Sunday, March 28, 2010

it's written in the stars

"Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy."

- Eskimo Proverb

Such wise, comforting words...

Interestingly, doesn't science tell us that the cells/atoms/molecules (I forget my high school science terminology) in our bodies were once part of a star?

I left my country seven years ago with both sets of grandparents still living. Throughout the years, we've recently experienced the end of their earthly journeys, each in his or her own time. Now all four of my grandparents have left this earth... the last one being my dad's father, who passed away last Thursday.

I was not extremely close to my paternal grandfather, as we did not live in the same household as I did with my maternal grandparents. He was a quiet, reserved man who loved his family immensely. And he thought the world of my grandmother.

All my grandparents have one thing in common - they all lived a good life. And all of them dearly loved us, their grandkids.
Growing up, my grandfather had a term of endearment for me: "kamukha" - which in my language means, "my lookalike." Throughout the years, he always jokingly referred to me as that. Every time we went to their home for a visit, he would greet me by saying, "How is my kamukha?"

Which is funny, because actually my grandfather is not my dad's biological father. My dad's biological father died in the war, when my dad was still an infant. Then my grandmother remarried. So needless to say, for all intents and purposes, he WAS our grandfather. He loved us, and we loved him. And that's what matters. But thinking about it now, it is a bit funny that my grandfather referred to me as his lookalike.

But it makes me wonder about how all my grandparents must have left pieces of themselves with me, with us who are living.

And I think these "pieces" are all good things. Isn't that what we all want to leave behind for our loved ones - all good things. The pieces of ourselves that resemble strength and gentleness and compassion. The necessary tools for the life ahead.

I know all my grandparents are happy. They are now reunited, wherever they may be - on some different plane in an alternate universe. Perhaps they are happy with the pieces of themselves they have left for us, knowing that we have these tools for the journey that we will continue. And perhaps they are happy that they will continue to shine for us through the stars, and light our way. 

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Monday, March 22, 2010

overcoming self-doubt

Moments of self-doubt... aaaah, the bane of my existence. The energy-consuming, stress-producing, sleep-depriving Beast.

I just went through one of those moments a few days ago. And as though the universe heard me, I came across this yogini's blog post, which was a great comfort. And I revisited an old blog entry, in which I quoted Joseph Campbell's words about following your bliss. Just what I needed.

I read more of his work, and came across this:

"Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: sat-chit-ananda. The word 'Sat' means being. 'Chit' means consciousness. 'Ananda' means bliss or rapture. I thought, 'I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.' I think it worked." - Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

So I too will be holding on to that which brings me rapture... even if sometimes I feel that I'm hanging on by a thread. 

Read more on Joseph Campbell's work here.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

this most amazing day... happy spring!

i thank you God for this most amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

- e.e. cummings

Today, March 20th, marks the vernal equinox--officially the first day of Spring.

Oh, the joy!

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

it doesn't hurt to dream...

... of water

... and being in the water

... of sunshine, and cloudless blue skies


... of longer days, 
and more time to 

...and to dream in the shade of trees.


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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

finally... i hope!

Experiencing four seasons definitely makes me appreciate nature and the changes as they unfold in their own time.

But right now, as thankful as I am for these boots that have kept my toes warm for the past few months, I am just ecstatic to finally be able to put them away.

I actually saw some people already wearing flip-flops today...

Spring forward!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

hello, spring...

I couldn't believe it. Our temps reached 60 degrees week.

Aaaah.... after months of eating mostly comforting bean stews and hearty vegetable soups, I am craving fresh, raw food again.

Hello, Spring! We've missed you.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

to be a child again...

Aahhh... yesterday (Sunday) was a beautiful winter-to-spring day in Northern Ohio. The temperature was in the high 30's in the morning (great considering what we've had the past few months), and the sun was shining. Sun-worshipper that I am, I was bordering on giddy to be outside.

We headed out to a park for a 5-mile walk.


Loved the big, open space.

Glad to see that the walking paths were cleared of snow very well.

Saw some interesting shadows...


It's always nice to see some green amidst all the snow.

After a good 45 minutes or so of power-walking, 
the inner child came out...


How often do we get to make snowballs as adults?


So there was some snowball-throwing...

...some cartwheeling...

...and some yoga.


"The Dancer"/Natarajasana: one of my favorite yoga poses.

"We must listen to the child that we once were, and who still lives within us. This child understands about magic instants. We can muffle his sobbing, but we can’t hush his voice.

If we aren’t reborn, if we don’t see life again with the innocence and enthusiasm of childhood, then there is no more sense to living.

Let’s allow the child within us to take the reins of our existence a little. This child says that one day is different from another."

- Paulo Coelho, The Magic Instant

Thank you, A., for the fun action shots, for the wonderful walk, and for the many perfect moments that have been and are yet to come.

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in celebration of International Women's Day

Why I love Isabel Allende:

Isabel Allende tells tales of passion | Video on

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

good morning!

Homemade and wholesome...

