Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gurus (Teachers)

When we sign up for a class, we expect to learn.  So much of the time, however, we forget that every experience we have acts as a teacher.  The only difference is that when we sign up to learn, our minds and hearts are generally wide open to the experience.  Sometimes we find ourselves so deep into our routines that we forget to have our minds and hearts open to the guru of life experiences.  For instance, difficult people are excellent teachers...teachers of patience.  You can't always choose who you are around or ignore others. Sometimes you are forced into figuring out how to "get along", and so you do.  You become a better person for it and more prepared for the next difficult encounter you may have.   Not only can routine and difficult people hamper our abilities to be open to learning, but so can difficult emotions.  Grief, anger, heartbreak and confusion have a way of tricking us into pushing our emotions and experiences down so we don't have to feel them so intensely.  However, difficult times in our lives can be the most powerful teachers of all.  I invite you to embrace these difficult emotions and experiences and reap the benefits of the strength and wisdom that they bestow upon you.  Try to find the gift within the turmoil.  It is always there, but sometimes you have to dig really deep for wisdom. Sometimes your gems are just sitting right in front of you and other times you are handed a shovel.  Either way, the gems are yours for the taking.  They will always be there. Will you use your gems or continue to let them pile up until they turn into mountains that you must climb? 

Friday, May 6, 2011


Do you ever feel like you are just a part of the rat race, taking care of business, or going through the motions?  This is a reminder! A growth opportunity!  Your inner "god/ goddess" is trying to tell you that you need to do some soul searching.  You need to find your spark.  If you go to the self-help section of any book store, you will find lots of books about "finding meaning in 2nd part of life", etc.  Society sends us the message that we should just be "okay" with the monotony; it is just part of life and we have to deal with it.  Well, guess what?  We don't have to wait until we retire to find our spark.  We can and should evaluate our lives periodically to see if we are making choices that nurture our sparks.  You may be so deep into the monotony that you don't know what your sparks are, or what a spark is for that matter, so let's go over the basics:

  • A spark is something inside you that is good, beautiful, and useful to the world.  Sparks give your life energy and purpose. 
  • Sparks come in 3 different types: Something you are good at, Something you care deeply about, or a Quality that you know is special.
  • They can take many forms, such as Creative Arts,  Athletics, Learning, Reading, Helping, Serving, Volunteering, Religion, Spirituality, Nature, Ecology, the Environment, Being committed to living in a specific way, Animal Welfare, or Leading
  •  Characteristics of sparks:
    -Gives energy & joy; something to look forward to exploring
    - When expressed, we feel alive, useful, like life has purpose, we feel like we are drawing on our best potential
    - Loss of sense of time, in the moment
    -Originates from within a person, not imposed from the outside
    - Can be a skill, talent, interest, way of being in the world; when expressed we are not worried about how good we are or how it looks to others; just doing or being it is enough
    - Gift or reason for being
    - Prime source of meaning, self-directed action, and purpose
    - Has the potential to make the world a better place for others
Once you discover (or rediscover) your spark, perseverance is key to keeping it.  Remember:
  • Don't give up when things get tough
  • Strive for excellence, not perfection
  • Get perspective by thinking of the long term or the big picture
  • Learn from mistakes or failures
  • Take actions, even small ones, rather than procrastinating
Sparks give your life joy, energy, and direction, so it is important to keep them alive.  So, next time you are feeling the monotony of life beating you down, reframe it.  Instead, think of it as life reminding you to find & nurture your spark.  IGNITE IT!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Sure, we all put a great deal of thought into our future hopes & dreams, but how much thought do you put into your nightly dreams?  Dreams serve a purpose.  They allow us continue problem solving even after we've gone to sleep.  However, you only reap the benefits of this problem solving if you truly take a look at what your dreams are telling you.  What was taking place in your dream? Sometimes it helps to focus on the "verbs" of the dream and your feelings towards those actions.  Your dreams are trying to guide you to a solution that already exists inside.  When you are asleep, your dreams help you dig for buried treasure. It is always there.  You just have to figure out how to obtain it.  Now you are probably thinking, "What about those really crazy dreams that seem to have no rhyme or reason?"  Well, they do have a reason, you just have to tease out all the kooky details and focus on the basic actions occurring, maybe the people, and definitely the way you felt in the scenario.  Try to sum it up in 3 words.  This can also help.  What we uncover isn't always profound.  Sometimes it is just a small solution to a small problem.  However, sometimes we can become disconnected from what our body & our subconscious are trying to tell us.  Dreams serve to bridge that gap in order to help us maintain balance when life gets overwhelming. 

