Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Makes Me Happy Right Now - Tons of Firefox tabs, acoustic reggae & keeping the fridge open!

The rain has been so often that sometimes it feels like it will never go away.  However, it's allowing me to enjoy sunshine and blue skies even more when they bless us with their presence!  What are you grateful for right now?

Right now I am so happy and grateful for:

1. The 37 Firefox window tabs I have open. Yea...I've got 37 tabs of different web pages up at one time on my Firefox.  It may sound crazy, but it's how I work.  It helps me stay so organized and allows me to get back to things that I can't take care of at certain moments.  Love you, Firefox, for hanging in there with all those pages!

2. User-friendly sites. Speaking of web pages and stuff, user friendly sites rule.  It's so frustrating to stumble across websites that are confusing or have too many places to click, or links that don't work, or are poorly designed, etc.  Thanks, user-friendly sites!!!  You know who you are-

3. Stephen Marley's acoustic album. His acoustic Mind Control album is the real deal.  You can hear some of it here.  He's my favorite son of the wonderful, Robert Nesta!

4. This inspiring thought:
What the mind believes, the body achieves.  

5. Keeping the fridge open! I know, it's a terrible habit.  Even though I've been out of my parents home for quite some time now, I can still hear my mom's voice nag me to close the refrigerator door while I'm in the kitchen because it wastes so much energy.  Lammer has the same bad habit that I do except he may even be worse!  Sometimes I've walked in on him cooking food at the stove with the fridge door wide open on the other side of the room-HA!  I love leaving the door open while I work in my kitchen when I'm alone and when he's around since I know there will be no nagging (sorry, Mom!).  It's the little things...

Back in March of 2012 I decided to do these posts because it's really easy to be suckered into negative thoughts when we're surrounded by stressful media, unhappy people and whining Facebook status updates. My guru, Swami Vishnudevananda says that for every negative thought you have, replace it with 2-3 positive ones. I love this concept and practice it regularly. I usually find the most effective way of climbing out of a negative attitude is to think about something that I'm grateful for. Feelings of gratitude really lift you up. In honor of this concept, I'm starting a post with this same theme and will blog it regularly. I'll list a few things that make me happy, lift me up and keep me smiling! Let's face it, world peace is something that will never happen. However, I can create my own little world of peace and happiness in my mind through my thoughts! Please give it a try as well and share how it affects you.

Spring Cleaning: Out with the old, in with the new!

Every spring we all get that itch (well, at least I do) to clean up our space, go through our closets and toss what we no longer need. I get this bug baaaad every year around this time, but I love it! There is such a sense of pleasure for me to get rid of things that I haven't been using, expired food that is just taking up space in my kitchen, clothes that I haven't been wearing, etc. I get a thrill from the extra space that it creates and enjoy the feeling of "lightness" it brings! 

 I follow a few rules of Feng Shui and create 3 different piles while sorting through my closets/drawers/belongings:
1. things to definitely keep.
2. things to definitely throw away (or give away!)
3. an undecided pile to think about, and/or see if you use within the next 6 months (then purge if not!)

 Then I follow my purging with a quick wipe down of the area with a dampened rag with a little vinegar/water.

The beau, also known as Lammer, is preparing his house to be listed within the next few months. So, my strong desire to purge and clean has been rubbing off on him. This past weekend as we enjoyed the lovely Memorial Day weather we turned up the reggae and buzzed around the house cleaning, sorting, planting, washing, reorganizing, disposing, etc. Gosh, did it feel good!

Later in the afternoon I saw him roll out his ex-girlfriend's pretty pink Cadillac bike that's just been collecting dust in his basement (all while driving me NUTS each and every time I do laundry down there). "Ex-girlfriend's bike, fifty bucks, gotta go! How does that sound?!" he said to me as he was writing up a sign for it. "Love it!" I replied, super excited to get that old thing out of our lives! Within 5 minutes someone was knocking on the door with cash in their hand for the bike, but requested that it came along with the sign since it was so funny! Now someone else can enjoy the pretty pink bike without any of the baggage that it brought the two of us. Feng Shui at it's best!!

