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This is a candid account of how meditation sometimes feels, even after many years of semi-consistent practice. I wrote this piece for a writing course that I took last fall, and it has become a favourite. I wanted to share it with you as a reminder that we all deal with the chattering monkey mind. Whenever I feel impatience and frustration start to arise, I remind myself to approach my practice with a sense of humour. Who said meditation has to always be taken seriously? Be patient with yourself and perhaps, for just a quick but important moment, you can step into the temple and live fully in it.

Stillness. One of the doors into the temple. And how illusive it is!

“Ooh, I just sat for a few minutes without thinking a single thought!”

Inhale. Exhale.

“Sssshhh! Quiet! That was a thought.”

Inhale. Exhale. “Continue to focus on your breath.”

Inhale. Exhale. “It will lead you to stillness.”

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

“What should I make for dinner?”

“Thinking.”

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Silence. There’s suddenly nothing but silence and the sound of my breath, travelling. My thoughts continue to circulate, but I’ll keep them in that perpetual vortex, allowing them to spin without escaping through the door into the temple. Oh no, this temple deserves peace. This temple only welcomes silence, but it tolerates the hum that continues to buzz just outside its front door. Accept it, but keep it on the other side.

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New from the workshop:

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This is a Maori-style Hei Matau (fish-hook) design, made of beautiful chocolate-brown Cocobolo. The inlay is made of pale yellow crushed shell. 

Although this piece is so new it has yet to be added to our online store, there are other pieces in the shop that might appeal to you. Pawel has been working on custom orders recently and would be thrilled with an opportunity to create a special piece for you. So, drop us a line to let us know what you have in mind.

Favourite links:

Here are a few interesting articles I read over the past week and would like to share with you:

Skills in Flux

A New York Times article about the skills we need to develop to succeed — socially and professionally — in ‘today’s loosely networked world.’ This article resonates with me — an INFP with a small circle of friends whom I hold very dear and work hard to keep the connection alive. I often have to negotiate extroverted social networking, followed by periods of relaxing a bit more when I have a chance to get to know a person better and build a true connection. It’s a lifelong learning process that demands evolution of various communication and social skills.

Bare essentials: Learning to live mindfully with objects that ‘spark joy’

This article almost made me want to take a 2.5-hour road trip to London to check out this exhibit. However, having recently been on such a road trip for a work-related meeting, and given that I don’t enjoy driving for longer than an hour at the most, I am reluctant to make the time for the trek. In any case, I wanted to share this article with you because it brings focus to a mindful lifestyle in a tiny home, living with the bare essentials, which is a fascination of mine. We are currently living with as few possessions as possible, though I know we can downsize further. I found it interesting to read the comments of other readers about what possessions they would keep if they had to leave almost everything they own behind. What would you keep if you were to downsize and move into a (tidy and uncluttered) tiny home?

Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

An article on why the current generation of 30-something adults is embracing the minimalism trend. This is a fun read and even features a quiz to help you find out whether you just might be the owner of too much stuff or if like me, your results will be, “You’re a minimalist. Live a little.’

If you are enjoying this blog and would like to read more about our journey along the path of mindfulness, please feel free to subscribe to be the first to receive our updates in your inbox once (sometimes twice) per week. Please also feel free to SHARE this post with your friends via email or a social media platform.

Thank you for you support!

Wishing you a fantastic weekend!

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We needed to take some time to adjust to a new change in our household. After a blogging hiatus, we’re back and ready to share more of our adventures and ideas with you. To our loyal readers, thank you for your continuing support. And if you’re new to our site, welcome! We hope you will enjoy its content and will share it with your friends.

My older son and I were sitting at a local coffee and doughnut shop yesterday in the evening after dinner, enjoying a mini escape from the house, a mom-and-son date. While I waited for my mint tea to chill, I watched my son and answered his questions about the various signs he kept noticing in the small shop, advertising sandwich combos, a new roast, and free WiFi (“What is WiFi, Mommy?”). He was sipping his hot chocolate, slowly at first, until he started to take bigger slurps and finally finished it before reaching for his double chocolate doughnut. Like me, my son has a sweet tooth. I have often wondered whether in our family, we all have a sweet tooth gene that continues to be passed on from generation to generation. When I started to introduce my son to ‘real’ foods as a baby, I offered him pureed beans alongside pureed yams. Guess which one he relished, seated in his high chair with a smile full of sweet-tasting orange-coloured happiness. The other vegetable was promptly spat out, as soon as the BPA-free teaspoon touched his lips.

As a student of Mindfulness, I have a profound interest in how we can utilize Mindfulness practices to change negative habits into lasting positive ones. Particularly, I have been applying the practice to my personal eating patterns by observing my emotions and thoughts during stressful/challenging times, noticing the foods I crave during those times: anything made with sugar.

