When the GPS guided us to turn onto a windy, dirt road in the middle-of-nowhere Tuscan countryside, Paul and I were confused but trusted that we were being guided in the right direction. He kept asking me "What mode do you have your maps set on?!" A question that my technologically challenged self was not equipped to answer. So we drove onward, the only car for miles around, marveling at how remote we felt. I've been to remote places (I'm looking at you Sahara desert and Semuc Champey, Guatemala) but it was strange to feel so remote in ITALY.
It was fun to feel this sense of trust and adventure. We were both feeling a bit hungry for lunch (because in Italy, breakfast isn't a big affair....an espresso and a cornetto is it) and I saw that there was a small village in a few miles, so we decided to explore and see what would possibly be in this tiny remote village. As we entered the village, the sign said "Benvenuti alla Città del Tartufo (‘Welcome to the City of Truffles’) I began to laugh excitedly....if you don't know this about me already, I LOVE TRUFFLES, and to happen upon the self-proclaimed City of Truffles was a joy I didn't know possible. We had a delicious lunch at a tiny restaurant. I got to enjoy pasta with gorgonzola and fresh truffles. Delizioso!
This past year has kind of felt like our GPS experience, only let's call the winding Tuscan roads the twists and turns of life, and the GPS my intuition:) As we make this transition from the bright days of summer to the cooler and darker days of fall, I've had a lot to reflect on as of late. While I was on retreat in Italy, the one year anniversary of my transition from relationship/suburban living to single/city living passed. I'm pretty sure this year has been the most terrifying yet exhilarating of my life.
One thing that has been a strong constant is my trust in where my intuition has been guiding me. You know, that voice of the inner wise teacher that is hoping you'll get steady and quiet enough to listen to. Here's what I've learned about intuition....the more you trust and develop a relationship with it, the more it shows up for you. It's always there, you just have to take the time to tune in and really listen. And its guidance is always for your greater good, but that doesn't translate into immediate happiness each time. Sometimes your intuition guides you to make choices that lead to lessons that need to be learned, things that need to be experienced for your growth.
When I was growing up, a friend of mine had a dream that I was swimming in a pond known to have snapping turtles. She was telling me to get out of that pond and beware, and my reply was, "If I get snapped, it's just another experience in life!" I'm not saying look for the places where you can dive into suffering. But there is much to be learned from the perceived "good" and "bad" experiences of life, and the work is to stay connected to your inner compass throughout the journey. If I've learned anything this year, it's that my practice has helped me develop this connection and trust, and I'm endlessly grateful for this.
Until next time......be bright,
It all started the day I emerged from the Sahara desert....March 31, 2018. I'm typing that sentence to catch your eye, because it sounds like the start of a truly epic tale, and that, I guess is what this is. It's the day that my life started to unravel.....and the day my light started to shine tremendously. Funny how sometimes those things go hand-in-hand.
So, as I was saying, I'd just emerged from three days in the Sahara with a group of travelers, hooked up to WiFi, and got a message that my partner was in the hospital with a serious condition. The next three days are kind of a blur, I remember crying a lot, trying to still be available for the travelers I was co-leading (leaned into Meghan, my co-leader something fierce those final days in Morocco) and then as soon as I got off the plane....went straight to the hospital and helped to check him out and bring him home.
The following weeks were some of the most challenging thus far in my life.....juggling multiple teaching/training/travel commitments that I had to show up fully for, teaching my regular classes, adjusting from major jet-lag, and stepping into a new role....that of a caretaker and support for someone I deeply cared for. I felt like superwoman and was surprised at how I was able to navigate this challenging time without losing my shit. I was strong, stable, high-functioning, caring, compassionate, juggling a thousand hats, and doing it with what felt like ease.
And then a comment about a soap wrapper I'd left in the shower (y'all have had this sort of thing happen, yes? where it's NOT REALLY ABOUT THE SOAP) was the beginning of the end with my man. He said something that broke my heart and when those words were uttered, I knew I was done. Eight years of partnership unraveling before our eyes. It was mutual and mostly kind, but still deeply upsetting and sad. I decided to leave our home of four years and move back into the arms of Philadelphia....into a beautiful home with most amazing friends. In the interim, I was leading three international retreats and two reiki trainings. My plate was overflowing and somehow I was handling it all with grace and lots of deep breaths.
