Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy For No Reason

I had the opportunity to read a wonderful book called Happy For No Reason by Marci Shimoff.  In this book, Shimoff interviews people she refers to as the "Happy 100", people that despite having some horrors stories to share, have maintained true happiness regardless of situation.  These amazing individuals share many tools and tips throughout the book to aid the reader in becoming happy for no reason as well. Consider this startlingly fact, "The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be second only to heart disease in terms of the global burden of illness." Yikes!  I highly recommend checking this book out.  Here are a few of my favorite tools:

  1. Question Your Thoughts.  Marci shared a story of a seminar where all the individuals seemed engaged except one. She completely focused on the one, believing that she wasn't doing a good job, and completely Ego-tripping over this one man. At the end of her presentation he approached her and told her how moved he was by what she said. Our thoughts, which are usually controlled by Ego, can and will lie, so question any thoughts that bring up negative feelings. We often make assumptions about situations based on self doubt, and rarely are we correct.
  2. Laughter. Many of the resources I've read discuss this. Cafe Gratitude encourages one minute of laughter each day. In this book, one of the Happy 100, sat and spend 10 minutes each day in laughter. Laughter lowers cortisol in the body, an immune suppressant, it stimulates heart and lungs, improves breathing, and is great exercise. 15 minutes of laughter is equivalent to 2 hours sleep; laughing for 15 seconds adds 2 days to your lifespan. At first it may be difficult, but set a timer, and just start chuckling. Pretty soon, real laughter will come out. Do it with a friend!
  3. Inviting Grace. This exercise involves thinking of a specific issue in your life that you need assistance solving. Write a letter to the Universe, ask for the correct people and situations to appear, express gratitude, and forgiveness if necessary. Now, put the letter away, take a deep breath, and let go. Believe that the Universe is working on it. Take the letter out in a month or so, and see how the Universe responded.  
There are 20+ tools in the book, in addition to the inspirational stories. I am just beginning working through the exercises myself. By implementing these tools, you too can be Happy For No Reason.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Getting Creative in the Kitchen: Chipotle, Corn and Black Bean Stew

I love to cook.  When I was a freshman in college, my roommates and I each had our assignments for keeping the room clean.  After a few weeks, my roommates learned that cleaning is not a skill I possess, and I was banned permanently.  So, I learned to cook, and discovered I had a talent for it. I believe the key is to look at recipes as jumping off points, rather than strict guidelines. Recipes were made to be modified, and sometimes you have to get a little creative when you misjudge how much of a certain ingredient to buy, or maybe have an allergy to something in the recipe. One of the chef's I admire is vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  The brilliant chef behind Post Punk Kitchen, and several incredible cookbooks, her recipes always inspire me. And the great thing is, she's a modifier too. Last night I made two recipes from her "Vegan With a Vengeance" recipe book, with my own special twist of course. 

Isa's Chipotle, Corn and Black Bean Stew

Ingrediants: 2 T olive oil, 1 large onion (quartered and thinly sliced), 3 cloves of garlic, 2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, dash black pepper, 2 chipotle peppers (canned, drained and rinsed), 1 28ounce can crushed tomatoes, 3 cups water, 4 russet potatoes (diced), 2 carrots (peeled and diced), 1 cup corn, 1 16ounce can black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 cup fresh cilantro, zest and juice of one lime

Directions: In a stockpot saute onions on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add rest of seasonings and saute another minute. Add chipotles, tomato, water and stir. Add potatoes and carrots, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes covered. Uncover, and add corn and beans and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro and lime and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Serve.

My modifications: I'm allergic to cumin, or at least I think I am, so I subbed cayenne pepper instead. I also traded the russet potatoes for Yukon gold, because they have a higher nutritional value. Note: This stew was very spicy, in the future I would cut out one of the cans of chipotle peppers and garnish with vegan sour cream or guacamole to cut down on the spice and add some creaminess to the stew.

The first night I served with biscuits, but the second time I made these delicious muffins, also from Isa's book. 

Mocha Chip Muffins

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp instant coffee powder, 1 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup canola oil, 3 T soy yogurt, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, coffee powder. In a small bowl whisk the wet ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing thoroughly, then fold in the chocolate chips. Place in a greased muffin pan and cook for 18-20 minutes.

My modifications: Well first, I only had brown sugar, so that's what I used. I didn't have any cocoa powder, so I used hot chocolate mix and added another 1/4 cup. I left out the coffee, used almond milk instead of soy, and olive oil instead of canola. I didn't have any vegan yogurt, so I used organic yogurt that I generally put on Triton's food, he didn't seem to mind. (ha!)

