Zero Calorie Foods, If/Then Snacking, Saying Grace and 3 Fab NYC Kitchen Supply Stores

 

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Have you ever noticed how extremely grateful dogs seem to be when you throw them a bone or dish up their chow?

Like they are eating for the very first time.

Saying Grace

Taking a moment of gratitude before each meal is a mindful and thoughtful approach to eating and enjoying time together. I’ve noticed a few times that this can make guests at the table a little uncomfortable. Perhaps they don’t want to say grace to a God they don’t know. Or perhaps they don’t know what to say, or maybe how to lead the prayer.

Saying grace or taking a moment to pause before dining together, can be as simple as bowing heads or holding hands and saying thank you to each other and the host. Each culture has a unique way to pray. One of my favorite mealtime prayers. . .

Let us be together; let us eat together.

Let us be vital together, let us be radiating truth, radiating the light of life.

Never shall we denounce anyone, never entertain negativity.
      The Upanishads

Snack Struggles

Okay, so here is my new If/Then algorithm for snacking. If I want a bag of salty Kettle chips, then I snack on cucumber slices with sea salt. I don’t think I will ever give up my search for nutrient dense snacks pack as much gratification as a bag of potato chips. I found this Zero Calorie Food chart today on Rodale’s site, (publishers of Prevention Magazine). Click here for the full article. With the exception of the celery, these foods are lower in calories than most. For example, a cup of apricot is about 79 calories.

Zero calorie

If you are visiting New York this upcoming holiday season and you are looking for unique gifts or something special for yourself, I have three timeless and classic Manhattan favorites that are all so very close to each other  and located in the Flatiron district right below Madison Park, home of the original Shake Shack, which by the way is open until Christmas. I’m curious, what are some of your favorite places to shop in your town/city village for kitchen tools and table settings?

Whisk at 933 Broadway

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Fish Eddy’s 889 Broadway

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ABC Carpet 888 Broadway

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ABC

Home Made Love with the Best New Cooking Tools Ever

holding-handsThich Nhat Hanh writes, “When you say something like I love you. . .with your whole being, not just your mouth or your intellect, it can transform the world.” Because we are interconnected, when we awaken love in ourselves and express it, our love changes the world around us.  The hearts of those we touch are opened, and they in turn touch the hearts of others.

Love is the basic nature, the goodness of all beings, waiting to manifest. Whether we offer love in silent prayer or aloud, we are helping love to flower in all beings everywhere. This expression of our deepest nature is the living power of loving kindness – as the Buddha said, “it glows, it shines, it blazes forth.”   A quote that brought me to tears today from Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Cooking with Love

Fatto a mano in Italian means “hand made” and fatto in casahome made“. To prepare home made meals by hand with love is an active meditation and the creation of loving kindness. Just like a hug, a tender kiss, a warm embrace, preparing a meal for friends and family with the intention of savoring some time together around the table, is a beautiful way to touch each other’s hearts.

Meals can be sacred. Taking a moment of silence before eating, saying a prayer of gratitude together can make a meal sacred. A lovely prayer-poem from 13th Century Persia and direct quote from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Some nights stay up ’til dawn as the moon sometimes does for the sun.

Be a full bucket, pulled up the dark way of a well then lifted out into light.

Something opens our wings, something makes boredom and hurt disappear.

Someone fills the cup in front of us, we taste only sacredness.

Some of the coolest new kitchen tools to help make meal preparation a little bit easier.

The Pot Clip – less mess on the counter.

Pot ClipOn Amazon Trudeau Pot Clip,Assorted Colors

The Citrus Sprayer – for a fresher than fresh spritz of lime, lemon and/or orange.

Citrus sprayer Existed-lemonOn Amazon Lekue Citrus Sprayer Set

The Rinse Bowl and Strainer – such a smart idea.

Rinse Bowl

On Amazon Umbra Rinse Bowl and Strainer, White

The Onion holder – because I cringe when I see my daughters slice onions. Safety first.

