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Taking Back Sunday: Eckhart Tolle Video, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

4 Nov

I have a love/hate relationship with Sundays. Growing up Catholic, this day will be forever linked with church whether I like it or not. I have not been to mass since somewhere around 1992. I used to always just feel ooky and weird on Sundays in the decades after I escaped Catholic Church. The entire day felt like a miserable black hole– like a psychic funeral where there was no corpse, but there should have been. I was usually hideously hung over and remorseful and desperately seeking not Susan, but Smirnoff and Advil. My roommate and I used to refer to the “metaphysical hangover” (thank you, Kingsley and Martin Amis)–the feeling of utterly hopeless sucking dark doom that would come over us some mornings after a particularly insane drinking rampage.

These days I’ve realized that I can take back Sunday. I can explore new, spiritual ideas and practices—no one is going to force me to go to Church ever again. On Sundays, I engage in other spiritual activities. I read spiritual books, I go to my afternoon meditation 12 step group, I practice yoga and sometimes I watch spiritual videos or attend a virtual satsang with Mooji (more on another Sunday about that).

I love Eckhart Tolle—he’s like a magical library gnome. There’s something so lovely, spiritual and impish about him—almost mischievous while simultaneously kind. These are qualities I always look for in spiritual teachers. I did not want to love The Power of Now or A New Earth (ewww, Oprah!), but I did. Many people in my 12 step programs of recovery highly recommended The Power of Now, and I’ve read it several times. I always find something new upon re-reading it. Today’s little gem that I received when I just randomly opened the book is:

“Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet…if you cannot feel your emotions, if you are cut off from them, you will eventually experience them on a purely physical level as a physical problem or symptom…a strong unconsious emotional pattern may manifest as an external event that appears to just happen to you…if you have difficulty feeling your emotions, start by focusing attention on the inner energy field of your body. Feel the body from within. This will also put you in touch with your emotions.”  (pages 25-26, The Power of Now).

This is something I have directly experienced because of the powerful practice of Ashtanga yoga. All of my injuries and stiff, painful areas are linked to strong emotions that I was not consciously aware of. Many of the “accidents” that have “happened” to me took place during times of great unconscious emotional turmoil. My hips are an emotional battlefield—I am still clearing the debris of decades of repressed emotions. This has been brought up during practice over and over again, and I have begun to experience this in a completely new way as a result of Ashtanga practice. Drishti, bandhas and breath make so much sense—go within and focus on the inner energy field. That is where healing takes place.

Today’s Taking Back Sunday post is a lovely video courtesy of the miracle of youtube. I got so much out of it, especially the gem that takes place around 27:00:

“Love nothing but what comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more actually fit your needs?” —Marcus Aurelius

Eckhart Tolle on this: “The pattern of your destiny is the totality in which you move, and whatever you encounter…in this moment, the only moment that there is, must be part of this web of the pattern of your destiny where everything is connected with everything else…I speak of the inevitability of the form of the present moment…the entire history of the world has brought about the form of this moment obviously…it has produced the form that this moment takes and that is the web, that is the pattern, that is part…and to go against that is insane, to not accept it…so one theme that runs through it (the book) is to live in a state of non-resistance of what is.”

I immediately thought of my resistance to the difficult asanas, to the pain and stiffness and injuries, to the surrender of where I am today in the asana as opposed to where my ego thinks I should be, to the humbling nature of Asthanga practice itself.


Herbivore or Vegan? Say it Loud, Say it Proud!

16 Sep


I’ll just come clean: I really don’t like calling myself a vegan lately. It seems like when I finally “out” myself to someone, I’m met with a look of horror or derision. Or I get the, “don’t you feel upset that you are killing all of those plants?” question. Or the, “I could never do that!” statement. Then there’s the other side of the coin: the Vegan Police…fellow vegans who critique me for a million and one reasons. They don’t like that I work for a non-vegan company or that I live with omnivores and frequently date omnivores . They scrutinize my shoes (yup, they’re vegan), scrunch their noses up because I eat at restaurants where meat is served and have to take medications that are not vegan. I do my best, but I can’t live in a 100% vegan bubble. I would love to work for a vegan company and I would really love to not have to take medication every day. However, that is not happening anytime soon (especially the medication). I try to act with compassion and conscience and practice the principle of non-harming in all of my affairs. I always go back to what one of my earliest vegan role models, Joanne Stepaniak, says about the issue:

“Because there are no perfect alternatives for every animal-based item, vegans must choose to tread as lightly as possible by selecting the most compassionate choices available. The amount of animal ingredients used in some plastics is trifling when compared with true animal commodities, such as leather, wool, or down, which directly fuel the continual slaughter of animals. After a while, it becomes exhausting and nonsensical to dissect the microscopic elements of our lives and rifle through every last belonging in search of the elusive animal ingredient. What would be the point? Purity? Consonance? Moral righteousness?

