Thursday, November 27, 2008

happy Thanksgiving!

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."
- Melodie Beattie

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Between our inevitable over-indulging today, let's pause for a moment and remember what we are grateful for.

I am thankful for...
my beautiful (and growing) family... Mom, Dad, grandparents, 3 brothers, 3 sisters-in-law, 2 nephews, and 2 nieces born this year!
friends near and far
opportunity and possibility
my job, which to me is more than a job... it's my life's work
waking up to beautiful mornings, like today!
dark chocolate
the gift of movement... our bodies are amazing machines
the journey ahead
... and this mysterious, confusing, yet joyful and incredible thing called life.

Nischala Joy Devi, author of The Secret Power of Yoga, wrote about yoga philosophy according to  the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Here is her translation of Sutra II.39:

Acknowledging abundance (Aparigraha), we recognize the blessings in everything and gain insights into the purpose of our wordly existence.

Such abundance in this life!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

when the body says "enough is enough!"

I'm sure you've all had those caffeinated, running-around-like-a-headless-chicken kind of days.

Between working and going to school, traveling to attend and present at a conference, and just keeping up with the demands of each jam-packed day, my body finally said, "Enough." I got sick two weeks ago, and was pretty miserable in a self-imposed quarantine for a whole weekend plus the following Monday and Tuesday. And the fact that I've fallen off the exercise wagon for the past few (ok, several) weeks doesn't help my immune system one bit.

If you (or the people around you) are dropping like flies with the cold and flu, here are some remedies I swear by:

Warm saltwater. Mom and Grandma were right. At the first sign of a cold, gargle frequently with a mixture of warm water and some sea salt. This can reduce the swelling in the nasal and throat passageways (which happens when you have a cold).

Avoid dairy products. Dairy products can increase mucous production in the body. And excess mucus = breeding ground for bacteria. This is why having a cold can pave the way for a bacterial infection.

Apple cider vinegar. First thing in the morning, I mix a tablespoonful or so of unfiltered apple cider vinegar (such as Bragg's) and a couple of teaspoons of raw honey into a cup of warm water. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar soothes a sore throat, and honey has antibacterial properties. Sip slowly. This worked wonders for me, especially since I hate waking up in the morning when I have a cold and feel all this gunk in my throat (sorry to be descriptive). Another bonus? Apple cider vinegar is like a detox drink, flushing out toxins. Now that I think about it, I should drink this more often!

Vitamin C/citrus fruits. This one's a no-brainer. And of course, lots of water, hot soup, herbal tea, and plenty of rest. Mmmm speaking of citrus... I look forward to winter's blood oranges! They are almost too pretty to eat, but sooo good.

(How easily distracted I am about food. Back to the topic at hand.)

I decided to call in sick for two days. Despite my worries about falling behind my work and school schedule and my unease with the idea of "doing nothing", I was so glad I did it. My body wanted me to put those brakes on, and I listened (I learn the hard way sometimes). I think I recovered more quickly because of it.

I have to say, I think I got pretty good at the art of doing nothing.

P.S. Disclaimer: I have no medical training, and these are just "my" remedies that work for me... when in doubt, contact your physician or health care practitioner!

tea set photo by cyberlaundry

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


My poison of choice: soy dark-chocolate-orange mocha. Not in a teeny-tiny coffee cup, but in a mug as big as a soup bowl.

Start with some fair trade whole coffee beans from your local coffee roaster, and grind according to your coffeemaker specs... warm some soy milk, and add melted dark chocolate, and a few drops of orange extract.


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Saturday, November 15, 2008


Deep peace of the running wave to you;
Deep peace of the flowing air to you;
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you;
Deep peace of the shining stars to you;
Deep peace of the gentle light to you.

- Celtic Blessing

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Go this way. No, go that.
Which is it? I can see my destination.

But why so many detours?

What I do know is this...

I am not the same as when I started.

- Catherine Logsdon

I read this at an art show at the "Art Off Pike" event in Covington, KY during the 20 Days & 20 Nights art and culture festival. Logsdon's exhibit showcased visual art combined with poetry.

