I woke up a bit later than usual this morning, at 5:30, and watched the fiery sun rising over the rooftops of the houses across the street as I sipped my warm lemon water. I love the meditative quality of a quiet sunrise in a still-asleep household where the only ones awake are the cats and I. That is precisely what keeps me coming back to this routine. In the spring and summer months, when the sun rises earlier, it’s easier for me to connect to this motivation as I rise to greet the sun. And so, as I sat at my kitchen table, reflecting on my enjoyment of the morning sunrise routine, it suddenly dawned on me (pun absolutely intended) that today is the last day of April. The year is zooming by.

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Here are a few of my highlight lessons from the month of April:

  1. No Drama!

Last week, as I was returning home from a business trip, I was held back at airport security when the metal detector wand beeped many times during a routine scan. If you’re like me, you might start to feel nervous when dealing with security and having to go through an extra scan of any type. I immediately started to feel as though I had done something wrong, knowing all the while that it simply was not so. My mind started to race, thinking of the myriad absurd reasons why the detector would beep around me. Then, I reminded myself to drop all those thoughts. I took a deep breath, mentally told my mind to shut up, and with a smile, approached the scanner machine. The female officer who guided me through the scan turned out to be very nice and had a fantastic sense of humour, making hilarious comments that may have sounded inappropriate to some but made me giggle and quickly soothed my nerves. I still do not know why the metal detector went off, but instead of creating drama out of the situation, I laughed it off and proceeded to Starbucks near my boarding gate, where I bought myself a grande mint tea and relaxed until my flight.

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Drama starts in our minds when we allow ourselves to overthink, to worry. When we consciously choose to drop the negative thoughts, the result will be a non-event. That’s right. Nothing particular will happen. Why? Because we will not allow ourselves to process what is happening. Instead, by going through the situation with Presence and Grace, breathing deeply and simply acknowledging what is happening right here in this moment, we allow ourselves to simply experience and stay open to whatever comes next. That experience is liberating. Imagine staying so open to any experience that it almost feels as though you are moving through a dream, just watching life happen to you, with curiosity, without trying to control it. We are naturally drawn to the desire to want to be in control of most situations, but when dealing with a challenging scenario, I find that what works best for me is to let go of trying to change the situation. In fact, I find it takes less energy to pray and trust that I am always going to be okay than it does to try to fight, to argue. As the saying goes, “Everything will be okay in the end, and if it’s not, it’s not the end.”

  1. Balance Lessons

I am continuing to work on my handstand, feeling more confident with each practice. There are days when I feel a bit low on energy or simply not interested in working too hard. On those days, I fall out of the inversion. Instead of persevering and continuing to force myself into the pose, I move on to a gentler practice. My yoga practice is starting to resemble my life off the mat, and my life off the mat is very much reflected in my yoga practice. I love the sense of expansive freedom I feel each time I follow my intuition and allow it to guide me to move the way I need to move on any given day. I used to be very rigid in my approach to exercise. Recently, I kicked all those old, non-serving rules to the curb. Some days call for a sweaty kickboxing workout and a vigorous Vinyasa flow. On other days, my mat, bolsters, blankets and a lavender-scented flax eye pillow summon me over for a soothing restorative practice. No guilt. No regrets. No counting calories. Just listening to my intuition and going with the flow. That’s my balance.

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  1. Detox Wonders

In addition to my digital detox, about which I wrote recently, for the past week, I have been going through my own version of a spring detox. I try to follow an Ayurvedic detox framework, so no strict juice cleanses for me! Instead, I design my own program that works for me at this time. I will reveal my main reason for undergoing this detox: My goal is to bring my adrenals and hormones into a healthier balance. I am a very private person and my health is usually not a subject that I discuss openly in this manner. However, the reason I am sharing my story is because I believe many women in our society are dealing with similar issues.

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Prior to my detox, I was dependant on caffeine to allow me to get through the day. I didn’t get enough sleep at night, then had to deal with fatigue and cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. I felt sluggish and tired all the time. I kept borrowing my energy from caffeine, sugar and carbs, but then ended up dealing with terrible PMS symptoms every month. I got plenty of exercise every morning, but my eating habits needed some tweaking.

