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“The oscillating rhythm of the heart

knows there is a time for activation

and a time for regeneration,

a time for quiet and a time for ecstasy,

a time for clearing and a 

time for celebrating,

a time for receiving and a time for giving,

a time for igniting the fire, 

and a time for letting go into the fire.”

~ Shiva Rea, Tending the Heart Fire

 


 

We planned for November to be a quiet month, free of social commitments. We are dedicating this time to slow-and-steady-sometimes-lazy pre-winter home repair projects. In the colder months of the year, I heed to the natural call to spend more time at home, tending to the hearth but also setting aside time for relaxation and quiet contemplation.

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Crunchy leaves under my feet during a lunchtime walk.

I did not always readily acquiesce to nature’s invitation to rest. There was a time when I judged myself harshly for the patterns of low energy that I experienced in the colder months of the year. Comparison to my more energetic counterparts only made me feel worse about myself. Time and time again, as I continued to turn to books that honour nature and seek to inspire others to live in harmony with the natural world through the changing of the seasons, I found that I started to soften my point of view. INov3 let crumble the hard boundaries that I had set around myself and instead, began to acknowledge that I am a part of this cycle. I am a part of the flow. We all are.

Shiva Rea’s Tending the Heart Fire is an excellent resource that supports and validates the patterns that I have been studying within myself. Ancient traditions lived in harmony with the magical cycles of the earth, honouring each season and greeting it with reverence. We have moved too far away from those traditions, but for myself and my family, I am choosing to make changes that allow us to minimize the permeating sense of societal urgency.

Instead of complaining about the weather, I do my best to dress for it. I tend to feel cold all through the colder months in the northern world, but I have adopted Ayurvedic rituals that help to keep me in balance through these seasons. I have embraced oil massages, drinking hot water, and eating grounding foods. I have slowed down my yoga practice and end a strong HIIT session with luxurious restorative or Yin poses. I am very much attached to my electric blanket and have become protective of my early bedtime.

So, we tend to our hearth and we tend to our hearts, making space to reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones. The dark period is a gentle and generous invitation for us to shed artificial layers while focusing on what is most precious to us.

I have mailed my RSVP card. Will you?

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Our 2015 holiday sale is officially on now!

LessonsFromMyGrandmother

I have been thinking about my grandmother after sending a birthday card to her a few weeks ago. She and I are separated by an ocean and several countries on both sides of the body of water. We do sometimes chat briefly on Skype, but my favourite method of communication with my grandmother is via beautiful stationery and pens. Letter-writing is a magical ritual for me, one that I started practising in childhood. The tips of my fingers buzz with excitement when I pick up from my mailbox not a stack of bills or ads that waste paper, but a handwritten letter from someone I love. My eyes light up at the treasure I am so fortunate to have received. Sometimes, in those letters, my grandmother, in the famous health-conscious and orderly Virgo fashion that I admire, includes a clipping from a Russian newspaper: an article that discusses health issues and provides practical tips. Sometimes, she includes notes in the margins. Most often she writes, “Please pass this along to your parents.”

Babushka has always cooked healthy and delicious meals for us from scratch, always using the full ingredient, never generating more waste than absolutely necessary. When making her famous meat pies, she reserves the bones for broth. She has also always been a fitness role model for me, finding any excuse to move, whether going for a jog, cross-country skiing, or simply dancing about the living room while polishing the hardwood floors with a rag under her slippers (oh yes!) She is most awesome.

Rather than following the modern-day version of a healthy lifestyle that revolves around fads such as juicing, fasting, and restricting ourselves in one way or another, I have learned from my grandmother that diet and exercise trends come and go, and instead of adhering strictly to a specific regimen, we must re-evaluate and redefine our own meaning of a healthy lifestyle.

Last weekend, on a rainy, windy afternoon, while nursing an annual cold that somehow sneaks up on me in September, I felt inspired by the autumnal mood to browse my wardrobe of cozy knit sweaters and contemplate a pair of new riding boots to replace a pair that I wore loyally for five years until they no longer looked presentable. That’s not all I contemplated. While considering the clothes that suit me best, based on my current style, I also reflected on the importance of taking inventory of our health priorities. Autumn reminds me to bring the focus back to my non-negotiables, asking myself, “What does being healthy mean to me?”

Here is the current list of my health non-negotiables:

Sleep: I need seven to eight hours of sleep at night. I can sometimes get away with six hours of sleep, but if I miss out for two or more nights in a row, I quickly become irritable and end up unsuccessfully fighting unhealthy food cravings.

Movement: I love my daily 5 a.m. wake-up routine that includes hot water with lemon, followed by cardio or weights, then yoga. This regimen allows me to set a positive tone for the day. Some mornings are gentle for me and at times, I spend 30 minutes in restorative poses. From time to time, I sleep in and squeeze in just 10 minutes of yoga later in the day. The key is to follow one’s intuition. On most mornings, my intuition tells me to get up and get moving because it provides me with an energy burst that carries me through the day.

Cuddles: Cuddling with my children is mandatory, particularly when it’s the last thing on my seemingly never-ending ‘to do’ list. I sometimes fall asleep in one of my children’s beds, too exhausted to fight sleep. I find the same ‘to do’ list waiting for me the following morning, when I’m better able to discern the real priorities on that list, allowing certain other items to marinate for the time being.

