I Live to Learn ∞

16 Jan

As part of my Live to Learn long distance assignment, I decided to read and review a book that would inspire or perhaps guide my next project “Be Healthy”. While visiting the Moksha Yoga Kelowna studio in October, I purchased a book recommended to me by one of the students called The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self by Charles Eisenstein.

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The following review will highlight some of the content within this book, as well as, my reflections:

To start off, the length of this book is great, it was only ~160 pages long. This light-weight text was a good size for me to store in my purse and read on the subway. It was accessible both in size and in comprehension. Unlike other eating or nutrition texts, this book was not focused on nutritional facts, lists of what you should (or should not eat), or the latest dieting trend. Instead, the author presents a different perspective – one that is in line with yogic philosophy and principles. One such premise that is weaved throughout almost every chapter is a suggestion to make decisions about food by listening to the body. There are a few chapters that focus on reinforcing the mind-body-spirit connection – using the breath to bridge them as one. Although I did find this message repetitive, the author does not force opinions such as “thou shall not eat meat” but encourages the reader to be guided by their own experience. Thinking back to my teacher training, I remember some of my peers really struggling with cutting out certain foods (i.e. meat) and drinks (i.e. caffeine and alcohol). Some of my peers experienced digestion issues just by cutting out the meat. To no surprise, within a few days of training these individuals made a decision to go back to their preferred diet.

The author also presents ethical considerations about the impact of eating foods on the environment and the meat industry too. He also challenged me to reflect upon my personal reasons for becoming vegan this year. For example, was it driven because I’m eco-conscious? Because I think that the food is purer? Or perhaps because it actually makes me feel nourished?

This book describes the connection between nurturing and growth, as well as societal perspectives that have shaped our relationship to food from one that started off as instinctual to another that perhaps conveniently fits a schedule. The author identifies that “diet” in our everyday society means “diet of restriction”,  and continues on with a critique of “diets” or temporary restrictions from what our bodies really want (see the ad below from a fitness magazine I found in my house that perpetuates this thought). This chapter offers the reader an opportunity to reflect on how the external world (parents, religion, media, etc…) has shaped our self-image. He argues that our bodies have always had an innate way of taking care of everything – achieving homeostasis. Why wouldn’t you trust your body?

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The author recommends a number of activities to bring increased mindfulness to our experience of eating and a greater understanding of the parallels of breathing and eating. Some these activities include:

  • noticing sensations as you bite or chew
  • noticing the pace (slow down, finish each bite, chew before taking the next bite)
  • eat one meal in silence each day
  • be attentive to your first bite (what does it feel like? what does it taste and smell like?)

I decided I would trial these suggestions during my Be Healthy project (see next post)!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book because it was different from what I’m used to reading. Although it wasn’t evidence-informed, it was thought-provoking and sometimes that’s all you need to prompt self-reflection, which in turn may shift your own thinking, and maybe even change your behaviour.

Sangha Support ♪

1 Dec

During the third week of my teacher training I participated in a wonderful kirtan led by my teachers (Jessica Robertson and sister, Deena Robertson – See Lila for more information). A kirtan is defined as call-and-response chanting which may be accompanied by musical instruments.

Although I was raised by Hindu parents and was introduced to kirtans at a young age, I had never understood or connected with these lengthy singing sessions until my training. Having a better appreciation and new-found love for these events, I decided that when I returned home I would try to organize a kirtan for my local sangha (community).

After connecting with my studio owner, I contacted a well-known musician from our community, John William Bauld, to establish a date. The kirtan ended up being held during Diwali celebrations (Festival of Lights). Within weeks I printed and posted a flyer up in the studio, sent out emails, and began advertising the event on Facebook. I had a lot of education to do, many people thought the kirtan included an asana practice! If I were to organize a kirtan again, I would come up with a frequently asked questions document to help our Energy Exchangers and Teachers articulate facts about the event with ease. 

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I decided that the proceeds for this event would go to a local mental health service (which ended up being the Canadian Mental Health AssociationPeel Branch) since this is an area I am very passionate about. I also thought this was a good opportunity to raise the profile of mental illness and challenge the stigma by encouraging people to speak up. A number of people approached me before and after the event to thank me for choosing this cause. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your personal story, or experience about a loved one, living with a mental illness.

Did you know that “1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime”?

Learn more and get involved by making a donation (CMHA or CAMH).

