real Estate agent pointed out three restaurants very close to our house the royal family visits regularly.  As soon as the temperature cools off (probably sometime in September), Tad and I are looking forward to walking around and getting to know our neighborhood and neighbors.  We can’t wait to put the kids in the stroller or wagon and walk toward Shawarma Alley (street food central), introduce them to bargaining for cool and awesome furniture (I so love this!), freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, and finding the Samosa man who apparently makes the best Samosas in Bahrain and is a stone throws away from our villa in some window between two shops.   Undoubtedly, his Samosas will rock.

While my vision of moving into a fully furnished villa looked like a house that was deep cleaned the day before and totally put together ready to just start living, Tad (my grounding reality check) reminded and prepped me for the inevitable.  We moved into our villa about two weeks ago to a pile of partially functioning furniture that greeted us when we opened the front door, dust thicker than a sand storm at Burning Man, and the smell of new paint.  We couldn’t have been more excited!–not in a sarcastic way, we really were excited and ready to have some place to call home.  There was lots of cleaning, moving and reassembling furniture, and realizing we didn’t have this or that in the kitchen for making a basic meal.  In essence, it was like moving into any new house.  You’d think we’d be more prepared by now after all our moves.

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Our entry with date palms.

Our new villa is about twice the size of our old house in Virginia, at least it feels that way. It has a nice open floor plan in the living area with enough space to be an indoor gym for the kids by day and a beautiful yoga studio when it’s cleaned at nap time, four ginormous bedrooms, tall 12-15′ ceilings, a huge kitchen, and a lot of Middle Eastern charm and character.  There is a small outdoor pool that is about the size and feel of a large jacuzzi (no heating needed, duh).  When the temperatures cool down, I’ll be using the open roof deck as a garden and place to host dinner parties.  My favorite part of our villa is the garden with the date palms right when you enter the front gate.  They produce the most amazing dates I’ve ever eaten.  Izzy is a huge fan too.

 

 

So what is like actually living here?  I think I need to save this for another blog.

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Tad and I have tried to take many photos of our place and we both have come to the conclusion that photos do not capture the feel or awesomeness of this place.  You’ll just have to come see for yourself. Our guest room is ready and I’ve already begun making reservations.

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Will we ever leave this little piece of paradise?  Until next time…

Aloha & Namaste

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?

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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:

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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

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! 

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.

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.