It captures my sentiments exactly...

photo taken in Cumberland, MD, October 2008

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Monday, September 29, 2008

it was THAT kind of Monday morning

Do you ever wake up in the morning and feel like you only slept for an hour? I did this morning. I don't know why, but I tossed and turned last night until almost 2 am. That's even after a 5-6 mile walk and about an hour of yoga. I even had my relaxing tea ritual after dinner. As far as I know, lemon verbena tea (which I had last night - a whole teapot) contains no caffeine. So this morning, I stumbled out of bed and needed a quick energizer.

Here's my solution to hurried mornings...

Banana-Peanut Butter Smoothie

1 ripe banana, peeled and frozen
1-2 tablespoons natural peanut butter*
locally sourced raw honey**, to taste
a dash of ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground cloves
vanilla soy milk

Process the above ingredients in a blender until smooth. Smile in enjoyment. To quote this friend, it's "delicious yummy-ness."

The carbs-and-protein combination of this smoothie keeps me going through busy mornings at work and all the way till a late lunch. The cinnamon is great for keeping your blood sugar levels stable as well.

*For me it HAS to be Santa Cruz organic, creamy, light roasted peanut butter. I tried this smoothie with the "regular" roast (or I guess a darker roast?) of peanut butter and I didn't like it as much because the dark roast overpowered the subtleties of the honey and cloves. Ok, I know I sound strange, complicating the matter. It's all a matter of preference. But YES I obviously love peanut butter and I claim to be a PB connoisseur. :)
**I like the spring variety of honey, which tastes lighter than the summer varieties. YES I obviously like honey. Especially if it's from Bee Haven, one of the vendors at Findlay Market.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

holding on to summer... plus another recipe (Zucchini Date-Nut Bread)

I love this time of year. As much as I do not like saying goodbye to summer, late September also means cooler mornings and nights, the start of Cincinnati's "20 Days 20 Nights" arts festival, and LOTS of end-of-summer produce.

Well, not from my "garden".

My cherry tomato plant didn't do so great, but it wasn't bad for a first try either. They were actually really sweet. I know cherry tomatoes are small, but they shouldn't be that small. Oh, well. Maybe it took after its caretaker.

These tomatoes (below) were SO good. Plump, juicy, and really pretty. I was torn between wanting to slice one of them right away (or just bite into it, really) and wanting to photograph them.

heirloom tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, and grape tomatoes from a friend's garden

At any rate, one of my favorite things to do with home-grown tomatoes is to just slice them, season them lightly with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, sprinkle some fresh chopped basil, and drizzle this olive oil on top (just a warning: it's not cheap, but this is my olive oil indulgence). Then mop up the olive oil with this bread. Aaaahhh... simplicity and perfection.

And what to do with an abundance of farmer's market-fresh zucchini? Zucchini bread!

Here's the recipe...

Zucchini Date-Nut Bread

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you can also combine 1 1/2 cups regular whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sorghum* (or 1/4 cup molasses)
1 cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 medium zucchini, equivalent of 2 cups grated (I used a food processor)
Ener-G egg replacer, equivalent of 3 eggs (follow instructions on package)
about 1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup chopped dates, coated lightly in flour (this prevents the dates from sinking to the bottom of the bread while baking)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8x5" loaf pans.
2. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend well, then set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together oil, sorghum or molasses, sugar, and vanilla. Add zucchini and mix thoroughly. Add Ener-G egg replacer, and mix until blended.
4. Beat in flour mixture just until blended. Take care not to overmix! Fold in nuts and dates.
5. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then loosen the sides of the bread and invert onto a serving plate.

For an added treat, I also mix some Tofutti cream cheese with a little confectioner's sugar and vanilla to spread on the sliced zucchini bread. Yum!

* Sorghum is a natural, unrefined sweetener. I bought mine from Old Kentucky Home, one of the vendors at Findlay Market.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

living without

Cincinnati was struck by a severe storm last Sunday. Gusty, howling winds strong enough to uproot trees. I am one of the fortunate ones to live in a place where the electricity came back on after 24 hours. Some have had to deal with the power outage all week and are expected to have electricity this weekend.

Initially, the power outage made me feel non-productive. I needed to get on my computer to work on some things I needed for the week. I wanted to upload photos. I wanted to check email. Ah, the need for makes me wonder how we lived without it.

Later, I ended up liking it. After checking on some friends and asking if they were ok, I decided I was just going to take a nice, 20-minute power nap, then read something for pleasure. I actually went to bed at 9:30 pm, which in my life is unheard of. It felt refreshing to be disconnected, for a change.