As I said, recipes were made to be modified. Be creative, don't be afraid to make changes that will improve your enjoyment. Want it gluten free? No problem! I highly recommend checking out Isa's delicious recipes and trying them out for yourself. Tempeh Reuben anyone? How about Peach Cobbler? 

Thursday, January 27, 2011


There comes a point where we start to really feel good.  All the tools and tricks to suppress the Ego and get in touch with our ~ing or inner guidance system are working and life is grand.  So what generally happens? We feel so good that we stop doing our daily gratitude, we don't think to check in with our feelings, offer forgiveness, use EFT to release blockages, make our love lists, because hey, we're happy, who needs to do that. Unfortunately, that's using when the Ego finds a way to creep back in and start filling us with fear and doubt again.

It's during this time that we need to Stretch our self-help muscles and really focus on not only staying in this positive state, but stretching ourselves beyond imagining, to an even more enlightened state. This is the time to rev up your practice. Start by re-evaluating your feelings, make a new forgiveness list, get in balance, do some mirroring exercises, release those romantic illusions, climb to higher thoughts, break out your journal and use it as a tool to process. So plump up that meditation mat, get out the rebounder, shout out your affirmations, write love notes to yourself in bright red lipstick in the mirror, laugh out loud, give yourself a hug, and pray.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Let's face it, we all have negative and dis-empowering thoughts sometimes. The key is to recognize those thought when they arise and shift them. For example, when your Ego starts to tell you that you can never make a shift in your diet, you will fail if you even bother to try, climb out of that chaos and tell yourself, "I am beautiful, dedicated and I deserve to be healthy and choose to eat a diet that benefits my body." Sure, at first your Ego will pop up and say "yeah right" but that's where Gabby Bernstein's climbing technique comes in. Using the 3 R's, Recognize, Record, Release, you can start climbing to better thoughts. I have started keeping a journal of my thoughts, and when I recognize a negative thought, I record it and then use my arsenal of tools to release that thought and create a more positive thought.  EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a great way to release those negative feelings blocking us from climbing. Daily meditation is another good tool, and Gabby suggests literally climbing, maybe using a wall at a rec center or going hiking, and during this physical experience, focus each upward motion on higher and higher thoughts.  Here's a VLOG she did on the climbing chapter of her book Add More ~Ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness.

Monday, January 24, 2011

21 Day Adventure Cleanse: The Wrap Up

The last week of my cleanse went well. My detox symptoms slowed, as my body adjusted to the new diet and finished releasing it's baggage. I had several days where I had extreme fatigue, but my mid-week that improved greatly.

Some of the lessons I learned:

  1. I do not have a gluten intolerance, so I will allow it back into my diet. However, I do know that overdoing it, makes me queasy, and pasta seems to be the biggest culprit. So when at home at least, I will stick with Quinoa pasta, which, tasty! I also don't want to overindulge on white flour, so I will be staying away from that, making it more of a treat, or simply using gluten free and healthier flours when I do indulge my baking bug. 
  2. Drinking green smoothies each day gives me energy and keeps my system clean. I really enjoyed getting back into smoothies over this 21 day period and intend to continue incorporating them daily. 
  3. I need to refocus on exercise and find ways to motivate myself. I'm sure the weather is part of it, but still, that's an excuse. 
  4. I am a chocoholic, which, not a surprise, but I think I need to do a sugar detox at some point. I may have an emotional attachment that needs to be addressed. 
  5. I didn't eat a lot of dairy anyway, I've been drinking almond milk for the last decade, but still indulge in cheese from time to time. I really didn't miss dairy at all, and in fact was glad it was gone, so I will focus on not letting it back in. If I do indulge, local/organic only. 
  6. I journaled about my progress daily, and rediscovered my love for keeping a journal.

What things are you doing to improve your health? What would you like to learn about health? Have you done a cleanse?

Friday, January 14, 2011

21 Day Adventure Cleanse: Days 8-12

This week has been filled with ups and downs.  As the week progressed, I started to get a little neurotic. This can happen as cravings kick in, toxins crawl their way out, etc. Tip #4 Go to the grocery store every 4 or 5 days. Too long in between trips and certain food items may go bad, fewer choices can create some mental craziness, and sometimes what's left doesn't constitute a properly balanced meal. 