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup water
1/8 cup OR 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
(OR expeller-pressed canola oil)
1/8 cup OR 2 tbsp local honey
1/8 cup OR 2 tbsp agave nectar
1/8 cup OR 2 tbsp sorghum or molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tbsp cinnamon

After baking, add about one or two handfuls of each:
dried blueberries (or your choice of dried fruit)
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ


liquid ingredients and flavorings warmed in a small saucepan over low heat...
then mixed with oats...

baked at 300F for 20-30 minutes...
(stirred once or twice during baking time)

nuts, wheat germ, and dried fruit added after baking...


...then enjoyed over thick, creamy Greek yogurt with some honey drizzled on top.

Have a great day! 

* Tip: You can also use just one type of sweetener instead of the 3 different ones listed above. I used those because that's what I had! You can use all maple syrup, all honey, etc. Just use 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons. Or you can use brown sugar (turbinado or demerara sugar), dissolved in the 1/3 cup water.
* Another tip for measuring oil and liquid sweeteners: Measure the oil first, then use the same measuring cup or spoon to measure the liquid sweetener, so none of it sticks to the cup/spoon!

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Friday, March 5, 2010

patient anticipation

I love this time of year.

It's the time for the "in-between". When I start noticing that the snow is slowly beginning to melt and the days are getting slightly longer. The birds are chirping in the morning. The sky is showing its vivid shade of blue. It's not quite spring yet... it's a couple of weeks more till the vernal equinox on the 20th, and I am eagerly but patiently awaiting spring.

Yesterday and today are unusually sunny days here in Northern Ohio. Sure, the trees are still bare, and there's still LOTS of snow on the ground. But I welcomed the contradiction between cold air and bright sunshine, the contradiction between deep snow on the ground and cloudless blue skies. I went for a walk and made friends with a delightful yellow lab (my dream dog, who I will have someday and will name "Summer").

I walked in the snow to photograph some trees, delighted that the snow was now just ankle-deep and not knee-deep. For a few moments, I ignored the cold that was seeping through my running shoes... and instead breathed in the freshness of the morning air, and the warm sunshine on my face. I breathed in the sight of the perfect blue sky. I breathed out my thanks.

There's something about that "in-between" time during the transition between seasons. This almost-but-not-quite time makes me so excited. It's a time to tune in to the little changes every day that lead us closer to spring. It's a time to enjoy waiting, and to accept that nature will unfold on its own... knowing and trusting that it will fulfill its promise. 

There is no better shade of blue than this.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

tune in, respond, adjust

In a recent yoga class, we held Warrior 1 for several breaths. I always find it interesting when we hold poses for several seconds. For one, it gives me time to check in with my mind and body. Are my thoughts wandering? Am I still breathing deeply? Am I fully aware of where my body is in space? Am I fully aware of what I'm feeling, where I am feeling relaxation and where I am feeling tension or discomfort? What do I need to adjust in this pose so I can relax better and breathe better?

It sure sounds like a lot of questions. Which is why despite having a home practice, I like going to a class once or twice a week, because with an instructor leading the class, I am able to just listen and feel.

In Warrior 1, there are many things to attend to. Front knee directly over ankle. Front thigh parallel (or as close to parallel as you can) to the floor. Back leg strong and grounded, extended backward. Back foot at a 45-degree angle, planted firmly on the floor. Hips squared towards the front of the room (imagine that they are headlights). Ribcage lifted. Sides lengthened, arms strong and extended upward, energy through the fingertips. Shoulders relaxed and down. Head in neutral to look forward or turned slightly upward to gaze at the hands. Facial muscles relaxed. Breaths are deep and even.

Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Staying in a pose does require tuning in to little signals. It requires awareness to make necessary adjustments, to make the pose better and safer for your body as well as to maximize the stretch.

Isn't that the same thing we need to do in life? We immerse ourselves in an experience, and tune in to what is going on - both externally and internally. We stay perceptive to change. We respond and make adjustments. I think we do this all the time. From the seemingly mundane activities like cooking (which I never think as mundane, actually!) to the things we do at work, the things we do in our interactions with others.

I always think about how this is at work in my life. 

I recently taught a class at the university, about family-professional collaboration. One recent activity we had the students do is to discuss case studies - which were unresolved dilemmas, many of which require moral and ethical decisions. It is an exercise that requires communication, team collaboration, and problem solving. As an instructor I spent a great deal of time preparing for this exercise, reading on the research-based practices on how to effectively implement this activity for students. But it was not done as soon as students came to a consensus and to a resolution. I also spent a great deal of time afterward reflecting on the experience and on the feedback from students. Tuning in. Responding. Adjusting. Thinking about how to make the experience better in the future.

Or in photography - we tune in to our subject. We respond and take a photo. We adjust the camera and lens settings, and try again for a better shot.

Relationships are the same - whether with family, friends, or coworkers. We tune in to verbal and nonverbal signals when communicating. We respond with sincerity. We may agree to disagree, and we take deep breaths when angry. We adjust, we meet halfway. We come to a shared understanding.

Tune in, respond, adjust. More life's lessons from yoga.

How do you tune in? I'd love to hear from you.

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