I remember how, back in my home country, we would get hit by tropical storms that made power outages last for days and days. As children my siblings and I would rejoice at not having to go to school. We would welcome the cooler winds that the storm brought, maybe float paper boats in puddles. We would use oil lamps that looked like (and probably were) from the era of Spanish colonialism in our country. We would find ways of enjoying our time, just being together as a family.

This time, I savored the feeling of not needing technology, even temporarily. It's amazing too how we can get used to life's little luxuries. At 6 o'clock on Monday morning, taking a cold shower was almost torturous (ok, so maybe that's being overly dramatic). How could I have gotten used to warm water, when I have been taking cold showers all my life in the tropical heat back home?

Needless to say, the power outage became a welcome respite, to go back to simple pleasures. And to realize that there are things I can live without sometimes.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the gift of memories... and a recipe

(My 2 nephews, walking across the Purple People Bridge, Cincinnati/Northern KY)

Me (to my 8-year-old nephew): Hey Martin, I have a surprise for you!

Martin (excitedly, without skipping a beat): Banana muffins?!

Not surprisingly, my 2 nephews associate their Tita (Aunt) Mia with food. I'm taking that as a compliment.

Almost every summer when we get together, they seem to have a favorite food/snack of the moment. During the week we spend together, they would ask me everyday, "Tita Mia, when are we going to bake (insert snack of the moment here)?"

One summer it was mini pizzas on pita bread. They loved getting involved in the kitchen--spreading the pizza sauce, putting their own choice of toppings (and luckily they ended up eating even peppers and olives), and grated cheese. Of course, more cheese probably went into Lorenzo's belly than onto the pizza. That same year, we even made spinach and black bean enchiladas. I was pleasantly surprised that they ate it, vegetables and all.

Another summer it was my homemade granola. They snacked and snacked on it. Martin asked me about every ingredient that was in it. He would take a handful of granola, put it on a plate, and spread it out so he could see individual ingredients. "What's this one?" he would say. I would answer, "Oats." Then he would put it in his mouth, taste it, chew on it, and mull over it a little. Then he would ask, "How about this one?" I would answer, "dried blueberries." And it would go on and on. Walnuts and almonds. Dried cherries. Sesame seeds and flaxseed.

This summer it was my cinnamon crumb cake and banana chocolate chip muffins. Oh, how we made a mess in my kitchen as I let them stir the flour with the other dry ingredients. We mashed bananas. We added chocolate chips. Once it was baking in the oven, I turned the oven light on and they crouched in front of the oven, looking through the glass and watching it almost in reverence. I'd announce when it was done, and I'd have to ask them to wait for it to cool a bit before digging in. Martin would even ask for hot herbal tea to have with his cinnamon crumb cake. You'd think he was growing up in England.

How I cherish these moments. I'd like to think they'd remember it for a long, long time, as I too remember those moments with my mother in our kitchen back home. I was probably not more than 5 years old. I had my own little apron, my own little oven mitt, mixing bowl and spoon. My mom would put some flour and whatever ingredients she could spare in my bowl and I would start mixing (and making a mess) alongside her. I remember how, when we were little, my siblings and I would help make chocolate chip cookies. And how the chocolate chips had to be rationed, 2 chips per cookie, to make the chocolate go a long way. Of course, one of my brothers tried to sneak in an extra chocolate chip or two. Years later my mom would tell me how we were on a strict budget then (hence the rationed chocolate), and yet we never felt deprived. Silly as it sounds, I was almost shocked when I first saw and tasted American commercially-made chocolate chip cookies that were studded with chocolate chips. But back then we never knew the difference and didn't care that we were only allowed 2 chocolate chips per cookie. I just remember those afternoons of baking as fun family time.

And those are the gifts that matter--experiences and memories.

So maybe I'm not the giver of expensive presents, but I can say I am the supplier of homemade play dough/baked goods/granola for my 2 little sous chefs.

I'm looking forward to more kitchen memories... in a few years, when my newborn nieces Alexi and Paulina are a bit older, they will be in the midst of the action too.

More recipes are in order...

