“How are you?”

“I’m great! How are you?”

“Great!”

Last week, someone whom I see from time to time asked me that ubiquitous question and after throwing my auto-pilot answer back at her in a raspy voice, making some small talk and then walking away, I realized that no, I did not feel ‘great.’ Someone told me many years ago that if we always answer that question with a big smile, we might be able to fool even ourselves into feeling as wonderful as we say we feel. All those years, I carried that belief with me, subconsciously. But last week, I realized that I wasn’t fooling anyone. I should also note that, as an INFP, I couldn’t say that I’m a fan of making small talk. Could that be the real reason behind the auto-pilot answer I continued to give?

I was dealing with yet another cold, which later turned into laryngitis. I barricaded myself as best as I could inside my house and only went out to drop off and pick up my children at school. Amidst the misery of a runny nose, sore throat and a disgusting cough, I realized something: when I didn’t need to struggle to raise my voice to make myself heard through the noise of the boys throwing toys around or having an argument, I was enjoying being a hermit. Again, I could dump this one on my MBTI, or perhaps I just felt exhausted. I’m extremely thankful to two wonderful ladies who were able to sub for the classes that I was supposed to teach last week.

To be honest, isolating myself from the world proved to be useful as I had some extra time, in-between cooking, cleaning and looking after my family (moms can never truly take a sick day), to knit on the couch.

DSCN4016

I chose to ignore the mess around me. To give you an idea of what it looked like, I’ll share this photo of just a fraction of my living room:

DSCN4019

I’ve come to praise myself on my admirable barefoot agility around Lego on the floor.

Last week, I finished knitting booties for my boys, which they will receive for Christmas. I also finished my moms’ birthday gift, the pictures of which I will post in a few weeks, after I present it to her. And lastly, I decided to take on a quick project for myself. After all, I was feeling under the weather and needed some cheering up.

DSCN3884

I used beautiful kettle-dyed Peruvian wool from my stash to whip up these boot cuffs, and now, I’m looking forward once again to the return of the cooler weather.

Speaking of weather, Toronto has been basking in the return of the summer, but with warm golden foliage. I finally felt well enough on Sunday to get out with my family to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

DSCN3976

Indian Summer. I have always loved that name for this particular time of autumn. In Russian, it’s known as Butterfly Summer. I haven’t spotted very many butterflies over the past week, but I have seen many dragonflies, including this busy lady hovering above the pond in the backyard of my parents-in-law.

DSCN3979

Do you see it, right in the middle of the photo above? It was zooming around and wouldn’t stop to rest and take a breather, or pose for a photo.

Who said it’s the spring season that makes people walk a bit faster, with renewed enthusiasm? In the warm golden days of late September, everyone is preparing the harvest for the inevitable colder days… Just ask the raccoon neighbour that was recently evicted from our shed, where it laid out a cozy — and smelly — home for itself, right above our garbage and recycling bins.

DSCN3980

Do you see how many acorns that busy squirrel is carrying in its mouth? Isn’t it amazing how nature adapts to the changes all around? Even squirrels, with their Vata energy, take naps from time to time, as I have seen one squirrel do recently in our backyard. I’ll take that as a sign that it’s more than okay for us to make time to rest during this busy season, in-between tending to our turf.

DSCN3974

We need to ground and enjoy our mini-vacations, even if they last 10 minutes before someone comes calling, “Mommy, can I have a snack?”

How do we find the right balance between the buzz and high-energy of the everyday life and the need to get back to our roots, recharge and just be? I will continue to play hermit from time to time, hopefully as a way of preventing another cold before it sneaks up on me.

I read this wonderful poem by Robert Whyte the other day. He posted it on his Facebook page and I have copied and pasted it here. The wonders of technology!

REST

is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is not stasis but the essence of giving and receiving. Rest is an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually, but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to become present in a different way than through action, and especially to give up on the will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we put it right; to rest is to fall back, literally or figuratively from outer targets, not even to a sense of inner accomplishment or an imagined state of attained stillness, but to a different kind of meeting place, a living, breathing state of natural exchange…

Excerpted from ‘REST’ From the upcoming book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. ©2014 David Whyte
To be Published in late November 2014

Reading the poem again, I feel traces of guilt, due to taking too much down time, start to melt away. So, I give you permission to do the same. Rest, recharge, and allow yourself the space to show up as you are.

DSCN3977

Thoughts? Tips? Words of wisdom? Share them with me in a comment!

Wishing you a great week,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

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.

DSCN3622    

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.

DSCN3611

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.

DSCN3608

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

DSC_0370

We started with a few basic ingredients:

DSCN3723

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

DSCN3732 DSCN3737

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.

DSCN3739

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.

DSCN3743

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:

DSC_0368

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.

DSC_0370

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!

***

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.

DSCN3586

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.

297

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