A New Year

My 2014 New Year BlessingFor weeks now, I’ve been receiving emails and newsletters about the impending New Year. Messages transmitting peoples’ immense desires and wishes for 2014: the potential for starting a clean slate with set goals and resolutions; tips on how to keep and maintain them; habit changing 21 day programs that’ll establish a lifetime of wonderful healthy choices; etc, etc. I’ve glanced over them, trying not to get sucked in by the enthusiasm and propaganda, taking them in with the finest grain of salt. I know that humans, for the most part, have the best of intentions. Excitement kicks in at the thought of starting anew, refreshed by the reset button of a new year upon us. Giddy with enthusiasm and positivity, many people kick their proverbial butts into high gear and start the marathon of a lifetime with a sprint rather than a casual trot. I’ve witnessed it all too often, within my own life and within the context of those friends and family around me, the habitual pattern and results of setting too many lofty goals all at once. The end result? I’ve gleaned that we can all be highly fallible in our choices and actions when resolutions are set and established. Without the enduring and subtle commitment necessary to be at the core foundation of our resolve, we tend to set ourselves up for failure. With this in mind, I’m choosing to continue life as per normal: open to receiving this new year with an open mind and unwavering forward motion.

My life as a teacher and student has me consistently on the lookout for ways to propel my life forward to higher heights of health, wealth, renewal, integrity, generosity and empathy. Human as I am, I fall down (far too often for my own liking). But after the lesson is (hopefully) siphoned, it’s important that I pick myself up and brush myself off (both mentally and figuratively ~ oftentimes with tears and cries of pain), so that I may continue on this amazing life journey, with forgiveness and love in my heart. For this, I need and resolve to move inwards (meditation and journaling are perfect tools in this internal pilgramage). It’s critical that those insights are conceptualized, contextualized and garnered from within, or I will find myself continuing to propagate an unhealthy pattern ~ sometimes leading to destruction of self and relationship. It’s vitally important to remember that I have all the information within my being that I could ever need or want in sustaining a healthy and happy life: I am my most perfect role-model and mentor (Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa aside … RIP). If anything, religion and spirituality (or lack thereof) has taught me this greatest of lessons. Positive momentum in an imperfect world is renewal enough, regardless of the outcome.

For me, this decline from the winter solstice is a time to excavate the deepest bowels of my wisdom, and tap into the intelligence of intuition. Such a challenging task, especially when nigglings and nuances of fear, uncertainty and trepidation get in the way. But I know that my well is full. It’s time to seek clarity at the deepest roots of my core.

Whoa. Looks like 2014 might be a rocky but highly rewarding year of deep channeling and discovery!

Airstream Storage

After a wonderful day visit with my Mom, we made our way back home to Southwestern Ontario. Time to pull Airabella, our 34 foot Airstream beauty, out of the storage she was safely nestled in over the winter. Boy, did I miss her! Considering she weathered the storm in a storage barn for 6 months, she fared very well. Albeit dusty with cobwebs, I was extremely pleased to see that mice hadn’t found a nesting place during our time away. I SWEAR by my dousing of spearmint oil throughout the trailer (I probably used about 30ml of pure essential oil and the smell is still strong, lingering in it’s wonderful scent). Luckily we managed to keep any and all pests at bay during our time away ~ I am incredibly relieved. I was worried …. rodents and barns tend to go hand in hand, especially in the winter.

Spearmint essential oil strikes again. Brilliant! Rodents dislike the smell of mint and it seems to keep them away. So very important in maintaining a clean and healthy living space. Nobody wants vermin burrowing in the walls of their trailer, especially as these pets have a tendency to chew away at anything along their path, including electrical wires. Any access given to food, water, heat and shelter is a huge bonus for vermin. The key to rodent-proofing an rV (any home for that matter) is to prevent them from entering in the first place. Steel wool stuffed in small places is another deterrent to mice biting their way in through narrow entryways. Here’s a great article on other ways to keep the rodents at bay, away from your home and rV.

