Be still and know: Principles and practice

Be still and know Be open to the space.  Touch the earth.  Be grounded.

Sunday morn20150222_083042ing began in stillness and quiet. I arrived at the Alabama Ballet early because I had allowed extra time to navigate the Mercedes Marathon route if needed. I sat in a quiet studio as others began to wander in for the morning session with Rolf Gates.  I had not originally planned on coming for the Sunday morning session but Saturday was quite amazing and I knew I needed to return.

Two days of yoga practice and learning have fed my soul and spirit.  The messages that Rolf  Gates delivered through his teachings and stories affirmed, once again,  that I need to be using talents that I am not currently using in my work. The weekend affirmed that I do know what I need to do, but that I must wait to know the complete story. That may take a while longer. 20150221_131054

To make more sense of this, let me try to explain a few things.  Over the weekend I attended three sessions, each one contained teaching and practice. On Saturday morning we listened to Rolf’s teaching on knowing and on completing. The world  is full of distractions and clutter  If we take the time to touch the earth, be grounded, be present, we gain wisdom. When we are sitting, know we are sitting.  When we are breathing, know we are breathing. Listen to the end of the sound of the bell, not just the beginning or middle.  Take the time for a sound or an action to be complete.  The afternoon focused on the chakras and the way to sequence a class to open up each chakra in turn. On Sunday Rolf turned to compassion and fearlessness.  We need to see clearly, meet life with compassion, and respond with kindness.

These lessons make more sense of that practice I have been developing since fall.  Kim has been teaching me patience with setting up my poses, making sure I am aligned and teaching me the slight adjustments that often make the biggest difference.  She has also been teaching me to complete poses.  Don’t stop in the middle.  The sequencing made so much sense to me as I listened and then as we went through practice.  The order in which we open up our body makes such a difference in the way we practice and in the way we move from one set of poses to another.

Practice challenged me.  I have not found my balance in many poses yet but I am working on it. I tried, though, and did not quit even though I needed to take a few breaks and rest.  I still feel challenged when I talk about my yoga practice.  It is not like the triathlon world I have been in for the past four years where improvement is the main goal.  But going deeper into poses, being able to remain in poses, and noticing my own progress is part of it for me. Finishing a pose is also important but it seems different to me than crossing a finish line. I am not sure I can quite explain that at the moment.  I noticed progress this weekend that anyone else would not easily see – except Kim, my teacher. My heels are a little closer to the ground in down dog.  I moved another step towards a back bend.  I tried poses I didn’t think I could do and was able to do some.  My mind is still making the switch from the race goal mentality to the mindfulness that accompanies yoga practice. I continue to be patient with myself and aware of how far I can push my body

I found it ironic that this morning was the Mercedes Half Marathon, a race that had been on my list and is now the furthest thing from my mind.  I realized that today begins Licensing School as well, again where I thought I would I be for a week. My story has shifted though.  As I looked back over several months of entries I note that I have written a lot about not knowing – not knowing what is coming, where I will be, what will happen next.  I don’t know. I only really know this moment.  But I do know my passions and the desires of my heart, and I have for quite a long time.  I know that I am in a place for a reason, even if I cannot see it clearly at the moment.  This weekend showed me the intersections of story, health and wellness again that I have been contemplating for sometime.  I do see something new coming together that will lead me on a different path than I am on now. I just need to continue being patient, remember to touch the ground, be still and know.


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Abhyasa: What am I making a priority?

Abhyasa is a new word to me.  It means practice in Sanskrit  I encountered this word in Rolf Gates’ Meditations from the Mat which I have been dipping in and out of since the beginning of the year. As I began looking for more on the term “abhyasa” it seems to be far more complex than just practice.  I found explanations that included repeated practice, habit, and detachment.books

Encountering this term caused me to consider why I am practicing yoga and how it relates to the other exercise I do. I’ve written a bit about why I practice already.  Part of what I considered today was that I am more in tune with my body.  I can sense and feel changes, subtle shifts in how my body aligns and how I feel.  As I spread my toes and anchor my toe mounds and heels into the floor, I feel grounded.  I am feeling other subtle shifts as I work with Kim and hear the familiar directions to move my thighs back, my tail bone down and rotate my arms out.  Just like in swimming, it is often easier if I don’t think too much.  There are already small  improvements though.  I can jump and twist a bit deeper than  I could when I returned to yoga last fall.

I feel the work on my yoga mat in the pool as well.  Alignment is coming easier.  I asked Sam about rotating my arms and how that applied to swimming. We talked about how it would and would not help.

The work is interchangeable. I feel the work of alignment from the mat to the pool.  I feel the way I extend my body and lengthen my spine on the mat and in the pool.  I feel the strength I have gained in the weight room in both practices.

This also caused me to consider the tools and resources that I am gathering and drawing.  It made me think about the priorities I set for the year and how things are progressing.  I feel discouraged when things do not progress at a faster pace but then I realize that there is a right time for everything and that I am preparing for my next step.

I also came across this quote this morning:

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi

I’m counting on that.

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Healthy Mind Cookbook: I want to try everything

20150214_200729I received Rebecca Katz‘s new cookbook in the mail this week.  As I started leafing through the pages, I wanted to make everything. I am sure this will become one of my favorite cookbooks.  The recipes are easy to follow, don’t have way too many ingredients like some books I have, and all sound wonderful.


I started with two soups for the week. The first one is Moroccan Chickpea and Vegetable Soup and the recipe happens to be on her website.  I started with chopping vegetables, added the  spices and chickpeas,  let everything cook, blended part of the soup, and finished it up.


