tv

My friend and I sat at a restaurant on a recent Friday evening, catching up over dinner. We hadn’t seen each other in four months, we realized, and a friend date was long overdue. As we perused the dessert menu, the chatty waitress approached us and, seeing my friend’s iPhone case, gushed, “I love your phone case!”

 

I looked over at the back of my friend’s phone, at the words written in gothic letters and an image I immediately recognized from the ubiquitous Game of Thrones series.

 

“I love Game of Thrones! The new season is starting on Sunday, and I can’t wait,” my friend excitedly replied.

 

“I’m going to have a marathon Game of Thrones weekend,” the waitress continued. “I need to catch up on all the previous episodes before I start watching the new season.”

 

The animated exchange continued and very quickly, I started to feel out of the proverbial loop. The waitress must have noticed the tentative smirk on my face.

 

“You don’t watch the show?”

 

I believe I saw her take half a step backward in surprise.

 

“You have to watch it! You have to catch up.”

 

“I wouldn’t have the time to watch it,” I replied demurely, looking down at the dark-wood table.

 

What I didn’t mention is that, these days, I don’t watch anything on TV. Until very recently, I used to be an avid Once Upon a Time fan, drawn to the show’s fantasy element (a favourite genre). I confess, I was more than a bit obsessed with the story. The passion suddenly dwindled a few months ago. I used to watch one hour of TV per week. Now, I don’t watch it at all. And I don’t miss it.

 

When Pawel and I had first moved in together, all those years ago, we chose to not have a TV in our home. If we wanted to watch movies, we would watch them on DVD, using one of our computers. That was also the one and only time when, in-between studying for undergrad exams or writing essays, I binge-watched Sex and the City seasons on borrowed DVDs on my laptop. Even when I did not watch DVDs, I found that I liked not having a TV in my home, that no one felt inclined to turn it on to create ‘background noise.’ Without a TV, I could reclaim my time. I could focus my attention on one task at a time, instead of multitasking by studying while watching a show.

 

To simply state that I currently don’t have the time to watch TV shows might sound holier-than-thou. Of course, I have the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. I choose to not make the time for television. The idea of binge-watching a show no longer appeals to me. No, it doesn’t just not appeal to me; it sounds kind of torturous. Likewise, Pawel doesn’t watch TV because he doesn’t want to direct his attention to it when he could be spending time woodworking.

 

Of course, Pawel and I do sometimes go out to watch a movie — probably about once every two or three months — but we are very selective in our film choices. I also have a small collection of favourite films that I like to watch at home from time to time.

 

Not watching TV allows me to make time for mindful activities that I truly enjoy. I do make time for reading, writing, yoga, meditation, crafting, and (yes) sleep. There have been times, in a distant past, when I would stay up late to watch a show in spite of feeling tired.

 

It’s a choice. This choice suits my quest to living more mindfully while embracing the minimalism lifestyle. So, perhaps, I shouldn’t be as demure about it.

 

Do you watch TV on a regular basis? Would you be willing to give it up for a week, as an experiment? Feel free to leave a comment. 

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.

Horse2

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.

easter4

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.

easter1

  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.

DSCN3494

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.

padthai2

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!

DSCN3974

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.

Horse1

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!

trees

 

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!

blog1

“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.

blog2

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.

easter4

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)!

DSC_0748

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.

DSCN3530

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:

padthai

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!

padthai2

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!

easter5

 

“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.

easter4

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’.

easter3

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.

easter1

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!

Are you enjoying this blog? Share it with a friend via email or your favourite social media platform!

easter2

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.

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.

mala2

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.

mala1

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.

sale1

Wishing you a great week,

Katia

 

It happened about a month ago on a rainy Monday night. I was feeling cold and tired after a day of rushing about, taking care of mundane tasks, ending my day by teaching a late class at a local studio. By the time I arrived at home, I was very ready to tuck myself into bed with a heated blanket.

And then I remembered. I made a promise to my fellow knitters to post a photo of my finished project. Years ago, upon first joining Facebook, I immediately found a group dedicated to the knitting obsessed. The private group has since grown to have some 31,400 members. And the tribe continues to grow, sharing various works in process (WIPs), unfinished objects (UFOs), and finished projects, of course.

Any dedicated knitter, crocheter, or crafter of any kind will immediately understand the excitement and the urge to celebrate a fresh-off-the-needles piece, the stitches of which have just been cast off. Some of us wait until after it’s been blocked to take that final exhalation, have a celebratory glass of wine, and snap a photo to post on social media.

On that rainy evening, I asked Pawel to take a quick photo of tired me wearing the vest I had made as a gift for my mom’s birthday. In fact, I needed two photos — one of the front of the piece and another of the back. The tired version of me also neglected to think of just how critical I would suddenly start to feel upon seeing the photos.