My mantra this year has become, "I can absolutely do this." And I have. I moved the day after I returned from leading a retreat in Italy....talk about deeply unsettling....try moving your entire life and leaving your partner of eight years the day after you return from another country. I wouldn't recommend it. The first few weeks in my new home, it felt like I was in shock. I had to remind myself, "This is your new home. This is your new walk to work," as my nervous system adjusted to everything new. I think I cried enough tears to flood the Ganges river. If I wasn't teaching a yoga class, I was crying: on the subway, at the Abbaye with my friend Jill, in my new room, at the coffee shop, wandering around the city. I basically left a path of tears behind me for two months. The weight of those past seven months hit me like a truck, and I had no choice but to let things flow. It was beautiful and painful, and NECESSARY. The entire time, I felt the presence of the Divine so strongly. In my darkest moments, Her tender whispering in my ear, "I'm here, everything is unfolding exactly as it should, just keep trusting."
So back to the part about my light shining tremendously during this time. I have never had so many compliments in my life about how radiant I've been looking than in the past four months. In the midst of turmoil, sadness, and stress, I appear to be thriving, and in a way, I am. I'm finally getting to experience the blessings from my years of dedicated practice. See, we practice to develop resilience, courage, and wisdom. As my friend Judy reflected, "You're standing in the fire, burning off what's no longer needed, and you're GLOWING because of that." I feel more alive than ever. More trusting of myself, my practice, and my relationship with the Divine. A creative force has awakened in me that I've never experienced before (more on that in the next musing, as I want to help you awaken and work with your creative energy tooooo!) and I am ready for what is to come, ready to create this new life for myself.
My life thus far has been a series of sit/wait/ponder/deeply listen usually followed by a terrifying leap into the unknown. I share this with you because I want you to know that you have such wisdom inside of you and the work is to access that and then TRUST IT. The path isn't always neatly laid out, it's definitely not always comfortable to navigate, but when you do....something powerful begins to take place. I am constantly inspired by these words by Caroline Myss, "Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that's the one that is going to help you grow."
I wish you strength and courage on your path of real living. I encourage you to keep saying YES to the beautiful experiences of life, some painful, some joyful....the path of Tantra invites them all in. I send you love on your journey and please know I'm always here to support you with a hug, a yoga practice, an ear to listen, and a cup of tea.
I love this recipe from Kris Carr's cookbook: Crazy, Sexy Kitchen and have adapted it to suit the Ayurvedic needs of my fiery summer friends. Drink this for breakfast or as a mid-afternoon snack if you're feeling HANGRY. Stay cool, my friends!
Strawberry Fields Smoothie for the Summer (Ayurveda-style)
3 c. coconut-almond milk
2 c. fresh strawberries
1 Tbsp. lime zest
1 sm. orange, peeled
1 1/2 c. loosely packed spinach
1 tsp. spirulina powder
Blend all the ingredients on high speed until smooth and ENJOY!
I love coffee. As a yogi and Ayurveda enthusiast, this can be a topic of controversy, but I'll freely admit that I LOVE IT!
But there's a catch: when Fall comes around, I find that coffee can make me feel very spacey and overstimulated. According to the life science of Ayurveda, in Fall, the elements of air + ether are coming into dominance and depending on your elemental constitution, this can sometimes make you experience those elements more intensely. The taste profile of black coffee is bitter + astringent which can dry you up, just like too much wind can! I used to give up coffee all together in the Fall and Early Winter, but then I began traveling to Guatemala every November and experience my first cup or fresh Guatemalan coffee (the coffee there is something NOT TO BE MISSED). So I faced a predicament, how to still enjoy a cup of coffee but not feel any negative effects from it. The answer is in the preparation and consumption.
If you're like me and notice that you need a little shift in your coffee ritual in the Fall, try these modifications so you can still enjoy your morning beverage and stay balanced in body + mind. Also, keep in mind how you drink your coffee can determine its effect on you. Are you gulping it down and rushing for the door, are you drinking it while walking fast outside, or are you slowly sipping and enjoying the coffee in a warm place? Try for the latter, make your coffee time a grounding ritual!