On my detox plan, I have not been eating meat or dairy (I already follow a mostly plant-based diet, for health reasons, so I don’t miss meat, seafood and dairy at all), sugar, and caffeine. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to quickly become dependent on sugar and caffeine. I recently discovered that I do function best by abstaining from those substances altogether, instead of trying to moderate my consumption. So, I thought that the detox would be the best time to test that theory. My first four days without coffee were challenging, because I had a dull withdrawal headache through the entire day. However, I noticed that at that time, I did not miss the taste of coffee, nor did I crave chocolate as I normally do. I did have a small piece of my sister-in-law’s birthday cake on the second day of the detox. Birthday cake is considered to be an almost sacred ritual and we all know we have to have at least a small slice. Right? I still have to figure out how to navigate the birthday cake etiquette in the future. If you have any tips, I’d love to read them.

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Now, on Day 7 of my detox, I am feeling fantastic. I have been making a commitment to be in bed before 9 p.m. every night in order to get my eight hours of sleep. I no longer miss sugar or caffeine, though I miss the idea of drinking coffee as a social ritual and I sometimes miss the idea of crème brûlée , my favourite dessert. My energy has been soaring. I have been enjoying this new routine so much that I intend keep it for as long as possible. Thankfully, because my diet was already relatively ‘clean’ prior to starting the detox, I didn’t have to change too many of my eating habits. The way I eat now is the way I used to eat before, without heeding to unhealthy cravings. If you want to learn more about my detox, let me know and I will dedicate a new post to it.

  1. When In Doubt, Go Outside!

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Now that the days are warmer in Ontario, we have been trying to spend as much time outside as possible. This is the perfect time of year to ground ourselves and reconnect to the Earth by going out for walks, sitting near trees (tree hugging works wonders), and maybe even spreading a picnic blanket and eating lunch outside on the lawn. Last weekend, we did some horseback riding, thanks to my sister-in-law and her beautiful horse, Wave.

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Pawel spent half a day doing some volunteer work by planting trees at a local conservation area. After-dinner walks are also a welcome ritual to which we have been returning. So, go outside, reconnect and recharge!

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I’ll stop here. If you would like to learn more about my detox or if you have any other comments, please leave them below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

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A few weeks ago, I met a friend for lunch at a local raw food restaurant. Of all the healthy and unique items on the menu, I was particularly intrigued by the cannelloni. It tasted as wonderful as the description on the menu promised, and after leaving the restaurant, I was inspired to create my own version of the beautiful dish. Earlier this week, I experimented with a recipe. Both Pawel and I were very impressed with the result, and after posting the picture on Instagram, we received many requests for the recipe.
I don’t have many fancy photos of the ingredients for you, as I made the dish fairly quickly without expecting to post a winning recipe (see: approximately 10-15 minutes). The result was just too great not to share.
So, we’ll do this the old-fashioned way by simply posting the quick recipe below.
Raw, Vegan Cannelloni by Dharma Wanderlust
Ingredients:
2 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise using a vegetable peeler
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours
1 lemon, juiced
1 broccoli (florettes and a bit of the stem)
2-3 cloves garlic
1 large bunch of fresh basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
For the sauce:
2-3 tomatoes
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of fresh basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
sea salt, to taste
Method:
1. In a food processor, pulse the broccoli, then add the cashews, garlic, basil, oregano and lemon juice. Continue to pulse until the mixture resembles ricotta cheese.
2. Layer four slices of zucchini, allowing them to overlap, and scoop a spoonful of the ‘cheese’ mixture on the zucchini. Starting at one short end, roll the zucchini into a tube shape and tuck the other short end underneath.
3. Prepare the sauce by pulsing the tomatoes with a bunch of fresh basil, dried oregano, olive oil and sea salt in the food processor.
4. Drizzle the tomato sauce generously on top of the cannelloni. Sprinkle with pine nuts, if desired.
Enjoy!
We’d love to hear what you think of this recipe. Please leave us a comment below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

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“What are the reasons for practising handstand?” the instructor asked on Saturday from the front of the spacious conference room at the Toronto Yoga Conference. Among the many answers provided, two reasons stood out for me:

To confront our fear of being upside down.

