How to Meditate

 

This is the most compassionate and most forgiving meditation instruction I have ever received:

Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.
Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.
Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.

This is most challenging  meditation instruction I have ever received:

Show up every day. 
Yes, every day.
Even if it’s just for five minutes.
Show up every day.

They call it meditation practice because that’s exactly what it. Like any practice, the more you do it the more familiar it becomes. The more familiar it becomes the more eager you are to practice. And so on.

 

photo courtesty of Martin Darvick.

Pasta alla Stanchezza (Weariness)

I can follow a recipe with the best of them, but when it comes to day-to-day cooking, especially through a year of day-to-day cooking, I’m more prone to open the fridge and look for what I can throw together into a quick, tasty and novel meal.  A week or so ago I sauteed some chopped onions, threw in half a jar or so of kalamata olives and a jar of  TJ’s marinated artichokes (setting aside the marinade for another night), swirled in some pasta sauce and let it all come to a bubble while I boiled water for the pasta.  A shave or two of Romano and we were set.  Buono appetito!

(Stanchezza — weariness)

 

Women’s Anatomy of Arousal

Sheri Winston’s Women’s Anatomy of Arousal picks up where Our Bodies Ourselves left off and carries it way past any goalpost you might dream up.

OK, what do I say next? This isn’t a family magazine but given the trolls out there I don’t want to invite unwanted attention.

So here’s what I have to say. Get this book.  Read it.  Give a copy to your daughter. Share it with your significant other whether male or female or non-binary. Learn about all the layers of pleasure sources we cisgendered women have right in our own bodies that we sure weren’t taught in Health Ed.

Winston’s language is frank, funny, factual. Did you know a woman’s clitoris is actually over 7 cm (over 2″ in length), most of it hidden within? Or that women have “herections?” Well, I actually did know that but I love her word. At times, the author’s language also made me uncomfortable; some diagrams made me squirm. Both reactions merit pause and consideration.

By this time in our lives, our bodies have prevailed over decades of change, trauma, miracles, and medical intervention.  Sheri Winston offers compassion for what has been lost and urges us to realize that it’s never too late to reclaim, or even claim for the first time, the wonder and power of our female body.

 

 

Golden Milk for Golden Dreams

Last week I mentioned a study correlating sleeplessness with the full moon. This week,           I share a recipe for Golden Milk.  Full moon or not,    I find a cup of this before bedtime comforts and relaxes me. This recipe, from simplevveganblog.com, is pretty standard. You can find endless others online as well as in any good ayurvedic cookbook.  You can mix it up a bit: maple syrup for honey; cow or coconut milk instead of almond milk. I always use ginger and pepper though Islone’s recipe below pegs them as optional. Vanilla is a creative addition.

Some recipes have you begin by heating a tablespoon or so of  almond oil (or coconut oil) and stirring in your spices, letting them sizzle for a few moments before adding your choice of milk. I always make it on the stovetop, not the microwave. If you really get into it, make up your spice mixture to have on hand and when you’re having a nuit blanche (a Frenchwoman’s sleepless night) Just heat up your oil, sizzle in the spices and milk and bon soir!

Golden Milk

ingredients

  • 2 cups plant milk of your choice
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extrtact (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • A dash of ground black pepper

instructions

  • Add all the ingredients to a saucepan, stir until well combined and cook over medium heat until hot (about 3-5 minutes). Stir occasionally.
  • Serve immediately or keep the leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Reheat on the stovetop or microwave until warm enough.

notes

  • You can make this recipe with almond milk, oat milk, cashew milk ,or even coconut milk instead of soy milk.
  • Although sweetener is optional and you don’t have to incorporate it to your golden milk, it will taste better if you do.
  • Feel free to use any kind of sweetener.
  • Ground black pepper enhances turmeric’s properties and absorption, but you can omit it if you don’t like how it tastes.
  • Incorporate, change, or replace all the spices you want. (Debra here. I don’t now why you’d want to do this but I’m including the author’s comments.)
  • I’d recommend you make your own vanilla extract at home, as it’s healthier and more affordable.
  • I used ground cinnamon, although you could also use a cinnamon stick instead. Just remember to remove it before serving.

 

Disclaimer: This recipe is for enjoyment, not to diagnose or in any other way offer as treatment for a medical condition.

Sleepless? Could Be the Full Moon

How many of you, dear readers, have had a sleepless night or two or three recently? Trouble getting to sleep? Trouble staying asleep? It just might be the moon.  Allyson Chiu’s recent article in the Washington Post reports , “A paper published this week in the journal Science Advances found that people tend to have a harder time sleeping in the days leading up to a full moon. …Ahead of the full moon, it took people, on average, 30 minutes longer to fall asleep and they slept for 50 minutes less, said Leandro Casiraghi, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington. ‘What we did is we came up with a set of data that shockingly proves that this is real, that there’s an actual effect of the moon on our sleep,’ Casiraghi said.”

Having just spent three restless nights alternating between trying to sleep and giving up, this finding hit home. Now I’m curious to see what happens right before the next full moon. Nature’s influence upon is inescapable. We so often forget that we are Nature, too.

Here is the original report published in the journal.

So What Is Kundalini Yoga All About, Anyway?

Back in 2011 I was in the kind of downward spiral that can take you under  forever or spit you back out with the possibility of turning it all around. A chance purchase of       a $20 Groupon led me to a Kundalini yoga class.  I  had no idea what Kundalini was, but I figured ten classes for $20 was a good bet. If I didn’t like the studio, no big financial loss. Instead, I found a lifeline.

Kundalini was nothing like any yoga I had ever practiced. The breathing techniques gave me pains in my collarbones; the postures could be exhausting; there was some chanting; there was a gong at the end of the practice. After that first class I was hooked.  I left wanting more.

A Kundalini class is built around “kriyas” or motions designed to support all aspects of our being. A kriya can be motion or a series of motions designed to clear and support our physical, emotional and spiritual systems. There are kriyas for strengthening the adrenals, the lungs, the kidneys, the immune system. There are kriyas to help release anger, boost our courage, loosen knotty places in the subconscious. There are heart openers and mind openers, stretches for the spine and for the spirit. The purpose of all this is to release the energies stored in the root chakra, using it to empower the entire energy system.

I’ll never forget one of those first classes.  The teacher had taken us through a vigorous heart opener and then had us do the breath of fire in camel posture. All of a sudden I was overtaken by a huge desire to scream, an impulse I dreaded giving in to. How could I let loose and scream? How could I not? There were only three of us in the class; the other two students were teachers of mine. I figured if I did let loose they would understand, and if they didn’t well, that was on them. I was there for my own well-being. If that meant giving in to the urge to scream then I had to trust what my body was signalling me to do.

I screamed and screamed and screamed. I felt green poison geysering from my chest. It felt completely awful and totally wonderful, much the way throwing up is awful and yet you know once all that yuck is out of you, you will feel so much better. That class was a turning point. Whatever I released that morning made room to begin the healing I so badly needed. 

Over time, I grew stronger. My collarbones adapted to the “breath of fire,” and I began to enjoy how contracting and releasing the muscles in my abdomen powered up my lungs. My abdominal and neck muscles began to support me in a challenging stretch, each session a few seconds longer. 

This summer will mark ten years of my Kundalini practice. It remains a lifeline. Over time the practice has enabled me to turn my life around, one breath of fire at a time.

 

Photo by Mimi Ditchie licensed by Creative Commons. “Star Trails Over the Alabama Hills”