Sleep on that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Now is the time that we start to get that "Spring Cleaning" urge.  Doesn't it feel sooo good to get rid of all that clutter?  It's freeing...liberating.  Don't forget that this time of year isn't just about clearing out the physical clutter in your life, but also the mental and emotional clutter.  What do you need to let go of?  What doesn't fit anymore?  What no longer serves you?  Holding on to things you don't need are such a burden.  Look at the animals around you...are they shedding?  Look at the trees that have shed there leaves & bark.  Nature knows that shedding is essential for growth.  Sometimes we forget that we too are a part of nature.  Emotional baggage and mental clutter needs to be put in the junk pile, so your true essence can shine through and growth can occur.  Just like our houses, our bodies can also benefit from uncluttering.  This is a time to detox you body, mind, and spirit so you can emerge...all shiny and new!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I like to call them meltdowns.  You know, a total emotional freak out?  But, perhaps we should think of these "freak outs" in a different light.  Believe it or not, these fits are not only beneficial, but necessary for growth.  Meltdowns usually occur when things are out of balance in our lives.  Maybe we are doing too much of one thing and not enough of another.  These are reminders that you've let things get out balance and it is time to set things straight.  Instead of thinking of these fits as meltdowns, try to think of them as "tear downs".  You are tearing up something that isn't working in order to build it back up with a stronger foundation, all shiny and new.  Not only are these times reminders to check your balance meter, but they also serve as lessons.  They show you what is wrong in your life and allow you to make a new choice for the next go around.  Try to remember: You are not your problems.  Instead of feeling guilty about melt-downs, see them as opportunities for problem solving.  It is easy to get sucked into the melt-down & guilt trip loop.  Stop the loop.  You are not your problems.  You are the solver of your problems.  The important thing to remember when "tearing down" is that it is okay to tear down something that isn't working for yourself, but not okay when it "tears down" the lives of others.  So, go ahead, tear it up...and rebuild something that you will be proud of.  Don't forget: When you tear it up, you have to throw it away.  After all, you will need plenty of room for the new & improved you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Right Nutrition

Several months ago, I posted about the 5 yogic pillars that lead to a healthy, happy, & balanced life: Right exercise, right breathing, right thinking, right nutrition, and right relaxation. Today I want focus on "Right Nutrition". Right nutrition refers to being aware of what you "feed" and fuel your body with- preferably with fresh, seasonal nutritious foods in moderation- and eating that food slowly and mindfully at appropriate times.

