Connecting head and heart.

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Overlooking Topanga Canyon during Moksha Festival.

Moksha: liberation. 

The shift began on Kauai in June, then continued on through early July, around the time I began questioning The Physics of the Heart. On a 2am whim, after returning home from a rare night out, I decided on living abundantly and doing something new and nourishing. I booked tickets to Moksha Festival, a yoga, ayurveda, and music festival in Topanga Canyon, California. I didn’t know where I’d stay or where it’d fit in my budget, but something told me to just trust the flow. When in California…

I found a yoga teacher’s discount (score!), then remembered an older brother-type good friend and past colleague lives in Topanga. I e-mailed him about recommendations on couchsurfing/camping. Turned out he and his lady were heading to Laguna Beach the very weekend of Moksha and needed a cat sitter. How’s that for divine timing?

Kicking back in Topanga Canyon nest

Kicking back in Topanga Canyon nest

My friend’s Topanga nest is of Topanga Canyon boheme tree house, sunlit, lotus fountain, saged-spicing the air goodness. What a nest to roost in the midst of a shift. If the festival wasn’t going on down the road, it would’ve been worth it to simply stay there all weekend!

Funny thing about the fest: I was more absorbed in the subtlies of this yoga thing than the movement. Yes, I practiced asana with some awesome famous teachers, but more so, I fully absorbed myself in the subtle, deeper knowledge thrown my way.

The Psychospiritual Basis of Disease and Healing, an ayurveda talk by Dr. Shiva Mohan, particularly struck me. From the moment Dr. Mohan began speaking, I was in full absorb mode. She’s dynamic, passionate, and one can just tell she is living what she’s talking about: ayurveda + connecting your heart’s intentions with your head’s.

We learn as we study yoga more deeply, whether it be through reading, yoga teacher training, yoga philosophy groups, or if we’re lucky, our teacher weaves it into asana: every life experience, past and present, has an energetic input. Each input leads to certain habits in the mind, or samskaras. Samskaras are our teachers, we repeat patterns over and over again until we catch ourselves and stop. In order to liberate ourselves from the samskara cycle, we must become aware of our irrational thinking.  Our tendency to succumb to stinking thinking based on our ignorance, ego, craving, aversion, and/or fear (avidya, asmita, raga, dvesha, abhinivesa).

I ate up every word of Dr. Mohan’s ayurvedic medicine talk. Besides a food mantra to keep us airy-type folks grounded and healthy (“warm, moist, cooked, spiced”), she said something so simple as time drew near that summed up the poignant talk.

To paraphrase Dr. Mohan: “Connect your head with your heart. Check what your head wants, check what your heart wants, pick the one in the heart and make your words and actions align in all chakras”.

English? Follow your heart, make a plan with your brain, and execute with your entire body and soul.

Further…

“Chant the Gayatri Mantra, long form. Each verse activates a chakra, from root to crown. Long form Gayatri Mantra. ”

I’ve chanted Deva Premal‘s shorter Gayatri Mantra over and over again, but long form? Hmm. So, after some research, and an e-mail to Dr. Mohan double-checking the validity of my findings, the long form was in my hands. I wrote it in my journal, and began singing it along with sun salutations on the morning sun-lit back deck of my Topanga Canyon nest. It’s been a daily song ever since.

Dr. Mohan, thank you for this reminder to knock it off with the samskaras, follow our hearts, act and align accordingly.

Om bhur

Om bhuvaha

Om Swaha

Om Maha

Om Janaha

Om Tapaha

Om Satyam

Om tat savitur varenyam

Bargo Devasya Dhimahi

Dhiyo Yo na Prachodayat

Kirtan and Yoga overlooking the Canyon

Kirtan and Yoga overlooking the Canyon

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Deep Thought of the Day: Energy

Reign in your energy.

Harness it.

Let it lose grasp with whom, with what, and where it doesn’t belong.

Then, let it flow into goodness.

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A deep thought and question on my mind has been how you, I, us practice viveka, discernment in Yogic sanskrit.

With a multitude of choices… whom and what to spend our time on…how does one best discern what to do with their energy? 

Burst.