As vegans, we must confront the fact that our world, our options, and even our own actions are fallible. As much as we may want to be fastidious in our elimination of animal-based commodities, there are realistic considerations that make this impractical. From the perspective of compassion, economic impact, and the ability to inspire change and create a demand for genuinely humane products, our present-day substitutes, despite their drawbacks, are far superior to commodities that represent obvious suffering and death.” 

Lately I’ve been thinking that I’ll just start calling myself an herbivore if anyone asks me. So when the kind folks at Vegan Cuts asked me to start reviewing vegan products that they are featuring on their website (a vegan version of groupon? it’s about time!), I initially felt torn. I try not to make my blog this in-your-face vegan blog. But yeah, I’m a vegan, dammit. I read labels. I only buy cruelty-free products. I have Happy Cow bookmarked on my phone. I special order my freaking vegan vitamins even though I work for a vitamin company. But I want to stay in the closet about being vegan 99% of the time!

So imagine my surprise when the first item I get to review was this extremely cute necklace from Design Specimen:

That’s right: HERBIVORE. I love it! I’ve gotten lots of compliments on it.

Here’s the vegan design:

from Cute!

My readers can get a discount at if they use the code BLOGFRIEND –  Save an additional 10% off your order, doesn’t apply to shipping, expires Oct 31/12.

Being vegan has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I celebrated my two year vega-a-versary on August 16th. This is me two years ago:

Me on my 40th birthday with my sister-in-law

And here is me two years later:

I feel healthier and happier at 42 than I did when I was 22. This was me at 22:

Me, 22, Baltimore, MD

Ironically, I will be in Baltimore next week for a trade show. I’m going to have to take a picture so we can have a side-by-side 20 year comparison! It’s the inner transformation I wish I could somehow capture for people to easily see–I am so different now that it’s crazy. Being vegan and living a really clean life full of yoga, metta meditation, heavy metal and love: it’s revolutionized me on every level.

Your Body Is Not A Wonderland, It’s A Wasteland

9 Aug

I’ve been thinking a lot about the very Western fascination with “detox” lately and way it intersects with yoga practice. I have mixed feelings. The health food freak in me (hey, I worked for Whole Foods Market for 17 flipping years—I can’t help it!) likes the idea of organic produce, lots of water and green juices/smoothies. Then part of me is like, why not all of the time? Why do I need to “detox” just so I can “retox” at a later date? My biggest so-called-“vices” are the occasional bag of Pop Chips, vegan pizza and coffee. If I’m in a situation where other people are drinking “festively”, I have been known to drink Diet Coke. Burn me at the stake! I saw an article on Elephant Journal the other day with a pic of what happens to your innards when you drink soda that nearly made my eyes bulge out. I got this image from the blog

It’s obvious that eating, drinking and slathering your body with lots of toxic crap is not practicing ahimsa. Hurts you, hurts the environment, hurts other animals and humans. But the hysterical prudishness and rhetoric behind most of the “Detox” diets, websites, books and e-books just leaves me with a bad, toxic taste in my mouth. A lot of it just seems like thinly veiled anti-fat, “obesity epidemic” hatred.

And, quite frankly, some of it just doesn’t make any damn sense. There’s a lot of woo-woo BS that gets touted as nutritional fact and I am just not down with that. Just disregard my love of Ayurveda and TCM here for a minute and bear with me, OK? I recently picked up a copy of Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Solution at the lovely Las Vegas library (our library system ROCKS!). Part of me wants to buy what she’s selling hook, line, and vegan sinker. She’s so cute and healthy looking and I like the color of her book. And the green smoothie recipe looks really good! But then I had to dig a little more and look at what she actually wants me to DO.

For Phase One of her plan (“Blossoming Beauty”), she wants me to drink hot lemon water and take some probiotics when I first wake up. WTF is the deal with all of these alternative health gurus and lemons? There are 2.4 million studies on Pub Med alone. Do any of the studies reference the miraculous alkaline power of an acidic citrus fruit? If you find this information, please email me immediately. I did find some interesting studies on Citrus species and a drug made from them for sickle cell anemia, however. Very interesting. I will have to do some more digging on this topic because it has been seriously nagging me for years.

