A Winter Story

As I sit huddled under a blanket and reading a book, I look out the window at the piles of snow that have collected around the house and up pops a memory from somewhere deep within. When I was in my teens, I had an evening job at the mall…B.Dalton Books, I think, or the calendar kiosk they set up at Christmas–I cannot remember which. At that time, I lived with my parents in the country–rolling hills and small-laned gravel roads that were typically deserted on cold, winter nights. One night as I was driving home from work, snow began to fall. As a new driver, I was terrified of sliding off the road. I remember my heart was beating really fast and my hands gripped the steering wheel as I drove. I was probably going only 15 mph, so I don’t know what I was afraid of…if I had to guess, it was likely just pent-up anxiety from working retail at Christmas. Anyway, the snow began falling a bit heavier and just then an enormous buck walked out of the woods and stopped in the middle of the road to stare at me. I stopped the car and stared into the eyes of that deer in awe and disbelief. Of course, I had seen deer before, but this felt personal. Time stood still and suddenly the space around me became magical and mystical. I have no idea how long I sat there. The silence of that experience was so deep. I still remember that feeling.  The feeling of communion.

This is one of the blessings of winter, the time to be idle, wrapped up and cozy, allowing the mind, memory, and imagination to wander. I hope you are taking advantage of this time to BE.

Body as a Vessel

I was in an emotionally-charged spiritual group meeting last night and had the following download.

Though I am a broken vessel

I am the perfect container

for the Divine to shine forth

and provide guidance and support

to me and to all who come to me

I am full only with Thee

there is no other experience

substance or distraction

that can take Your place

I am fulfilled.

Have you thought of your body as a vessel? This language is familiar to me as I grew up in a Catholic school/church system, but as I read back over what I had written, I was surprised. It didn’t come from me. I “know” that the body is the vessel for the soul…a container, but last night was the first time I had thought of (and felt) the body as a container for the Divine. It was a new perspective. It doesn’t matter what condition the container is in…it can be somewhat damaged physically, emotionally, or spiritually, but it is always the perfect container for the Divine to act through.

I think when we feel down, we collapse inwardly. It is harder to find the Divine within during those times. We tend to see the Divine as outside ourselves and pray to It/Him/Her for relief and assistance. But when we are happy, or in a state of equilibrium, it can be easier to serve and connect with each other, and from that place, we feel the Divine as part of ourselves.

We do have a responsibility to take care of this container. That is part of the job of life. But even if we feel a bit “cracked” or “broken,” we know that we are full of Divine love and wisdom to be in service to each other. So how do you take care of this vessel? What do you do to keep it together?

For me, I do the best I can to take care of myself. However, there are times where I don’t feel like I am enough. Insecurity is a huge burden, and I think I feel the collective crisis as well. When I feel insecure, I don’t feel like I am able, or worthy, to put myself out there as a source of comfort or hope to people. The message last night was clear, though. It doesn’t matter what emotional burdens we have or what insecurities we are facing if we trust and surrender to the Divine, we become fulfilled.

 

 

 

Gluten-Free is Not For Me

So many people are arguing for a gluten-free diet for better health and well-being. I am sharing my experience with a gluten-free diet in the hope that it serves as some food for thought before you make a lifestyle decision that could be harmful to your long-term health.

First, some background. I have been a vegetarian since I was 21 or so. I never liked meat. The smell, taste, and texture were appalling to my young self…still are. I still don’t understand why people keep trying to create veggie burgers in a lab that are more meat-like. Hello…we’re vegetarians because we don’t like meat. Anyway, to get back to the subject, about five years ago my brother says to me, “You should try going gluten-free. I have and I feel so much better and have all this extra energy.” I agreed to try it. So, for three months, I didn’t consume any gluten. I ate rice crackers and rice chips, rice itself, and a spackling of other grains, which I usually eat anyway (quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth).

At around that three-month mark–I remember this so clearly–I was standing in my daughter’s room and my heart was pounding so fast I felt terrified that I was having a heart attack at 43 years old. I was dizzy, clammy, and cold. I immediately made an appointment with the doctor that day. After my initial consultation with the nurse and the processing of some bloodwork, the nurse comes in and says, “The doctor recommends that you eat.” I said I do eat, a lot actually. My blood sugar was in the mid-forties and the doctor wondered how I was still walking around and talking coherently. The only change I had made to my diet was going gluten-free.