Onion holderOn Amazon  Norpro Onion Holder/Odor remover

pancake-Know-Existed-pancakeA pancake pen – creativity in the kitchen. The ultimate fun do it with a kid in the kitchen tool.

On Amazon – Tovolo Pancake Pen

True Grit, The Act of Envisioning and Living to 100

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I am adding yet another new daily habit of 30 minutes of focus and deep concentration by journaling precisely what I want to create in life with the honest intention of being in service to everyone I meet.  I imagine and behold a (super) better version of myself, eliminating any negative thoughts including envy, hatred, judgement, selfishness or cynicism. No matter what, I will carve out this time to make sure this becomes a ritual in my life.

“. . . in applying one’s whole soul to doing right and speaking the truth. There remains only the enjoyment of living a liked succession of good deeds, with not the slightest gap between them.”  – Marcus Aurelius

Study: Meditations (Hardcover Classics)

marcus-aurelius-quote-fridge-magnet-2_largeSystem Restore -A Metaphorical Moment

The other evening I was pulling my hair out while trying to free up some space on my computer with Daisy Disk (not worth the $9.99, a total waste). After backing up my laptop I had to restore my operating system. Not something I wanted to be doing at 11 pm at night. I have no patience for this, but it’s like laundry and cleaning the kitchen, it just needs to get done. But I had a moment of true realization while I waited for my Mac to restart with a new blank desktop –  I am also in the process of refreshing and restoring my operating system.  Some call it reinventing ourselves.

The Act of Envisioning the Future

The way I see it, we can worry about the future or we can focus on creating a better story for tomorrow. Recognizing that the dominating thoughts of my mind will eventually transform themselves into physical reality, I have committed to concentrating my thoughts on precisely who I want to become and I am creating a crystal clear picture of that person each day, by writing a new future. This also helps with incessant useless monkey-mind worry because I am putting my thoughts to better use. I highly recommend you try it for yourself.

True Grit

Just like building a start up or pursuing any dream, this life project of mine requires deliberate practice and focus and as many have come to understand a great dose of grit. Grit defined as perseverance and persistence coupled with an unwillingness to wilt, complain, or cry about my current state. It’s the ability to accept my reality and make the best of it, never wishing I was somewhere else, or in someone else’s shoes.

I have come to understand that people who value grit have a number of things in common. They appreciate everything in their lives and what they have right now.

small-daily-improvementsThe “gritty” among us also –

  • Remain cautiously optimistic.
  • Exercise their muscle of self-control.
  • Have a higher level of social intelligence.
  • Maintain the ability to preserver through even the toughest times.
  • Stay enthusiastic about the process.
  • Embrace the art of curiosity about everything. Even their problems.

Grit: harnessing the courage, the resiliency, and the power within.

Climbing Hills and Recreating Blue Zones

Barring heavy rain or deep wet snow, every day I take a 25 minute steep hill hike around my town. What I am trying to do is recreate the effect that blue zones have on the body.  Blue Zones are places in the world where people live to 100 and stay healthy.

The five blue zones are as follows:

  • The Italian island of Sardinia
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
  • Ikaria, an isolated Greek island

Ikaria_1428628iThe people in blue zones don’t need to artificially incorporate exercise into their lives with machines.  The exercise comes for free, already built into their daily lives naturally.  Common across all of the blue zones is that the people climb mountains, walk through the hills, work the land, and generally use their bodies in a constant grind as they perform their daily activities.  And it doesn’t have to be high intensity “run as fast as you can” exercise either.

To live long and healthy requires a constant, daily lifestyle of positive enrichment for the body and mind.  For many this may seem hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Read more about what it takes to live to 100 here.

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Read: The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People

Detox Lemonade & a Healthy Salad

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Lunch yesterday near the office in Soho, NYC. I am obsessed with this spicy detox lemonade at Chop’t.