I am also a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s work, the author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Her new book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, to be released on March 17th, explores the science behind habit-forming behaviour. Visiting Rubin’s website, I came across this quiz and as I read the post, I had to pause to listen to the ‘ding ding ding’ sound coming closer toward me from a distance.

It turns out that some people are natural moderators while others are abstainers. As much as I don’t enjoy labels, what this means is that for some people, like me, it’s easier to give up sugar cold-turkey and after struggling through the initial 14 days or so, to abstain from sugar altogether. Others more easily take the approach that ‘life is too short to miss out on treats,’ and are able to stop eating dessert after the first two bites. Rubin mentions yet another fascinating fact, that moderators often try – unsuccessfully – to turn into abstainers, and abstainers – again, unsuccessfully – attempt to become moderators.

This information provides a different perspective for my practice. It also leads me to wonder whether, perhaps, Mindfulness practices that relate to food consumption come more easily to people who are naturally better at moderating. On the other hand, a daily seated or walking mindfulness meditation practice might come more easily to a person who takes the ‘all or nothing’ attitude. I would assume that people who are able to effectively abstain from consuming certain foods would also be naturally better than others at repeating the same behaviour every day. I might be wrong, but to learn more, I will just have to read Rubin’s new book and continue practising.

What are your thoughts? Would you say you tend to choose the ‘all or nothing’ or the ‘you only live once, so let’s enjoy the treat’ approach? Please feel free to comment.

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I have been meditating, off and on, for the past 17 years. I would love to be able to say that throughout those years, my practice hasn’t wavered, that it has stayed consistent. But as with the myriad other fluctuations that come with life’s events, my practice has waxed and waned, stagnated, and at times did not happen for months at a time.

Early in November, I made the decision to deepen my practice and make it to my meditation cushion on a daily basis, for 15 minutes each day. I could write about the profound ways in which meditation continues to transform my experience, and the ways in which my view of my inner and outer world continues to evolve. Those words would either be received with enthusiastic ‘YES’ nods from those who share my experience, or might not make much sense to others. I do encourage you to give this meditation ‘thing’ a try and see what you make of it. Like me, you might find it a bit frustrating at first and leave it for a short — or a long — while. I do encourage you to stick with the practice, because that’s exactly what it is, a practice. As with any other practice in life, your meditation will not always be flowery and light, but the roots we plant by sitting each day continue to deepen, inviting us to delve further into the raw honesty of our experience. That experience itself is not perfect or pretty, but that is precisely the magic of being here. Everything else falls away as we recognize the answers that have been before us all along.

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I also encourage you to try different forms of meditation. I tend to practise mindfulness meditation, but another form to which I come back when I feel some anxiety about a situation is japa, the repetition of mantra. For japa, I use a mala with 108 beads. As I allow each bead to slide between my fingers, I repeat a mantra, for a total of 108 times. We started making malas a few months ago and have added them to our webstore over the past weekend, after previously only showcasing them at craft shows.

The beautiful mala pictured above is made of Bayong, Whitewood and Sandalwood beads, and the pendant is made of Orangeheart, with turquoise inlay. The image in the centre is of the elephant deity Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.

My Reiki teacher introduced me to the Ganesha mantra in 2008, and that chant has led me to further explore japa meditation. While giving birth to our second child, as Pawel held my hand and our two midwives worked at the foot of the bed in our bedroom, I silently continued to chant, Om gam ganapataye namaha, over and over again. As the pain I felt due to the baby’s posterior positioning intensified with each contraction, I continued to chant and trust that all was going to be well. Our Ganesha malas were inspired by this and other incredible, honest, deep experiences we have been fortunate to live through.

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Each of our malas is unique and was designed and assembled by yours truly. As with all our other pendants, the ones on the malas were crafted by Pawel. We hope you will enjoy them.

We’ve even made our jewellery easier for you to enjoy with our special big holiday sale. For the next two weeks, any item in our webstore is 25% off, and we will cover the shipping anywhere in the world when you place an order of a minimum of $100. This is the perfect time to purchase unique gifts for the special people on your list.

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Wishing you a great week,

Katia

 

In Southern Ontario, Autumn is in full swing. And we love it. Unfortunately, like many of our friends, we have also been affected by the cold virus. That’s something that can happen with the changing of the seasons.

Now that we are mostly feeling better, we have been going outside every day to enjoy the changing landscape and enjoy the crisp chill in the air. Apple-picking is a favourite fall activity for our family. The boys always get a thrill out of running through the orchard and choosing the juiciest apples they can find. So, on Sunday, we dressed warmly and headed to our favourite organic orchard to pick apples.

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Upon returning home with our delicious bounty, I was filled with inspiration to get in the kitchen and cook something seasonal and heart-warming. More on that below.