I didn’t need another person telling me to ‘ground’, meditate, think positively, practice mellow yoga, rest, or shroud myself in self-love. I already knew the psycho-somatic-spiritual perspective; I live and breath it…teach it!… for crying out loud. When enlisting the help of professionals when it dawned on me earlier this year that I felt just-not-myself despite my mind-body practices, Dr. Emily at Roots Natural Medicine was a breath of fresh air.

Of course, the above contribute to healing.  However, I needed a Natural Doctor opposite to my air-y, head in the clouds at times, stoked on teaching and practicing mellow + vinyasa flow yoga-self. A fire-y Cross Fitter with two feet on solid ground, she approached my situation from her practical perspective. She immediately suspected adrenal fatigue, a lingering mononucleosis-ish virus, perhaps picked up from my travels, and a gluten/dairy intolerance. Dr. E ordered labs, and prescribed the following:

  • High doses of Astralagus herb, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A to treat the virus (yuck).
  • An herbal blend and trace minerals to support adrenals and energy.
  • An RX to keep up the grain- and dairy-free Wild Woman ways of eating.

…and the most recent RX to stimulate immunity and balanced energy?

  • Five minutes of, in Dr. E’s verbage, “balls to the wall” cardio within ten minutes of waking.

I call my new rx,

burst.

Bursts, when performed within ten minutes of waking, I repeat,

  • fire up your metabolism,
  • balance hormones,
  • and trigger the body’s healing mechanisms.

Only five minutes. Ten if you’re in the flow.

So grab a jump rope, drop down for push ups, sprint around the yard, try plyometric squat jumps, and dance with flailing limbs. Oh, and make a high-energy playlist.

My playlist includes upbeat yoga jams, M. Ward’s “Chinese Translation”, Lady Antebellum’s “We Owned the Night”, Florence and the Machine’s “Shake it Off”, Nashville’s “Telescope”, Crosby Stills Nash + Young’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, The Givers “Up Up Up”…

I love the way bursts makes me feel. Moving first thing in the AM gives me a chance to check in with myself before taking on the world: “Hello me! How am I doing today?”. I’ve even adopted these little cardio-dance parties at any low-energy points throughout the day.

 Bonus? Mental focus + ripped abs.

Try it out. Only five minutes that get your day off to a clear, energized, and balanced start.

Follow with another five to twenty minutes of yoga or stretching, plus a tall glass of water.

Resume your normal activities throughout the day.

peace, burst, + love,

Beach Girl Abroad

burst accessories: jump rope. super thick yoga mat.

burst accessories:
jump rope.
super thick yoga mat.

Drink + Eat Like a Modern Day Wildwoman: Probiotic Superbrews + Eats

This Modern Day Wildwoman gets her buzz on via fermented beverages.

Of the probiotic and cultured type, naturally.

These probiotic powerhouses burst forth a wealth of health benefits such as aiding detoxification, tipping our bodies towards acid/alkaline balance, and containing beneficial bacteria which our enhance our digestion and increase general feelings of well-being.

You may have heard of probiotic brews. Kombucha and kefir drinks are standard at health food stores around the Unites States, abroad, and now even at certain chain grocers (at least here in progressive California). If you haven’t noticed a special brew in the cold case, you’ve certainly tried, and undoubtedly benefitted from, a probiotic beverage or food unknowingly while dining. Perhaps a Japanese Miso soup, or Korean Kimchi has touched your lips?

You could say my fermentation exploration started in college when I used ‘mealpoints’ at UC San Diego’s Earl’s Place, the on-campus co-op, to buy my first kombucha. To my co-ed delight, ‘bucha left me slightly buzzed in between cram sessions at Geisel Library

English: Geisel Library, UCSD

Geisel Library, UCSD
Named after a writer named Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss!
(Wikipedia)

But really, this ride began with kimchi, the fermented spicy cabbage dish for which South Korea is famous.

Indeed it did…and in the land of Kimchi, nonetheless.

Kimchi

Kimchi (korea.net)

In 2010, I embarked on a one-year journey to South Korea, adding ‘English as a Second Language Kindergarten Teacher’ to my already…um…varied? exciting? ADD?… resume.