To allow ourselves to grow by meeting and coming closer to overcoming challenges.

We were asked to choose a partner with whom we would spend the next two hours practising the techniques to would lead us closer to moving into handstand away from the wall. Throughout that time, while practising my own handstand and learning by watching the man with whom I was partnered, as well as other yogis in the room, I was reminded of several interesting points:

When I allow myself to be intimidated, or when I feel physically fatigued, my form and technique suffer. When I follow the technical points closely and take my time to stay centred and calm, I move more gracefully and am able to float into a pose with ease. The opposite is true when I rush.

Courage inspires exhilarating growth, leading us into wisdom.

Inversions are fun. That is why I enjoy playing with handstand and forearm balance. However, inversions require Presence. The constant attention is necessary to keep the balance. If, for just a split second, we allow ourselves to become distracted or allow ourselves to think of how hard we are working to stay balancing upside-down, we immediately start to wobble.

Life is a careful balance between work and play, hopefully at the same time! And that is what keeps me coming back to the mat.

I am reminded every day of why I continue to practise. The subtle lessons I learn about myself on the mat provide me with countless opportunities to see myself with honesty as I examine my approach to life. When I approach my practice from a mindset focused entirely on hard work, I end up struggling. If, however, I remain confident and move with ease, my breath and body move with the same ease and grace.

When I remind myself to move from a place of Mindfulness, to approach every event with Presence, allowing life to unfold and intuitively choosing each response, the pieces of the puzzle settle naturally into the correct places. Moving with ease and mindfulness in life does not mean that I stop working; it doesn’t mean I simply sit there and life takes care of itself. The opposite is true: I am able to get more done when I remind myself to be present. I feel more joy when I am present.

When we start to feel all the pieces of life become scattered, when we allow ourselves to feel overwhelmed, we can always remind ourselves to simply be with what is. To me, this is the equivalent of facing our fear of being turned upside down. If we don’t feel grounded through our feet, we can press more firmly through the hands that are touching the earth. In any inversion in yoga, we are reminded to press down and aim higher while staying strong through the core and the centre of gravity. We can always work with what is happening to us, provided that we remember to stay present.

By meeting these challenges head-on, we allow ourselves to grow and become stronger. Perhaps, one day, these challenges will not feel as big and scary. For a beginner yoga practitioner, to hold tree pose for 5-10 breaths might feel like an enormous challenge. Yet, after we have been practising for a while, tree pose feels easy, so we move on to more advanced poses to keep us curious.

I used to think of stress as scary. I still sometimes just want to hide away in my comfort zone to avoid doing anything unusual. Yet, the times when I allow myself to stretch out of my shell and tread into deeper waters are also the times when I open myself up to new enlightening experiences.

Growth can be scary. Even the idea of success can be scary, because we tend to resist any change, whether we perceive it as positive or negative. At the end of the day, it enriches our experience. Balance in life doesn’t mean that everything stops moving and we spend our entire days in stillness and peace. Stillness and peace come from within as we continue to learn to negotiate and adapt to fluctuations.

So, I’m inviting myself to play with balance and keep my Savasana face on at all times, even when — especially when — I start to notice the pieces of the puzzle start to come apart. I know that everything will settle into its rightful place, as long as we continue to approach life with curiosity, love, courage and grace.

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How do you approach the idea of balance in your life? Feel free to leave us a comment to share your experience.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

The weather chez nous has been typical for April in Ontario: plenty of rain, but with a promise of sunshine and warmth to come in just a few days. Of course, that means that tulips and daffodils will soon start showing off their glorious colours. The cheerful golden and violet crocuses are already in full bloom outside the home of my in-laws.

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The crocuses are blooming!

Seven years ago, during the first spring season in our new home, I spent countless hours every day after work in our garden, planting seeds of wildflower that, come July and early August, decorated our backyard. Unfortunately, my wait for the blossoms the following year was unfruitful. Squirrels snatched the bulbs away, stashing them in their cozy hideaways in anticipation of the long winter. I didn’t do much gardening that following year, since I had more pressings needs – those of my new baby – to tend to. However, we did plant tomatoes, onions and rhubarb that year.