Next on this phase, I get to eat “two or three” celery sticks and dry toast for breakfast. But only if I am hungry. Seriously? Lunch is kale salad and soup (rice crackers optional) and snack is, you guessed it, raw veggies. Yay! Dinner is more salad with oil free dressing and either fish (ewww) or a alkaline grain veggie burger. Then, this is the kicker: “LATE NIGHT: if you experience cravings, have herbal tea with stevia or more veggie sticks dipped in Sally’s Salsa or Green Bean Miso Dip.” “If” I experience cravings? It’s more like when. All I have to say is that someone would be getting HURT if that was how I had to eat every day. Cravings? Ya think? Just writing this made me hungry!

I’m sure there’s plenty in this book that is useful information. I just can’t get past the starvation part. The total caloric content of the food I listed above? 913 calories, with the optional extra carrot sticks at night. I would be diving head first into a vegan pizza followed by a bag of Uncle Eddie’s, I can see it now. So I will continue on my merry way, making my body toxic in the morning with coffee before my Ashtanga practice and eating lots of healthy vegan stuff for the rest of the day. In the meantime, I do not feel like my body is a wonderland (screw you, John Mayer) or a wasteland. It’s just my human, imperfect, and awesome body. I try to honor the temple as much as I can and treat it with gratitude, respect and love.

“There Is No Violent Yogi”

26 Jun

Man, I am missing the hell out of my Ashtanga asana practice. It’s been over two weeks and I am freaking miserable!  Seriously, I feel like I am about to go nuts. I think I am going to try tomorrow and see how my hand holds up. If it’s OK, I’m going to resume until my hand surgery on Thursday. Going to try modifications for all of the Sun Salutations so that I don’t put so much weight on the finger. In the meantime, I have been reading a very interesting book and thinking lots about the non-asana and spiritual aspects of yoga:



This book takes the form of a conversation between Srivatsa Ramaswami and one of his senior students, David Hurwitz. Ramaswami is the guru and teacher behind the Vinyasa Krama system and was a direct student of Krishnamacharya. There’s all kinds of stuff for me to chew on while I am on the mend, including the statement:

“There is no violent yogi…yogis have clean minds and bodies….moderation is a yogic virtue…all that the yogi does, he does so with a sense of loving offering to God.”

Let me tell you, this totally ran through my mind this morning when I had a total meltdown in the parking lot of a health food store. It takes so little to set me off and bruise my ego sometimes that it just freaking amazes me. The slightest perceived insult about certain things (ahem, my weight or appearance) just pushes me over the edge.  Talk about beneath the surface!

In the section entitled, “On Yoga Philosophy”, Ramaswami makes the following statement:

“So a person who has taken to yoga as a spiritual mission, after acquiring some conviction that yoga will lead the way to kaivalya, will have to spend time and effort to cultivate these traits of nonviolence and so on. Otherwise an angry young man, without deliberate attention and effort, will end up an angry old man, despite all other efforts. In fact the sage Vyasa, in his commentary on Yoga Sutras, compares the yogi who has taken to yoga and transgresses the yama niyamas to a dog who eats his own vomit.”

I had to look up the word “kaivalya” in the handy dandy glossary of Sanskrit terms at the back of the book (worth the purchase price alone!). Kaivalya: “to be alone, freedom.” The simple definition of namas and niyamas as yogic do’s and don’ts is about all I can handle right now. I interpret “yoga will lead the way to kaivalya” as: Yoga will lead me to a place where I can be truly alone, which is also a state of spiritual freedom. That is tantalizing. I think one of the primary appeals of Ashtanga yoga is the emphasis on slow and methodical solitary home practice as a mainstay of the system.

My brain is not wanting to wrap itself around a lot of what I read lately. Where’s Sanskrit for Dummies when I need it?  I’m stressed and distracted and a yogini loose cannon. It’s going to take me some time to really read Yoga Beneath the Surface; there’s a whole lot of juicy, complex stuff happening in only 234 pages. A lot of it is way over my head, which makes me squirmy and happy at the same time. My ego-driven, prideful and intellectual inner Comparative Religion major self wants to immediately understand everything, NOW. It’s been a loooooong time since I even tried to study Sanskrit, and I was always half-assed about it anyway. In fact, it was a huge deterrent when I was thinking about applying to graduate school for Buddhist Studies. When I found out I would have to learn Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, German AND French for the graduate program I told my advisor, “I think I just want to go drink and wash dishes for a living and go to punk rock shows. I’m outta here.” Even though I did all of the course work for my degree, I ended up refusing to do my final oral comp exam (on Mircea Eliade)  because I was convinced that the head of the department hated me and I decided it just wasn’t worth it. The English degree by itself was all I could manage. I still regret this, but I was too tired and sick at the time.