Meanwhile, here's the recipe for my Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water
4 medium, very ripe bananas
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or other neutral-flavored vegetable oil
1/2 cup natural maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or maple extract
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (non-dairy)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with unbleached paper muffin cups. Mix the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl, and set aside to thicken for 10 minutes.
2. In a bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla or maple extract. Mix until blended. Stir in the flaxseed and water mixture. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture, reserving 1/4 cup. Take care not to overmix! Mix the reserved 1/4 cup of flour with the chocolate chips and nuts (dredge them in the flour). Fold in the chocolate chips, nuts, and remaining flour.
5. Spoon into the muffin pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes.


* When I have very ripe bananas but don't have time to bake (on the rare occasion that I don't MAKE time to bake), I mash them and put them in zip-lock freezer bags, and label the quantity. I then freeze these for later use. I like using them in smoothies too - in a blender, throw in your choice of berries, canteloupe, peaches, mangoes, or whatever fruit is in season. I also add about a tablespoon of expeller-pressed flaxseed oil. The frozen bananas make the smoothie so.... smooth (duh) and almost creamy!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

in pursuit of inspiration

One Thousand Mile Stare, photo by Lisa Kristine

I came across Lisa Kristine's photo gallery when I was in Sausalito, California, this summer. The landscapes and portraits were larger than life, the colors vibrant, and the textures so real you can almost reach out and touch them.

What I also loved is this statement:

"I want to welcome [viewers] into the exploration of our mysterious life with a spirit of importance. And astonishment. And hope." - Lisa Kristine

I find this to be an invitation to life itself.

(I wish photography school were in my near future. Not yet, but it's in the horizon somewhere.)

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Monday, September 15, 2008

antidote to exhaustion

I have been SO tired recently. I don't know what it is. Low iron? Caffeine withdrawal? Slowing-down metabolism? Quarter-life crisis (or more like "approaching-thirty-crisis")? A friend of mine says that as you approach thirty, the warranty's over. I'm trying not to believe it yet. But still.... here I am, tired, tired, tired.

Not enough sleep? Not enough fresh air? Not enough exercise?

For some reason, the "not enough's" seem so hard to fix.

Except for "not enough yoga".

Several years ago when I first started practicing yoga, I had an all-or-nothing approach. But if you find yourself juggling work, school, kids, chores, etc (all that plus triathlon training like this gal), and feel that you can only stretch for 10 minutes, that's perfectly fine. A little is better than nothing.

Here are my favorite stretches, especially when all the energy I have left at the end of the day is only enough for a few stretches before bed.

Child's Pose
Get into hands and knees position, or "tabletop". Shift your hips back and rest them on your heels, bringing your head towards the floor (or bed, if that's where you are!).

Try these variations: knees together with your torso resting over your thighs; or your knees separated, with your belly resting between your thighs. Relax your head, the back of your neck, and your shoulders.

Then slide your hands forward to Puppy Pose:

I love this pose. It's a more relaxed version of Downward Facing Dog. It's great for stretching the shoulders and lengthening the spine. It's also a good variation to down dog if your wrists are tired.


Come up to hands and knees in tabletop. Your wrists are directly beneath your shoulders and your knees are about hips-width apart.
Inhale, lift your right arm up to the side, parallel to the ground.
Exhale, thread your right arm in between your left hand and your left knee, then rest your right shoulder all the way down to the floor. Your right arm is extended across the midline of your body, resting on the floor.
Feel the stretch in between your shoulder blades, and breathe. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

Come back to tabletop, then switch sides:
Inhale, lift your left arm up to the side until it's parallel to the ground.
Exhale, thread your left arm in between your right hand and your right knee, then rest your left shoulder all the way down. This time your left arm is extends past the midline of your body and rests on the floor. Breathe, exhaling to release tension in the upper back and shoulders.

Come back to tabletop, then shift your weight forward and lower your body all the way down to the floor. Position your hands in front of the shoulders, then inhale to lift the chest and shoulders up into a gentle back bend, or Sphinx Pose:Relax your shoulders away from your ears... hold for a few breaths. It's like a more relaxed version of Cobra Pose. then exhale to slowly lower chest and shoulders down. Rest here and then move back into Child's Pose to counter-stretch the back bend with a gentle forward bend.