Going to try to whip this up over the weekend and found a few recipes on line. The ingredients seem simple enough – the juice from whole lemons, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Some add sea salt to boost the “flush”.    I know this master cleanse has been around for quite some time and Beyonce brought it back earlier this year, but I never tried it like this at home as an every day drink.

I found three sites that have different recipes, but they all look a little like this –

  • 2 TBSP organic fresh squeezed lemon (do not use canned or frozen or bottled juice)
  • 2 TBSP organic maple syrup
  • 1/10 TSP organic cayenne pepper (I’d probably add more spice)
  • 10 oz medium hot water (cold water may be used if preferred)

Although I am not a big follower of detox anything, this lemonade just tasted delicious.

According to Healthy Crush:

Lemon juice and cayenne pepper both have anti-fungal, immune boosting, and detoxification properties. A great source of information on the benefits of drinking lemon water can be found here in this article.

Lemon juice is great for digestion, destroying bacteria and cleansing the system – it supports the liver and kidneys to get rid of toxins.

Cayenne pepper increases metabolism, stimulates the circulatory system, aids digestion, helps regulate blood sugar and more.

Two additional recipes at 7 minute and Style Craze

More delicious detox recipes here –
Everyday Detox: 100 Easy Recipes to Remove Toxins, Promote Gut Health, and Lose Weight Naturally

 

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A Super Simple Way to Prepare Farm Fresh Vegetables

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You know that wonderful feeling that bubbles up when you go to a fresh farm stand on the side of the road and you load up on your favorite vegetables? Still covered with dirt, very much “in season” and obviously locally grown.  Juicy, ripe healthy tomatoes, corn, spinach, broccoli, beets, carrots, onions, cilantro, radishes, peppers, squash, etc., stacked chin-high in old wooden crate bins.

You haven’t even started cooking and your soul feels nourished. The smells, the colors, the textures. Yes, this is how food is suppose to be. Like you’re deliberately shopping for something very wholesome and pure for yourself. In my mind, this is where nourishment begins.

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I have a favorite “health food” grocer in town but I stay away from this isle on the left. The plastic jars, the amber bottles and the supplements with names and claims that are absolutely daunting to comprehend. This aisle gives me a headache. I find it incredibly ironic that a “natural” market would have so many processed products. Take a real mindful look at the photo above. Do you get the same feeling when you are bagging a bunch of fresh radishes as when you are  reading the back of a supplement box? Probably not.

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I obviously love vegetables and share one of my favorite and easiest ways to prepare them so you can nourish yourself all week long.

Grilled Vegetables Marinated in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Roasted Garlic

Step 1

Put on your favorite play list, pure a glass of wine and wash, chop and dry your favorite vegetables.

Step 2

Heat up the grill while you chop and saute fresh garlic in a teaspoon or so of olive oil. The more garlic the better as far as I am concerned.

Step 3

Grill vegetables, let them cool a bit and then toss with garlic. Add a bit of oregano, garlic salt, pepper, fresh basil and turmeric to taste.

Pack them for lunch and eat them with dinner all week long.

Tips

Don’t procrastinate and wait a few days to clean and cook your harvest or you will feel guilty about wasting them. With the exception of potatoes and onions, real food doesn’t last for weeks in the fridge.

Do bulk up and prepare enough for the week.

Do chop and slice them according to how they will cook on the grill and keep the red onions thick or they will fall into the fire.

Do store in glass containers that are oven proof so you can continuously warm them up during the week.

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My favorite

New Snaplock Lid: Tempered Glasslock Storage Containers 20pc set~Microwave & Oven Safe

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Do add love and mindfulness to your cooking and eating

 

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Read How to Eat (Mindful Essentials) by Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Comfort Food, Mindful Kitchens and The Simple Art of Savoring Your Meals

RomansLeft to his own preferences, my husband will choose (actually prefer) to eat a full meal in front of the Jets game followed by a chilled bowl of chocolate ice cream. The absolutely crazy thing is, he seems so Buddha-like doing so, just delighted as he slurps his way through the soft melted mass of what I imagine for him is simply stomach-soothing flavor. Comfort food.