With that being said, I am going to go drink more coffee and read a regency romance novel. I think about all I can handle right now is The Revenge of Lord Eberlin and a nice, hot trough of hazelnut coffee.

Semi-Ayurvedic Saturday: Dosas, Dahl, and Shahid Kapoor

3 Jun

First of all, Anjum Anand is fricking HOT. Like scorching, middle of the Las Vegas Summer hot. Damn. Nigella’s got nothin’ on Anjum. That’s honestly the reason I picked up this book! I know, I’m sin verguenza. I can hear my abuela’s disapproving voice right now!

Anjum’s Eat Right For Your Body Type has nothing to do with the Blood Type Diet (I plead the Fifth on that one) and everything to do with a layman-friendly version of Ayurveda. I enjoyed the pithy explanations, the sections on detox and weight loss and the aesthetics of the book itself. Warning to my veg readers: I do believe this contains some recipes that use meat and dairy, which I of course just ignored. But I am eating a yummy veganized bowl of her Mung Bean detox soup RIGHT NOW:

Adapted from Anjum’s book, here’s an adjusted, vegan-and-Kapha-friendly version of her Mung Bean Detox Soup:

  • 1/2 cup green Mung Beans
  • 4 cups water or veggie broth
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Soak the Mung beans for a minimum of 4 hours in enough water to cover them up. If you can soak them overnight, it’s only better for your digestion. If beans tend to make you, um, vata-d out, soak them with a piece of kombu seaweed or some sorrel (both reduce gassiness). Discard the water after you’re done soaking and rinse the beans well. Bring the water or broth and beans to a boil, then reduce heat and cook them for about 35 minutes on a low simmer.

Assemble your spices if you want to make this Ayurvedically by simmering the spices in some oil (see explanation below). If you E2’rs out there want to avoid oil, you can add the spices by themselves into the soup at the very end. Usually about 5-10 minutes before the soup is done seems to work well.

For Kapha dosha:

On very, very low heat simmer the following for about two to five minutes. Since we are not using Ghee, which has a really high smoke point, you have to be careful. You can get away with five if you use coconut  (higher smoke point), but straight EB will burn so be careful. Once you’ve simmered it, add it to the soup and cook the soup for another 5-10 minutes before serving (that’s a total of 40-45 minutes cooking time).  This is one of the few times I would suggest sticking to the amounts suggested for the spices exactly. It’s really easy to make this taste terrible if you overpower one spice with another.

  • 1 tbs Earth Balance (my vegan answer to Ghee!), or coconut oil, or Earth Balance coconut spread
  • 1/4 tsp Hing
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala powder

If you’d like, you can add some finely chopped up veggies to this like cauliflower, chopped green beans, kale or any other Kapha-friendly veggies. I suggest steaming them lightly and then adding them to the oil and spice blend.

Once you’ve simmered the oil blend and/or veggies for the allotted time it, add it to the soup and cook the soup for another 5-10 minutes before serving.  Top it off with 2 rounded tablespoons of minced, fresh cilantro and add 1/2 tsp. salt (optional—I need it, but not E2 compliant).

I also finally got my hands on some Trader Joe’s Masala Dosas. It was like finding the Holy Grail. I had to go to three Trader Joe’s here in Vegas before I found them, but they were totally worth it> Not E2 compliant and probably not good for me Ayurvedically, but Frankly, I don’t give a f@ck. It’s not like I’m eating a bag of Cheetos:

As promised, the cooking oil method explanation–obviously since I am a vegan I don’t eat ghee, but many Yogis do:

“According to ayurveda, the best way to cook vegetables is to sauté them in ghee with spices. By first sautéing the spices in ghee the volatile oils of the spices are drawn out into the Ghee. These spices have therapeutic value. Turmeric, for example, has been found to be an antioxidant, and other spices such as cumin and coriander help with digestion and assimilation. The spices cook into the vegetables and act as carriers, transferring nutrition from the vegetables into the bloodstream as we consume them. They also make the food taste aromatic and delicious.

First gently fry the spices in the ghee, taking care not to burn them. Add the chopped raw vegetables to the spice mixture and stir so that all the spices are mixed with the vegetables. Add a couple of spoonfuls of water to prevent sticking. Cover and cook on low heat until the vegetables are well cooked. Not mushy, but just “fork friendly”. Add salt to taste at the end and some fresh cilantro leaves for garnish.