Then move to a comfortable seated position and do your choice of a passive, restorative forward bend. Legs can be extended in front of you...but don't worry about making them perfectly straight. You can bend them as little or as much as you want to. You can even put a pillow underneath your knees if that's more comfortable, or if there's tension in your hamstrings.
If you prefer, you can bring the soles of your feet together so that your legs are in a diamond shape. Or you can bring your feet closer to your pelvis in a "butterfly" shape.

Or you can bring your legs out wide:
Lots of options for a forward bend. It's your yoga practice, so you choose! Whatever forward bend you choose, relax into it as much as possible.

As you inhale and exhale, visualize letting go of your day. Inhale: "Let..." Exhale: "Go..."

Once you feel you've had enough of a stretch in a forward bend, GENTLY come out of may feel a bit of an ache in your lower back after the passive stretch, so be patient with yourself. Isn't that a nice thought? How often are we patient with ourselves?

Then lower all the way to the floor.

Happy Baby (who can resist a stretch with a name like that?). This is great for opening the hips:

Legs-up-the-wall Pose
So simple, but blissful! I've fallen asleep like this, seriously.

Reclined Twist (do both sides)
Possible props: try a pillow underneath your stacked knees, or in between your knees. It will be more relaxing if both shoulders are resting on the ground, and if your knees have to be propped up to do so, then prop them up!

Think positive thoughts, like "I did my best today. Tomorrow is another day."

Drift off into sleep.

(photos from Yoga Journal and Yin Yoga websites)

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

(not an) everyday miracle

I am the proud aunt of 2 new nieces, Alexi and Paulina, born about 3 weeks apart on opposite sides of the world: Alexi in New Jersey, Paulina in my home country, the Philippines.

Precious bundles of joy. Can't wait to meet them in person!

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

moment of clarity

(photo from

There's just something magical about moving through water. This is the place where I am most present with my breath, my body, my mind.

Just a few more days before the pool closes for the season.... (sniff)

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don't just look... notice.

Lesson #3 from my nephews: Stop and smell the flowers. (or look at a hairy, creepy bug... or whatever it is they are looking at)

I love how wonderfully in-the-moment my nephews are in the photo above.

In our yoga practice, let's also notice.... how are we breathing? Are we breathing with a steady ease? Or does it become choppy during a challenging pose?

At home, notice how a family member/friend feels... do we stop and listen?

At work, also notice... are we hunched over as we type on the keyboard? How do we breathe as we finish a project to meet a deadline? Do we interact with our coworkers/clients hurriedly or do we really pay attention?

Towards ourselves, do we give ourselves time to pause within our busy workday?

I'm ready to light a candle, make myself some tea and sit on my balcony. And do nothing else for at least five minutes.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

If you can walk, you can dance.
If you can talk, you can sing.
If you can move, you can play.

Zimbabwe Proverb

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

the "I Want It So Bad" meditation

Based on my many, many, many attempts at sitting still to meditate, my first thought when I first read that title was, "I like it already!"

I've been going back and forth in my head, thinking about the things I want to do in my life (always the existential question), whether these things I want to do are REALLY what I want to do, in my quietest, most honest state... and whether these dreams are what will fulfill my purpose. In perfect timing, I stumbled upon this article to provide some needed direction and clarity.

Click here to read the article from Yoga Journal on a guided meditation practice for the specific intention of "I Want It So Bad."

So set up your meditation space, wherever that is... light a candle (or not), play some music (or not), and have the printout of this article in front of you (that I really did), then set your intention and breathe...

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more lessons from my nephews

Lesson #2: Find that which puts you in the "zone" -- that place where time stands still.

A sitting meditation hasn't always been the high point of my yoga practice. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not very good at sitting still. I do practice -- I set up my space, my music, candle, blanket, etc.... but as the name suggests, my meditation practice does require practice, and it is always a work in progress.

Meditation for me is most often a moving meditation, which most often is swimming. I love it. Many times I find myself rushing home to change out of my work clothes and run to the pool. I just jump right in, having the water all to myself. I've always considered myself an antisocial swimmer. So much that when a child started to talk to me as I was swimming, her parent called out, "Honey, don't talk to that lady, she wants to swim!" As I swim the breast stroke (or at least my version of it), I get into a calming rhythm of kick, glide, pull. It puts me in that "hit the pause button" mode. I don't know if my "moving meditation" will be frowned upon by meditation masters or gurus, but that's what it is to me... it's almost an escape. It reminds me of that sense withdrawal practice in yoga - bhramari, or the "humming bee" breath.