Admin at a Malibu holistic wellness center, beach camp counselor, editorial, PR, television, and talent agency intern, model, actor, fine dining hostess…preschool teacher to cute Korean kiddos all before the age of 24? Okay!

I’d never felt so healthy as I did that year. On top of daily kimchi-munching, I began brewing kombucha, a fermented tea, nurturing my first batches from my lil’ apartment with no windows (aka the Yoga Cocoon). The brewlove was inspired by Aimee, a free-spirit and dear friend who now organizes Project Hope Art in Haiti.

One sticky July afternoon, a special circle of chingus, or friends in Korean, gathered at Aimee’s community garden spot at the edge of Seoul for her going-away party.

The Garden Party July 2010

The Garden Party
July 2010

‘Who’s to be handed down the brew?’ was a hot question on our well-stocked table full of every vegetable you could think of: lettuce leaves, radishes, cabbage, seaweed, fresh and kimchi’d alike, and magguli (rice wine, another fermentation) -filled table. (Thank you, Seoul Community Garden ajjimas and ajjashis, or Korean elder folk, for providing such abundance in our chingu’s honor).

‘Not too fret’, answered Aimee. One chingu would receive the master brew and mushroom. From that master mushroom, if we kept it well fed with black tea and sugar, top layers may be ripped off and shared with friends who could then start their own brew. The rest of the afternoon is a bit blurry with much soju, magguli, and ukulele sing-alongs flowing. A few days later, Aimee sent us future brewmasters a link via facebook with precise brewing instructions. Although Aimee left only a month later, her legacy lived on as the rest of us chingus who were sticking around for a while carried on the kombucha batch and delved deeper into additional fermentation methods.

We got so into the craft of fermentation that we held fermentation tasting parties with blind-taste contests. Only a week after my own departure, a “Fermentation Celebration” was held, organized by the aforementioned chingus, where all thing fermented were celebrated by us foreigners…yogurt, kefir, kombucha, Caucasian attempts at alcohol and kimchi-making, cheese, you name it.

In my humble, but well-read and personally tested, Beach Girl Abroad and Modern Day Wildwoman opinion, fermented foods and drinks absolutely contribute to a healthy body and a happy state of mind. Did you know most of our serotonin, the body’s ‘happy hormone’, is produced in our gut, not our brain? With the help of beneficial bacteria in our tummies, our bodies produce a healthy dose of serotonin.

 

Peace, love, namaste, happiness!

Beach Girl Abroad 

Aquaponics: capturing the power of the natural world in your own backyard

Aquaponics: capturing the power of the natural world in your own backyard

 A Guest Post by Andrew D Berner

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I reached one of those “ah-ha” moments several years back.

I was thinking about the theory that says, Mother Nature is the world’s best engineer.  The idea that the natural world, operating at the microscopic level and trickling up through to the greater ecosystems of the planet, appears to calibrate, cooperate, orchestrate, and synthesize in perfect harmony.

Think about it. The world is not a static place, it’s a dynamic and messy collection of interests and competition that has billions of moving parts; trying to manage it as a single shareholder is unimaginable.  Some how, the world keeps turning and life continues.  This theory does not suggest that there are no struggles, but within the greater perspective of the operational guide to the natural world, things continue to hum along and when they break, the natural world adapts.

This is not a new concept.  Many native cultures have been in tune to this idea since the age of the hunter-gatherer.  Listening to the natural world and paying attention to the subtle changes within the surrounding environment increased survival potential and grounded cultural views.  The concept is simple; why fight your environment when you can embrace it, channel its energy, use it to your advantage.

In modern day applications, this field has expanded throughout the science and engineering communities.  Applications of ‘biomimicry’, ‘bionics’, and bio-everything seep into our daily lives with little to no acknowledgement. From solar panels to wind turbines to compostable coffee cups to highly efficient structures and building materials, everything we categorize as “sustainable” has its’ origin in efficiencies already built into natural processes.

Enter my ‘ah-ha’ moment. Aquaponics: a closed, recirculating system, that under the right conditions produces food with little inputs and zero waste. Sounds too good to be true? In some ways it is because aquaponics is not a perfect system but it has proven it self over thousands of years of application. The beauty is that it harnesses the power of a natural system and only requires intervention when that system becomes disrupted.