Ghee is considered a beneficial oil in ayurveda. According to traditional ayurvedic texts, it is a rasayana, good for overall well-being and longevity. Modern research shows that it is an antioxidant and contains beta-carotene. Since the milk solids have been removed, ghee does not spoil easily like vegetable oils do. If you are on a weight loss program, limit your intake of ghee or oil to judicious amounts.” From the Maharishi Ayurveda website, 

The website has lots of easy to understand information about Ayurveda, and they sell some great products like Kapha, Pitta and Vata tea as well as Raja’s Cup. I used to be able to get all of that at my local Whole Foods when I lived in Florida, but I haven’t seen any of it in retail stores since I moved to Vegas, which makes me sad.

And to close my post with some more hotness (and because this delicious food is best eaten with a great movie), I give you my absolute favorite Bollywood leading man—also a Pisces and a vegetarian. My dream man, Shahid Kapoor:

Off I go to work my way through the rest of his movie back catalogue!

Sin City Yoga

2 Jun

Last night I tried a Yoga 1 Vinyasa class with Angelica Govaert at Sin City Yoga, a new study that just opened up about a month ago here in Las Vegas. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been struggling with sheer *terror* about going to a studio yoga class, especially anything Vinyasa/Power/Ashtanga based. The last Baptiste Power yoga class I went to almost killed me!

The studio is right off of Rancho and Alta in a little house. The studio space itself is small and cozy and sort of set off toward the back of the property. There’s a nice garden next to it. I immediately liked it and felt eager to go inside, which is rare for me when it comes to yoga. I’ve been sitting on a two month unlimited pass to Bikram Summerlin since Thanksgiving or so and every time I think about using it, I want to puke.

The good news: I didn’t die. I faced my fear AND I even wore form fitting yoga clothing that I can actually practice comfortably in (not Lululemon, though—don’t get it twisted, OK?). This is a huge deal for me, as I am extremely self-conscious and weird about my body still after all of the weight loss. I am always convinced that I will be the fattest and stiffest person in the room and I work myself up into a frenzy of anxiety about it.

Sometimes being in my body feels like I am driving a rental car with all sorts of gee gaws and gadgets that I don’t know how to operate. I am used to hiding underneath lots and lots of clothing. I had a moment when I saw myself in the mirror and almost had a panic attack. I still see a 320 pound or 275 pound person in the mirror. I will continue to stay the fuck away from that mirror until I am a little more settled down in my practice and not in such a weird place about inhabiting my body. Yeah, that should be, um, never…!

The even better news: the class was excellent. I could pretty much “do” all of the asanas and there was lots of hip opening going on, which I desperately need. I liked Angelica’s teaching style and she is very approachable and warm. She told me before class started that she was from Florida, and also that she studies Ashtanga but does not teach it. She said she really has a lot of respect for the lineage and structure, and she feels that if you are going to teach Ashtanga you need to go to Mysore and do the whole deal. She got to study once with Jois right before he died, which I was excited by. Angelica gave me some great adjustments and was very encouraging. I am going back on Saturday for another level 1 class.

Interestingly, she reminded me of my very first yoga teacher, Michelle—also from Florida. I have a good feeling about this.

Update: I ran into Angelica randomly on my lunch break  in Whole Foods today, which I took as a positive sign from the powers that be. She gave me a big hug and was SO nice. I am excited to have a teacher again!

Sin City Yoga website:


515 Rose Street, Las Vegas, NV 89106– just East of the intersection of Rancho and Alta. Close to the 95 and not too far from The Strip.

I Can Stop Anytime I Want: Trader Joe’s Vanilla Chai-Spiced Coffee

31 May

I could not restrain myself from buying this when I saw it on the New Products shelf at Trader Joe’s. I was cranky because they didn’t have the Masala Dosas I wanted so desperately (sure…denial!). I already have about two pounds of coffee stockpiled at my house *just in case* (in case of what? A hurricane? The Zombie Apocalypse?). My lust for coffee knows no bounds. The thyroid problem is not exactly helping, but OK—I know I am a junkie. Whatever.

Surprisingly, I am not overenthusiastic about this coffee. I was excited about it when I saw it and it smells yummy in the can. It has an odd, medicinal aftertaste while drinking it hot. Maybe it wouldn’t if it was iced? I’m going to try it that way later and we will see what happens.


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