18105-Charming-Vintage-KitchenI, on the other hand, am completely opposite. The mere thought of reclining and eating has me choking on my guacamole and chips.  I don’t know how the Romans did it. For me, comfort and savoring begins with having time. It begins with slowing down, allowing enough time in my day for planning meals, discovering new recipes, unhurried shopping, cooking and eating.

Cooking with Jazz. The Little French Kitchen with the Vintage Red Radio

While in Paris visiting my daughter a few years ago, I noticed that she had developed the habit of turning on a simple vintage red radio of which played amazing jazz background music. What a way to set the stage for a meal that is meant to be truly mindful. The soft music that filled the tiny vintage kitchen was just perfect.

 

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A Thought About Mindless Stress Eating from this Vietnamese Buddhist.

“When a strong emotion arises within us like a storm, we are in great turmoil. We have no peace. Many of us try to pacify the storm by watching television or eating comfort foods. But the storm does not calm down after hours of watching. The storm does not go away after a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream. We hate ourselves afterward for eating the chips and the ice cream. (personal note – I don’t think this happens to my husband, he seems to be absolutely satisfied).  We dread stepping on the scale the next day. We vow to never do it again. But time after time, we do. Why? Because our habit energy pushes us.”

Quote from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

The Simple Fundamentals of Health and Zen Habits in the Kitchen

Leo Babouta, creator of Zen Habits Radio and ZenHabits shares an eight-minute podcast on the simple fundamentals of health. His message in summary – If you want to stay healthy eat a plate full of vegetables with every meal and do something active and fun every day. I can really appreciate keeping life that simple.

zucchiniVegetables are the foundation of your diet and they should be the first thing you eat with every meal. Don’t like vegetables you say?  Here are 27 amazing things you can do with vegetables that are relatively easy, budget friendly and simple to prepare.

I am by no means a vegetarian, but I do recognize that vegetables have been proven by research to be the healthiest food we can add to our plate.

Plant-based Proteins

Vegetables aren’t typically known for being a great source of protein, but there are some sneaky ones out there that supply a stealth source of protein.

Something important to keep in mind (from Shape Magazine) “Plant proteins are ‘incomplete’ proteins, meaning they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids,” To make sure you get the different types of amino acids you need, make sure to combine these veggies with whole grains.

Peas – Each half-cup contains three and a half grams of protein.

Spinach – You’ll find three grams of protein in a half cup of spinach.

Baked Potato –  A medium-sized one contains three grams. Need some fun topping ideas? Make these spinach- and goat cheese-stuffed baked potatoes.

broccoliBroccoli – Is filled with fiber (2.6 grams per half cup)—and agreat source of protein, with two grams per serving.

Brussels Sprouts –  Nutritional superstars: Each half cup packs two grams of protein, along with 247 milligrams of potassium and 110 micrograms of vitamin K. Luckily for haters everywhere, we found these six new (and delicious) ways to eat Brussels sprouts.

How I Plan to Create a More Mindful Kitchen to Help Savor Meals

I’m going to give my kitchen a deep clean with natural cleaners like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Concentrated Cleaner, Basil, 32 Fluid Ounce (Pack of 2)

Then I will add candles, plants and a selection of teas and emergency stash of ginger lemon cookies for unexpected visitors. 

ginger-sandwich-ciikies-with-grapefruit-cream-fillingCarr’s English Tea Cookies, Ginger Lemon Creme, 7.05 oz box (Pack of 3)

While I personally make it a practice to gratefully pray before eating. I like this Buddhist sentiment about Saying Grace –

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie Buddhist Temple, Lhasa, Tibet

thank-you-sign

I also read a great tip about  taking gratitude bites – a simple practice of saying “thank you” before each mouthful.

Other things I plan on incorporating into my mindful meals

Eating smaller portions from smaller plates – helping to manifest the mindfulness of simplicity – think: a lot less on my plate while discovering more spices and replacing honey as a sweetener in my coffee.

sobremesa

 

Pattern Interrupt, Pushing Through and Improving Your Workouts

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Usually habits are really useful. When we are on “auto pilot”  our brains have become so efficient at doing something we can tune out our conscious minds, which can be helpful sometimes, like when brushing our teeth, but not when working out.

More about the upside of habits in this awesome book:The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Problem with Mindless Patterns

Habits and patterns can also be a real problem. We can eat mindlessly and therefore overeat. We can tune out important people and not actively listen. We can exercise without paying attention and not get the most out of our workouts.

Russian Twists

I’m focusing on a bit of mid-course correction while making sure I don’t become weary from unconscious behavioral patterns during my morning exercise routine. The minute boredom sets in, I am reminded to “pattern interrupt”. It keeps things fresh – and improves results. So I do something different – I step up my stride, moving faster; add 20 more squats with calf stretches and try new exercises, like today – the Russian Twist (see illustration above) for toner abs.

Chi Walking and Core Movement

I’ve also been practicing engaging my lower abs throughout the day, especially when walking, jogging, running and sprinting. It has taken my routine to the next level.

When you correct your posture, you will be able to tighten your abdomen while you are walking. Leading your stride from your pelvis or what some call “Chi Walking” teaches us how to redirect the workload of propulsion to our core muscles around the pelvis and lower trunk area.

Pushing Through

When you are working out  every single day, it is easy to find yourself in a state of apathy about the mundane routine. Four things that help me push through –

Focusing on my super hero strength.  Yes, that’s me, in my mind, when working out. Lara Croft. Beautiful and brainy, with a fearless quest criss-crossing the globe, in an amazing attempt to save the world. 

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Break it down into small increments. 200 squats in a row my ass. I do 10 sets of 20 deep squats and jog in-between. Before I know it, I’ve completed 200 squats with a tighter tush.

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Feel your body and get to know the slow, soft burn. Get to know what small progress feels like in your muscles. Where there is energy, there is life and growth – Seneca. More philosophy and wisdom here: Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

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Don’t focus on the time. Cover the clock and speed up the pace, even if it is just a bit quicker.

What are your workout tips? 

Do you have tips to push through to the next level? Something awesome to help make workout routines more fun? I’d love to know what you recommend. Leave a comment below.

 

Eating at Airports and Healthier Chow for Commuters

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I have been spending way too much time passing through airports this summer. I love to travel, but the food options along the way, let alone the lack of hospitality, leave much to be desired.

I’d like to think that I’m that girl that packs a healthy lunch from home for the plane, but I’m not.

The Commuter Chow Dilemma

In my humble opinion, airport food options haven’t gotten any healthier, tastier or better. When it comes to eating on the go, this whole “food revolution” might just be a farce.  It’s just pretty packaging and pricey promotion. Shake Shack – the new modern roadside burger – is simply a replacement for the old McDonalds brand. Exotic veggie chips-  just another processed fattening mindless bag of nothingness –  a big fat “0” of nutrients.

The shelves and signage look prettier – with better eye-popping packaging to lure you in with sugar-dense, dried-fruit (kettle-cooked??) candy replacements –

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Fattening Nuts – Weighing the Options

These pumpkin seeds and “healthy nuts” should come with a high calorie – extremely fattening warning. 1 cup of seeds = 747 calories.

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Wait! Terra chips seem to be “high fiber”. 12 grams per serving.

smoking

Photo from the bathroom plane – an ashtray in the door?  – smoking was banned in 1988 – wait, but this means my plane is over 25 years old.

I’d love to hear from nutritionists on what the healthiest food options are for airport travel. Do we have to pack our own snacks?

