❀ 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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☮ Grow Your Yoga – Reach Out

15 Jun

During the month of May, I participated and recruited others to participate in a 4-week challenge called, “Grow Your Yoga“. This month-long Moksha Yoga Studio event was an OFF THE MAT challenge, meaning the application of yoga principles and philosophy into the real world. At first, I was puzzled about how I would be able to successfully recruit others for this cause. I soon realized that the best way to engage people was to utilize social media (Facebook Event) and of course, support the efforts of my home yoga studio such as signing up people in between classes. Each week I sent out encouraging messages and resources to Facebook friends to help them stay motivated during the event. If you continue to read on, you will learn about my personal experiences during each week, as well as some lessons learned.

Facebook Event

Week 1: Be Healthy – Eating sustainable foods for 7 days!

Given that I have been vegan since my yoga teacher training, my commitment during this initial week challenge was to eat well, local, and if possible, organic. Each morning I started off with my morning shake (see pictures below) and then continued on with delicious and nutritious recipes I found on websites such as http://ohsheglows.com. This experience has sparked my interest and motivation to seek out where my food comes from. In addition, I am now familiar with the availability of fruits and vegetables within Ontario.

Morning Shake Morning Shake 2

I also wanted to encourage others to Be Healthy, as well as raise funds for our fundraising event (Week 4) so I spent one evening baking treats to sell at the studio. I made vegan and gluten-free raw desserts, chocolate cupcakes and 2 different types of cookies (see below). The sale was a hit! Let me know if you would like the recipes.

Bake Sale Raspberry Almond Thumbprint CookiesRaw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

Every year during the second week of May I also celebrate National Nursing Week. I decided that during this 7-day challenge, I would also help to organize a Salad Day event at my workplace for nurses to promote Be Healthy.

Steps to organize a Salad Day include: 1) ask participants to bring in a minimum of 2 items for a salad, 2) organize a list specifying items that participants will be bringing, 3) as the organizer you may supply the greens and dressings, and 4) encourage everyone to make their own customized salad with the ingredients that are brought in and enjoy!

Salad Day was a lot of fun! Any leftover salad items were mixed together and delivered the units for the nurses who were not able to leave the care stations.  What a success! I can’t wait to do this again.

Nursing Week Salad Day

Week 2: Be Peace – 10 minutes of meditation every day!

For the following week, I committed to a minimum of 10 minutes of meditation a day and a daily practice of hatha yoga  (both in and out of the hot room). This was probably the most enjoyable challenge for me. In hindsight, I wish I had made these commitments for the entire month. Regular practice of meditation and asana bring so much joy and peace into my life.

Meditation

I learned from both my online and in-person communities that many  people do not know “how to meditate”. I provided in-person support and electronic resources such as videos: “One-Moment Meditation” and my favourite iPhone app: “Mindfulness Meditation – Mental Workout ®.”

Nursing Week continued into Week 2 of the challenge thus providing me with an opportunity to provide a 60-minute yoga class with meditation to a group of nurses from within the organization. It was a pleasure teaching this group and I hope there will be other opportunities to teach yoga to more health care providers in the near future. I additionally taught my first yoga class in the hot room of my studio (90 minutes with 27 students including teachers I look up to!) and ended with a 10-minute guided meditation. This was an amazing experience and I am so thankful for all of the support and love I received that day. ♥

Week 3: Be Accessible – No gossip? For one whole week? 

Surprisingly, this was the most challenging week of the month. I found myself holding my tongue in work-related meetings and in social situations. This experience made me realize how negative comments can steer the conversation toward a downward spiral and the value of sticking to facts. I stopped speculating about things I did not understand or have control over and in these moments found more happiness. I also paid attention to any negative thinking that came up and reframed personal criticisms realizing there was little to no basis for the destructive self-judgment.

My guidance for the week came from Don Miguel Ruiz: “Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Week 4: Reach Out – Fundraise for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust!

The last and final week of the challenge was dedicated to fundraising for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. I created a Crowdrise account when I signed up for Grow Your Yoga and asked various people (Facebook friends, family and colleagues) to donate whatever amount they were able to give. Watch this video to learn more about the fundraiser and the beautiful Maasai community. It was wonderful to be a part of this activity as it opened up my eyes to the fact that despite the miles between us, we are all connected and can work toward a common goal.

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On the last day of the month I was asked if I would sing for the talent show fundraiser at my home studio. I thought I would do something fun so I asked a good friend if he would sing along with me (Thanks R.Z.). This helped with my nerves as I have little to no experience singing in front of groups, unless I’m hidden in a choir. We performed a duet originally sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. It was a thrill and I know I will cherish this memory for some time to come.

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I enjoyed being a part of Grow Your Yoga as I gained more self-awareness and global awareness too. By engaging in one week practices, I was given a glimpse of areas in my life that I can successfully improve. I look forward to integrating some of these behaviours (like daily mediation) with more confidence and ease. I also enjoyed being a cheerleader for my friends, colleagues, and even some new acquaintances. One of the greatest gifts this challenge presented to me was an opportunity to strengthen relationships within my community and what could be better than getting to know your neighbour. 🙂

Trying to make sense of it all

7 Mar

I’ve been exposed to some radical perspectives over the last several days, some of which have challenged my thoughts and past reactions. These lectures have taken me back in time (I’m talking centuries ago!) and have given me a deeper understanding of yoga philosophy and tradition. I’m savoring every moment, not letting my mind drift away with the street noise. I’m reminded of my time in graduate school – I’m enjoying the time I have to “think”.

Something is different about me, something I can’t see. I’m not sure how I will be when I return home. Thinking about it makes me see that the world mostly focuses on fast forward or rewind. What’s happened to the “play” and “scene-by-scene” option?

A friend told me a few days into training that I would be leaving with tools and a different perspective. Two nights ago I shared my growing concerns about going home to another friend who then replied: “you’re going home a better person.” They’re right. This experience has made me realize that I can be different in the way I relate to myself, the people around me, and the world. What does that mean? Well I think I’m still trying to figure it out but to start I know I can:
– hit that play button and be present
– flip negative perspectives by looking at what I’m grateful for in my life
– practice self-love
– feel sensations or emotions but not judging whatever comes up
– actively listen
– know that everything is impermanent
– start working on my response vs my reaction in relationships that are important to me

I can only change who I am, and maybe from the choices I consciously make I can make the world a better place.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve written to date, please leave a comment. 🙂

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Break a leg

7 Mar

A few days ago, I taught a section of a 60-minute class and also provided hands on adjustments (before and during my teaching) to 30 of my fellow trainees in the hot room.

The pressure was on (a pressure I placed on myself)…I wanted to project my voice and remember all of the details discussed in class. My evaluator was also someone I knew and someone I highly respect from back home, so initially, I was pretty anxious. What was she going to think of my teaching style? I paid attention to my breath, observed my thoughts, and felt my stomach churning. I knew I had 2 options: 1) I could channel my anxiety (while it was low enough) into my teaching and conquer my fear; or 2) let the fear take complete control of me. I really only had one option. I took deep breaths as I laid down in the first savasana of class, my attempt to trigger a parasympathetic response in my body.

I was trembling when I got up to do hands on adjustments. Walking around these actively engaged, yet fatigued, bodies reminded me that in another 12 minutes it would be my turn to teach. I could feel and see my peers responding to my anxiety as I circulated in the room. I didn’t want to transfer this uneasiness and lack of confidence into their practice. I closed my eyes, grounded my feet and focused my mind on the breath, my peer’s instruction, and the postures around me.

A few moments later, I unclasped my sweaty hands, brought my arms along side my body and with a proud chest began to teach.

Authenticity

I taught from a place of love – the love for a practice that has brought a sense of peace, self-acceptance, and joy into my life. It was exciting! I wanted to share my own experience of each posture, what it could be! My teacher was right, the knowledge was in the bodies I was watching and within every cell of my body. I wanted my peers to find ease in these asanas. I was amazed at how the words just flowed from my lips.

I love teaching yoga. It’s different from lecturing 300 students or facilitating small group learning about nursing theory. The teaching for me meant being authentic (my true self); something I hope to carry forward into other teaching/learning environments.

Walking around, observing focused breath with movement, and being a guide to others is an incredible privilege!

Tidal Waves

28 Feb

This week my emotions and thoughts have been all over the place. I’ve gone from being down in the dumps to feeling exhilarated to experiencing periods of bliss and joy. Unfortunately for me these dips and lifts come in waves throughout the day. I desire more periods of neutrality which I often can find on my yoga mat. These emotions are coupled with both negative and positive thoughts about myself and how I interact with my surroundings. Once again I am relieved and feel grounded knowing that I’m not the only one going through this state of turbulence. Phew!

I miss my family/friends and at times, I am exhausted. I frequently find that after the second asana of the day I am recharged and ready to sit and learn more about the human body or hear stories from our teachers. Did I mention how beautiful and amazing the human body is?

Those of us who are allowing ourselves to connect with our experience(s) are vulnerable, and are scared of rejection. I think many of us are very grateful for the safe space that has been provided and for the mutual love, understanding and support. I love my sangha.

Although I’m still battling with my inner dialogue about self-judgment and expectations of how I should be, I am now more conscious of it than I ever have been. I think that’s a large step forward for me.

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Letting go

23 Feb

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It’s 5:40am…we’re walking into darkness listening intently for the sound of crashing waves. My roommate and I arrive to the coast. She suggests taking off my shoes and socks to get really into it. I do it, even though I think its a terrible idea. I’m already here so I might as well. It’s freezing, but she’s right I’m feeling it. We step a few metres away from each other and let go. I repeatedly scream hard, long and loud. I start thinking of the load I’ve been carrying in my body/mind and the internal dialogue that’s been holding me back from being my true self. Damn, does it feel great to finally let it go. The best releases come from standing up proud and sticking my chest out (in tadasana) I’m not afraid. I am good enough.

As we sit back on the beach trying to regain the sensations in our frozen little feet we look out…inhaling new possibilities, exhaling the past. We catch glimpse of a dolphin and laugh hysterically at one another as the sun slowly creeps in and brings a gentle glow to the beach.

Thanks SB for being with me today. Xo

Tips for those adventurous types who wish to relieve stressors/emotional baggage at the beach:
– arrive early (at least 1 hour before sunrise)
– wear warm clothes (layer it up!)
– if you plan on taking off your shoes/socks bring extra socks or warm boots
– write down or reflect on a challenge you’re trying to overcome
– scream like you’ve never screamed before
– give it 110%

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What am I afraid of?

21 Feb

We’ve been practicing silence every morning from the moment we wake until the end of our first asana practice. I’ve already noticed a shift in my yoga practice in that I’m observing my thoughts much more than before. The hard part is not letting them guide me but staying neutral (nonjudgmental) and letting them just pass by like clouds in the sky. I’m sticking to breath. I love the practice of silence because it enables me to take my practice of concentration and breathing off of the mat.

We’ve had a few classes that have helped us to identify and begin to face personal challenges. Personal challenges being things that have stopped me from pushing forward or have held me back from being myself. Things, people or situations that I fear. Through this process I discovered my negative self-talk.

I was startled by these thoughts in my first attempt at practice teaching to a group. My thoughts were loud and repetitive to the point that my posture was caving in and my speech was paralyzed when it was time to teach. I thought to myself – I’ve lectured to large groups in the past, what’s going on here? In discussions with my teachers post class, I have learned that it’s more than just being a content expert. Its the ability to connect with the individuals in the room. This type of teaching is not something you can just make up or fake your way through. Teaching must be authentic for growth of the student and teacher. My negative thinking in this context also helped me to reflect on my actions and on my relationships in various settings. What am I afraid of? What purpose do these thoughts have? They’re damaging me, not motivating me.

It bothers me to think that most other people are held back because of such negative thoughts driven by fears or thoughts about the future or past. It also makes me sad that we as a society are so out of touch with the present (here and now)…what’s actually real.

My emotions continue to be all over the place, but I won’t cling on to these sensations for long. Just experience them and then let go.

I’m left wondering: how do I want to be?

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