Coffee for Fall
To balance out the drying qualities of coffee, add a pinch of these warming + calming spices to your coffee grounds while brewing.
To help your coffee be more grounding + nourishing for your body and mind, try adding these before you drink.
**remember, a little goes a long way. One cup a day should be all you take in, to avoid adrenal depletion, hyperacidity, and other imbalances!**
In Ayurveda, we practice an annual tradition of seasonal cleansing, typically twice a year, once in the Fall and once in the Spring. The nature of these two cleanses are very different since the seasonal transitions affect our minds and bodies in very different ways. In the springtime, there is a sense of heavy and wet qualities present in the weather. If there is still snow, notice that it's not the light, delicate flakes of early-mid winter, but it's slushy and heavy. The ground is cold, damp, and fertile...ready to support Spring planting, and rainy, cloudy days are frequent.
Ayurveda recognizes that what is happening in Nature, outside of us, is also a sign of what is happening inside. You might find you have allergies, phlegm, or other mucus-related troubles. Your belly might feel bloated and heavy, and suddenly you're aware of a few extra winter pounds!? It's time for a Spring Cleanse to lighten up!
Here are a few things that you might want to start doing to prepare for your own Spring Cleanse, so you get the most out of the process. When we cleanse, it's a 3-stage process: the preparation, the cleanse period, and exiting a cleanse. This week, I'm all about preparation, and here are some things I'm starting to incorporate in my practice.
Preparing Your Body
To create space for change, we must let go of some things. In order to transform, we need to throw some junk in the fire. It's time to say goodbye to a few of your favorite vices. Begin today with giving one thing up, add another into the fire tomorrow or the day after, then another in a few days. By the time Day 1 of your cleanse rolls around, you're off to a great start and your body can get down to the task at hand: deep cleaning.
Things to throw into the fire
Preparing Your Habits
There are a few things you can start doing that will help you build good habits that will become second nature by the time you start your official cleanse. It can be difficult to make all of these changes all at once, so start now by replacing some of the things you're letting go of with these practices:
Preparing Your Space
Over my years of cleansing, I've some to realize that this is a vital element in the process: a deep clean of your home, office, car, and garden. Clean and organize any space that you spend your time in and you might notice has also started to get a big clogged with clutter. Notice the connection between what's going on in your space and how you feel in your mind and body.
This weekend I got really focused and tackled my kitchen first, since that will be an important space for cleanse preparation and cooking. I cleaned and organized my tea/spice/herb cabinet, scrubbed countertops, cabinet doors, the stovetop, appliances, and shelves. It only took 2 hours and I felt a great sense of accomplishment after.....and now my space is ready for cleansing and healing to happen!
Look at your calendar for the cleanse week and try to block off as much time as possible to relax, prep your meals, go for walks in nature, journal, organize your closets...this is the time to re-set, establish healthy routines, and put your energy towards where you want to be going/how you want to be feeling. Think of Spring Cleanse Week as your own mini-retreat and plan accordingly.
Join Meghan Dwyer and me for Aluna's Inner Sanctuary Spring Cleanse this April! Details will be released soon, make sure you're on our mailing list so you're first to know!
~be bright, live inspired~
Hi everyone! I'm so excited Meg asked me to share a recipe with you because I love cooking and creating new recipes. This one was inspired from my love of sweet potatoes. I've always loved sweet potatoes but sometimes eating them as baked potatoes or mashed potatoes all the time gets a little old. I also love kale! When I was little I would walk through my parents garden eating as many of the leafy greens and herbs I could get my hands on, kale was one of my favorites. So from my love of sweet potatoes and kale this wonderfully delicious salad was born and has turned into one of my favorite lunches!
The most time consuming part is roasting the sweet potatoes but with a little planning you can roast them while you are eating dinner the night before or taking your morning shower. Most of my clients work away from home so I'm always looking for ways to turn my homemade and home-eaten lunches into easily packed lunches. This salad is very easy to prep in the morning and mix together when it's time to eat.