Kitchari, some afterthoughts

It’s been a few days since breaking my cleanse. And as my friend Paul has quoted, “As much as fasting [and cleansing] can be a spiritual practice, so can eating.” I am finding myself so incredibly ravenous, trying to make up for lost time, it seems! It’s not that I limited myself on how much kitchari I could eat, but I found out that I only wanted to eat a certain amount, and large amounts of one item didn’t appeal to me. I’m kinda burnt out on eating kitchari (at least the one way that we were prescribed to make it) ….. what a shame, as I used to love and adore it so much. Maybe this too will pass. Additionally, I’m hoping that my unlimited hunger becomes sated :).

As an afterthought, I have totally been grooving on sprouting my mung beans and eating them with my rice breakfast cereal. YummY!

Breaking the Cleanse

karma cleanseUp until today, working in the kitchen and eating meals within the community has been a valuable test of my will and austerity. For example, witnessing and smelling the decadence of a creamy chocolate cake being prepared and decorated was the ultimate in divine temptation. But I have remained true to my cleanse, only consuming kitchari over the past 5 days. This morning, I helped to prepare Sunday morning breakfast and found the time to make my own kitchari with time left to ponder and relax. One thing that the cleanse has offered me is clarity in vision, and the ability to fine tune whatever task I have been handed. That’s been a superior benefit to this daily routine that I’ve been witness to! With Shivaratri festivities starting today, several ceremonial rituals involved a fasting regiment for at least 18 hours. I have wanted to participate in all 3 ceremonies but that would have meant starting my fast last night. And there was no way that I had the physical stamina or willpower to do without food for 36 hours. I needed sustenance beyond a liquid diet, after 5 days of a mono-cleanse that left me wanting for ‘normal foods’ and a routine of nutritional variety and sustenance. So instead, I have decided to eat my kitchari with the addition of steamed vegetables for breakfast. At 10am, I would start my fasting!

The best foods to eat after a colon cleanse are fresh raw / cooked fruits and vegetables, vegetable broths, well-cooked whole grains, nuts & eggs and lots of water. Alcohol, fried foods and processed foods should be avoided at all costs. Alcohol is not an issue as no alcohol is allowed at Mount Madonna. Fried foods I tend to stay away from. Chocolate and processed foods: a bit more of a challenge. However, today I stayed true to a fasting ritual: I incorporated a drink of homemade yogurt and rice milk to my liquid fast today. However, in the evening, my tummy was bloated. At first I thought it might be the dairy, but my co-cleanse partner Annie thinks it might be the rice milk and the processed oils contained in it. Regardless, I am taming the shrew and cutting back on my Lassi drink (my tongue is super coated with a thick white mucus = perhaps a dairy intolerance??).

Here’s a couple of Lassi recipes from the website Ayurvedic Yogi that I didn’t have access to a blender to follow, but will be making in the future!

Lassi

Aids digestion at end of meal as increases Pitta. Blend 2 cups of water with ½ cup plain yogurt, skim off the fat that rises to the surface, add 2 pinches of ginger and cumin powder. For Vata types, add a little rock salt; for Pitta types a little jaggery; for Kapha types a little dried ginger powder and black pepper.  Or try:

  • Pachak Lassi: Add 1 inch of fresh ginger, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds / powder, pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon chopped coriander to garnish. Balances all doshas.
  • Spicy Lassi: 2 tablespoons sugar, (or less) ½ teaspoon fresh, grated ginger or ¼ tsp. Dry ginger, ½ teaspoon ground cardamom. Good for all doshas.
  • Sweet lassi: 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 drop of rosewater.

Day 8: Final Day of Cleanse

LingamLingamI’m finding myself in a unique situation right now. I have been successfully diligent and fastidious in determination on and commitment to this 9 day cleanse. Today is Day 8 and tomorrow we are supposed to break our cleanse gently by consuming kitchari with vegetables. However, with this being Shiva Ratri at Mount Madonna, in order to participate in some of the ritual offerings (on a volunteer basis of course), one must fast for at least 18 if not 24 hours before the ceremony. The Lingam-making ceremony starts tomorrow at 9am and carries on for 3 hours, and participation in the making of the Lingams requires a fast to start from 12 noon. Yes, that would be right now! Hmmm, I am not so certain as to whether fasting on my final day of a cleanse is a good idea?