After some free time (read: an uncomfortable stretch of unemployment), research, and a little extra money and ambition, I built my own aquaponic garden, housed in a greenhouse in my backyard.

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Andrew’s Backyard Greenhouse
Ventura, California

So what is aquaponics? Simply, it is a method of food production that cultivates fish and plants together in a fabricated, recirculating ecosystem, utilizing natural bacteria cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrients. It captures all of the wonderful parts of hydroponics (the raising of plants in a water-based medium) and aquaculture (the raising of fish for harvest) and tosses away many of the pitfalls (waste, artificial inputs, space).   By doing so, it serves as a model of sustainable food production by following these simple principles:

  • The waste products of one biological system serve as nutrients for a second biological system.
  • The integration of fish and plants results in a polyculture that increases diversity and yields multiple products.
  • Water is re-used through biological filtration and recirculation.
  • Local food production provides access to healthy food and enhances the local economy.
A peek inside: basil, greens, eggplant, tomatoes, and more...

A peek inside:
basil, greens, eggplant, tomatoes, and tilapia (in basins behind plants)…

Furthermore, aquaponics uses less physical space than conventional agriculture, uses less water and energy and produces less waste than conventional terrestrial-based aquaculture, and uses no chemical inputs while turning yields over faster with a higher nutritional content compared to modern agriculture.

By no means a ‘silver bullet’ solution to our modern food dilemma, aquaponics does achieve more bounty with less resources by harvesting fish and vegetables together.  As a result (and despite the fact that you probably haven’t even heard the term ‘aquaponic’ before), this method food production will likely become a crucial piece in feeding the worlds growing population all by replicating what nature already does.

Basil Bounty

Basil Bounty

In the year and half that I have been actively raising fish and vegetables in my own fabricated gardens, I’ve harvested 30 pounds of fish and well over 250 pounds of vegetables.  It has taught me to cherish the food I grow, think about my food selection choices, and value local produce, It has taught me botany, biology, chemistry, and ecology.  And it has taught me how to grow my own food with no prior knowledge upon how to do so…. all by letting nature be the engineer.

Capturing Your Essence: Asian Superfood Soup

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Continuing to channel the good juju cultivated during my stay in Asia, I’ve created another Asian dish. Superfood veggies such as red cabbage, chard, and kale make up the bulk of this soup. Dried black fungi are a cancer-fighting superfood well-known in Chinese Medicine. Fermented Miso gives a little protein, satisfying umami taste, and healthy probiotics. Avocado and toasted sesame oil add omega-3 fats for a happy brain, and a whole egg adds additional satisfying protein and choline for brain health.

You’ll need:

1 cup dried black fungi (find at Asian market)
1 egg
2 cups-ish Swiss chard, chopped
1 cup-ish Kale, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 avocado
4 tbsp miso
1.5 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil

Bring water to a boil, add chopped veggies (including dried black fungi) and let veggies cook until tender.

Add egg, allow to boil until egg looks cooked through (can leave whole or break it up in pieces).

Turn stove off. Add miso and sesame oil to pot and stir. Serve in bowls, add avocado to top of soup.

To your health! 🙂

Veg Veg Lots of Veg!


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Now, I’m by no means vegan, but 99% of my meals end up vegan- by -default. What can I say…I love the veg!

In Ayurvedic Medicine, also known as the Ancient Indian Medicinal side of Yoga, Winter is a time to focus on root vegetables and warming spices to stay in physical and mental balance (to learn about your specific constitutional type and foods/lifestyle tips, check out http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2630 to find out if your Vata, Pitta, or Kapha AKA Wind, Fire, or Earth).

Chilly temperatures in Ventura County this December leave this Vata-Pitta craving warm, winter vegetables like squash (Turban Squash eaten above), steamed kale, and sweet potatoes, topped with EVOO by Bragg’s, and Trader Joe’s Sea Salt and African Smoke Seasoning.

Yum!

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Ladies and gentleman, the Turban Squash! I believe this was about $2 at Trader Joe’s…it’s huge and can feed a family of 4 or more. High in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber. Plus, the Turban Squash looks so festive that my roommate had me buy a second one just for holiday decoration.

What does your bod crave in the Winter?

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