Friday, September 30, 2011


 I recently participated in a Mindful Movement Yoga Retreat under the tutelage of my dear friend Jen.  The objective of the retreat was re-establishment of roots, grounding, and realization of self.  One component of this empowering experience that struck a deep somber chord within me was Affirmation.  I've briefly touched upon it before but I don't think I realized how important it really is.  Let's break it down - according to several dictionaries, Affirmation is :
  •  to declare as a fact
  • to make a declaration with solemn resolve
  • to maintain as true; to tell with confidence.....
        solemn - deeply earnest sobriety
        resolve - get, consume, receive, own, ingest

Thus, an affirmation is ownership of your path.  It is true acknowledgement of what, when, why, and how you are, it is declaration of who you are.

Self -Fulfilling Prophecy

We must recognize that affirmation is a serious matter.  We must remember to be careful to how we use our words for the things we say, we believe.  Things we believe, we affirm, even in jest.  How many times have you said or heard someone say, "Oh, this will be the death of me", "You make me sick", "For the life of me I can't...". Oh, I'm such a failure, idiot, klutz, fool, etc"?  We need to choose our words and thoughts wisely for what we think and say will surely become our truths, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care..." ~Buddha

In a previous post, I wrote about looking into self acceptance, about how your actions change when you realize you will not fail. Affirmation allows you to do anything you set out to do, to look into your mirror to speak your truth with confidence.  I realize now that is only a part of the equation.  The other, crucial piece is thinking.  What and how we think is just as important as what we say and do,  for our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions. We must therefore remove those seemingly innocent negative sayings from our thoughts.  For example, why should you be upset when you fail a tough exam when all you said while studying was "Oh, I'll never understand this"?  In this example, you have fulfilled your prophecy and managed to block the flow of positive energy.

Being Mindful

During the retreat, I began to focus on the title "Mindful Movement".  For me it meant small, intimate practice.  While this was true, I've come to the realization that it was also about thought processes and true connections.  Yogini Jen led us in an exercise of self love by giving us an elementary introduction of foot reflexology.  We learned about the different points of the feet and how each point corresponds to a particular organ within the body.  As we practiced techniques massaging the "soles" of our feet, we were learning to be mindful of them, the base of our rooting, the base of our "souls".  We meditated, flowing into affirmation with the focus shifting to being mindful and moving in our thoughts.  The asana and vegan lunch taught us to be mindful of our bodies. Thus, we practiced Yoga, uniting of body, mind, and soul.

As I returned home, I thought, what does is mean to be mindful in thought? It is different for each of us.  Although it's personal and germane to our individuality, regardless of our different acclimation, one thing rings true for each of us, to take heed to choose powerful, action words for they shall become our destiny.   In any high school or university writing course, you are penalized for writing passively.  Use of phrases from the verb pattern "to be" confuses the reader about the subject of the sentence. You are taught and rewarded when you use action words or are more specific.  Therefore, be specific in your affirmation. Do not be afraid to state exactly who you are and what you want.  Let the affirmation examples posted on this page be examples of the  beginning of the sentence you complete for yourself.  Think and affirm in the same manner with positive intention even if you are yet to accomplish a feat.   For example:

"I climb mountains"

Whether you've scaled Mt. Fuji or made it to the top of the small dirt hill in the backyard, is not the action the same once you take that first step, lifting your foot upon the soil?  The person in each instance started at the same point with the same objective.  Think about the statement, 
"Begin with the end in mind" 
(The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People).  

What does it mean to you?  
Try this yogic exercise:

Stop, be still and sit quietly in meditation.  Close your eyes, visualize yourself positively successful in the place or state of  existence you wish.  Realize the influence your thoughts have over your actions and the effect your actions have on your mind, body, and soul.  With this in mind, speak your affirmation out loud, with truth. Absorb and feel good about it...your success awaits you.

Sat Nam
 (Truth is thy name)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Angels and Anniversaries

"Angels are among us; when you find them, cherish their presence everyday"-unknown

This month  marks the anniversary of this journey.  It has been one year since I first placed pen to paper.  What began as an effort to document progress, force commitment and a vehicle to deal with demons, has become the grounding foundation I sought to seek.  It seems as if it were just yesterday that I began, yet so much has happened, as if a tremendous span of time has passed since last September ..

Angel of Catalyst
365 days ago, I had very little knowledge.  All I knew was that I could no longer continue in the direction in which I was going.  While stumbling out of the gate and researching online, I came across the website, The Vegan Muse.  Something about the site was beckoning and easy to follow.  I wrote the creator, Charlie Pinkston, sharing my truths and my story.  I explained my inexperience, my dreams, my vulnerability and my desire to live a vegan life.  She quickly responded and did an amazing thing - she welcomed me openly and unconditionally.  As we corresponded, Charlie quickly became the catalyst, igniting a fire within me.  In return, not only did she share with me, she freely gave advice, nutritional tips, friendship, and inspiration to stay the course.  When I tried my hand at what became my signature dish, she invited me to participate in the book
The Vegan Muse and The Sexy Raw Vegan
Angels of catalyst and fuel....
...who graciously became my Sisters
she was planning (and eventually published this past Spring), "The Vegan Muse and Friends".  I was stunned for her book is filled with features from seasoned yogis and professional vegan chefs.  Yet, despite this, she also included me, a pure novice, to participate.  Charlie believed in me more than I believed in myself.  She wanted to show that regardless of your experience level, it isn't hard to create a vegan dish if you have the desire to just simply try.  Low and behold, I reside on page 136 as a testament in gratitude to the angel who opened the door to reveal my true journey.  How can you give up or fail when there is a guardian angel evoking and leading the way?  Charlie saw or felt something I had yet to see.