Here is a definition from my yoga teacher training book:

"Bhramari is a breath that calms the mind through nada (inner sound). The sound is very similar to a humming bee. Bhramari can be used in the place of chanting and mantra meditation. To practice bhramari, begin with a long, complete inhalation and exhale through the nasal cavity while constricting the glottis and softly hummng. The humming sound comes from the back of the throat. You will feel a vibration behind the soft palate and in the nasal cavity. This completes one round.

Shinmuki mudra is often used during bhramari and is extremely helpful in finding one's inner sound. Shinmuki mudra is done by placing the thumbs into the ears, closing off external noise. The forefingers are laid over the eyebrows, the middle fingers over the closed eyelash line, the ring fingers rest above the nasal rim and the little fingers are beside the edges of the mouth." (Anna Ferguson & Lennessa Trent, Tymeless Health: Guide to Practicing, Teaching, and Living Yoga). The purpose of this mudra, or "seal", is to withdraw the senses -- any external sights and sounds or any other distractions-- bringing awareness to your inner self.

(photo by Anna, at our yoga teacher training)

It probably sounds a bit strange as you are reading it. But I remember the first time I tried it at my yoga teacher training, and what a powerful experience it was.

Needlesss to say, swimming gives me that same powerful experience of just being, and time seems to stand still. Kick, glide, pull, breathe.

But whatever it is that puts you in the "zone", whatever it is that makes you feel like nothing else matters - be it hiking, taking photos, cooking - go ahead and do it. That's what I love about this photo of my 2 nephews above. I love the look of concentration on their faces, and how their heads were even tilted in the same direction! All that mattered was that house/castle/fort that they were building. They were in their zone, oblivious to me and my camera, and the noise from the throngs of kids and adults swarming around.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

lessons in yoga and life, from my nephews

Lesson #1: Apply yourself fully to whatever you are doing.

Whether you're in a yin-style restorative forward bend or in the challenging urdhva dhanurasana (wheel) pose, or doing a breathing exercise. Whether you're running, writing, or gardening. Whatever it is, give it your all. Your body, mind, and spirit deserve nothing less.

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hit the pause button

One of the highlights of my family's visit is my 94-year-old grandmother. Isn't she beautiful?

At 17, she was a beauty queen. At 94, after trips to Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and finally the United States, she was deservingly nicknamed Mrs. Grandma International 2008. And she even said she still wants to go to Rome. She was definitely bitten by the travel bug.

After not seeing her for a few years, I have to admit it took some adjustment for me to accept the changes in her. Sometimes she doesn't remember me. Sometimes she doesn't know my name. During those weeks that she stayed with me, sometimes she doesn't know where she is and whose house she is staying in, although she does know for certain that she's in America.

In some moments, however, the sparkle in her eye comes back. An almost naughty sparkle, in fact, as she starts giving me advice about marriage (despite how far it is from my mind right now). She looks at me with certainty as she goes through her mental list of "qualities to look for in a man", counting them off with her fingers. And when she does have that look of recognition in her face, when she is lively, alert, and witty, I wish there were a "pause" button I could hit.

One thing is certain though -- all her life she's been one tough cookie. A phenomenal woman, indeed. She lived through World War II and took care of everyone and everything when my grandfather was away. She learned to make do with whatever she had, while still making sure there was enough to go around for the large family - to include cousins, aunts and uncles -- enough to always offer anyone to come and eat, and insisting at least 3 more times that you do so (for those of you who know me, now you know from whom I inherited this practice). She saved everything -- she exemplified a "waste not, want not" way of living. In my grandmother's life, green living is not new. (In fact, I first learned about washing and re-using Zip-lock bags from her, years and years ago.)

Now, she doesn't have to worry about any of that. She does as she pleases. She listens to her body. She sleeps when she has to, eats when she has to. She eats ice cream whenever she wants. She hits the "pause" button. She stops -- truly stops -- to smell the flowers.

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I've committed a blogging sin. I have not written since.... May 30th! A few people have wondered and asked whether I left the country! (thanks for loyally visiting my blog, and for being patient...)

The past few months have been wonderfully crazy, thanks to my beautiful family visiting this summer. In re-connecting with them, I've had to disconnect with my blog for a while.