The following is a list of "SuperFoods" and their benefits.
  • Apples
    • reduced risk for lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, & type II diabetes, can aid weight loss due to soluble fiber content
  • Avocados
    • lower cholesterol, promote healthy bones & cardiovascular system, prevent migraines, type II diabetes, & circulatory disease, fights prostate cancer, optimizes brain health & function, improve the body's ability to absorb nutrients from foods, help fight obesity because they boost satiety
  • Beans
    • lower cholesterol, combat heart disease, reduce cancer risk, stabilize blood sugar, reduce obesity, relieve constipation, decrease diverticular disease risk, reduce hypertension risk, & lower risk for type II diabetes, older people who eat beans have a significantly lower risk of mortality than non-bean eaters
  • Blueberries
    • associated with improved brain health & preservation of cognitive ability, prevents Alzheimer's disease, prevents cancer, improves cardiovascular health, prevents diabetes, improves eye health & urinary tract health, & decreases inflammation
  • Broccoli
    • fights cancer, boosts the immune system, lowers the incidence of cataracts, supports cardiovascular health, builds bones, fights birth defects, promotes the production of antioxidants, & decreases inflammation
  • Cinnamon
    • benefits type II diabetes by helping with blood sugar levels & cholesterol, antibacterial properties help stop the growth of bacteria such as the yeast, Candida & E. coli just smelling it acts as a "brain boost" & increases cognitive ability
  •  Dark Chocolate
    • lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, contributes to a healthy heart
  • Dried Super fruits 
    • High in polyphenols (an antioxidant), good source of fruit when they are not in season
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
    • reduce risks of breast & colon cancer, lowers blood pressure, improves cardiovascular health
  • Garlic 
    • fights cancer & cardiovascular disease, anti-inflammatory & antiviral properties
  • Honey 
    • good for respiratory diseases, skin ulcers, wounds, urinary diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, eczema, psoriasis, & dandruff, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol & blood pressure, helps maintain optimal blood sugar levels, & increases antioxidant levels
  • Kiwi 
    •  prevents asthma, atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, colon cancer & reduces risk of death from cancer, heart disease, & stroke, & improves constipation
  • Low-fat or Non-fat Yogurt 
    • decreases effects from cancer, lactose intolerance, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, vaginal infections, urinary infections, lowers cholesterol, and aids in weight control
  • Oats 
    • reduce the risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, & obesity
  • Onions
    • reduces the risks of heart disease & cancer, & contain anti-inflammatory properties
  • Oranges 
    • prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, macular degeneration, cataracts, birth defects, & cognitive decline
  • Pomegranates
    • fights atherosclerosis, high in antioxidants, improves cardiovascular health, possess anti-inflammatory properties, & lowers blood pressure 
  • Pumpkin 
    • reduces the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory conditions, & diabetes
  • Soy 
    • reduces cholesterol, blood pressure, cancer risk, helps manage diabetes, helps with kidney disease, & lowers the risk of osteoporosis
    • however, too much for men has shown an increase in female hormones, so if you are male, take it easy ;-)
  • Spinach 
    • prevents cardiovascular disease, stroke, coronary artery disease, cancer, age-related macular degeneration, & cataracts
  • Tea 
    • lowers blood pressure, skin cancer, sun-induced aging of skin, & cataract prevention
  • Tomatoes 
    • reduces the risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, sun-related skin damage, macular degeneration, & cataracts
  • Turkey
    • reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, & Alzheimer's disease 
  • Wild Salmon 
    • promotes cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, improves mental health, & reduces risk of Alzheimer's disease
  • Walnuts
    • reduces risks of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, type II diabetes, & cancer

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Balance & Excess

So, you've got things balanced? Everything going on in your life seems pretty much in just the right spot?  Remember, this is temporary.  Ebbs & flows are a natural part of life.  However, you want to ride this wave of balance as long as possible, right?  Of course!  After all, balance is what we strive for our whole lives.  So, how do we "milk" this time of balance for all it's worth? 

First, celebrate.  You've worked hard to get to this point and you deserve to treat yourself.  However, remember that the greatest reward is reaching the state of balance itself.  It can be easy to overdo celebrations for your achievements, therefore tipping the balance.  It is difficult enough when outside circumstances tip the balance, however, self-sabotage brings forth guilt as well.  We sure don't want this!  So, what can we do to ensure the maximum benefit from finding our balance?  It's simple really: Avoid excess.  This is easier said than done, however. Some things we do to celebrate are good, but even good things can turn bad when done in excess.  The following guidelines will help mange various means of celebration, without losing your balance:
  • Drinks (1-2 is best..unless you handle your alcohol well, but even so, it's not healthy to have more than this in one day)
  • Food (Indulge, but keep in mind portion sizes & healthy options)
  • Shopping (Keep your budget in mind & spend on things that make you feel better, not guilty)
  • Taking time off (a little time can go a long way, so don't overuse your time off to the point that you don't have any left during times of crisis, when you REALLY need it)
  • Entertainment (TV, movies, and shows can be great ways to celebrate, but remember that you need down time too...also, don't let it interfere with your perception of reality; TV & movies generally don't depict a real view of life and lead to wanting what you don't have)
  • Taking time alone (This is good thing. Time alone leads to reflection, which is necessary for growth.  However, too much time alone is referred to as isolation & this is not good.  Time with family & friends is a good thing too...this being said...)
  • Family & Friends ( It is good to have a strong support system to help when you need it & to celebrate when don't.  However, too much togetherness is not a good thing.  Everyone needs time away from each other or minor annoyances can turn into major problems...Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder.)
I'm sure you can think of many other ways to celebrate balance, but try to avoid self-sabotage through excess.  The only exception? 
(not to be confused with sloth & sex ;-)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Napping & The Highly Coveted Power Nap