We plant a small vegetable garden every spring, but in the recent years, a temporary tenant groundhog chose our backyard as its new home. Our vegetable garden looked and smelled delicious. Overnight, the hungry groundhog munched all our zucchini and tomatoes, leaving us with nothing. I suspect that the wild rabbits living around our property might also have had a small bite to eat. I hope the groundhog shared a morsel with the bunnies! We learned our lesson. Last year, we built a wooden frame with a stretched net to protect our garden from rodents. Climbing over the net to tend to the garden bed has been an acrobatic challenge (thank goodness for yoga)!

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One of the hungry rascals!

Zucchini and tomatoes are a staple in our vegetable garden. Last year, we also planted kale, which was delicious and provided us with several large fresh salads throughout the summer.

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The weather might still be a bit on the chilly side, but I have been feeling ready to shed some stagnant winter energy and shake things up a bit. So, I have been changing my diet, still enjoying hot tea and lighter soups, but also eating fresh, raw food. A friend introduced me a few years ago to a raw Pad Thai dish. Since then, the popularity of this dish in the plant-based/raw community has exploded. There are so many versatile recipes for it on Pinterest! I keep changing the way I prepare it each time, but here is this week’s delicious version:

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Raw Pad Thai à la Dharma Wanderlust

Ingredients:

2 small-medium zucchini, shredded thinly using a mandolin peeler

2 medium carrots, thinly shredded

2 cups shredded red cabbage

2 cups broccoli florets, chopped into bite-size pieces

 

Ingredients for the dressing:

2 tbsp tahini

½ lemon, juiced

2 tbsp hot boiled water

2 tbsp tamari sauce

3 garlic cloves, crushed

finely grated ginger (to taste)

 

Method:

  1. Shred all the vegetables and stir them together in a large bowl.
  2. For the dressing, in a small bowl, stir together the tahini, water, lemon juice, tamari and crushed garlic.
  3. Stir everything well and leave overnight. The vegetables will absorb the beautiful flavours of the dressing!

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Variations:

Feel free to play with the combinations of vegetables. The spiralized zucchini is a staple in this dish, as it’s meant to resemble traditional Pad Thai noodles. I would also keep the carrots. As for the rest, experiment with your favourite vegetables! I like to add thinly sliced sweet peppers and toss some green onions and organic edamame beans into the mix. It’s almost asparagus and fiddlehead season here, and those would be great in this dish, though I prefer to eat asparagus and fiddleheads steamed and/or grilled.

For the dressing, feel free to use peanut butter or almond butter in lieu of the tahini. I usually add cilantro to the dressing, but I simply didn’t have any on hand this time. If you like peanuts, crush a few roasted peanuts and crumble them on top of the dish right before serving.

Some people like to consume this dish immediately after removing it from the refrigerator. Personally, when it comes to raw food, I prefer to consume it at room temperature (as a Vata girl, it’s just so much better for my belly), so I allow it to sit on the counter for a few hours before eating it.

Enjoy! Leave a comment to let me know what you think of this recipe. Also, I would be curious to know whether you plan a flower and/or vegetable garden every year. What are your favourite vegetables to plant and/or eat in the spring?

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

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“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” – Audrey Hepburn

Sometimes, we just need a nap. A long nap. A very, very long nap. Here’s a story about a tired holiday weekend, and the lessons of which I have been reminded.

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I was looking forward to the Easter long weekend and the many plans to spend three beautiful days with our family. On Thursday night, after a four-day work week that felt longer than the usual five-day week, I felt blissfully tired and headed to bed earlier. I was fully expecting to wake up at 5 a.m. to start the day with a gentle yoga practice and a meditation session while welcoming the sunrise. Instead, on Friday morning, I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock several times before realizing I felt utterly exhausted. I turned off the alarm clock and chose, instead, to pay off the big sleep debt I accumulated earlier in the week while staying up for a few nights to take care of our younger child who was sick with a stomach bug.

