As I listen to the blustery wind and observe the red and golden leaves blowing off the trees and down the sidewalk, I find myself reflecting on how positively agitating that sound once was for me. Several years ago I lived in an apartment near the lake where my window faced the alley and next to that alley was a very tall building. In the fall, it was a virtual wind tunnel. The sound of that wind positively filled me with anxiety and agitation. I could not get relief from that sound or the feelings it provoked in me. Between the wind and the colder, darker days, I absolutely loathed this time of year.
It’s no coincidence that I found Kundalini Yoga in October (of 2007!), the month where I historically began to steel myself for the winter by staying indoors, isolating myself. It was not an enjoyable or peaceful way to live. As I began my Kundalini Yoga journey, I gratefully noticed immediate shifts. The darkness was not as bothersome. I went out in the evening regularly for classes. I felt more relaxed, not as sad or alone.
As I continued on my journey, I was introduced to Ayurveda and learned that this time of year has the qualities of the Vata constitution or dosha, meaning it is a windy, cold, dry season that can aggravate those parts of me. Understanding this, I began to support myself with new tools, which have allowed me to embrace the beauty of this season, rather than resist it. Simple things like sipping hot water throughout the day, eating well cooked veggies prepared with olive or sesame oil, consuming seasonal foods especially root vegetables, hot peppers, ginger and squash. Enjoying sweet treats like warm apple crisp and fruit pies. Taking time to massage my skin with warm sesame oil before I shower. Running regularly, breathing through my nostrils to ground myself and keep a calm and steady pace. Engaging in suspension of breath pranayam meditation. And slowing down, focusing on walking more slowly, eating and drinking more slowly and being intentional in my thoughts, words and actions.
Using these tools, which I have incorporated slowly, over time, have contributed to a calmer mind; improved digestion; happier feelings; a deeper level of satisfaction with my life; a stronger sense of self, self-love and compassion; enhanced well-being; feeling connected with others; enhanced, more loving & understanding relationships; a deepened spiritual connection; an open heart and softer, more comfortable skin. I am a more open, loving and compassionate person because of these tools and my dedication to practicing them. And for this I am beyond grateful.
And the journey continues… Wahe Guru.
CWAU = Cooking While Angry/Upset
Stop. Don't do it.
Life happens. An argument with our partner, the kids are fighting, a parent is sick, rough day at work, just finished the tax return - and we owe. Situations that may cause our stomach to turn, a sinking feeling, rage, frustration, gritted teeth - and yet it's 5pm and we need to get dinner started. Take a deep breath (no really, take one right now), the energy we put into our food affects how we digest it, our emotional state impacts digestion as well.
Here are a few tips when you are feeling angry or upset and it's meal prep time:
Know that you are loved and appreciated. xoxo
I have struggled with my digestion since I was a child and over the years, my digestive challenges have manifested in different ways. Learning about ayurveda and how to prepare my food and eat ayurvedically have helped me to enjoy my meals and digest them more easily. Two of my biggest takeaways from ayurveda is enJoy my meal and to chew my food, chew it well, chew it into liquid.
Right after I became vegan, I had an appointment with an Ayurvedic Practitioner to learn how I could optimize my digestion which had been poor most of my life. A recommendation he made that I continue to follow is to sip hot water throughout the day. Boiling water makes it tri-doshic which means it is appropriate for all constitutions. It also helps to stimulate the digestive fire or agni, making digestion of food and nutrients and more thorough and efficient. My teacher says: sipping hot water for the first month cleanses the cells in the lower half of the body, in the second month, you cleanse the cells in the upper half of the body and in the third month you cleanse the entire body.
Ayurveda recommends boiling water for 10 minutes and pouring it into a thermos to sip every 30 minutes throughout the day. Before I go to bed each night, I boil water and fill my 32oz Hydroflask, closing it tightly. In the morning, the water is hot, but drinkable (there's nothing worse than burning your mouth first thing in the morning!). I keep my flask next to me and sip on it throughout the day. Admittedly my sips can be more like glugs at times 🤷🏻♀️. I feel best when I drink 2-3 full Hydroflasks each day. I have maintained this practice for the better part of 3 years and I feel hydrated, my skin is less dry - especially in the winter, it warms and soothes me and it's inexpensive and portable. If you are traveling, bring your empty bottle to the airport and ask a cafe to fill it with hot water for you. Any kind of travel, especially flying, can be so dehydrating. It's nice to have hot water to sip to keep things flowing and keep the immune system strong.
In warmer months and when my running ramps up, I keep up with the hot water, but supplement with room temperature water. I begin my day with hot water, and have room temperature water during and after my runs, then return to the hot water sip after I eat and am feeling rehydrated.
Are you interested in taking a hot water challenge? Try it for 3 months and see how you feel. Let me know in the comments below.
I recently watched the documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor" about Mr. Rogers. If you haven't seen it yet, as soon as you finish reading this post, grab a box of tissues (trust me), get cozy on the sofa and watch it. It is an outstanding film about an extraordinary man. In one scene, Mr. Rogers talks about space and how in his program, he created space by using silence. For example, he set a timer for 1 minute and then... silence... so children could experience how much time 1 minute is and what that time feels like. He would engage in simple activities like feeding the fish (remember those fish?) or stacking blocks without saying a word. It felt calm and peaceful just watching it. These scenes were juxtaposed with flashes from the fast paced, chaotic and loud cartoons of the day. Seeing the two side by side... what a contrast.
It made me think about how we approach meal preparation. How many times do we fly in the door from work, throw open the fridge, throw ingredients on the counter, fire up a pan and start chopping and tossing veggies into the hot pan? Have you ever cooked with shaking hands because you only have so much time and want to get it done so you can scarf your food and get to the next activity on the schedule? I have. Have you ever had your knife slip on the slippery part of the onion because you were in a hurry and didn't bother to peel it properly, thus cutting your finger? I have. Does this actually save any time at all? Especially when we have to stop to bandage said finger? As I write, I can feel that frantic feeling. It's in my stomach and it doesn't lend to calmly and properly digesting a meal.
On the flip side, when we create space to take our time, we can enjoy the experience of cooking and preparing our meal. Even when we only have 30 minutes to cook, we can take time to breathe, massage the veggies as we wash them, chop with care and cook mindfully. Creating rituals around meal prep can help mentally shift from frazzled to focused: playing soft music or chanting mantra, reading through the entire recipe before starting, gathering ingredients, remembering to breathe. Through this process, we turn cooking into a meditation. I invite you to imagine what this mindfully prepared meal will taste like, how it will feel to enjoy it and how much more easily your body will digest it. When you prepare your next meal, just take a moment, create space and breathe.
I am an animal loving-Vegan runner, I practice and teach Kundalini Yoga and I love to cook and eat flavorful plant-based food.