Research has shown that a body needs at least 8 hours of sleep per night in order to function at its best.  However, this isn't always feasible and sometimes even getting 8 hours per night just doesn't seem to provide the extra "rest, refresh, & refuel" that we need (especially during times of transition or upheaval).  I have recently rediscovered a little nugget of "zing" that presently has me professing to be a "power nap junkie". 

I have always loved to sleep.  When my sons were under the age of 5, naps were essential (for both mother & child).  At first, I told myself that I needed to nap with them to get them to go to sleep & to help them fall back to sleep if they awoke too soon.  It wasn't long before I looked forward to these "nap times".  Sometimes a 2 hour nap seemed a bit long for me, so I'd get up after about 1 hour and use the rest of the baby's nap time as "me time".  If you've ever cared for babies, you understand that sleep is essential and every last drop that you can squeeze out of each day sustains you.   When children get older, naps aren't as necessary, so it is easy to forget how vital they can be. 

Several years ago, I had a brief encounter with power naps.  This was prodded by a new job working with emotionally disturbed students, a difficult time at home, and regular duties that make up motherhood.  I was physically & emotionally exhausted.  Thank goodness I had an assistant at work (as most teachers do not) and could actually take a lunch break most days.  Out of necessity, I found myself retreating to my warm car for a 20 minute nap.  It did the trick.  I could venture back into my classroom (which, pre-nap, I had jokingly referred to as my post at the gates of hell) and continue to provide love to those in need.  Somehow, I seemed to make it through that difficult time at home and managed to keep my kids fed, clothed, and nurtured just enough. 

Many years have passed.  My kids are more independent and my home life is pretty great. I have recently changed jobs (which is a much needed improvement, as I am no longer a gatekeeper for hell).  However, with the job change and still feeling the newness of it, I find myself in a state of transition.  Transition brings exhaustion: schedule changes, figuring out how & when to get my kids to and from school, figuring out how to juggle graduate school, figuring out the pieces of a new job, and figuring out a new identity based on a new job.  This week my kids went on vacation with their grandparents & I found myself with a little bit of flexibility in time.  My love sent me an article titled "Unleash the Power of the Nap".  It reminded me of those warm car naps that used to be part of my everyday survival.  Perhaps they could help during this time of transition, I thought.  I am by no means in "survival mode" as I was in those days, but maybe it would help take the edge off.  On Tuesday, I went out to my car, set an alarm on my phone, and proceeded to try to settle in for a power nap.  I felt like I had trouble falling asleep & it was over practically as soon as it began.   I went back into the office feeling groggy.  However, this grogginess lasted only 5 minutes, then the magic set in.  I felt totally refreshed and it just kept getting better.  By evening, I was sold.  I had an abundance of energy and felt very alert.  In fact, I began realizing just how sleep deprived I had been in the previous months.  I found time for a  10-20 minute nap every day for the rest of the week and it became increasingly easier to get to sleep.  My boys returned from their vacation and I found myself frantically wondering when I'd get my next nap fix with my flexibility in time being compromised once again.  Then I remembered that it is tennis season and I frequently have to wait in the car with my younger son while my older son has practice after school.  Generally, this has been a time to catch up on reading and assist my son with homework, however, I wonder...