New posts soon...

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Friday, May 30, 2008

How do you live mindfully?

"I cultivate gratitude for the heart's capacity to experience,
by listening to the way feelings register in my body during my practice.
Particularly in poses where balance and trust are involved.
It is in this way that I stay responsive to the constant evolution of my life's path,
and to how my existence on this planet can be of service
at this exquisite moment in time."
- Jenny Sauer Klein

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

happy birthday to me

So you'll have to bear with my dose of self-love here.

Today I declare: I am a headstand-ing, cartwheeling, frontwalk-ing, eat-my-dust running power walking, loving-life 29-year-old.

I've been having the perfect day... I got to do all the things that I love to do. It really doesn't take much to make me happy...

I should say this celebration of life, love, and friendship started last night when a group of friends and I gathered at this awesome sushi bar, where we sampled amazing Japanese edible art, shared stories, and got into fits of laughter. Thank you, my dear friends.

Then I woke up this morning to cloudless blue skies.

I started my day with a yoga class at this studio, where I stretched with a sense of gratitude and acceptance for my changing body (as a friend of mine says, as you approach 30, the warranty's over), and drifted into a blissful relaxation.

Then I went food and produce shopping in this bustling market, and had my favorite there-are-no-words-for-it waffle.

I received several calls and messages from family and friends.

Then I went for a long walk, and couldn't help but smile at strangers I passed on the street. I walked with a spring in my step, and ended in this park where I practiced more yoga and some gymnastics (didn't I say I would do cartwheels outside this spring?), enjoyed the soft grass, the warm sunshine, and the cool refreshing breeze. As I was practicing downward dogs and headstands, I gazed at the grass right in front of me, and despite the seemingly random, chaotic sea of green, I realized that I found a point for meditation, right in the center of it all: "order in chaos."

It's amazing how nature can really heighten your awareness of the present, and of being alive... I drew long, deep breaths while in headstand, feeling supported by the soft earth.

So of course I had to run walk back home to grab my camera and capture the moment. Thank goodness this park is only about a mile from my home!

(view from a headstand)

So I'd like to share some more of the beautiful moments I captured today.
Who would have thought weeds could be so interesting?

The amazing thing about weeds is that they just GROW, against all odds. As nature intended. And so do we... with every experience, pleasant or unpleasant. We grow, when we embrace all that life has to offer, while saying, "Bring it on." We grow, when we open ourselves to new perspectives, and when we accept and learn from past mistakes. We grow, against all odds.

 It's amazing to see a different perspective the closer you are to the ground.

"If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel." --U2

And so I kneel, with a deep sense of gratitude, for all the wonderful souls who brought joy and beauty into my life for the past 29 years. Thank you for celebrating with me!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

let love be your guide

"Let love be your guide. When you love what you do, the means to do it will be revealed to you." - Sharon Gannon and David Life, Jivamukti Yoga

It's been a few days since I've posted a real entry, but these days I'm trying to quiet my mind and listen to my intuition. Quite honestly, I'm not the most patient person. So in times like these I find that the words of others give me some direction.

I love what I do. That's a good enough start. If only I knew the "means".

Patience, my dear. Patience.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

souls collide

In the age of cyberspace and information technology, one has to keep up with the fast-paced changes... and I jumped on the bandwagon and joined yet another networking site. What can I say? A lot of my friends from home were on it, and if I want to know what's going on with whom and who's doing what, it would be a good idea to join. I feel like that's the only way to know what's-going-on-with-whom and who's-doing-what nowadays. Even my uber-youthful mom has an account on one of these social networking sites (I LOVE how she keeps up with everyone -- she has that "everyone's mom" personality, and she keeps up with my long-distance friends better than I do!).

On one hand, these networking sites can certainly bring long-lost friends together. Or it can give you the "heads up" on a company doing some hiring. Or it can give you the latest update on so-and-so's newborn baby through online photo albums.

On the other hand, it amazes me how we now have to go through a third party to simply send a message to someone. It used to be that we wrote a letter, or picked up the phone to call a friend. Or sent a direct email. Now, even if both sides actually HAVE each other's email address, we go through this third party -- a networking site -- to make a connection.