I woke up at 9:30 (very unusual for me) to see the sun streaming in through the window. Yet, my brain felt foggy even after I drank an extra cup of strong coffee with almond milk. Had I overslept? Too much of a good thing isn’t helpful, either. The day was glorious and the sun felt warm. We shed our jackets and went for a walk around the neighbourhood, wearing only our sweaters! However, the walk wasn’t as relaxing as we had hoped it would be. Our younger son, having just gotten over the stomach bug, was now fighting a sinus cold. Exhausted and ready for a nap, he felt uncomfortable and kept whining, finally laying down on the sidewalk and refusing to walk any farther. I wasn’t the only one dealing with brain fog. The fuzziness continued into Saturday and Sunday during a roadtrip to visit our family. By this point, the weather went from sunny 14C on Friday to snow and 2C on Sunday. Once again, I slept in until 9:30 and woke up feeling not only tired but also with a sore throat. By this point, our youngest child had a runny nose, and I knew I was headed toward the same outcome. Suffice it to say that I was not a lively conversationalist during Easter brunch at my in-laws’.

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Our plans for a lively, fun weekend didn’t work out the way we had hoped they would. I’m still dealing with sleep debt and had a difficult time getting up on Monday to prepare for the new work week. I haven’t stepped on my yoga mat in the past four days, and now I have come down with a cold.

But I’m not writing this to whine.

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Despite the exhaustion, despite the strange (and somewhat depressing) weather patterns, despite the busy pace, I am grateful. I am grateful for another weekend spent with our loved ones. I am grateful for good food. For strong coffee. For cuddles with my favourite people. For warm hospitality. For Easter chocolate. I am grateful for a small window of time, thanks to my parents’ offer to babysit, when Pawel and I were able to head out on Saturday night to the book store once the kids were quietly snuggled in bed together. I am grateful for the ever-growing stack of books by my bedside. I am grateful for hot tea to soothe a sore throat. I am grateful for the beautiful warm, sunny days and the promise of spring. I’m also grateful for snow and rain, because chilly grey days remind us to slow down and take better care of ourselves. I am grateful for events that don’t work out as planned. I am grateful for the reminder to make the most of every day, to enjoy it all to the maximum, even when gratitude is the last sense I want to cultivate.

Here’s to a fantastic week! Let’s make the most of it, every day!

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What I have been reading:

What Compassion Looks Like: The Lesson of the Flowers  – a brilliant article by Karen Maezen-Miller. I keep picking up her book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, whenever I need advice. I first read this book when my firstborn was only two months old. My copy of the book is dog-eared and underlined.

When I Married My Mother  by Jo Maeder. A memoir of a woman caring for her aging, ill mother.

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers. This book has been on my ‘To Read’ list for the past few years, since I attended an incredible workshop led by Sarah Powers. I’m happy to have finally acquired it.

Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. I read and loved Rubin’s The Happiness Project  and had to get my hands on her latest publication. By the way, I still have Happier at Home: The Days are Long but the Years are Short on my ‘To Read’ list. I think I will pick it up after I finish Better than Before.

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I have been contemplating the idea of perfection. I confess that I spent the past 30+ years trying to do everything perfectly, to be perfect, holding myself to the highest standards. I have been doing my best to be positive, to be the perfect mother, the perfect partner. Interestingly, despite my efforts, I continue to stumble, as we all do. The harder I try, and the more rigid the rules which I set for myself, the more challenging it is to get back up and keep moving forward.
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The other day, a woman whom I know through social media made a comment about how I seem to have everything ‘together,’ based on what I post on my profile. She was surprised when I mentioned to her that I was going through a rough time with something. Here’s a reminder: Let’s not judge people’s lives by what they post on social media or the way they appear to us in person. Let’s remind ourselves that no one is perfect and neither can our attitude be positive and uplifting at all times. We have perfect days. We have not-so-perfect days when we stumble with every step and wish we had just stayed in bed. Let’s be patient with ourselves and others. Let’s be kind and compassionate toward ourselves and others. It’s a big lesson to learn, but somehow, it feels like a sweeter lesson from a less nagging voice than the one that reminds us to always strive to be perfect. I am not always happy. I am not always positive. But I’m here and I’m doing my best. You are here and are doing your best. We are continuing to learn, and that’s enough.