Angel of Fuel
Once ignited, I became insatiable, hungry for more information, possessing a new motivation to learn and to create.  Unfortunately, as angels lurk, so do demons:  initial smells and temptations of former favorites, lack of support, self flagellation, mental deprecation, second guessing, feeling alone, forced defense, and doubt all hovered internally.  Simultaneously, I was externally left flabbergasted and devastated by the negativity, hatred, harsh unsolicited judgment, and ugliness of others, leaving me at times, loaded and downtrodden as the steam began to fizzle.  Through Charlie, I had begun to meet several kind people, one of which provided an experience -  a pure burst of positive bright vegan energy, Drew McCall  Burke.   Drew quickly became the fuel to combust the smoldering embers within me.  Drew, better known as the "Sexy Raw Vegan",  also fitness guru and raw vegan chef,  became my guide.  She possesses an uncanny understanding of how what you put into your body effects how your move your body.  Food is fuel.  Fuel provides power.  Drew's ability to communicate this became the power and the energy needed to move forward, to stay the course.  She selflessly opened her heart and began to coach me, eventually introducing me to a raw, live food lifestyle.    Her promotion, telephone calls, emails, and chats provided positive support.... continuous fuel to feed the flames now burning bright within me.  She challenged me to move outside of my comfort zone and to stand up to face my demons - those tangible and those in the forms of poor food choices. She became the fuel to my fire.

Angel of Fire
With an intensity, this past year has been an incredible experience. I have learned so much and am eager to return as much as has been given to me.  I am on fire.  I burn with voracity consuming all in my path, learning and reaching out to as many as I can.  The student is becoming the teacher.  With burning passion, I have begun to adapt and to "uncook" meals that once served as staples.  Last year, I was so pleased to present Veggie Tuna.  It was my signature dish, it served me well.  Although it did not contain any fish, it was a mock version consisting of cooked garbanzo beans, grapeseed vegan mayonnaise, green pepper, red onion, and tomato.  It was a triumph to create this dish...and it is equally pleasing to present a live, raw version:

LIVE Veggie Tuna
Sprouted Garbanzo Beans
Sprouted Quinoa
Green Pepper
Red Onion

Sprout beans (takes 3-4 days), sprout quinoa (takes 24-48hrs).  Chop/dice green pepper, red onion, tomato. Ground garbanzo beans in food processor or blender. Add other ingredients.  Liquid from tomato should hold it all together.

When you are blessed with the presence of angels, you are able to defeat your demons with fervor. As you reach any milestone or anniversary demarcation in your life, you reflect.  Reflection allows you to:

                                                           see:    where you've been
                                            acknowledge:   where you are
                                                 determine:   where you're going

As you see where you've been, you will be able so see where you're going.  In order to acknowledge where you are, you must acknowledge where you've been.  As you determine where you're going, you determine where you are.   Whether you rejoice loudly in celebration or sit quietly in somber gratitude, whether you recognize or not, you should know that you have not arrived at any particular point in your life alone.  You've had to deal with demons, assisted by angels who have guided and supported you along the way.   Over time, as you reflect, you will begin to recognize them, as they reveal themselves in the form of teachers, friends, neighbors, parents, and sometimes strangers - people we do not know but are grateful that they seemingly are in the "right place at the right time".  As angels grace, do not let their assistance be in vain.  As you have received, let the fire ignited within you burn bright and use it to become an angel for someone else.  Freely offer and avail yourself to another in your stead.  As you receive, you so should give in return.

Fire once started need not be extinguished.  It can be a continuous event, as long as it is consistently fed and nourished.  Use your angelfire to ignite and fan the flame of someone else.  Being an angel isn't difficult and doesn't have to be a complex endeavor, it can be as simple as a few kind words, opening a closed door, a pat on the back, being either a catalyst or a provider of fuel.  How ever you choose to spread your wings, always remember to be a pillar of support where none exists.  Burn your fire with intensity for as you grow, so shall all you encounter.

This anniversary I see clearly now, having successfully conquered demons.   With humble gratitude,  I am fortified with the blessing of both the catalyst and the fuel, angels who have graciously become my sisters... and I embrace with thanksgiving the many angels met this past year (to name just a few: Jen, John, Glen, Chloe, Jo, Travis, Brian, Marcus, Asante, Toni, Suky, Ron, Danelle, Gina, Mitzi, Jason, Rosie, Xavier, Yogini, Zenita).  To each of them, to those too many to name, and to each of you, with my deepest bow,  Namaste.

Yoga:  Manipura, the third Chakra
The third chakra, also called the navel chakra or solar plexis, is located within the digestive system.  It is represented by the color yellow as it is considered the life force,  the "seat of fire within the body". According to Yoga Journal, "this chakra is involved in self-esteem, warrior energy, the power or transformation, governing digestion and metbolism."  It is the source of generosity and selfless service, provides courage to take risks, and reinforces ethics.
I practice Dhanurasana with Breath of Fire..
...keeping ignited embers lit.
Pose:     Dhanurasana - Bow Pose
The bow pose stimulates the Manipura.   In Kundalini Yoga, the bow pose is practiced in conjunction with the Breath of Fire (rapid breathing technique). It massages the abdominal organs and strengthens the back, increasing digestive fire.