“Oh, I’m wearing my yoga clothes with a hand-knitted vest,” I complained loudly. “And my hair doesn’t look great. Take another one!”

Our quick snapshot was followed by about 10 other snapshots, of which I had to choose two photos to share.

“Should I even bother sharing these?” I asked myself over and over for probably about two minutes before finally taking a deep breath and clicking ‘post.’

I received many compliments on the piece and I suspect not many of the members noticed the yoga clothes I’m wearing in the photos.

With another cringe, a month later, I’ll share the photos with you now.

DSCN4027 DSCN4029

Do you ever feel nervous about posting photos or stories on social media? Or, has sharing become second-nature for you? Please leave a comment to answer these questions, or to share your stories.

Have a great, brave week!

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

“The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings.” – Buddhist Sutra

DSC_0842

What makes you feel alive? What brings out in you the vibrant spirit of innocence, inspiring you to leap in pure joy, to dance? The forest has always felt like home to me. I’ve been known to joke about having been born in the forest and magically teleported into my mom’s arms at the birthing centre. I remember the exact moment, in early childhood, when I first felt the calming effects of the trees, the mossy ground, the shimmering sunlight whispering down to me through the rustle of the leaves on the giant tress. I was about four or five years of age and, while enjoying a picnic under tall fir trees, my dad used a thick crown of moss nestled on the ripe earth to build a few houses that resembled The Shire. My imagination ran wild with images of witches and fairies peeking out from behind the doorways of the cozy inch-tall houses. Yet, I felt rooted, strong, peaceful and calm amidst my daydreams. To this day, I feel grounded in the forest like nowhere else. It literally is my happy place, my home.

I’m fortunate to have been born into a family that adores nature. Every weekend, until I was well into my teenage years, my parents would plan a family picnic for us, driving out to explore new hiking paths, trails, and lakes. It’s natural for children to love being outside, exploring freely, and I refuse to let it go. I don’t ever want to lose that love, and I strive to continue to cultivate the same passion for the outdoors in my children.

DSC_0879

Safety, comfort, and freedom. Child-like freedom that flickers from the soles of my feet, rising up within me, bringing out an indescribable enthusiasm. Bring me into a forest and I break out in dance, or get some yoga on, all with a melodic giggle born from the depth of my heart and a bright smile on my face.

DSC_0902

See what I mean?

DSC_0833

Yes!

DSC_0875

Nothing else makes me feel this rooted and at once, this fairy-light. The forest is my playground, and I don’t ever want to leave.

DSC_0892

And forest hikes make for a perfect date!

DSCN4258

Pawel and I most often bring the kids along on picnics, walks and other outdoor activities. But it’s important, especially to those who are sensitive to noise, to enjoy some silence (and fellow introvert parents will understand this well). Restaurant conversation with the background noise of music and the chatter of other diners just isn’t the same as a comforting hike among the wise trees, with the soothing whispers of the golden leaves atop their regal Autumn crowns. It had been too long since our last date just before my birthday in early August. Instead of our usual dinner-and-movie-style dates, we escaped to the woods yesterday. While I danced, practised a few poses, threw leaves, and giggled, giggled, giggled, Pawel laughed along with me (and probably at me) while experimenting with a fancy new lens he recently acquired for his Nikon.

DSCN4237

I’m grateful for my naturally talented photographer husband and creative partner, for my parents’ offer to babysit, and for the stunning late-autumn colours. I’m grateful for yoga, for October, for the magic of nature, moss, maple leaves, birch trees, abundant bird houses, and fairies.

DSC_0854

The beautiful maple leaves in and around our neighbourhood, as well as in the lush forests around us, inspired the creation of a few new maple leaf wooden pendants…

DSCN4220

We will add the new necklaces to our web store within the next week. Pawel used a few different types of wood to make these beauties.

Also, the third knitting video is on its way. We will post it within a few days.

Until then, leave a comment, subscribe, and share this blog with anyone you know who might enjoy following our creative adventures.

Wishing you a bright, kaleidoscopic last week of October,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

I have tried to be the perfect modern yogi, trying to grow my hair, wearing Birkenstocks (I do like them, but they aren’t the most flattering or dressy shoes, in my opinion), and sticking to a Paleo diet. Somewhere along the line, within the past 16 years of my yoga practice, I had absorbed the idea that to be a good yogi, I needed to fit the perfect Instagram image of a yoga girl and that to inspire others, I needed to live up to a certain lifestyle stereotype.

Over tea with a dear friend this afternoon, I confessed this to her, adding, “Really, I love drinking lattes with real dairy milk, not almond milk or soy milk lattes. I love eating dessert with real sugar from time to time and I don’t want to give up my favourite crème brûlée. I sometimes eat too much chocolate.” Deep breath. Let it out. Phew.