Nutrition: I know that certain fats, processed sugar, and other substances are not healthy. I avoid certain additives at all costs. Yet, I no longer make a big deal over a bit of processed sugar added to home-baked goods, or the creme brulee I enjoy twice a year. Although I am most certainly an abstainer, I do make exceptions for dessert on special occasions. As I delve deeper into my self-learning process, I have been avoiding snacking because I find that I feel better when I eat three solid, wholesome, nutrient-packed meals on a daily basis. Intuition has become my best buddy.

Smiles and Laughter: When I feel tired, the corners of my mouth refuse to turn up. All the tiny muscles in my face feel cynical, sneering at everyone and everything around me. On those days, I force myself to smile and witness my energy change. Then, I remind myself to get to bed early that night, even if it means falling asleep with my children while rubbing their backs. And truly, that’s one of the sweetest, most calming methods of relaxation and meditation.

That’s my recipe for today, in honour of my Babushka: sleep + nutrition + movement + cuddles + smiles and laughter. The execution of this intricate balancing act is not always simple, but we can always do our best.

What is on your list of health and wellness non-negotiables?

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Several days ago, my family and I recently returned from a beautiful beach holiday on the shores of one of our favourite lakes. We spent a fun week building sand castles, SUPing, enjoying sunset walks and an exciting day trip that included a cruise on a glass-bottom boat to see shipwrecks. When away from home, our habits tend to change somewhat, as can be expected.

Did I drink beer several times throughout the week? Did I enjoy many s’mores by the bonfire and just as many servings of ice cream / gelato? You bet I did. And I savoured every moment. Not for a minute did I reprimand myself for letting down my guard. It was a choice I made mindfully, allowing myself to soften into the experience while trusting my intuition and maintaining a lifestyle of wellness.

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Here is how I navigated three of my regular healthy habits while on vacation:

Eating

My nutrition habits are relatively healthy, keeping to the typical 80/20 rule and enjoying dessert from time to time while making mindful choices about the nutrients that fuel my body. While on vacation, I continued to eat healthy foods but we did eat out in restaurants several times throughout the week. We balanced this out by visiting the local grocery store and farmers’ market and stocking up on fresh produce. August is a time of gorgeous fresh, local fruit and vegetables, which were in abundance everywhere we went. We packed those as snacks for ourselves to take to the beach and enjoyed salads for dinner.

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Sleeping

At home, I typically am in bed by 10 p.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. to work out and practise yoga. While away, we naturally put the kids to bed later, after enjoying the sunset on the beach or sitting by the fire. The parents’ natural bedtime was closer to midnight and we all woke up quietly, slowly at around 9 a.m., feeling refreshed and recharged.

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Exercise

When I sleep in, which doesn’t happen often, and wake up at the same time as my children, I tend to write off my workouts and yoga practice for the day. However, while away, I simply shifted my physical exercise to the siesta hour in the afternoon. An hour or two after lunch, the children would spend some time watching a favourite DVD while Pawel read a book, and I would head out into the backyard of our rental cottage to roll out my mat. Working out outside encouraged me to be resourceful, using whatever I had close by as props. The owners of the cottage left two skipping ropes for the children guests. However, I was the one who ended up putting the skipping ropes to good use for cardio. I utilized the wooden benches on the patio for tricep dips and the wooden stairs for lunges. Typically, my morning workout and yoga practice last approximately an hour. My siesta-time workouts on the grass were about 30 minutes in length. I didn’t try to time myself. I naturally moved in a way that felt good. Some days were slower, softer, and others left me sweaty, happily walking into the shower after a morning at the beach and an afternoon on my yoga mat. I also did a lot of running on the beach with the boys, walked everywhere, and SUPd.

It feels liberating to let go of a rigid schedule and preconceived notions about routine, giving ourselves permission to live in flux, allowing ourselves to put life on hold for a while but still maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, when I feel relaxed, with no major responsibilities that I normally have at home and at work, I find that I naturally feel better and healthier, which leads me to make healthy choices. The key is to carry the calm mental and emotional state with us back into our regular post-vacation routine.

What healthy habits do you uphold while on vacation? Please share your tips in the comments below. You can also connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for additional pictures of our holiday.

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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 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…

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

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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

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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.

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

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

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

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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

 

“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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Wishing you a great week,

Katia

Dharma Wanderlust

I was first introduced to the blog Spinach and Yoga approximately a year ago. Nadya Andreeva, wellness coach and the blogger of Spinach and Yoga, always provides her readers with interesting, relevant healthy lifestyle and nutrition tips. She also shares delicious recipes on a regular basis. Since I have become a big fan of her work, I wanted to offer Nadya the chance to collaborate with Dharma Wanderlust.

I put together a short list of questions for Nadya to answer, as a special introduction for you, our followers, to Nadya’s work. And here’s the video with Nadya’s responses.

Watch the video and then head over to Spinach and Yoga to enter your name in a giveaway contest for a chance to win a Dharma Wanderlust ‘Choose Love’ necklace: http://www.spinachandyoga.com/holiday-giveaways/