I then started Cozy Lentil Soup. I love lentil soups and am always looking for new variations.  This recipe is also quite easy and quick to prepare.  It includes vegetables, a number of spices, green lentils and kale.

I now have two different soups for the week.  I am also planning on trying a Quinoa salad that has kale and red grapes in it this week.  I will post photos when I make it.

My house smells wonderful from the two pots of soup and the spices that I used.  It may be hard to sleep.  Take a look at The Healthy Mind Cookbook.  There are many more recipes that



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Plant based eating: Re-thinking the way I eat

I recently finished a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies through eCornell.  The three courses provided an overview on research about plant based nutrition and the benefits of a plant based diet.  I have eaten more plant based than not for a number of years but I had continued to eat some meat, dairy and eggs.  During January I tried to eat primarily vegan and did pretty well (still ate some cage free eggs).

I learned a great deal and am still absorbing and processing it.  One of the studies that the courses focused on was The China Study, a large scale study over 20 years about the health and dietary habits of citizens of China.  This study and other research show that healthy eating, and plant based diets in particular, are key to being free of many of the diseases we see in our population – heart disease, diabetes, etc.   The courses presented some ideas that will sound radical to many Americans.  For example, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic advocates no oil at all in the diet  None, not moderation, not a little – no oil. I am still trying to process this and received a number of suggestions from classmates for substitutions for oil in recipes.  Dr. Esselstyn has been successful in preventing and reversing heart disease.  Since heart disease runs in my family this is something that I am paying attention to and reading more about so I can understand more about his theories and diet

I am currently working on a course called Hearth to Health. This is a functional nutrition class and is adding to what I have learned in the plant based nutrition certificate. This training is adding more science to my education and providing a basis for sharing information with others.

This is all making me realize what I have changed already and what I continue to change in my diet.  I am even more selective about what I buy since I began the courses.  My shopping and cooking habits continue to change as I move towards a totally plant based diet.   I have more to learn and continue to read and ask questions of people who I know are vegans and vegetarians.  I have not missed meat over the past several weeks, though I did eat a small amount when I was traveling.  Airports can be difficult, though not impossible.

What will I do with this training?  I’m still not 100% sure. These are classes that provide me with continuing education to continue to be a Certified Health Educator.  I am hoping to put something together to be able to integrate what I am learning with other aspects of my background, as I have been saying for a while.   My ideas are coming together.

do it now

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2015 Skratch Labs Taste Agent!

taste agent badge I have been invited back for another year as a Skratch Labs Taste Agent.  I couldn’t be happier.  This is  a great product and has helped me so much in my training.  I love the Feed Zone cookbooks and I can’t wait to try the new cookie mix very soon!

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It snows there…

When I am in the Midwest in the winter, or anywhere it snows, I always remember why I moved to the South and have not bounced back to the north. It snows there. I don’t miss the snow and cold at all and wonder how I lived so many years in that climate. I guess because it is what I knew and was used to. I am grateful to be somewhere warmer now though and am likely to remain in warmer climates the rest of my life. It is good too be reminded why I live where I do though.

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Laps, cake shots and financial advising: Happy birthday to me

It’s my birthday.  I wrote about turning 55 in the past few weeks so that is no surprise.  For a few weeks I have been thinking about what I would do for my birthday that was a multiple of 55.  I considered 55 miles on my bike but who could have predicted a 70 degree day today?  I also didn’t really have the time to take off to ride 55 miles.  I thought about 5500 in the pool but the farthest I have done is 3300 and not often.  Again, time was a factor with work,  the hours the pools are open and my schedule but I know I could do it with enough time.  Earlier this week I asked Sam for suggestions and told him I was thinking about 55 laps.  After he thought about it and we texted, we decided 55 laps was good.  

So this happened after work.  At first I was going to do 55 lengths – around 1300 yards. Then part way th20150129_190112rough I started having the length v lap debate in my mind.  (Swimmers understand.)  I stopped at the end of the pool and asked one of the lifeguards what time it was and determined that I did have time to swim 55 laps or 110 lengths = 2750 yards.  It felt great.  And strong.

After I wrote the blog about turning 55 one of my cousins wrote me and said to remember that I was younger now than I was 5 years ago.  It’s true.  I am.  My health has vastly improved, even with some slight setbacks over the past few months in my weight.  I am working on changing that. I never ever would have imagined or predicted that I would be swimming 25 yards on my 55th birthday, let alone 2750.  I am quite blessed.

20150129_190038I have also written a little bit about the changes I am making in my diet and I really will write more soon.  Since it is my birthday I wanted some kind of cake so stopped at a bakery on my way home. No cupcakes.  They had these things called cake shots.  They were pretty small so I bought two – one chocolate and one red velvet. It was basically  lump of frosting and some cake.  I am glad it wasn’t bigger because after a month of virtually no sugar in my diet, I just about went over some edge on my way to the pool.  I am also happy they didn’t have cupcakes because that would have really shocked my system.  I want to clarify I am not saying anything against the bakery at all for those of you who can figure out where I stopped.  It’s me.  My body has changed the way it processes sugar – or doesn’t process sugar.  It’s a very good thing and this just reminded me to continue on my path.

The last thing I did today was meet with my financial adviser.  It just happened to fall on my birthday.  It was a good meeting and I am pleased.  Let’s just say I am not going to go anywhere for several years based on the calculations we did this afternoon.

It has been a good day.  I’ve done some things I wanted to do.  No big parties or anything that looked like a big celebration.  I really do celebrate what I can do, however, and how far I have come in many areas of my life.  It is an amazing journey

I feel quite blessed by all the lovely messages I have received today.  Thank you so much to everyone who took time to wish me a happy birthday.  I look forward to this year and many more. IMG_806212408680440

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