My friend was not in the least surprised. “Of course,” she said, “you’re a European girl.”

I’m curious to know about the lifestyle of European yogis, though I have heard that the health craze is not as strict in Europe as it is in North America. I have never been to a studio in Europe — it’s been six years since I last traveled to Europe — but I’m curious. I love real coffee and dessert. I had given it up for a short while, just as I attempted to give up gluten. I also gave up dairy for a while. Yet, I soon realized that my approach to healthy diet and exercise was an ‘all or nothing’ approach that stemmed not from within, from the desire to feel better in my body. Instead, it stemmed from the ubiquitous stigma that certain foods are ‘clean and good’ and others are ‘bad for us.’ Because of this, if I allowed myself to slip and eat a sweet pastry one day, the following day all my diet rules would go right out the window.

Ayurveda has been the perfect approach for me and I learned how to eat best for my constitution, how to best honour my body, when to eat my most substantial meals (breakfast and lunch) and how to eat a light dinner, as well as which food combinations to avoid. Nevertheless, though I know that it’s never a good idea to mix two different types of protein, I still love St. Julien cheese with its beautiful walnuts in the creamy centre. I eat that particular cheese probably once a year (also because it’s not cheap), but I enjoy it to the maximum. Nowadays, I’m trying to take a more balanced approach to nutrition, eating healthy foods 90 per cent of the time and allowing myself treats on occasion. I eat a bit of dark chocolate every afternoon while taking a short siesta, but I allow myself dessert with real sugar (gasp) once a week. Sometimes, I even drink a bit of wine. I don’t drink green juices and smoothies in the colder months and only enjoy them in the summer. I don’t use protein powder because I’m wary of anything over-processed, and that includes what the health world considers to be good for us. I make my own diet rules. I eat real food, made with real ingredients. I use olive oil, coconut oil, ghee and yes, butter. I eat real bread from time to time, slathered with organic peanut butter. Some mornings, when I want to take a break from my usual steel-cut oats, toasted bread with peanut butter is the best complement to a latte made with organic 2% milk (there’s the dairy and nut protein combo again).

I do take Ashwaganda and a few other supplements that could be featured in an article or video titled Sh*t Crunchy Girls Say. Yes, I do some crunchy things and eat typical ‘yogi’ foods. I do enjoy Ezekiel sprouted grains bread and happen to go crazy for a splash of almond milk in tea or when it’s used as a base for smoothies in the summer.

The bottom line is that I will continue to make my own rules, listen to my body and its needs every day, and choose wisely… Most of the time. I will continue to fine-tune the way I eat and my approach to nutrition. I believe most of us need to continue to make small changes to our diet and the way we eat, in general.

Now, here’s a truly healthy simple, vegan (unless you do choose to add the chicken breast mentioned at the end), gluten- and dairy-free, and (I think) guilt-free recipe that I’d like to share with you…

recipe1

I love roasted root vegetables for their sweet taste and grounding effect. For the Vata season, roasted vegetables are my go-to recipe.

DSCN4117

Aren’t beets absolutely gorgeous? I’m in awe of their stunning colour.

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes

3 beets

1 red bell pepper

1 tbsp melted coconut oil

1 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp dried oregano

1 onion, sliced lengthwise

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

DSCN4120

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Coarsely chop the sweet potatoes, beets and peppers and place in a baking pan. Pour the melted oil over the vegetables, sprinkle with the sea salt and oregano, and stir. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

3. At medium-high heat, stirring constantly, toast the pumpkin seeds. Remove and set aside to cool. TIP: The seeds will continue to toast if they remain in the hot pan, so it’s best to pour the seeds out into a separate bowl.

DSCN4125

4. Using a small amount of coconut oil, toss the onions at medium-high heat until they are soft and golden-brown in colour.

DSCN4127

5. To plate, serve the roasted vegetables with the onions and seeds on top.

DSCN4129

If you prefer meat to plant-based protein, omit the seeds and place grilled chicken breast pieces on top of the vegetables.

DSCN4130

The result is delicious and satisfying.

Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

We are curious to know about your approach to healthy nutrition, so leave us a comment with your opinions.

Until next time,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

 

Call me strange, but I have always enjoyed doing push-ups. Even in elementary school’s gym class, I was the girl who would lift her knees up off the floor to attempt the full push-up variation. No, it didn’t look pretty or impressive in any way, but I suppose I was a bit Type-A with my fitness goals.