Tuesday night I started to go a little nuts, and by Wednesday I had completely lost it. Fortunately/Unfortunately, I didn't have the ability to really break the cleanse because I only had certain foods left and a shortage of cash. My vegetables were all gone, the fruit as well, most of the snack items, and so for dinner I made an extremely bland portion of brown rice, black beans and sweet potato. I was so hungry, and out of balance, I hadn't meditated or exercised or done any of the other things for the emotional/spiritual aspect of my cleanse. Around 9pm, I started getting a headache, I felt like crap, but knew that the next day I would be able to buy food, but still....hungry! Then my inner guide said "Eat some almonds." Whew! Those almonds saved my sanity! My headache went away, my sanity restored, and I had a good nights sleep. I woke up with a new attitude, meditated, had a delicious green juice and veggie sandwich at Coffee Girls, went to Whole Foods, and got back on track. I bounced on the rebounder and made a delicious Gluten-Free, vegan, sauerkraut pizza. I felt fabulous and motivated once again.

Today I had a delicious kale/orange/goldenberry/cacao smoothie for breakfast.  Lunch consisted of gluten free falafel and baba ganouj, locally made with a lovely side of veggies.  Tonight, I'm thinking Buddha Bowl.  In a bit, I'm hopping back on the yoga train, going to finish the laundry, and get things done.  Cleansing can be difficult at times, but in the end, all the releasing, new wonderful habits, and re-establishing previous good habits is certainly beneficial.

How is your cleanse going?

Monday, January 10, 2011

21 Day Adventure Cleanse: Days 4-7

I've made it a full week on my cleanse now and I'm feeling pretty good.  The last few days I've been a little fatigued, and spent some extra time resting.  Today, however, I feel great, alert, and ready to get things done.  There is a list of "check in" items, to review at the end of each day.  In addition to tracking each item of food, I am also tracking how much water I drink, what supplements I take, how my eliminations are, what time in the evening I have my last bit of food, and how the cleanse makes me feel physically and emotionally.  I also record if I abstained from: coffee, alcohol, gluten, animal products and sugar and whether or not I did: dry brushing, neti pot, exercise, meditate, chew mindfully, laugh out loud, spend time in nature, get a good eight hours of sleep.

I've been doing a great job abstaining from everything but sugar. I have been eating a piece of dark chocolate at the end of each day. I admit that I haven't even resisted the urge. This week, though, I would like to see if I can go a few days without, and break the hold sugar has on me.

Chipotle Hominy Stew

I have been meditating everyday to the Vortex meditations, which I highly recommend.  Exercise has been hit or miss.  We had several nice days last week and Triton and I ventured out on walks, which gave us our "time in nature" quota as well.  I can't say I'm as motivated to walk in three feet of snow, in the 12 degrees. However, part of my 2011 Intentions included daily yoga, which I can't say has happened so far. The Yoga Journal online started a 21 day yoga challenge, today, which I signed up for. This should get me back on track for my intention and daily exercise.

I've generally been pretty good with the detox tools, but I haven't done a lot of laughing and as for chewing mindfully, I am terrible at this! So this week those are the things I will focus on.  I have been sleeping pretty well, except the last two nights, I've had to get up and pee every 30-45 minutes, no joke! Apparently my lymph is moving stuff through, which is great! However, it makes solid sleep very difficult.  Let's hope that chills a bit this week. 

How are you doing with your 2011 Intentions? 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

21 Day Adventure Cleanse: Days 1-3

Cleansing is an interesting experience.  It's a cross between feeling groovy from the energy boost of your Green Smoothie to taking an ass kicking as all the addictive foods start to leave your body.  Toxins rush to the forefront, just aching to be released, which can cause you to spend half your day on the toilet, gasping at the new found zits that popped up, headaches, and be just damned cranky. However, the negative side effects are just that, and by using proper Detox Tools, such as Epsom salt baths, skin brushing, neti pot and enemas, symptoms are greatly reduced and toxins are kicked squarely out the door.

So far I'm handling the cleanse pretty well. I had a bit of a rough time on Day 1, due to lack of preparation. Tip#1: Be prepared before starting your cleanse. Go to the store the day before, put together a meal plan, and success is yours.  Tip#2: Have healthy snacks readily available.  I almost broke, but just made it.  Day 2 went much better, I had a lovely Spinach/Strawberry/Banana smoothie for breakfast and my afternoon snack. Sadly, I had a few challenges (my fault) with the recipes I planned.  I made a Caesar salad for lunch, which started out pretty delicious, but good god there was too much dressing! I don't usually indulge in dressing, but this particular recipe is high in Omega-3's, had Nutritional Yeast, which is a complete source of protein, and made the salad more filling and long lasting. Unfortunately I could only eat half of it before getting too full, and the rest was too soggy to save. Tip#3: Add dressing slowly, you can always add more if necessary. Another example of more isn't necessarily better happened when I made Twice Baked Chipotle Sweet Potatoes. The original recipe served 4, so I modified it for just me, though not enough. Spicy!! I managed to eat half and save the other half for another meal, but I thought my head would blow off.  Fortunately, they were very filling, and next time I will definitely reduce the recipe more.