Yes, I think a multitasking superwoman is just the person to pull this off...I'll let you know the results of this experiment next week & I suggest you try to carve out some time for a 20 minute snooze...

and remember, "You snooze you lose" (that nagging emotional & physical exhaustion) ;-)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Empowerment: The Basics

Maintaining balance equals maximum power within one's self.  How we do this differs from one individual to another, but some basics apply no matter how diverse our differences may be.  If you follow these biggies (what I like to call my "Top 10") then you will be better able to navigate the subtle balancing act that comes with the unique "everyday" life you lead.  Here they are:

  1. Get enough sleep.  (preferably 8 hrs., but if impossible, naps are divine...power naps consisting of no more than 30 min. are amazing refreshers)
  2. Eat healthy food. (real food, not junk food...always eat breakfast...and drink loads of water!)
  3. Exercise (30 min. per day is all you need to keep your metabolism up...in the morning is even better to keep energy levels up...exercise improves your mood too!)
  4. Stay mentally alert (go back to school or constantly read on varying subjects...don't let things pile up  mentally, get it out of your head & move on!)
  5. Connect with other people. (you can learn so much from the richness that others convey...don't be a loner, however...)
  6. Take some quiet time for yourself. (you need alone time every once in a while to reflect on personal issues & problem solve...you also need time to pamper yourself :-)
  7. Stay positive. (sometime you just have to fake it until you make it...so, just smile and wait for the next positive wave to roll in)
  8. Express your emotions appropriately. (without freaking out! Ramped up emotions can make minor annoyances from others seem unbearable...maintain grace & take long, deep breaths)
  9. Use good manners. (once again "GRACE"...good manners make a lasting & positive impression on others & help you get more of the things you want ;-)
  10. Surround yourself with good friends. (you need the everyday support that these peeps supply...especially when faced with difficult decisions)

The "Top 3" alone will help tremendously with problem-solving situations, give you a better outlook on life, and make you feel more attractive.  Everyone is especially sensitive to these "Top 3" during times of change.  Maintain the "Top 10" and you will be well equipped to to juggle the subtleties that are unique to your own beautiful life. 


Thursday, October 21, 2010


During times of transition, challenges abound.
  • Fear of the unknown 
  • "What if..." worrying
  • Effect on loved ones (emotionally & physically)
  • Facing yourself on those REALLY ugly days (I call these "meltdowns")
  • Picking yourself up on those REALLY ugly days
  • Trying to make it through the next transition "hoop" without falling on your face
  • Trying desperately not to alienate those around you (especially on the REALLY ugly days)
  • Getting acclimated to the new stuff while trying desperately not to cling to the old stuff
  • Figuring out who you are without the old identity & what the new identity is
  • Figuring out how to keep some of your old identity while forming a new & better one
  • Problem solving everyday problems with a giant question mark monkey on your back
In essence, transition is grief with growth opportunity.  Nobody wants the grief, but the growth opportunity is hard to resist.  So, we keep trudging forward during these times of grief with a carrot of possibility dangling in front of our faces.  Transition takes courage & initiative.  It's not easy to choose transition. In fact most of us would probably try to steer clear of it if we had the choice. I also takes perseverance.  It takes a good attitude to persevere.  It's not always easy, but sometimes you have to adopt the "fake it until you make it" attitude.  It takes commitment; commitment fueled by thoughts of what you wish to move away from & the opportunities that could lie ahead.  It's important to show yourself compassion during times of transition; physically, mentally, & emotionally.  Transition takes diligence & you can't muster up diligence without taking care of yourself. So be flexible if something doesn't go as planned.   Cooperation is also a necessity of the beast.  Just as you are going to need help from those around you, you need to strive to compromise with them. When we are facing "fear of the unknown", we tend to feel stubborn.  This stubbornness is born out of the desire to cling desperately to all that you think you know because everything else is such a mystery.  Not to worry though.  If you find it difficult to let go of this stubbornness, you still learn a lesson: humility.  Humility isn't pretty, but it is a necessary life lesson on this rocky road of change.  You will stumble. You will melt-down. You will feel unsure. You will alienate people.  You will have an identity crisis (probably a few). But hold on.  Be resilient, tenacious, and optimistic.  Use your integrity to strengthen your fortitude.  It all boils down to balance.  You don't have to be "the best" during these times.  You just have to balance your issues & survive.  These times are helping you to be your best down the road.  So, hold on for a bumpy ride & I'll meet you in the winner's circle.