While you are making your breakfast start the kale marinating in the salad dressing. Kale is a very hearty green that can sometimes be a bit difficult to chew. By letting it marinate in the salad dressing it becomes much easier to eat. This recipe calls for about 4 tablespoons of dressing which can seem like a lot but isn't that much when you mix in the sweet potatoes later on. So get your kale marinating the dressing and let it sit until lunch time. Bake the sweet potatoes the night before or in the morning before you leave for work, they only take about 20 minutes so it's not a big time commitment.
Sweet Potato Kale Salad
About the Chef/Yogini
Emmalyn Gaertner wants to live in a world where health is about balance, we find happiness in the little things, and our food is cooked with love. As a yoga teacher and wellness expert, Emmalyn guides women through flowing transformation both on and off the mat. When Emmalyn isn't practicing yoga or at her computer she enjoys hiking with her dog Ollie, cooking with her husband, and always loves a hug! For recipes, tips & tricks, and healthy inspiration please visit her website or Facebook page
I just made the most delicious dinner, I just have to share it with you right away! It was so good, I don't even have a picture to post...I'll just have to make it again! I pulled this together from a few different ideas of delicious bowls I've seen other people prepare and post around the internets. This is a perfect, dinner-for-two-in-a-bowl that incorporates the delicious ingredients of Spring that your body needs. Don't panic when you read this recipe and the different steps....it's really not that complicated and only took me about 10 minutes to make!
A Bowl of Awesome Spring
Easy No-Bake Ayurvedic Chocolate!
(from Eat, Taste, Heal)
Use your imagination and add more spices into the mix! Be creative. My special blend will always be my secret:) Play around with what your signature spices will be!
1. You’ll need a double boiler or two pots, one larger, and one smaller that will rest over the bigger one, to create a double boiler. Place 2 inches water in large pot and bring to a boil. Place chocolate in smaller pot and turn water down to simmer…melting chocolate in smaller pot. When it’s melted, remove it from the heat.
2. Stir in the almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla. Sprinkle the raisins, nuts, and both spices over the mixture and stir well.
3. On a tray lined with wax paper, drop spoonfuls of the chocolate to form bite-sized portions. Depending on the texture, you may even be able to roll the balls into truffle forms.
4. Sprinkle with the coconut immediately. Put in the fridge until cool and firm, about 30 minutes. Then transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature. Enjoy!
This winter has definitely taken its toll on my body and from the sounds I hear on the train, at restaurants, and in yoga class, I know I'm not alone! I've found myself sick with unforgiving, fierce colds twice in a month. I'm not usually sick so this has been quite the test of patience and self-love. The second time I fell ill, I found myself filled with self-judgement with statements like "you are an Ayurvedic wellness failure" and "what are you doing so wrong in life"?! Hello there angry self-critic! After a few rounds with that old tape, I came out triumphant and with a few great new tools of wellness. Thanks to some of my amazing students and friends for their advice!
I try my best to use my kitchen as my pharmacy (within reason, of course....I do believe Western medicine has a very important place) In case you're struggling with a cold that's been lingering too long or that just keeps coming back, I wanted to offer you my very favorite tools of the wellness trade to combat those winter sickies. Keep taking care of yourself, drinking hot water and tea, and in no time, spring will be here and your body will need a whole new set of tool...and I'll let you know what those are soon:)
Reach for these to prevent illness or when you're feeling something coming on
Fire Cider - make your own with this recipe or buy my favorite brand if you're in a pinch and need it fast! (fire cider has to sit for a few weeks before it's ready to work its magic)
Elderberry Syrup - I love this stuff and make my own every winter. It tastes great and is a wonderful immunity booster. Beware though, it does fill your home with a strange smell while it's cooking. I don't mind it, but some people might! Here is where I learned to make this wellness pantry staple.
Neti Pot - Just Do It. Here's my favorite brand. And add the flu wash to your neti pot when you're feeling you're about to fall ill.
Reach for these when you're full-on winter sickie
Onion Cough Syrup - Sounds totally weird, tastes pretty good, works like a dream! Don't judge, just try. Here's the recipe I used.