Of course, this is just my own humble opinion... I have nothing against these networking sites, and I am one of the millions of people who are members of one or more sites. Let's face it, it's fun, albeit addicting and time-consuming.

At church this past Sunday, when it was time to wish each other peace, I turned to this little old lady next to me. We looked straight into each other's eyes, shook hands, and said to each other, "Peace be with you." In that brief, fleeting moment, I felt an amazing connection, just by looking into another person's eyes. I wondered about her past experiences, and the wisdom of her years, and what strength, beauty, and grace those eyes held. I'd like to think she was also wondering about my life, and what might lay ahead of me. I thought about how alike and different we were. And then I thought, how often do we stop and look directly into another person's eyes? And how often do we say a prayer of peace for another person?

What a refreshing change of pace from online networking.

(photo: Collective Soul, 2007)

"There is nothing brighter, more beautiful, more bountiful, more wonderful than your own living soul."
- Yogi Bhajan

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot
Dramatist & poet (1888 - 1965)

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living, growing, being

"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."
- Nietzsche

Sometimes I wonder why I complicate my life. My life could be so much simpler. But I think my self-imposed overbooking and overscheduling reflects a certain unrest, a desire for more -- a richer, more fulfilled experience; taking in all that life has to offer.

People do it all the time... whether it's pushing oneself to run 26.2 miles at a marathon, reaching the summit of a mountain, or diving to the depths of the sea. Or on a different level, going back to school.

The concept of "more", I think, is so much a part of being human... which does not necessarily mean a lack of contentment or a desire for more materially. It's about the need for self-actualization, a term coined by Abraham Maslow:

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This is the need we may call self-actualization...It refers to man's desire for fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming."

Maslow says there are two processes necessary for self-actualization: self-exploration and action. The action is the harder part.

Which is probably why I love to-do lists. After thinking about what I want, I write everything down, and I love being able to check items on my list, one at a time. It's part of holding myself accountable, using pen and paper as my witnesses.

We're almost halfway into the year, and I'm s-l-o-w-l-y putting check marks on my list:

  • display photography at an art show: check
  • plant herbs and tomatoes: check
  • write and submit a research proposal (in progress)
  • travel to a new place this summer
  • present at a research conference? (gulp.)
  • worry less. (a constant work in progress)

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Monday, April 28, 2008

simple pleasures

My basil seedlings, taken on 4/28/08 (planted on 4/19/08)... so far, so good. I'm so excited! Can't wait to have homemade basil pesto, panzanella, or just the simplicity of summer tomatoes and fresh basil drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and rustic artisan bread from Shadeau.

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Dream Big, Live Outrageously, Follow Your Bliss

For the past couple of weeks I've been finding myself at a crossroads. So it was no surprise that I was drawn to these words again...

Live Outrageously

Most of us live in such a responsible, self-contained way. We do our duty as citizens, attend to everyone else's needs, show up for work, get the job done, and so on. That's all commendable--except when we're following the expected path for no better reason than we're in a well-worn rut. Then our diligence can come at the expense of our own true desires, the ones that live outside the realm of what's normally considered acceptable or appropriate.

In the spirit of unleashing a few hidden desires of your own, why not make a resolution to live more boldly?

Outrageous Act #1: Take a step towards radical self-improvement.
Outrageous Act #2: Make a big, bold life change.
Outrageous Act #3: Stop doing what you hate.

- by Cheryl Richardson ( Body + Soul magazine, Jan-Feb 08)

Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn't know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.

- Joseph Campbell

Somewhere between the life you have and the life you want lies the quiet seed of potential.
- Terri Trespicio

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

the magic of poetry

Say I Am You

I am dust particles in sunlight.

I am the round sun.

To the bits of dust I say, Stay.

To the sun, keep moving.

I am morning mist,

and the breathing of evening.

I am wind in the top of a grove,

and surf on the cliff.

Mast, rudder, helmsman, and keel,

I am also the coral reef they founder on.

I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches.

Silence, thought, and voice.

The musical air coming through a flute,

a spark of a stone, a flickering

in metal. Both candle,

and the moth crazy around it.

Rose, and the nightingale

lost in the fragrance.

I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy,

the evolutionary intelligence, the lift,

and the falling away. What is,

and what isn’t. You who know

Jelaluddin, You the one

in all, say who

I am. Say I

am You.

- Rumi

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