I will tell you the decision to remove gluten from my diet has affected me to this day. Granted, I should never have made a decision like that in such a blasé kind of way–dietary decisions need care and attention.  I have never had blood sugar issues, but now I do get shaky and have rapid heart rate symptoms if I don’t eat regularly. In other words, a change in your diet can cause an irreversible effect to one’s body and/or physiology.

There are studies linking a gluten-free diet to the development of diabetes, and certainly research those, but I think it is important to rely on your own intuition and experience with food. How do you feel after you eat a particular food? Keep a food journal to see the immediate and long-term effects of what you eat. I think the old adage “all things in moderation” is key. Also, I tend to bake a lot, so I know what is in my food. Processed, preserved, fast foods are to be avoided. That is for sure. Please do not make sudden sweeping changes to your diet, especially over a long period of time.

As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I know that health is based on the particular needs of an individual…it is not a “one size fits all” approach. But we are inundated with information that says, “this is good for you” and “this is bad for you” all backed up with sensible, logical scientific data that often is retracted by some new information at a later time. We cannot choose what we consume in this “herd” approach. We all have different metabolism rates and nutritional needs.

Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old (at least) science that helps us determine what our individual (physical, energetic, mental, emotional and spiritual) needs are. Give yourself the proper nutrition, heal your digestive system, and you will coast in great health and well-being. To get your personal nutrition and lifestyle assessment, email me at justina.namaste@gmail.com.

As for my brother, I’m pretty sure he was back to bread after a few weeks. No need to worry about him.

In Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for this life…my family and friends, students and sometimes strangers that offer a smile when I’m feeling down, the studio, my yoga practice and the beautiful yoga tradition I am so privileged to belong to. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I am also so grateful for books! This holiday, I offer you the beautiful, inspirational words of Swami Vivekananda that I read today:

Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future. “Let the dead past bury its dead.” The infinite future is before you, and you must always remember that each word, thought, and deed, lays up a store for you and that as the bad thoughts and bad works are ready to spring upon you like tigers, so also there is the inspiring hope that the good thoughts and good deeds are ready with the power of a hundred thousand angels to defend you always and for ever. From a lecture “The Cosmos: The Microcosm” delivered in New York on January 26, 1896.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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Confession

Confession-I love Disney World. I do. I have been visiting since I was a little girl. I was actually married there on the Boardwalk in a simple family ceremony.  In fact, my husband and I just returned from a visit. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom and then at Saratoga Springs (thank goodness for the Disney Vacation Club!). We shopped in Disney Springs, visited the Boardwalk to reminisce, and relaxed by the pool. We had no need to go to the parks on this trip (no kids).

As I walked through the Animal Kingdom lobby one morning it dawned on me why I love Disney so much. As an empath, I tend to pick up on the emotional energy around me. Typically, this is exhausting as there is so much negative energy everywhere. But, at Disney World, there is the energy of excitement, anticipation, curiosity, and joy. Particularly in the hotel lobby in the morning as families prepare for the day. I just love the feels.

The energy does shift in the afternoon and evening a little as kids and parents are overstimulated and tired from the day. But the sense of wonder is still primary. Simply walking along the Boardwalk brings street magicians and performers that can have a large crowd gasping and laughing in minutes. In Disney Springs various street performers and characters appear for photo opportunities and entertainment. There is never a dull moment.

The rooms are always clean, the staff is always friendly. The Disney corporation is the all powerful Oz. In fact, the force at Disney is so strong it can affect bodily processes…my husband and I were playing tennis at the Animal Kingdom…I looked down at the sweat on his shirt and LOOK! Coincidence? I think not. It’s the power of Disney!

 I am already planning my 50th birthday celebratory trip there. Matching family T-shirts and all.

So, get thee to Disney World and see for yourself. And Disney, if you are in need of a Yoga teacher or Ayurvedic practitioner…I’m on my way.