When I was first introduced to Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga in 1998, Sun Salutations intrigued me with their smooth flow. I relished the fast-paced but graceful movements that released tension from my body. Yet, Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose) was a confusing transition pose for me. I remember thinking, “Aha! Lowering down into a low push-up position from high plank is so much easier than having to press back up!” Of course, a few years later, I realized that the reason it felt easy to me was because I was cheating! I didn’t lower into the pose with control. My hips drooped low, my belly sagged, and my elbows splayed out to the sides as I tried to get Chaturanga and Upward-Facing Dog over with in order to make it to the place where I really wanted to be: Downward-Facing Dog, taking a delicious break for a few breaths. The power of confession!

Chaturanga Dandasana is a pose that is often approached as a quick transition pose in the Sun Salutations portion of a Vinyasa / Ashtanga practice. However, it’s important to maintain focus, integrity, and strength in this pose as it can be incredibly informative for the physical and emotional aspects of our yoga practice.

I prepared this step-by-step guide to help you find this focus, integrity and strength in your own practice. I recommend working on these steps with a qualified yoga instructor and using my tips only as a supplement for your personal home practice.

1. To prepare for Chaturanga, come to rest on your hands and knees, positioning a block on the mat at the medium height directly underneath your chest. Align the elbows and shoulders directly over the wrists and the hips directly over the knees. Inhale and allow the belly to soften. On the exhale, lift the pelvic floor and the belly. Keep this core connection as you inhale and allow your elbows to open out to the sides, keeping your hands firmly planted on the mat, pressing down through the thumb and index finger parts of the hands. Exhale, and hug the triceps in toward the midline. Now, your arms and core are firmly engaged. Stay here for up to five full breaths.

DSC_0279

Take rest in child’s pose for five or more breaths. Then, if you feel ready for the next step, proceed as follows.

2. Continue to keep the engagement of the upper body and core as you inhale and stretch one leg back, pressing the ball of the foot firmly into the mat. Exhale and repeat the same motion with the other leg, planting the balls of both feet into the mat. Continue to breathe deeply as you keep the arms strong, the triceps hugging in, keeping the elbows soft, reaching the heart forward toward the top of your mat and keeping your gaze forward without straining your neck. Keep your core strong by continue to lift the pelvic floor and belly upward. Spin the inner thighs up toward the ceiling to broaden through the lower back while pressing the heels toward an imaginary wall behind you. Broaden through the scapula. Continue to breathe deeply and hold plank pose for up to five full breaths.

DSC_0290

Lower the knees down to the mat and rest in child’s pose for five or more breaths. If you feel strong after holding plank, continue to step 3.

3. Repeat the steps outlined above to make your way back into plank pose. Ensure that the block is at the medium height on the mat directly underneath your chest. Inhale and lower your knees down to the mat. Exhale and continue to hug the triceps in toward the midline as you bend the elbows toward a 90-degree angle, coming to rest your chest on the block. Inhale to press back up to your hands and knees and take rest in child’s pose for five or more breaths. If this Chaturanga prep felt good and you continue to feel strong, repeat it again, this time hovering the chest an inch or two above the block. To challenge yourself further, practise staying in this pose for an extra breath or two.

DSC_0280

Continue to practise Chaturanga with your knees down on the mat until you feel strong enough to proceed. Remember that you might even need to stay with this variation for a few months before you feel ready to move on to practice the same move with straight legs. Be honest with yourself and never rush into anything that does not feel right.

4. To try the straight-leg variation with the block underneath the chest, repeat step 2. Inhale to prepare. On the exhale, with the legs strong and inner thighs firmly pressing up toward the ceiling, start to bend your elbows toward a 90-degree angle, with the arms hugging in toward the midline. Continue to lift up through the core as you work to gently lengthen the tailbone toward your feet. Hover the chest above the block and if it feels good, hold the pose for an extra breath or two. To come out, either press up to high plank, with the entire body engaged (see step 2), or simply press back to the hands and knees. Rest in child’s pose for five or more breaths.

DSC_0283

Repeat this until you start to feel stronger. Again, you may need to continue practising with a block for a while. Honour your body and the work will pay off.

5. To move into the full version of Chaturanga, start in high plank. On an inhale, bring the heart forward, keeping the shoulders and elbows over the wrists. With a strong core and legs to support you in the pose, leading with the heart and gazing toward the front of the mat, start to hug in the elbows toward the midline of the body as you exhale and bend the elbows toward a 90-degree angle. Hover here as you inhale, imagining the block positioned under your chest. Do not allow your shoulders to lower past the elbows!!! On an exhale, still keeping the core and legs in the same position, straighten the arms to return to high plank. Bring the knees down and press back to Child’s Pose to rest for five or more breaths. To challenge yourself further, hover in Chaturanga for an extra breath or two before pressing back up to high plank.

DSC_0289

Here is a video of a slower transition from plank to Chaturanga, and back up to high plank.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, keep practising and always honour your amazing body!

Namaste.

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust