Pitta Project

Summer Solstice

Here we are at the peak of summer -- the summer solstice! It's the longest day of the year, and the official first day of Summer.

For many people, there's a felt difference in their energy, urges, even physical and mental states in the different seasons. Summer has long been revered as a time of increased creativity and stamina as well as maturation and manifestation of ideas and projects that may have begun this winter or spring.

In Ayurveda, summer is associated with PItta, which consists of the fire and water elements and governs transformation. Similar to the energetic qualities and beliefs about summer and fire, pitta is related to drive, intensity, precision, passion, intelligence and a desire for things to be orderly.

When untamed, pitta can veer into irritability, judgment, criticism, resentment and excessive perfectionism.  Think of the stereotypical "type A" personality and you've got a deranged (the Ayurvedic term for "out of balance") pitta.

This is not to say that pitta is a bad -- on the contrary. We all contain multitudes and are naturally combinations of many qualities. In Ayurveda the approach is often about finding counter-balance to help support harmony among the systems.

In fact, as a generally cold and dry person (my constitution is predominately Vata, associated with air and ether), a little fire under me can be a good thing.

My Pitta Project

Somewhere in the past week I saw/heard (it's very vata of me to not remember) of someone doing 100 squats a day for 30 days. I wondered if this might not be a fun project for my little twig legs, which are strong, but not that shapely. (I even took "before" pictures!)

I started my 100 squats with perhaps too much vigor, throwing in some lunge dips in the park last Friday. Pearl and I took a long, hot walk and my legs were pretty spent afterward.

Saturday I figured out that I can do 50 squats in the two minutes of my timed toothbrush. Bonus that I can see myself in the mirror and make posture adjustments in the shoulders and spine as necessary.

By my class on Sunday morning I was 250 squats in and unable to go up or down our stairs without sounding like a wounded animal. I shared my new goal with the class, and one person wisely responded that muscles need a day off for recovery. Ah, yes, moderation! Guess I have a little pitta in me after all.

This week another student wrote and said she might come up with her own Pitta Project, which inspired this post.

Maybe you, too, have a reasonable summer goal that can be supported by all this bright energy.

To call a senator every day.
To drink a half gallon of water every day.
To eat only plant-based food four days a week.
To walk a mile every morning.

Make it measurable and give it an end date. Your inner pitta will like that specificity. :)

Let me know if you come up with one and we'll do them together.

 

Unsupportive Resources

If you recognize that your main resources are unhealthy or harmful, like social media, video games, alcohol or other substances, here are a few things to consider.

First, know that it's totally normal to self-regulate! You aren't bad because you utilize a way of regulating that also isn't good for you. It's working in some way or you wouldn't do it. 

windows

The good news is there's something to be learned from the activity or substance. There's an effect of self regulation that is important and useful.

What are the qualities of that?
How do you feel when engaging with that "resource"?
Do you feel relaxed?
Present?
Engaged?

Start to notice, even look for, times and activities where you feel that quality outside of that activity/substance. You can even practice feeling that quality without the "thing."

Take the effect of the self regulation attempt and practice it separate from the unhealthy or harmful activity or substance. 

It's quite simplistic to talk about replacing an unhealthy resource just by noticing what it gives you or inserting a more helpful resource. However, when we do this with complete awareness of the body and what's happening in the physiology, the effects can be profound. 

Of course, substitutions probably won't feel exactly the same and making any kind of habit change takes work. But bringing in the body aspect and tracking the felt-sense experience will help make that shift with more honestly, awareness and nervous system support.

If you haven't already, check the post on ideas on identifying more positive resources.

 

*If you have an addiction or need clinical support, please seek out a therapist or treatment program for support and loving care.

 

Self-Regulating :: Resources

We all have ways that we self-regulate when we're stressed. Some might be less than ideal -- Facebook scrolling, online shopping or mindless eating -- and we might not even be aware of some of the ways we self-soothe, for example if you unconsciously stroke your thumb on your leg.

These are all attempts at finding a resource -- something we use to help stabilize our nervous system in times of distress.

Because resourcing is something we do naturally and can probably do with more consciousness (thus increasing its effectiveness) it can be helpful to identify what we currently use to soothe and give ourselves more options, if necessary.

flower arrangement

Types of Resources

Internal

  • Places in the body that are relaxed, pleasant, reliable, connected, non-reactive, can move and respond
  • Moving the body in ways that feel relaxing, discharging, enlivening, pain-free
  • Breath that is free and unrestricted
  • Prayer, affirmations, connection to the divine, spirit or universe
  • Acts of self care
  • Presence, consciousness, awareness, meditation

External 

  • Places, people or activities, real or imagined, that are comforting and stabilizing
    • nature, rooms or places in your home, trusted people, pets, music, exercise or activities, travel, religious or spiritual places
  • A therapist or support group
  • Safe and appropriate touch
fresh flowers

 

Again, we all self-regulate throughout the day. If I'm feeling stressed, I might shake off my shoulders and/or take a walk. On another day I might have a chai and check email.

It's the effect I'm looking for -- to diffuse my stress or anxiety, to take a break from the thing that is stressful, hopefully broadening my perspective around it.

The first option - a shake of the shoulders and a walk - is probably the more healthful option. So I can really be aware of how that shake and walk make me feel:

What are the sensations in my body?
Where are they?
What effects do they have?

Simply noticing these things can help me the next time I need to pick which self regulation to go with.  It can also help imprint the "non-stressed" state as I go back to what I was doing.

 

Curious about what your go-to resources are? Make a list!!

Here's part of mine:

Internal -- noticing or moving my hands, a head bobble, moving my jaw/face, recalling a line from a poem or a song, making little sounds, joint movements like shoulder rolls.

External -- nature and being outside, journalling, podcasts and music, walk/stretch/yoga, essential oils and good smells, fresh flowers, my faminals, friends and Greg, my therapist.

Since identifying this list a few months ago, I've spent less time online and on my phone, I've been reading more and seeing friends more regularly. Knowing that I have simple accessible resources in every moment helps ease my anxiety.

As you identify your resources, notice what happens in your body as you think about them and write them down. Sometimes just thinking about a resource is supportive.

What if you realize that your main resources are unhealthy? We all have mildly unhealthy outlets, but if your main support is also harming you in some way, here are some ideas.

 

One Thousand Degrees

Well, that's what they feel like...those first few hot days after the gentle fluctuations of spring.

To combat the afternoon slump, I like to take the dog for a walk around the block after lunch. Today she got so hot that every patch of shaded lawn was the only place she wanted to be -- sprawled out on her belly, fully exposed to any amount of coolness. If I wanted her to go anywhere, I was going to have to drag her as she played possum. I wish I had a picture of it.

My phone says 87, but it feels more like the 90s. It was a hot walk, I'll give her that.

Perfect timing to try out one of my recipe ideas for the Summer Daylong Retreat!

I decided on a classic cooling beverage -- Rosewater Lemonade. Two of my favorite things! roses and lemons, and I had both ingredients on hand.

We are moving into the season of pitta, or fire, as described in the Ayurvedic system. When aggravated, pitta can respond with irritability, resistance and aggression. Being over-heated can make anyone angry!

The antidote to out-of-balance pitta is cooling sweetness and beauty. Rosewater Lemonade is the perfect remedy.

The fragrance of a rose can cool anger and criticism. Rosewater relieves and cools inflammation as well. While I was making this drink I sprayed it on my face and the back of my neck -- it's great for sunburned skin or summer rashes, and heals and soothes internal tissues. It has a mild astringency that tones tissues, including the digestive tract.

hot lemon water

Lemons are an Ayurvedic staple year-round. They cleanse the blood of impurities, aid digestion and quench thirst. They are a cooling astringent in the blood. The sour taste brings a scattered mind back into focus and helps shift us from the head back to the heart.

rosewater

This drink is absolutely lovely. It's light, sweet, subtle and, well, cooling! I'm sitting outside working, even after that thousand degree walk!  Pearl, on the other hand, is inside :)

 

Rosewater Lemonade

1/2 Lemon
1 t raw sugar or maple syrup
1 T rosewater
2 c water

Mix all ingredients together. Served cool or at room temperature.

For even more cooling, use lime instead of lemon.

My beverage came out a honey color because I used coconut sugar. Next time I will try maple syrup. 

I played with the ratios and ended up adding more lemon and rosewater, so I'm not quite sure what my proportions were. Experiment according to your taste.

Enjoy!

rosewater lemonade

Recipe adapted from Joyful Belly.

 

Wait 30 minutes

canyon ranch

While on our honeymoon road trip through the Berkshires, we spent some time in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was the middle of May and still very spring-like with unpredictable weather.

It would be sunny and warm, then we'd go outside again and it would be gray and windy. Pretty soon there would be a little drizzle. Then it would be overcast and humid.

And that was all in one day!

We were talking to a Lenox resident about the climate there compared to California and he said, "If you don't like the weather, wait 30 minutes." 

We laughed and parted ways.

I keep thinking about this wisdom -- if you don't like something, wait 30 minutes (or 30 seconds) and the conditions will likely change.

Don't like this sensation? Don't like that sound? Don't like this state of mind?

We pass through so many moods, preferences, responses in a day. So much stimulus, so much input. All of it changing, all of it impermanent -- both what is coming at us and our response to it.

Spiritual practice is in part about stepping back from these fluctuations. Like stepping back from a picture on the wall -- when your nose is at the glass, you can't see much of the picture. Stepping back will help see the whole story, the broader context.

Being a witness of your experience. Noticing, with interest and curiosity when possible, the constant flow of life.

I'm trying to keep this playfulness when I notice my inner narrator chiming in about not liking -- or even liking -- what's happening.

"Wait 30 minutes," I tell her.

berkshires

A poem in honor of this wisdom.

Thinking Like a Butterfly

Monday I was told I was good.
I felt relieved.
Tuesday I was ignored.
I felt invisible.
Wednesday I was snapped at.
I began to doubt myself.
On Thursday I was rejected.
Now I was afraid.
On Saturday I was thanked
for being me. My soul relaxed.
On Sunday I was left alone
till the part of me that can’t
be influenced grew tired of
submitting and resisting.
Monday I was told I was good.
By Tuesday I got off the wheel.

Mark Nepo
From The Way Under the Way, 2016

 

Instead of caffeine, try this

A friend and I were talking about health, sleep and food (yes, this is what we talk about for fun) and she mentioned that the midday slump has been killing her since she gave up caffeine.

I asked if she'd tried maca powder and she said she has some in the cupboard but hasn't used it. I went on to tell her how I'd been using maca and several other superfood powders for about a month and a half and my last period was a breeze, especially compared to the torture I often go through.

She gave me the look that said, You know you have to post about this, right?

So here we are. 

I've been collecting research and reading about this newest round of hyped-up "superfoods" for a while and slowly integrating them into my daily/weekly protocol, partly for energy, partly for nutritional value and partly for hormone balance.

After about six weeks of consistent use (I even packed pre-measured doses for my travel), I'm reporting positive effect.

I like a little "boost" after lunch and wouldn't it be great if that was something more healthy than a cookie? I usually do chai, but the caffeine can mess with my sleep, even if I have it in the morning. So I was curious about these energy boosters.

My other big motivation was hormone balance. My cycle is mostly regular but incredibly painful -- PMS, bloating, digestive issues, intense cramps and migraines. I'd been reading about several of these adaptogens to help ease these symptoms. But more on this later....

The three supplements featured here are for energy and focus (among other things).

 

Maca Powder
Maca is a root vegetable similar to a radish, native to the Andes of Peru. It has many claimed benefits including increased energy and stamina without the jitters of caffeine, improved memory and focus, elevated mood and improved hormone and sexual health. It also is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Here is more information about maca.

After much research, this is the brand I purchased and have really liked (the raw one).

 

Rhodiola Rosea
A common herb in Chinese Medicine, this supplement is known by many names, like king's crown and golden root. The major health benefits of rhodiola are said to be energy boost, mild stimulant, it combats stress and fatigue and supports the nervous system, cognition and mood.

Two articles on Rhodiola. One note -- I chose rhodiola with 3% rosavin over salidrosides, since rosavin is reported to correspond to the neurotransmitter serotonin, being more stabilizing and regulating (vs salidrosides corresponding to dopamine and being more stimulating).

This is the brand I went with after my research.

 

Mucuna Pruriens
The last herb in this feature is mucuna pruriens, which also goes by other names and is used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is said to support the nervous system, improve energy and stamina, increase cognitive function and support the reproductive systems.

More on mucuna pruriens.

And here's the brand I've been using.

 

How to use these?

I used to do capsules for everything, but I started making balls that called for some of these fancy ingredients and it was a real mess to cut the capsules open.

Powders are also most economical and direct.

Plus, I like using these as flavor and thickeners in my oatmeal, smoothies, chai and yogurt.

A few ways you could try these:

  • Add to a beverage, like chai, a mushroom tea or golden milk for a midday pick-me-up.
  • Stir into hot breakfast cereal.
  • Stir into coconut yogurt for a snack.
  • Blend into smoothie.
  • Mix with a tablespoon of honey and just eat it.
  • Make balls.

 

How much to use?

  • Because these are stimulants, start small and slowly increase the serving if necessary. I started with half the suggested serving size.
  • Always be conservative, since you don't know how your body will react.
  • Start taking one at a time so that, like any good scientist, you'll have more data on how your system responds to each.
  • Take them in the morning in case they are overly stimulating for you.
  • Take a break once a week from the supplements.
  • You may feel the effects quickly, or you may not notice the effects until you stop taking them.
  • Take notes! Maybe one product doesn't do anything for you, but another gives you pep. You'll want to remember which did what.

 

I've read that people have used these single herbs (or in combination) to help kick everything from nicotine to caffeine. These three herbs have been used for thousands of years in other cultures/countries and have enormous nutritional value as well. Let me know if you have tried or decide to try any of these!

 

Social Contagion and a Values-Aligned Life

Social contagion is the well-researched idea that we "catch" emotions and behaviors from other people. Susan David, the author of Emotional Agility, gives a couple of examples:

You step into an elevator and the person in the elevator is on their phone. You are likely to get out your phone as well.

If you are on an airplane and your seatmate buys candy, even if you do not know that person, the research shows that you are 70% more likely to buy candy.

Even more shocking, if people we know by acquaintance, or even by 2-3 degrees of separation, get divorced or put on weight, it significantly increases our chances of getting divorced or putting on weight.

We unconsciously start wanting things other people want or normalizing behaviors we previously would not have engaged in.

That's some powerful suggestive influence.

So what can we do to stay aligned with our own deeply held values and not be unconsciously swayed by the actions of other people?

David's advice is something she calls Values Affirmation - spending even 10 minutes every day thinking about your values, what type of person you want to be in relationship, as a parent, at work and so on.

Just 10 minutes a day of focusing on your core values will help protect you from social contagion. 

Obviously this requires clarity around what your values are. David urges us first to come from a place of compassion and care for ourselves and our emotional bodies. She also has a free test on her website that can help you determine how well you are living a values-aligned life and ways to be more emotionally agile. 

If you're interested in more on this topic, I recommend the author's interview with Rich Roll. She covers a lot of ground:

  • practical examples of what it means to live a values-aligned life
  • the difference between values and goals
  • why will power doesn't work
  • the danger of bottling or brooding on your emotions
  • the myth of "negative" or "bad" emotions

I enjoyed this podcast so much, I've listened to it twice! Let me know what you take from it.

 

Amazing Ants

New York City is a wonderful example of how no system works in isolation.

(We'll get to the ants in a minute.)

The city of Manhattan, like all cities, has main systems that keep things running smoothly -- water, garbage, sewer, electricity, import/export and traffic, to name a few.  It may seem that these systems are separate and autonomous. 

But consider this: if any one of those systems gets clogged or shut down, it will affect many if not most of the other systems.

If the electricity goes out, that affects traffic lights, and traffic jams affect the timely and efficient transport of the garbage. If long term, the overflow of garbage might eventually impact the sewage or even water systems.

Or if the water system shuts down, that's going to wreak havoc on pedestrian and auto traffic, as well as the import and export of goods on/off the island -- people trying to get water already on the island, other people trying to get water to the island, still other people trying to get off the island. This would impact the garbage and recycling systems with an increase in plastic bottles. That extra processing could affect the electrical systems with an increase in energy. 

And on and on.

new york city ants

Here's where the ants come in. Did you know that for every human on the planet, there's over a million ants?

And ants make up their own system in New York City -- Waste Removal.

Those ants in New York City eat the equivalent of 60,000 hot dogs a year!

Isn't that amazing!?

Watch this two-minute video from National Geographic on how vital ants are to the ecosystem of Manhattan.

So what?

Well, if you watch the video, you heard that it is conceivable that without the ants, there would be more rats and pigeons in New York, and they can carry disease. So maybe disease goes up. Or maybe the means of controlling the rats and birds causes other toxic issues. Yikes!

What's the larger point?

Our bodies are just like this. No system works in isolation. From digestive to respiratory to endocrine to cognitive to sensory to skeletal to spiritual. All communicate and affect one another. Whole body, whole person, whole health.

This is a friendly reminder that every part of you wants and needs loving attention and conscious care in order to keep running optimally. You can't "make up for" eating poopy food or forgo some amount of healthy movement every day. What you put on your body and in your home counts too.

What you do matters.

So, like the ants, let's keep doing our best!

 

Anytime Biscuits

I love biscuits. My mom used to make biscuits like these, free form and oversized, for breakfast and we'd slather them with butter and honey.

There are for sure things that I just have to accept are going to be "different" in vegan form.

Ice cream. Angel Food Cake. 

Different meaning not as good. And I'm ok with that.

Because honestly, anything you can make, I can make vegan. And it's almost always just as good or better. (If that hasn't been true for you, let me give you some better recipes!)

And the great news is, I don't have to skimp on biscuits!

I saw this recipe last week and started craving them. So Saturday morning, I made them with all 5 ingredients, and they were AMAZING.

While they were cooling I cut up some fresh strawberries from the farmer's market and cooked them into a little saucy-jam. 

So really, I had strawberry shortcake for breakfast.

To be honest, these would be great with soup or throw some sage or rosemary in there and you'd have a lovely savory biscuit. These biscuits are for anytime!

If you love biscuits, try them. If you don't love biscuits, I don't know if we can be friends.

 

Vegan Biscuits

Ingredients

vegan biscuits

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup rice milk (I used about 3/4 C almond milk and filled the rest with water)


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

vegan breakfast

2. Line a sheet tray with parchment and set aside. I cooked mine in a glass dish smeared with a little Earth Balance.

3. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix oil, and rice milk until just combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and combine with hands. Do not overmix.

4. Form biscuits and place on lined sheet tray. I made 10 biscuits.

5. Cook for 20-30 minutes depending on size. Biscuits should have a light, golden brown color.

vegan strawberry shortcake

 

Recipe adapted from VegNews.

Doing it differently: Yoga School

yoga props

"Because that's the way it's always been done" is a terrible reason to keep doing something the same way.

As is, "but that's how everyone else does it."

For about a month now, I've had this persistent nudge to change the format of the current "Teacher Training."

Yes, I've trained many teachers and will continue to do so in the upcoming program this fall.

But what if you don't want to be a teacher? What if you just want that level of education, support, commitment and, frankly, fun?

In the past, I've tried describing Teacher Training as Life Training (as many past students have called it). I make the language as welcoming and permissive as I can to those who don't want to teach. This program is for everyone.

But why should they have to pay the same amount and have the same intensive homework and requirements? I created a yearlong program (The Daily Craft) with the intention of giving a similar opportunity to non-teachers. But nothing is like the 5 month immersion of TT.

So...the persistent nudge was, how can I make this available to people who don't want to teach?

Sometimes the answer is obvious, in plain view, just behind the veil of but this isn't how it's done.

I'm so pleased to announce a rename and restructure to the Yoga education program I'm offering.

It's called Yoga School. There are two tracks: Personal and Professional.

Check it out.

 

Super Simple "Monster" Cookies

You're simple and sweet
Why do they call you monster?
You do not scare me!

tahini monster cookie

These debuted at class last week and somehow I agreed to write a poem about them. I can never resist a haiku!

"Monster Cookies" generally have a bunch of goodies in them with a base of a nut butter and oatmeal. According to a quick google search, they are "the Frankenstein's monster of the cookie world - a mashup of different components."

What I love about these -- besides the super moist texture and perfectly balanced flavor -- is how simple they are to make. Even for the "non-bakers," this one is doable.

 

Super Simple Monster Cookie (vegan + gluten free)

Ingredients

3/4 cup tahini
3/4 cup coconut sugar (I used a little less)
3 1/2 tablespoons almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups gluten free oats
1/3 dark vegan chocolate chips (these are my fav - nut, soy and diary free)

Other optional add ins: 1/3 cup raisins, 1/4 cup nuts
And if you aren't a fan of tahini, try another nut butter like almond or sunflower

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, add tahini, coconut sugar, almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and salt and combine until well blended.

Add oats dark chocolate and any other add-in; mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Using a spoon, scoop the batter onto your baking sheet  Bake cookies for 10 minutes and let cool for another 10 minutes.

Enjoy!


See other vegan cookie recipes.
See other general vegan recipes.

Photo and recipe adapted from About to Sprout.

 

7 New Habits for Earth Month

Many of us consider every day to be "earth day." Still, it's good to have an even brighter spotlight on ways we can improve.

It's easy to get down about the state of the environment, so I go back to a trusty mantra and tell myself again and again, What You Do Matters. It's all a drop in the bucket. And if we all believe that and do even a little bit, together it makes a difference.

 

In that spirit, here are 7 ideas for Earth Month.

IMG_6343.JPG

1. Mail old mascara wands to the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge's Wands for Wildlife program. The brushes are repurposed to help groom rescued animals. How fabulous is that?

2. Choose the right appliance for the job. Electric kettles use less energy than stovetop ones. A toaster oven uses up to half the energy of a conventional electric oven. An electric slow cooker makes soups and stews using less wattage than a stove. It truly pays to pick the right appliance.

3. Buy cardboard-packaged products rather than plastic. Something in a box is better than a bag when you have the choice.

4. Stop junk mail. Technology is making it easy to opt out of unwanted ads and offers. Opt out of credit or insurance offers, one click will cancel catalogs with Catalog Choice and I can't wait to try the Paper Karma app -- just take a picture of the junk mail and it will unsubscribe for you.

5. Plant a pot of Milkweed. It's a favorite of our bee friends.

6. Allow foods to cool completely before putting them in the frig. This saves energy and reduces the opportunity for bacteria growth.

7. For you gardeners... 

  • Sprinkle cornmeal gluten around plants to keep weed seeds from germinating. Just don't use it in the veggie garden -- it keeps all seeds from germinating. 
  • A pinch of salt at the base of a weed will kill it naturally.
  • Use up your old petroleum jelly around the edge of pots and planters to help keep snails and slugs out. (Just don't use petroleum jelly on your body -- it's ew!)
  • Use epsom salts as fertilizer for greener, brighter, more growth and flowers.
  • Grate a bar of Irish Spring soap around plants and sprouting perennials to deter unwanted furry friends. (That one sounds pretty weird, but if it works!)

 

Of course there are the basics -- 

  • buying only recycled paper products (like TP and paper towels, plates and napkins if you have to use them),
  • using non-toxic (which means non-mainstream) green cleaning products,
  • taking your own shopping bags
  • carrying your own water bottle (no bottled water!!)
  • and obviously eating no/fewer animal products :)

But we can do better than basic. Remember, what you do matters.

 

Side note, I signed up for the Sierra Club's Nationwide Hike on Earth Day (April 22nd). You can join a group or do an easy solo walk through the park. It's just a way to use our bodies, celebrate being outside and know we're doing it collectively... all for a cause. Check it out.

 

Resources: Nature Moms, Real Simple, Veg News