Day 3 I made a huge batch of Green Smoothie; Kale/Orange/Banana with Amazing Grasses powdered added to it.  Fantastic!! The addition of the powder really balanced it out and added a great flavor. Thorough enjoyment. For dinner I made a delicious Buddha Bowl, consisting of brown rice, bean sprouts, Mustand Saag (sauteed Mustard Greens and Spinach, blended into a paste in a food processor with your seasonings of choice), seasoned tofu and red bell pepper.  So good!

Evening time called for relaxation, a lovely bath of Epsom Salts, Apple Cider Vinegar, Baking Soda and Lavendar Essential Oil, great for detoxing.  I had a wonderful cup of Chai tea, and relaxed to a mystery novel. So far the cleanse has been good. Triton and I have walked each day, and I've continued to incorporate meditation into my daily practice.

For more info where I found this cleanse click here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why Vipassana Meditation Made It On My 2011 Intentions

What frightens you? What are you hiding from? How well do you really know you? Vipssana is a 10 day meditation retreat that consists of Eat, Sleep, Meditate and Poo, according to a blog post I recently read on Elephant.  Basically, you take a vow of silence, and do virtually nothing but meditate from 4:30am-9:30pm during your 10 day experience. No cell phones, laptops, CD players, TV's, books, or journals. You come with comfortable clothing and basic personal care items, and that's it. Simple vegetarian meals are served at breakfast and lunch, and dinner is optional. Most people just drink tea.  Part of your time is spent alone, meditating in your cell, while the rest is with a group, lead by a teacher. 10 days without speaking to another human being and not being allowed to do anything but sit with your own thoughts, how could you not get to the deepest darkest parts of yourself? 

I am equally fascinated and terrified by this concept.  I meditate daily....for 15 minutes to a guided meditation CD.  Yikes! However, I'm a big fan of facing one's fears, and really getting to the heart of the matter.  I truly feel this is an important step in healing myself.  Vipssana may seem extreme to some, but living in silence, no distractions, and just being, there would be no where to hide and release would be imminent.

I'm looking at a program in Oregon that starts June 1st.  Why Oregon? So I can spend a few extra days before or after the retreat swimming in the ocean, playing on the Sand Dunes and gorging on kick ass vegan fare in Portland.

Do you Meditate? Would you be open to attending a Vipssana retreat? Are you interested in taking some vacation time in June and traveling to Oregon with me? 


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Intentions and 21 Day Adventure Cleanse

I've read several articles debating on the importance of New Year's Resolutions.  This year I've put together a list of "intentions" for the year, things that I feel are doable and will help my continued growth.

  • I intend to create a daily practice of yoga, meditation and journaling
  • I intend to drink at least one Green Smoothie daily
  • I intend to do 35 minutes or more of cardio exercise at least 4 times a week, this includes dog walking, rebounder, etc. 
  • I intend to focus on growing my blog this year, including number of followers, investing in SEO program, creating regular posts and updating the look
  • I intend to write and publish my first book
  • I intend to focus on my Spiritual practice, which could include taking classes at the Rime  Buddhist Center, increasing my meditation practice, Spiritual reading, prayer, and creating my own Sacred Space.
  • I intend to start the year with a 21 Day Adventure Cleanse, and do mini-cleanses throughout the year
  • I intend to continue to build and grow my friendships and schedule at least one social outing each week
  • I intend to attend a Vipssanna meditation retreat as part of my healing and Spiritual growth
  • I intend to take a vacation this year, location TBA

Yesterday I started my 21 Day Adventure Cleanse.  Unlike a lot of cleanses, you are encouraged to eat as much as needed to be satisfied, as long as the meals fit the parameter of the diet.  I am abstaining from all coffee, gluten, animal products, and sugar.  The focus is on fresh vegetables and fruits, either raw or steamed, nuts and seeds, rice, and healthy grains.  The cleanse also encourages daily exercise, meditation, and the utilization of detox tools such as the Neti Pot and Dry Skin Brushing.  Once a week there is a fast, only fresh juice, smoothies and tea.  This day of rest allows the body to really eliminate toxins.  I have been journaling my experience and will post recipes and my progress as I continue through the 21 Days.

What are your Intentions for 2011? 
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