The week of the kirtan, I began to decorate the studio with Indian garlands hoping I would increase awareness about the upcoming event and stimulate discussion. With some help, the studio was transformed the evening of the event (Thanks FM, RZ and JZ).

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The event was a great success! We had a good turn out and raised just under $400. The energy in the room that evening from the chanting was powerful….indescribable actually! A special thanks to John and his inspiring crew for leading the session and for introducing me to some new mantras as well.

Before we concluded the session, I asked everyone to light a candle and set an intention for the year for themselves or someone they love. Together, we created this beautifully lit OM (see below). I’m so happy that I was able to give back to my community and introduce some of them to the idea of kirtan. Thank you to my studio owners (SM and MM) for allowing me to host this event and share this amazing experience with everyone. I look forward to helping organize future kirtans in my community! :)

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Be Peace ✌

15 Oct

Thirty days of daily meditation – by far the most challenging project I’ve completed to date. I made a commitment of practicing meditation for 30 minutes to 1 hour daily. I started on the 15th of the month (as always!) after finishing a 60-minute Moksha Yoga (asana) class.

Within a few days, I became distracted in every way imaginable. I made up excuses to avoid sitting still; the very thing I yearned for since completing Teacher Training. I was conflicted. After reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda I was even more motivated to meditate, yet when I had the time I was lured into playing iPhone games or roaming on Facebook checking up on my “friends”. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to meditate before bed, I decided to delete the apps from my phone and disconnect from Facebook for the next 21 days.  I also sought out some guided meditations before starting my second phase with the hope of learning new techniques to calm my mind.

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Here are some of the reactions and thoughts I had after disconnecting and meditating over the next few weeks:

  • IMG_2882I feel motivated and anxious about disconnecting with technology, but wow, I’ve discovered all of this extra time! Maybe it’s not so bad.
  • I felt refreshed this morning. It was definitely easier to maintain my concentration today.
  • My mind is racing a bit. I have a lot to do before the end of this week. I tried to listen to the guided meditation again, but it doesn’t seem to be helping.
  • I fell asleep twice. I think my body needs a rest.
  • I meditated for an hour and a half – oh my goodness! I didn’t even think that was possible.
  • My meditation came naturally today. I feel privileged to practice with others.
  • I feel motivated and inspired.
  • What a relief. I needed the quietness.
  • I am grateful for everything I have in my life.
  • I’m not so interested in Facebook anymore. I want to spend time with my family.

During this online hiatus, I had an opportunity to travel and meditate in to 2 different Moksha Yoga studios in Canada: Moksha Yoga Montreal, QC and Moksha Yoga Kelowna, BC. I want to extend my gratitude to the teachers, teachers-in-training, energy exchangers, and students who I met during this time. Thank you for being so welcoming!

My dedicated practice helped me to be more present, dare I say “awake”, during interactions with those around me. I realized that the key to understanding others starts with a deeper understanding of myself, which may be achieved with a consistent meditation practice. I’m really happy that I was able to work through what was holding me back from finding peace.

Be Accessible: My first video!

13 Sep

Please find below my first video blog focused on my “Be Accessible” project. Believe it or not, it took me about about 3 hours to film and edit this short 10-minute episode. I used iMovie and my Macbook Pro built-in video camera.

Enjoy!

P.S. I apologize for my excessive smiling but it I was so nervous filming this first entry!

Protected: ☸ Wheel of Life

7 Sep

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Living Green – From our garden

2 Sep

Here are some of the latest photos from our garden:

Green Peppers

Green Peppers Growing

Black Krim Heirloom Tomatoes

Black Krim Heirloom Tomatoes

Green Peppers and our first Pineapple Heirloom Tomato…

Pineapple Heirloom and Green Peppers

Lastly, our caterpillar friend found in the parsley….I think it was a butterfly caterpillar.

Caterpillar in Parsley

❀ Becoming Eco-Conscious – Live Green

15 Jul

This month as part of my “live green” project, I decided that I would plant my first vegetable and herb garden. Before I go into any further detail, I want to acknowledge my loving parents for giving me the space to create this garden in their backyard and my amazing fiancé for agreeing to help me with this labour intensive project.

The following photos, and accompanying text, illustrate the steps we undertook in this gardening process, as well as the obstacles and successes we encountered along the way.

Phase One – Purchasing, Ploughing, and Planting

Considering I started this project a few weeks late into the gardening season, I thought it would be best to pick up seedlings from local gardening centres rather than plant seeds. I was so excited to get this project going that I ended up purchasing quite a variety of vegetables and herbs. I purchased organic plants, whenever possible, and discovered it was easier to find organic seeds vs. seedlings.

Here is the exhaustive list of plants and herbs I purchased:

  • Lettuce (Ithaca, Mesclun, Boston, Radicchio, Spinach, and Romaine)
  • Heirloom Tomatoes (Pineapple Tomato and Black Krim Tomato)
  • Cucumbers (Garden and Baby Dill)
  • Peppers (Sweet and Banana)
  • Kale (Dinosaur)
  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Greek Oregano
  • Mint

To begin, we removed existing weeds, ploughed the soil, and added fertilizer to the garden bed. If you look closely in the first image below, you will notice a nest that we found during this process. We decided to plot out where we would actually place each vegetable based on the suggested distances for optimal growth and left some space between the plants and the nest since we found 2-3 duck eggs. We realized very quickly that I had purchased too many plants (a bit too ambitious!) and moved the herbs to another location next to the garden bed. We planted all of the seedlings, watered the lot  generously, and then covered some of the vegetables (mostly lettuce) with a light weight net to protect them from being eaten by rabbits.

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Phase 2 – Watering, Weeding, and Waiting

This phase took weeks and was a lot of work! There were periods of no rain during this time so it required us to be mindful of the moisture of the soil and to water the plants accordingly. We also spent a number of evenings and sunny weekend afternoons pulling out weeds (see image below) that would grow back within a few days of being plucked. During this time, the duck ate and used our cucumber, banana pepper, and spinach plants to hide and refine her nest. It was amazing to see this development and to wake up each morning to find the duck sitting on her eggs. A few weeks later after some rain, we found the shells of the eggs in the garden bed with no duck or ducklings in sight.

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Phase 3 – Flourishing, Freezing, and Feeding

This started off as a very exciting stage for me because we had so much initial growth in both gardens. After much contemplation, we removed the light weight netting to allow the lettuce and other vegetables grow freely. I was able to trim the plants and feed both my family and friends herbs, kale, and lettuce. I froze some herbs and hung some sage and oregano to dry as well.

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Unfortunately, within a week our garden became a buffet for the local furry community. We built metal fencing to protect the lettuce shortly after this occurrence. As frustrating as this stage was for us, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out how we were going to protect the plants without restricting their growth due to the containment. Despite our differences of opinion about how to manage the issue, my fiancé helped me tackle and overcome this difficulty (thank you! <3). The images below are of the Radicchio that fed (what we suspect was/is) bunnies in my neighbourhood and the fencing we built around the lettuce.

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End of Project Reflections

This was a fun-filled intensive project that uncovered outcomes and learning such as:

  • Being able to exchange homegrown produce and/or photos of the garden with colleagues, family, and friends. 
  • Learning a lot about my fiancé and the way we communicate. I really enjoyed spending time with him in the sun. Although, I recently learned that he does not like gardening, I believe that this project helped to strengthen our relationship in many ways. :)
  • My curiosity about where my food comes from has increased and inspired me to make an immediate change regarding where I purchase my produce from. I am now enrolled in a local and organic front door delivery program in my community called Front Door Organics. Every two weeks I receive seasonal fruits and vegetables to my home in a reusable bin. The food is fresh, colourful, flavourful, and crispy. I also feel great knowing that I am reducing the amount of processed foods I consume and I am reducing waste from food packaging too.
  • Garden growth requires patience, commitment, and care. After an hour and a half commute from work, it was sometimes hard to find the energy to maintain the garden (specifically weeding, watering, and managing some of the problems we encountered). What kept me motivated, however, was the continued growth and support from my gardening buddy.
  • The Internet has an overwhelming volume of forums and resources which has been helpful for troubleshooting problems. Gardening is a lot of trial and error too!
  • I learn best from doing, so I plan to take a course next year in February/March at a local garden centre or college to learn more about gardening.
  • I love being in nature. :)

More recently, some of the Ithaca lettuce has turned brown and one of the Heirloom Pineapple Tomato vines has begun to turn yellow. If you have experience with gardening and have suggestions about how to manage such an issue, I would love to hear from you (please comment below). Thanks!

Stay tuned for more photos as the garden matures.

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