Happy spring cleaning to all!

This blog post was originally posted on Live. Breathe. Grow.'s blog. I'm an Inspiration Nation blogger for them, and so proud of it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chocolate-Dipped Banana Bites

Simple, easy, fun and a treat!

1/2 bar of dark chocolate OR 2 tablespoons chocolate chips (I love Enjoy Life's)
1 banana
A handful of your favorite chopped nuts or shredded coconut (both, optional)
Toothpicks or popsicle sticks

Place 1/2 chocolate bar OR chocolate chips in a small pan or pot and heat on low over the stove, until chocolate is warm and melted (actually using a double boiler method works best for this). Cut banana into 1-inch chunks. Chop a handful of your favorite nuts and spread onto a small plate (or do the same with shredded coconut). Dip banana pieces halfway into melted chocolate, then place onto the plate of nuts or coconut. Allow them to coat the chocolate. Place toothpicks in them and put in freezer for 20-30 minutes. If you would rather, you can keep the whole banana (or half) in tact and coat it in chocolate/toppings then stick a popsicle stick in it for a large treat!  ENJOY.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Silent retreat on the shore with Ma Radha

I am back from my second 3-day silent retreat, and all that was experienced is still processing.

This year's coordinators & teachers,
Barbara, Ma Radha, Subhadra & Mariella.
First off, you should know that because this year's retreat was being lead by the lovely, Ma Radha, a student of Swami Veda Bharati since 1971 and disciple of Swami Rama of the Himalayas, I constantly had Jai Uttal's Jaya Radha going on in my head.  I'm not complaining because I love that bhajan!  But seriously, it was in my head almost the whole time (besides while I was meditating and focused on a mantra).  It's only appropriate that you should listen to it while you read this, click here to play, and read on.

It's amazing how much contemplation
gazing out at this enormous abyss brings!
Once I checked back into the Stella Maris Retreat Center by the sea for the second time, I realized how influential my first experience with silence has been on my everyday life.  The silence that I had cultivated during my first retreat last spring gave me the awareness so that I can tap into that silence whenever I need to, so it was easy to sink back into it.

To sum it up, my days were spent mostly looking out at the ocean with a cup of hot lemon water as you can see from the photo to the right.  That, along with lots of meditation, slow meals, asana class, spiritual lectures, oodles of naps and lots of contemplative time.  The soundtrack to my time there was the constant waves crashing at the shore wall and the occasional bird chirp.  The weather was blue skies, a warm sun, fluffy clouds and a cool breeze by the sea.  Nature surrounded us with lush, green grass, fragrant honey suckle bushes, seagulls cawing above us, rabbits that hopped on by in between chewing on the pretty flowers that decorated the center, porpoise's frolicking through the current (when we were lucky!) and birds that would dance with each other in swirls along the grass.  We had one day of light rain followed by a double rainbow that resided right over the water.  I had never seen both sides of any rainbow before until this one.  Slowing down and being able to take in all of the beauty was so blissful in and of itself.  A perfect way to practice living in the moment.

After a brief afternoon shower,
colors of light casted themselves over the sea.
One full day (12 hours), we practiced Akhanda Japa of the Gayatri mantra.  Akhanda Japa (uninterrupted group meditation) is an ancient practice in the Himalayan tradition for creating a spiritually empowered collective consciousness. It engenders individual healing and transformation while exerting a strong positive influence on the entire web of life.  This practice was mesmerizing!  Gayatri Mantra (the Mother of the Vedas), the foremost mantra in hinduism and hindu beliefs, inspires wisdom. Its meaning is roughly translated by Swami Veda as "Om.  In Earth, Sky and Heaven, I do meditate on, and sustain in myself, the beautiful brilliance of God who shines in the splendor of the sun." The practice of this mantra calms mental noise, washes off karmic impurities, purifies the ego, sharpens the intellect and illuminates the inner being with the light which flows directly from the Source.  The process of purification through this practice begins in the deep unconscious and gradually pervades all aspects of our personality.  We become new and fully transformed, from inside out.  The Gayatri Mantra:

Om Bhur Bhuvah Svah
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

Although I'm familiar with the Gayatri Mantra, this practice allowed me to experience it in a whole new light.  Once I'd get into the groove of repeating it, it came with no effort allowing me to sink deeper into my meditation.  Then sometimes I'd find myself tripping over words, forgetting certain parts and having to pause and start over.  When I'd take breaks from the practice throughout the day, the mantra would continue to play in my mind.  It was so beautiful.  I napped that afternoon falling asleep to the vibrations of the mantra and awoke to the same blissful sounds.  It was amazingly powerful!

Gentle waves just rollin' on by as the sun sets.
During the many hours of contemplation, I found the waves of the sea to be very similar to that of my thoughts.  At many times of the day the waves were slow and calm.  They gently just rolled onto shore with no crash.  During the early morning, the sun's light would shimmer onto the tiny ripples in the water creating a sea of sparkly glitter.  Such a treat to my eyes!  My thoughts - calm, serene, and infrequent.  Then at other times of the day the sea was rough.  The waves were angry and those small ripples became huge and choppy.  Every wave would crash abruptly at the shore wall creating a loud smack followed by an explosion of water shooting up into the air then raining down onto the ground.  Those forceful waves could be felt wherever you were on the premises - vibrating the ground and giving the building a little shake.  My thoughts - powerfully loud, negative, and judgmental.

There will always be that balance of calm and chaos within our minds and the world, it's just life.  In the meantime, I look forward to dwelling more in a meditative state, keeping my thoughts soft and quiet (like the gentle waves) as often as I can.  I look forward to deepening my silent practice throughout my daily life.

As Swami Veda says, "Walk in Light and Love and carry your Silence with you."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Special Guest: Antoine Dove from the Biggest Loser

As many of you know, I'm the wellness director for a large corporate wellness program at Amscan, Inc.  Today I was lucky enough to have guest speaker, Antoine Dove, from the hit TV series The Biggest Loser, come give a motivational talk to our employees.  It was FANTASTIC!

Antoine was beaming with health.  He had a brilliant smile and clear enthusiasm for life!  Employees were psyched for his special appearance.    His presentation was fun, interactive and totally inspiring.  He emphasized how important it is for YOU to change your life.  Many people find different reasons or people in their lives that they want to make a healthier change for...and this very rarely succeeds.  It's when you decided that you're ready to make that change for YOU and only YOU that the true success comes.  I love that, and it's SO true!

Thanks, Antoine, and keep on with your inspiration to others!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Emma's Presto Green Pesto

My brother Sam has been away in Georgia for vacation and sent me a very excited text message about the amazing pesto his friend, Emma, just prepared for them.  He listed the ingredients and I insisted on sending me Emma's recipe and a few fun photographs to feature it here.  This yummy recipe is vegan and nut-free!

Emma learned this recipe from her older sister, Janelle, who is health conscious and environmentally friendly. This was one quick recipe that Emma particularly liked and added to her cooking repertoir. Janelle inspired Emma to cook mindfully and to always seek fresh, organic ingredients. Simple recipes like this make healthy eating affordable so your belly stays full without emptying your wallet!  For recipes like this and other natural living knowledge, you can find Janelle's parenthood blog at:

(rough measurements)
1 cup spinach
1 1/2 cup leafy kale
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced (add another if you dig garlic)
1 tsp sea salt
Bean sprouts to top (optional)

Blend (or use a food processor) oil and garlic together, then add spinach, then add the kale.  If your blender has a liquify setting then that's good. If the consistency is too thick, add a little more oil.
Cook pasta and scoop some of the pesto on top and mix well.  Top off with bean sprouts!