Garlic-Ginger Sick-Buster - In a saucepan, add 2 cups water, 1/2 lemon, 1 clove garlic (minced), and 1-2 inches grated ginger. Bring to a slow boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Strain into a mug and add raw honey to taste. Option to add a dash of cayenne pepper if you'd like. Drink as much of this as humanly possible while your symptoms persist.
What's your go-to Winter Wellness Kitchen Remedy?
Share in the comments so we can try something new!!
Let me know how you like these, and BE WELL.
Common Sense Check!
**Be sure to check with your doctor about ingesting any herbal remedies if you're taking regular medications or have a serious medical illness. Empower yourself and do your research on herbal remedies before you make or take anything. This blog is not intended to diagnose or prescribe, but simply to inspire and inform!**
Do you ever get that feeling when you are in the presence of small children (as long as they are not screaming!)? You know what I'm talking about. I could be in the worst mood, but they have the power to lift me right out of that dark place. A simple look, a sweet smile, an innocent question, or how they find joy in the simplest of things. The energy they carry is healing and they remind me of the magic in the world.
I've learned that land can carry that kind of energy too. I've experienced it most deeply in my travels to Latin America among pyramids, ruins, and other sacred sites, but also in the wilderness areas which bear the spirit of the indigenous people, places that have been barely touched by our modern Western culture.
Lake Atitlan holds the kind of energy I'm referring and its inhabitants, the Mayan people remind me of the magic in the world. The last time I was in Guatemala I brought a group of teenagers down for a service trip in Antigua. At the time I was in a tough spot in my life and had planned to stay an extra week by myself to gain some clarity.
I am not much of a planner when I travel (except when I run a retreat of course!) and the day the group left I found myself sitting at Cafe El Portal, my favorite coffee shop in Antigua, waiting for the force to move me, to tell me which way to go, and battling the bits of anxiety and resistance I always feel before traveling alone (although it lessens which each trip).
I opened up my watercolors on the oval open-air bar overlooking the main square and almost immediately, a little boy selling gum and bracelets appeared. Well, word spread fast, "Gringa with paints will also buy you a licuado (Guatemalan smoothie)!!!" and before I knew it I had four little boys surrounding me at the bar, all painting in total silence. I even trusted them enough to take my camera out on the street and they took some beautiful video footage.
It was one of my dearest travel moments to date.
They were my little messengers, and after the couple hours I spent there, I knew where I had to start my solo adventure: Lake Atitlán. I arrived at the lake with no idea of how long I'd stay. I had been there before and there is always that voice inside of me telling me to go explore something new. Long story short, I couldn't leave.
Being on that land feels like how a baby must feel when held tight in the arms of his or her mother: protected, supported, nourished, loved…and you never want to be put down. And you feel like a kid again: swimming in the lake, walking around barefoot, smelling the countless varieties of flowers, watching the clouds go by, listening to the way the water sounds as it meets the shore. You find yourself just naturally waking up with the sun. You wait to watch the moon rise and then it's bedtime.
You feel totally in sync with Mother Nature and her rhythms.
Observing the Mayan people…walking everywhere carrying bundles on their back, doing their wash in the lake, cultivating the hills, men in their small boats, women weaving under the trees…and how they are connected to the land, to each other, to the activity they are doing. There is even a grace in the way that they wash their clothes. The joyful way they interact with you when you are buying their crafts, how they barter with a sweet smile. They reminded you of the simple pleasures of life, and make you question why we make life so much more complicated. Just like children.
I was by myself, but the journey would not have been as healing without the people I met who opened my mind and the community I encountered that honored and supported me. Atitlan is like an energy vortex that attracts the most outstanding people.
On that trip I made the decision to enroll in a yoga teacher training program, something my mind had been mulling over for sometime. It is very special for me to return to the lake as a yoga teacher with a group of students. Sweet serendipity…which is a normal occurrence when you give yourself the time and space for your mind to rest, and your soul to rejuvenate. You remember you are living in a magical world.
~Meghan Dwyer is co-hosting the In Lak'ech Yoga Retreat this November 1-9 at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Check out the details here and join us!
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