Happiness is a Skill, The Dangers of Impoverished Thinking and Coconut Muscle Mylk

bikeCall it what you will, bliss, contentment, excitement, enthusiasm, well-being, enchantment — happiness is a skill, a skill that needs to be trained and practiced daily.  My mind and body training includes a daily ritual (beginning around 5:30 am) of gratitude prayer, stoic philosophy studies, meditation practice, workout training (running, hiking, biking, swimming and high intensity interval training) and learning something new every single day.

Self- experiment for the day – to pay very careful, non-judgmental attention to the contents of my consciousness in the present moment. To watch my mind – to bring my soul into harmony with itself, and not let my purpose be out of tune. Seneca wisdom Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics) Why all this mind watching? Because it’s a over-crowded zoo in there.

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Through the Lens of Thought
What lens are you using? The way we see and think about things is the most powerful force that shapes our lives. Any impoverished thoughts that are brought into our perception are like poison for the brain. This would be thinking that is deprived of richness or strength; thoughts that are limited or depleted.  Yeah, these thoughts have to go.   Inspired by the wisdom of  Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

 

Lolas

Biking Plantation Run & Coconut Muscle Mylk from COMO Parrot Cay

Rode the sweet four-mile palm-covered path to the fresh coconut plantation on Parrot Cay. Yes they grow their own and serve it up for breakfast daily.

Coconut Muscle Milk

This delicious drink speeds muscle recovery by reducing inflammation and replenishing electrolytes and nutrients with 1 banana, 1/2 cup young coconut water, 3 slices of coconut meat, a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 cup of almond milk, handful of flax seeds, 3 dates and a few cocoa beans. Blend and replenish.

A Sky Like Mind, Active Abs and The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating

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Have you thought about what pace feels right for you? At times I do have a need for speed and love the energy and creativity that feels supercharged in big cities like Manhattan. Right now, I feel the need to breath deeply, chill out and slow down to refocus. Not unplug, just down shift to first or maybe second gear.

Something clicked the minute I stepped off the plane at Providenciales. An assuring voice inside my head delivered a comforting message “a more intentional pace.” This slower island pace. Not the harried, brisk and hurried hustle of New York, but the more deliberate and intentional easiness, much like the gentle movement of the waves and soothing breezes of this island.  I am not describing a snail-like, creeping, lazy/boozy pace, but that of speaking, thinking, walking and working which is more conscious, considered and purposed. More thoughtful living. This is the pace for now.

And so it goes with meals, especially meals together. My memories of my youth bring me back to four hour dinners around the long outdoor communal table, under the grapevines, with my loud and excited extended Italian family. The never-ending conversations, the slow and relaxed experience of enjoying a meal together.

The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating begins with an intention to create an experience. Setting the mood, dimming the lights, selecting soft and slower music and smaller plates,  create an atmosphere for mindful eating.  Imagine setting a stage to enjoy and savor your meal. This mindful eating ritual can be extended to any meal – from breakfast to dinner. For more tips on mindful eating, check out Dara Rose, PhD, neuroscientist, foodist, author and the creator of Summer Tomato.

I start my meals by saying grace. Sometimes privately, sometimes with my family. Saying grace can transform a mere meal into an act of celebration, focus, and gratitude.

Listening to meditation talks from Tara Brach, I actually envisioned what she describes as “A Sky Like Mind“, a more expansive mind that allows me to open to the very healing, healthy and beautiful moment that is right now, this healing presence.  Tara’s podcasts and book, Radical Acceptance has really helped release the fear, worry and pain that stems from the mental swirl of anxious activity, the grasping and wanting that only proves to enslave my mind.

It is by meeting each moment throughout the day with radical acceptance for what ever is going on and holding those feelings that arise with a compassionate and open heart, a forgiving heart, this is feels like true freedom.

Reading
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Active Abs

With everything moving at a slower pace this week, I had the opportunity to try Pilates class for the first time. One of the slowest classes I have attended in a long time, a slight pick up from yoga, nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.  The one reminder that I have walked away with today is Active Abs and focusing on my posture, especially when sitting at my desk for hours at end.  Two exercises to help you feel your abdominal muscles correctly.