In Ayurveda, the fall season is governed by Vata, which is composed of ether and air. It’s no surprise that for many of us, this season also signifies the start of the cold virus. The lazy, lingering summer days are rarely strictly structured, keeping us up late at night and encouraging us to take cat naps in the hot and hazy afternoons. The following fall season signifies a complete change in energy. Suddenly, everything moves faster as we try to get back to our regular routine, sometimes anxiously struggling to keep up. This sudden change in routine can be incredibly stressful for the body and the mind.

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As someone with a dominant Vata dosha and a bit of Pitta, I love the fall season for the relief it provides from the humid and hot summer days. However, I get cold very quickly and when it seems to me like most people around me are walking around in September with short-sleeved t-shirts on, I can be seen wearing a cozy sweater. I no longer feel self-conscious about this. I do what I need to do to take care of myself.

What else do I do to take care of myself, following the lessons of Ayurveda for the Vata season? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ll share with you what I do, and please feel free to borrow these ideas for your own self-care, particularly if your constitution is mostly Vata.

I go to sleep between 9 and 10 p.m. every night and wake up at 5 a.m. This ensures that I get 7-8 hours of sleep on most nights. In the morning, after oil pulling and brushing my teeth, I drink a tall glass of warm water with fresh lemon juice and then exercise for an hour (yoga, cardio, pilates, or weights). After I shower, I do an oil massage before sitting down to have breakfast.

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I eat at approximately the same times every day: breakfast at 7:30 a.m.; lunch at 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.; dinner at 5-5:30 p.m. I consume a lot of healthy oils (avocado, coconut oil, EVOO) and hot, unctuous, mostly liquid foods such as steel-cut oats with cooked apples and cinnamon, soup, vegetable stews, etc. I still eat my greens (kale and spinach are great), but I either sprinkle the leaves on a hot bowl of stew/soup or consume a salad massaged with a lot of oil (see above) immediately prior to eating my soup/stew. I eat cooked/roasted root vegetables with — again — lots of oil. Why is oil consumption so important? The air and ether qualities of Vata mean that during this season, we have a tendency to feel dryness. We need the moisture, both on the surface of the skin and on the inside of the body.

If you, like I do, eat meat occasionally, I would suggest eating salad (at room temperature), followed by lean meat at lunchtime. Our digestion is strongest from 10 a.m. to 1-2 p.m. As such, my substantial meals are breakfast and lunch. Dinner for me is small and simple. Usually, I will have a bowl of soup with a toast of sprouted grains topped with avocado and sea salt. Eating dinner before the sun sets is also ideal, because our digestive system slows down after sundown. Of course, since the sun starts to set earlier these days, it’s best to try to eat dinner at around 5 p.m., if possible.

Interested in additional information on self-care during this season? I love this website and use it frequently as a great resource.

So, to summarize, this is a time to sloooooow down and get grounded, luxuriate under warm blankets, eat grounding food with healthy oil, and get plenty of rest. What about exercise? That, too, should be more grounding at this time. Long walks are excellent, as is a yoga practice with slow, deliberate Vinyasa and standing/balance postures held for a few long breaths. Restorative yoga is excellent right now.

A couple of years ago, shortly after our younger son was born, I felt I needed to get outside and move, but I also craved rest and relaxation to get me through the long days of taking care of our two children. And no, that pattern has not changed. Here is a video I made during that time, a how-to of one of my favourite restorative yoga postures, Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose):

Feel free to use a few blankets and cushions in lieu of the bolsters and blocks, if you do not have those at home. Relax and breathe in the pose for about 10-15 minutes.

So, back to the weekend… Here is what I cooked using butternut squash and the beautiful apples we picked on Sunday:

 

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND APPLE SOUP

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We started with a few basic ingredients:

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Then, we chopped the onion and sauteed it with ghee while continuing with the preparation of our apples and butternut squash…

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We reserved the butternut squash seeds and roasted them later on a baking sheet at 300F for about 30 minutes. I didn’t add any oil or sea salt to the seeds this time, but that’s a great option, if it’s the way you like your pumpkin/squash seeds.

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Cook the squash and onions in a large soup pot, and then add the apples, a teaspoon of sea salt, and a teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground turmeric.

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Add enough distilled water to cover the chopped squash and apple, and then top with another 3-4 inches of water. You can use vegetable stock in lieu of the water.

Bring the soup to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes or until the squash is completely tender. Allow to cool a bit before using a blender to create a smooth consistency:

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Yes, our soup was steaming hot while we blended it, simply because we were hungry and our children kept asking when dinner was going to be served. I would highly recommend allowing the soup to cool before blending it.

To serve, we sprinkled the soup with cinnamon, but those roasted seeds were also great. We garnished the soup with the seeds for dinner the following day.