The advice out there is that the best foods to eat after a colon cleanse (which this cleanse literally is) are fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lots of water. It’s strongly advised that one should avoid alcohol, fried foods and processed foods at all costs (yes, that would include sugar and chocolate, oh my!). The rule of thumb is that it’s very wise to be gentle to the body after a colon cleanse, slowly introducing certain foods to the system. Not listening to this advice would send my digestive system and liver in to sensory and task overload. If I were to fast on the final day: who knows what might happen. That info is not provided in the book nor anywhere that I could find on the interweb. However, there are many benefits to fasting, a major one being preventive health care. Personally, I feel magnificent after 8 days! At times, a little bit tired and as the day has progressed, quite hungry. Yet I feel light-hearted, light in body and clear in vision and desire. So in the end, I have decided to break my cleanse early on the final cleanse day with a fast. This gives me an opportunity to participate in the full ceremonial rituals of Shiva Ratri.

Sidenote: As the day progressed, I realized that fasting for 48 hours on liquid alone would be too difficult after a 8 day cleanse. My hunger was overpowering by dinner time, even if I could only eat kitchari. I needed nourishment and sustenance. So I eliminated the idea of the ceremonial making of 1008 Lingams and followed my intuition on what my body needed. Regardless of what opinions I had read or been given, the end result for me lay in the importance of hearing what my body had to tell me. And I am grateful for having that ability to listen to and follow my instinctual body signals. A blessing indeed!

Lingam

Day 3: Ayurvedic Cleanse

So far, it has been pretty easy for me to just eat gentle foods that complement my dosha constitution. Rice, potatoes, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruit. For the past three days, there have been so many choices without feeling like I’m lacking or doing without. Tomorrow however begins 5 days of pure kitchari consumption. No sugars, no enhancements, no extras. Just specific agni / fire-inducing spices, ghee, white rice and mung dal all cooked up into a lovely porridge mixture known as kitchari. The Kitchari Diet is highly observed as a mono-diet during Panchakarma (Ayurvedic Detox and Rejuvenation). As defined on the Ayurvedic website: ‘MichiMagic‘, Panchakarma literally means “five actions.” Five actions to cleanse, rejuvenate and balance body, mind and consciousness. Ayurveda recommends performing these procedures for each change of season, which is very beneficial for overall health, wellness and self-healing. Although it’s not a change of season right now (Spring is a mere 1 month away!), the timing of the cleanse is impeccable with Shiva Ratri being the ending day of our cleanse and with a support group of 3 others accompanying me along this journey. I love the idea of cleansing, of purification rituals, going to the Ganges, meditation and pranayama, taking a hot bath or sauna — anything detoxifying through a non-energetic means of sweating (cleanses take enough energy as it is). All of these methods have powerful psychological, religious and spiritual meanings. And in turn, a very positive effect on health. Other benefits of a cleanse? Clarity of thought, an invokation of peacefulness and lightness. Also, for many ancient cultures, fasting has helped people “lighten up” after a long winter, shedding any extra winter fat layer that has provided warmth. With us being in California, we really haven’t experienced a hard long cold winter such as I have experienced in the past, coming from Canada. Also, having just taken a course of antibiotics to clear up the remnants of my whooping cough, in addition to my 5 week bout of flu and low energy, a detox of sorts seemed to be a good thing for me to do right now, even thought it’s not a transition of season (when a typical cleanse is done). Spring is only a month away (!!!) and the timing of such an event is austerity at its finest. I’ve done quite a bit of research on different Kitchari recipes. But they all state pretty much the same thing about an Ayurvedic cleanse: the simpler the recipe’s constitution, the better for ones digestion. A mono-diet is defined as a diet that consists of only one type of food. This enables a cleansing effects on the intestinal tract because the mono-diet is easy on ones digestion. A mono meal is very nutritious, and supposedly one can not overeat on a mono meal because ones taste will change to slightly sour when feeling satisfied and full.

kitchariMy Proposed Daily Kitchari Recipe (Mungbeans and Rice)

  • approx. 5 cups water
  • 1 cup split mung beans (aka mung dal), sorted and rinsed well or sprouted whole mung beans
  • 1 1/4 cups basmati rice, sorted and rinsed well
  • 2″ piece gingerroot, peeled and finely chopped / grated
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground or seed cumin (or both!)
  • 1 teaspoon ground or seed coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or seed fennel
  • pinch of sea salt
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/8 teaspoon of asafoetida (this spice is used as a digestive aid, also known as ‘Hing’)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
  1. Wash the mung dal and rice until water is clear. Soaking the dal for a few hours, overnight or sprouting for a few days helps with digestibility.
  2. Bring water to boil in a 6-quart soup pot. Add whole sprouted mung beans and cook at a light boil, uncovered. {If using split mung beans, pre-soak the beans for 4-6 hours and skip this first step. Add soaked beans to the ghee mixture with the rice (see step 5).}
  3. Melt ghee, add turmeric and fry mustard seeds (plus any additional seeds used) until they start popping.
  4. Add other spices and simmer on medium heat for 2 minutes. Watch and stir so that spices don’t burn.
  5. Add rice and stir fry for about a minute.
  6. When beans begin to split open, add rice and spice mixture {skip this step if using split mung beans}.
  7. Cook 20-25 minutes over medium-high flame, stirring occasionally, and more as it thickens.
  8. Remove from heat, add fresh cilantro and let it sit another 15 minutes (it will thicken up a little more like a hearty stew).

An Ayurvedic Cleanse

Last night at the Kirtan in Santa Cruz, I was invited to participate in a 9 day cleanse along with three other fellow Mount Madonna lady friends. Without really discussing much about the details, I jumped at the chance of having the support group for such a ritual. I’ve done cleanses before, but always on my own. This Panchakarma cleanse is based on that prescribed by Dr. Vasant Lad (a leading authority in Ayurvedic medicine) in his book: “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies“.  This Ayurvedic cleanse is noted as helping to prevent future illness and at the same time helping to promote body consciousness and healthy living. It is said to be nourishing and balanced, easily digested, and cleansing in nature. What I like about the book (although I’ve just begun to explore it) is that Dr. Lad offers natural alternatives to conventional medicines and treatments with practical advice and easy-to-follow instructions. That’s especially important to me! So continues my journey along the path towards the ultimate “state of balance” and well-being. So as I delve into the depths of this cleanse, I am learning loads of info not only on cleansing but on the Ayurvedic way of life. It fascinates me more than I expected (although we did study Ayurveda briefly during our Yoga Teacher Training). Panchakarma by definition is a unique, natural, holistic, health-restoring series of treatments that cleanse the body’s deep tissues of toxins. The process appears to be quite simple, yet its effects are most profound. Panchakarma opens the body’s subtle energy channels to increase vitality and inner awareness while enhancing the life force.

Days 1 to 3: Virechan: internal cleansing thru internal oleation (with organic unrefined sesame oil, as I am strongly Vata in dosha). Days 4 to 8: Kitchari Monodiet. Days 6 to 8: Basti: a herbal enema — Colon therapy with herbs (I am using organic Dashmoola as my calming herb for the colon and digestive tract). Day 9: Kitchari with steamed vegetables. Day 10: Break the cleanse.

Something that I have been doing almost daily for the past 4 weeks is especially a good ritual to follow on a cleanse.

Oil Pulling: Theoretically, one may remove fat-soluble toxins from the body before they reach the liver. My routine: After a scraping my tongue first thing upon waking, I’ve been taking 1 tablespoon of organic unrefined sesame oil and vigorously swishing it around in my mouth for ten to fifteen minutes. After spitting it out (beware of the potential for clogged drains with daily oleation), I rinse my mouth several times with warm water followed by brushing my teeth. From what I’ve read, the oil rinse is especially important if the lymph system is congested (common with chronic disease). It is also purportedly very effective with health problems in the head and neck area, including dental problems.

On Dr. Vasant Lad’s cleanse, it is noted that the more I slow down during these next 9 days, the more my body will be able internalize it’s energy for cleansing and healing. That means no strenuous exercise (my energy levels will help to predicate that, I am certain) but rather lovely long walks through the Redwoods, if I feel up to it. Daily yoga, meditation and pranayama will be a perfect accompaniment on this journey. And I’m really excited about the whole process with a lovely support group cheerleading me on!

Fighting Hidden Demons

I’m really not sure what’s up with my body. 🙁 I usually never get sick, and if I do, it’s usually fleeting and somewhat restrained.  Five weeks ago, I started to get the flu, and it hit me HARD for 3.5 solid straight weeks. The first week, neither slaDE nor myself got much sleep with my fits of hacking and constant waking. I still have a lingering wicked annoying cough (thankfully all the phlegm has dried up) and I am SERIOUSLY tired all the time. I’m napping where I can and getting 8 hours of sleep a night. Maybe I need more cardio? Never a bad thing. But with being so tired, it’s hard to get motivated. And with these 5:30am morning starts, I’m challenged but sticking with our routine of 2 hours of daily yoga, meditation and pranayama. Could it be mono, whooping cough, iron deficiency, pneumonia? I’m hoping to see a doctor in the next week. I can’t take all this tiredness and perpetual coughing accompanied by a squeaky voice. I haven’t wanted to resort to antibiotics, so I’ve been stocking up on my Ayurvedic medicine as well as echinacea, astragalus, turmeric, golden seal and other immune fighting herbs. Can’t seem to get much done. Blah …. 🙁

Reap What You Sew

reap what you sewSowing in the garden MMCI’m not certain when it happened but I have always loved to sew. Perhaps I developed the love in high school home economics? Not really certain, but what I do know is that, if I ever have access to a sewing machine (not very often with travelling so much), I find a project or two or four to work on. Today was such a day. Several weeks ago, I found 2 pairs of yoga pants in the ‘Free Box’ outside of our Community Building. It’s a really cool feature here at the Center with often times really cool finds and discoveries. The pants I stumbled upon were way too big but I made do by using elastic bands at the waist to cinch them up. I was tired of the bands bulking up everything I wore so I discovered a sewing machine here in the Costume Department. Giraji, the owner of said machine, was generous to offer it to me at any time that I sew chose. Very cool! For 3 hours I spent cutting and sewing (I even tightened up my favourite old pair of Lululemon pants which meant cutting them after my mending job — eek!), getting lost in my projects and almost missing dinner. Prior to that I went for an amazing hour walk getting lost in the Redwood Forest followed by a haunt through the garden in search of some lovely flowers. What an amazingly creative and beautiful day. One of my best here on the property yet!

In the Garden of Plenty

MMC gardenToday was a day filled with wonder, weariness and a certain emotional level of self-discovery and challenge. A family member went in for a surgical procedure that had my senses wound up and on the brink of tears and worry. I was wishing that I could have physically been there to support them through their process. Thankfully though, they have a huge life and love-force there to guide them through the next difficult few months whilst I am here with my beloved husband at MMC.

In my work service today, I spent several hours weeding through the magical garden that exists here at the Center. It is filled with vibrant yields of organic produce and flowers that, although off-season, still amaze me at their splendour and plenty (such a foreign concept: growing vegetables + flowers through the winter — outside of a greenhouse). With todays crew of 7 individuals, we were able to clear away a weed laden area that would be re-purposed as an additional growing area. Within a two hour time span, a large plot of wild overgrowth was cleared and opened, transforming it in to an enchanting new space of fertile availability. Interwoven in the mix were some herbs that I had never seen before beyond a herb book: mullein, foxglove, wild chamomile and milk thistle. I am not very proficient with learning names, especially that of the botanical kind (sort of like trying to learn the Sanskrit names of people within this community — foreign with no real context to relate them to). But I will take it slow and learn what I can, even if it means pestering people to repeat the names over and over again.

Within my 4 hour kitchen shift, I learned some interesting tidbits. One being that they use neither garlic nor onions in the kitchen. I can’t imagine eliminating those items from my vegetarian cooking diet as they’re usually a big part of my regiment in food prep. But as it happens here, those types of foods are suited to a specific Ayurvedic dosha, so the food preppers eliminate these items from the community diet. Same goes for spices or hot sauces. However the latter are provided as additional condiments. Garlic and onions are not. I actually miss them, to be honest! Secondly, I learned a neat tasty trick for preparing delicious mashed potatoes without Dairy. When mixing the potatoes, add Quinoa to thicken and intensify the protein and nutritional content of the mash. It is an incredibly yummy vegan option that I intend to try once I get back to cooking for us on a regular basic. Yummy! All in all a lovely day intermixed with the strong influence of meditative practices to bring an easier equilibrium to my internally wound emotions and senses. Life here on the mountain is proving to slowly bring evolving positive changes. Me likey …