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The ingredients:

1 tbsp ghee (coconut oil or butter can also be used)

1 medium-sized white or yellow onion

1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and chopped, with the seeds reserved for roasting

2 apples (choose firm, tart apples that will hold well together during the cooking process)

1 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Enough water to cover the chopped squash and apples, plus 3-4 inches on top. An alternative is to add vegetable stock.

Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

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Our final update is regarding our latest product finishes. We are preparing for the Made by Hand Show and creating new, unique, interesting pendants for you.

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Knitting-inspired pendant, made of Purpleheart wood and crushed shell inlay.

sup red amboyna burl

SUP-inspired pendant, made of Red Amboyna Burl, with turquoise inlay.

mantis purple heart

We do like insects! Praying mantis pendant, made of Purpleheart wood with crushed shell inlay.

As always, please leave a comment to let us know what you think of our new products, this week’s recipe, yoga pose, or about whether you enjoy the fall season as much as we do. If you did take the Dosha quiz (link above), let us know what your Dosha is and how you cope with weather changes.

Until next time, enjoy the week!

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

 

 

At 6:35 in the morning, the house is quiet. Well, at least, I would expect it to be quiet at that time. This is my ‘me’ time. I wake up at 5 o’clock on most mornings and proceed with my daily ritual. While oil pulling with coconut oil for 15 minutes, I feed our two ever-starving cats — seriously, those two cats have the biggest appetite — and get dressed. I brush my teeth and drink a tall glass of warm water with lemon juice. Then, it’s time for cardio, weights, pilates, or yoga, or a combination of the above. After an hour, I sit down to meditate.

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My body and mind are fully awake, and I’m ready to sit quietly for some time before my day begins. I set my meditation timer app to 15 minutes, and assume my typical mudra of crossing the middle fingers on both my right and left hands over the index fingers. Oh, wait… I sense some hesitation on your, the reader’s part. You’re telling me you’re not familiar with that mudra? Why, that’s the universal ‘Keeping my fingers crossed’ sign, isn’t it? Moving on with my story… Don’t look so puzzled, please. I promise to answer your question shortly.

You see, dear reader, my meditation practice is different every day. Some days, my mind slips into a calm state with ease and satin-smooth elegance. On other days, my brain decides to talk to me. I ignore it, gently brushing it off with a polite smile — no, it’s actually a smirk that hints to my brain, politely, to ‘shut it.’ What does it say when it speaks to me? Let’s see, let’s see…

“Maybe I should have started this meditation first thing after waking up?”

Then I pinch myself and think,

“No way! I’m not awake enough at that point to commit to a meditation practice.”

And then a typical soliloquy begins:

“The kids will be up soon. I need to ensure I have enough time to cook steel-cut oats for our breakfast. And I still have to pack lunches. I should probably prepare the slow cooker for tonight’s dinner, as I will not have time to cook later this afternoon.” And so on…

Thankfully, I do have more calm meditation practices than those soliloquy-ridden ones. And I keep coming back to my cushion.

So, at 6:35 on this particular morning, as I sit on my cushion in my quiet practice room that also doubles in purpose as a ‘TV room’ (the only one in the house with a TV set in it), I am suddenly asked by my younger son to come out of my meditation. I hear his little bare footsteps as he’s walking down the stairs. I can picture him hugging his well-loved bunny with his right arm, sucking the thumb on his left hand. He stops behind me and says, “Can I watch TV… A little bit?” And so ends my ‘me’ time and begins the typical busy morning of a mom. As for the meditation timer? I look down at my iPod and see that I still have eight minutes to go until the lovely bells ring thrice to bring me out of that blissful meditative state. Obviously, that timer has got nothing on my child. Do I wish that the timer app would win from time to time? Heck yes! Hence my crossed fingers mudra! 😉

What’s the moral of this story? We’re busy. There, I said it, and I will not repeat it again because I don’t believe in giving that banal discussion any more time than it deserves. Many people try to start a meditation practice. Many more practice yoga, the kind of yoga that makes us move our bodies to still our minds. But as for traditional seated meditation? How many of us actually make that commitment?

I decided, recently, to treat my seated meditation practice with the respect it deserves. Some days, I will find five minutes to sit, and on other days when I feel like I’ve won the lottery, I hear those sweet little bells after 15 minutes and sigh happily. In any case, the important factor is that I made the time to sit on my cushion and dedicated time to this ever-evolving practice. It keeps me curious.

Here’s my offering to you: a free five-minute guided meditation practice.

The entire video is longer than five minutes, simply because I provide a few guidelines for those who have always been curious about meditation but haven’t had a chance to try it before. I hope the introduction will help to ease any tension you may feel about trying to meditate for the first time.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading, watching and meditating!

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust