Facing our Excuses

“Excuses are the tools with which persons with no purpose in view build for themselves great monuments of nothing” ––Steven Grayhm

Tonight I heard a new song, and my first impulse was to throw out my yoga mat and move. I have two little ones now (and another on the way!), and I believe this internal urge to move with music is hardwired into humans. Some of us adults sadly have learned to squash it. Tragic indeed. So there I was, lying on my bed, and I hear Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” for the first time. I immediately get the itch to vinyasa. Then, my mind gets involved and goes, “Weird. Country music isn’t for doing yoga, and I’m just too wiped out to move.” However, I caught my sneaky little mind making excuses and I followed my initial impulse. Once again, I’m amazed at how 15 minutes of mindful movement alters my state of mind and my physical wellbeing. My mind is clear and peaceful. My legs feel lighter. My breath comes easily. My back isn’t so achy. Letting go of all that stagnant tired energy and intentionally inviting in something new is so refreshing, like hitting a re-start button. I know these benefits well and yet, I resisted.


Why do we resist change? Even momentary or incremental change, like doing a few minutes of yoga when you’d rather stay in bed. I’m talking about good and life-giving change. Like caring for your body. Getting off your bum, putting on your shoes, and going for a brisk walk. Meal planning so you eat the best, freshest food. Carving out quiet time to refresh your spirit or honor the presence of God. Developing daily habits that improve your quality of life. There’s no question these things are good.

Maybe I resist change because I’m a stubborn little donkey. Maybe it’s because change requires growth, and growth is often painful on some level. Perhaps it’s because needing a change signals that what I am currently doing could be better, and I like the comforting idea that I am doing just fine, thank you very much. Here’s the biggest reason for me: Change means I have to humble myself and let go of my excuses. My excuse not to do a little yoga was a tiny example of something that I see in other areas of my life. I like my excuses. And I have two beautiful, energetic little people (and one on the way!) who make really good excuses for all sorts of things, from not exercising to not making time for date night. Its a lose-lose for everyone because if I trick myself into thinking this busy stage of motherhood is the reason I can’t _________ , then I will on some level resent the kids, which affects the way I parent. But mostly I lose for the obvious reason that if I don’t face my own excuses I will not grow.

I feel this inner resistance pop up whenever life asks me to shape-shift and take on new responsibilities and roles. Becoming a parent was a big change, and growing into a better parent requires many small changes every day. Going from one child to two required a new version of myself, a change I resisted. In my resistance, I stopped caring for my physical wellbeing the way I needed to and slipped into some classic mom martyrdom. Because, you know, no one besides me can care for the children properly. They need me every minute. So not true. Just excuses.

Lately I’ve been working on self-awareness in this area. I have come to a place where I am willing to tell myself a new story. I’m tired of that old tired one. I want to show my kids a mom who cares for herself. Her physical health, her God-given passions, and ALL of her relationships. I want to show my kids a mom who joyfully lives her best life. While there are some things I am putting on hold for this season of life, I want them to know what I am passionate about, what makes my body buzz and my heart feel full. Life has many unique seasons; I am committed to the challenge of growing and finding joy in each of them. I have found that I’m not able to do this while holding onto my excuses.

I resist taking photos of myself doing yoga, because it’s “like, so cliche” but that’s an excuse too! I love seeing other people on their practice path, doing their best. It’s something I miss about teaching. I resist sharing my love for movement and yoga with others because it requires me to put away my excuses and extend myself. Yes, today my practice looks different than it did before kids, when I’m not pregnant, and when I had more free time. But I still feel passionate about the vital importance of intentional movement and caring for one’s body, and I want to share that with others. So here’s my encouragement/exhortation to you: Have a good chat with yourself or maybe your spouse (if they use kind words), and examine the ways you use excuses to not live your best life. Step out of your comfort zone and become aware of the stories you tell yourself.

As you bravely face your excuses, remember to give yourself grace. We’re all a work in progress.


On days when the little one’s naps don’t happen at the same time, it’s easy for me to feel frustrated that I don’t get time to myself… Or I can remember to remind myself that this one-on-one time is so precious.
The glass is half full, no it’s running over 💛

View on Path

My Precious Coffee & Inner Strength

Hands holding a coffee mug

I felt an uneasy feeling of guilt, the stillest of smallest voices, as I pushed the top down on my AeroPress. The delicious aroma of rich, fresh coffee filled the cold morning air with a warmth that welcomed the new day and reminded me that I could indeed survive out here in the kitchen, away from the comfort of my bed. I sat down in my favorite chair, clutching that hot coffee mug as though it’s contents held the secret to life. Ahhh, my precious

I wondered about that still, small voice that had recently made me feel uneasy about enjoying something so simple as a cup of joe. It had been tugging at me for a week or so. Was it some weird Puritanical urge to feel guilty at anything that brings pleasure? Maybe I should just suffer through the morning with some boring black tea to build character. No, that wasn’t it. Was I feeling guilty because I was worried about the caffeine when I am pregnant? No, my midwife gave me the green light to have one cup of coffee. Maybe it was because it was Lent, and although it’s not my practice to observe Lent, perhaps I was feeling that I should be doing so?  Nope, that wasn’t it.

After a few mornings of feeling funny about drinking coffee and knowing well the source of that still, small voice, I finally asked God – what’s up?

Do I need to give up my morning cup?
Yes, you do.
Ok, for how long?
Five days.
I can do that! I’m pretty sure that Lent thing is 40 days, so I’m getting off the hook easy!

Five days was how long it took for me to learn what I needed to. The lesson had nothing to do with coffee itself. It was about where I draw my strength from and where I lean when I am stretched thin and challenged. I think it’s one of the most important lessons I’ve recently learned because it spoke to the heart of my identity, showing me what I reach for to feel strong and capable.

I’m not going to say that being a mom is the hardest job ever, but for me, it has challenged me to grow (in sometimes painful ways) in a way that nothing else ever has. My sweet baby boy is now almost two, and although I LOVE him more that words can say, these days I have many moments of exasperation and of… well, not totally liking him. Anyone with a toddler knows that everything is a phase. The sweet, happy charmer one day can become a tiny tyrant the next, leaving you pulling at your hair and either praying for patience or cussing under your breath. The week I laid aside coffee happened to fall on a very intense week with the little guy, and dad was out of town on a work trip, so I was left to handle the midnight tantrums and public daytime meltdowns on my own. I really needed that flipping cup of coffee… or a dirty martini, but again, I’m pregnant, so that wasn’t happening. I had been reaching for the cup of coffee like it was my well-spring of life. I gratefully slurped down the hot liquid, knowing and trusting that it would turn my tired, pregnant brain back on, giving me super-powers to get the day going, despite that fact that inside I felt weak, tired, selfish, and not enough.

Under the illusion that my sacred cup of coffee was bolstering me up, I became weaker in my inner being, in my spirit. “IF I start the day with a good cup of coffee, I can handle everything with grace.” Of course I rationally know that’s not true. Coffee may perk my brain up, but it does nothing to strengthen my spirit. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, where my true strength comes from. And yet I forget to turn there so easily. I so easily replace a vibrant, life-giving relationship with my Creator with cheap tricks, a quick fix, and crutches. As I came to understand the heart of my coffee issue, my eyes where opened to the other areas in my life where I misplace my security and strength:
If I always have a well-stocked kitchen full of only organic, whole foods.
If I know how to sprout my own grains and ferment my own sauerkraut.
If I learn everything there is to know about health and wellness.
If we have “X” amount of money in savings.
Then I’ll feel strong and capable. Then my family will be healthy and safe. Then I will feel happy and content.

Of course, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with putting an emphasis on drinking great coffee or eating clean or staying healthy or cooking well (or whatever your thing is). But we have to be honest with ourselves when our dependency on them becomes too heavy. I’m not talking chemical or physical dependency, I’m talking spiritual dependency. Our spirits have a much higher capacity to shape our outlook on life and our responses than any crutch we can dream up. And it’s easier to ignore our spiritual “health” when we are looking in the wrong places for help.

What’s your crutch or your cheap fix? How can you let it go, even just for a time, to discover or remember the richness of your true source of strength and power?

PS As a note of encouragement to other moms with little ones, since I wrote this post, Aiden had already moved on to a more enjoyable, easier phase. If you’re in a tough spot, this too will pass!!

How Long is a Year?

I meant to do this post after Aiden’s first birthday in the middle of May… but then “summer just flew by… ”

I bet you have heard a version of that phrase more than once lately; a mom commenting about how she can’t believe that it’s already time for the school year to begin or a college student lamenting that summer ended too fast. I didn’t realize how much rhetoric we constantly hear about how fast time is flying until Aiden turned one. I felt as though I heard the following phrase a hundred times: “Can you believe how fast it goes by?!”

I remember hearing the same thing when I was about to get married. Well-meaning friends would say things like, “Don’t worry about the details. The day is a blur; you won’t remember much anyway!” I didn’t want that to be my experience. I set an intention to consciously slow down the day and savor each sweet moment. And I did. I loved my wedding day. It was one of the best days of my life. I took a yoga class that morning, enjoyed a delicious  burger and champagne with my friends, cherished the sacred vows I exchanged with my love, and thoroughly enjoyed the friends, family, food and dancing. I still remember the smell of the ocean air and the feel of the breeze and sunlight on my skin as I walked to the ceremony. I was high on life and pure love.


Aiden’s first year

As I look back on the first year as a mom, I don’t feel that time has somehow flown by or that I have missed something I should have captured. I have been there with Aiden every day, and I have been intentional about being present for each moment. Yoga teachers talk a lot about being present. It’s almost a trendy topic. And one might get the idea that presence is something you cultivate on your yoga mat while wearing Lululemon and perfecting bird of paradise pose. While yoga can be a great tool for teaching us to be in the moment, I have not had any experience teach me this lesson the way motherhood has.

I am guilty of getting lost in the black hole of social media, entertainment, or online shopping. That time seems to disappear into thin air. Being glued to a screen can quickly take us away from the here and now, and I know I’ve used it to escape when life seems dull. But here’s an important exhortation to myself and to other new moms: Hold that little hand and look into those pure, innocent eyes when you are feeding your baby. Put your phone away. You want to make time fly by?! Surf the newsfeed on Facebook while your precious little one is in your arms, against your skin, close enough to kiss. I promise that you won’t read one thing that surpasses the importance of the bond and trust that is being developed with your little one.

This time never comes back. You won’t get these days again. I firmly believe in putting our child(ren) first and your career/job/hobby second. No, that doesn’t mean giving up your own thing; I think it just means keeping it in perspective and realizing that life has seasons. I’ve not once heard an older woman say, “I really wish I had spent more time at work and less time with my children.” I’ve always heard the opposite. It’s easy to lose sight of priorities when the routine tasks of life lull us into a coma. It’s easy to lose heart when we live in a society that undervalues a mother’s nurturing role. I’ve found for myself that it takes intention and effort to stay engaged and present.

Our words have so much power. I am making a conscious effort to stop saying things that reinforce the idea that there is not enough time. Time is not my enemy, and I don’t have to fight against it. This moment is all I have, and it is good. When I’m about to say, “I haven’t had time to do such-and-such”, I’m working at stopping myself and saying, “I haven’t chosen to do that.” I want to take more responsibly for my life experience rather than feeling like life is happening to me.

If you believe that time is flying by and you’re inevitably going to miss out on the sweet everyday moments, then you will certainly experience that. Being present requires surrender. It won’t always be easy, but I believe it is so worth it. You have a choice. Time isn’t going anywhere.

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once
~ Albert Einstein


Rise n Shine!

I’ve never been a “morning person”. In fact, to me there are few simple pleasures in life as lovely as curling up in warm covers in the morning and drifting back to sleep. Ahhh…

Enter baby. There is no snooze button on my little one. When he is ready to rock n’ roll, he is quite vocal about it. And thus the day starts on my baby’s terms, not my own. This is just part of being a mom, and I roll with it. However, I do get frustrated with myself when I’m still in my pajamas at 11am staring at a sink full of dried egg-encrusted dishes. #stayathomemomfailure


It’s time to play!

I have the privilege of primarily being a stay-at-home mom. I wouldn’t trade it for the world! The few hours I do go to “work” each week are spent giving bodywork and teaching yoga, two of my biggest passions. You won’t hear me complaining about the tedious work of stay-at-home-mommyhood because I love my life, every bit and facet of it. I will say though that unless you get your game face on for rocking the stay-at-home gig, it can feel as though you are slipping into some sort of domestic twilight zone. I’ve found it vitally important, for my sanity and the overall health and energy flow of my home, to treat my role like any other job. The biggest factor in how my day goes is my diligence with committing to some sort of morning routine. Something that sets me on good footing for the rest of the day.

Whether you’re a home-maker trying to avoid the 11am pajama scenario or an entrepreneur determined to hit your goals each day, may the following suggestions for a butt-kicking morning be as helpful to you as they’ve been to me. I certainly don’t nail this list every morning; I’m putting these into writing as a reminder to myself too! But on the mornings I do hit most of these, the whole day takes on a better tone.

1. Give THANKS

Before your feet hit the floor say a quick prayer of gratitude. This might be as short as “Thank you God for giving me another day, thank you for my breath” or it might be more detailed. Gratitude it crazy strong magic.

2. Set an Intention

At the start to each yoga class, we begin by setting an intention for our time on the mat. I’ve found that to be a powerful practice that overflows into the rest of my life. Starting the day this way is so important.

3. Rehydrate and Flush to start fresh

Drink a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon or a few drops of a pure  therapeutic grade lemon essential oil. The health benefits of this simple practice in the morning are impressive.

4. Move that Body

Stimulate your energy flow by some simple massage and movements. Start with massaging your ears. The outer portion of the ear is viewed as a representation of the entire body. As with other forms of reflexology, points on the ear correspond with specific areas of the body. Massaging these points can produce therapeutic benefits in the corresponding body part or system and it just feels really good! Next, massage your scalp, then your chest, working outward from the sternum to the crease where your arm meets your torso. After your mini self massage, do a few gentle exercises that feel good to your body first thing in the morning (more on this in next month’s post) or put on some happy music and have a little dance party in your kitchen. Just. Move. Yo. Body. It’ll clear the energy cobwebs. If you have time to add on a little morning run or a full yoga practice or whatever your thing is, get it done!

5. Fresh air and sunlight

Even if it’s cloudy and gray, getting outside and taking some deep breaths is one of the best ways to start the day. Exposure to sunlight helps your body create hormone levels that help you feel more awake and alert.

6. Make a Nutrient Dense Breakfast

Breakfast is not the time to get lazy about fueling your cells. Think veggies, complex carbs, and some good protein. Enjoy the ritual of making tea or coffee.

7. Shower.

Water is so refreshing and wonderful. Besides, you’ll thank yourself when 11am rolls around! If you don’t have time to shower or you’re conserving because there’s a drought, just wash your face with alternating cold and warm water.

8. Get dressed and put yourself together

No, you don’t need to look like you just stepped off the cover of Vogue, but seriously, pull it together. “I wish I hadn’t looked my best today” said no one… ever.

9. Make Your Bed

Because you’re an adult. Plus, the whole room looks better almost instantly. Studies show that accomplishing even small tasks can trigger activity in the reward centers of the brain, motivating you to accomplish other tasks!

10. Do the Dishes

Unless you have a maid coming, do the breakfast dishes ASAP. No, that pan doesn’t need to soak any longer.

Extra Credit:

Throw something in the crock-pot for dinner!

(*Please note, if you have a newborn at home, ignore all of this and get as much rest as you can! Let someone else do the dishes, and enjoy those PJ’s!)

“You just had a baby?!”


I really have used the whole pregnancy/baby thing to slack on my blogging! Sorry to both or all three of my faithful readers!! I thought it appropriate on my first blog back after baby to talk about what I see as our culture’s weird and somewhat twisted view of women’s bodies surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.

Let me begin by saying that I have always been thin. This is not the same as saying I have always looked like a supermodel. Au contraire! I love my healthy body, and I embrace it’s unique angles and curves, “faults” and strengths, but it’s just a fact that my figure is not the airbrushed “perfect” look of a Victoria’s Secret model. As part of my skinny loveliness package, I also come with boney knees and elbows, an itty-bitty bra size, and rail thin arms and legs. Would I like curvacious legs and bombshell boobs? Sure! But that’s not the body type the good Lord blessed me with! I eat rich, wholesome foods and I exercise every day, not to maintain a certain dress size, but because it FEELS GOOD! I want to live my life with ample energy and a healthy, strong body to carry me through life’s adventures.

So I feel perplexed and even a bit frustrated when people exclaim, “You don’t look like you just had a baby!” I know its supposed to be a flattering compliment, but I feel it reflects an untrue and sad cultural ideology surrounding women’s bodies after childbirth. I wholeheartedly believe that here is no more beautiful and powerful time in a women’s life than when she is teaming up with the Creator of Life to grow, nourish, sustain, and give birth to a brand new person! It’s totally an awesome metamorphosis to watch your body go through the amazing stages of pregnancy. Labor itself is an event that defies all logic, and the fact that women’s bodies are designed to go through that event with such rhythm and intelligence should give us all a healthy reverence and respect for what the human body is capable of.

I’m not going to completely romanticize the postpartum period and say that it is all bliss and overflowing love and shininess. No, sleep deprivation is a real thing, and it’s not very pretty. I remember a particular Facetime chat with our good friends the week after our son was born. When the call ended, my husband and I hoped our dark under-eye circles and generally dazed look hadn’t scared our friends into seeking out a permanent form of birth control. The feeling of being overwhelmed with a new baby and the high learning curve of caring for a helpless little person can be totally daunting and make you feel a bit crazy. And yes, a women’s body needs time to heal and recover from the insane marathon of labor and birth. Those “Tough Mudder” races have nothing on childbirth!!! Holy smokes, it is a grizzly experience. But our bodies are not wrecked from it! It will take patience, diligent self care, lots of love, and some precious sleep to come back, but if we care for ourselves and are offered loving care by those around us, it will. It is so damaging for a woman to buy into the idea that once she is pregnant, she is going to become unfit and out of shape and a slave to all kinds of unhealthy food cravings!

Healthy, well-loved bodies are beautiful bodies! Curvy, tall, short, petite, skinny, whatever. At any life stage (pregnant or otherwise), eat nourishing whole foods and exercise daily, and the best advice of all, from my midwife, “be in love”. Whatever shape your body type lends itself to, you are beautiful and radiant when you care for yourself. For those of you who are at the time of life that involves the drastic physical and emotional changes surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, keep the mindset that this is an incredible, beautiful, and magnificent time in your life, not a time to let yourself slide into a place of resigned apathy and negligence. One day I hope an old friend comes up to me in line at the store and says, “You look incredible, powerful, and strong! You look like you just had a baby!!!

Savasana – The Science & Art of Chilling Out


Pop Tart Culture

It always puzzles me when yoga students roll up their mat and creep out of the room as soon as savasana commences. I wonder if these are the same students, who, when they do stay for the final resting pose, stare up at the ceiling, fidget incessantly, and suddenly seem to develop a demanding case of poisen oak on the tip of their nose. It’s not that these students all have ADHD or lower levels of self restraint than the rest of us; I think it has more to do with a lack of understanding of the value of this posture. I also think it also has to do with our culture where we associate being agitated and stressed-out with being productive and having a sense of self-worth. Like the comedian Brian Regan says in his skit about Pop-Tarts, … after the toaster instructions, then they have a whole set of microwave instructions… how long does it take to toast a pop tart?! A minute?! You don’t have that kind of time?! Listen, if you need to zap-fry your pop tarts before you head out the door, you might wanna loosen up your schedule.  So true! Whether it’s the way we prepare food or the time we take to care for ourselves. We act like lunatics rushing around with our schedules so jammed packed that we feel like chilling out for a few minutes is not worthy of our time!

The Cherry on Top

Almost every type of yoga practice or sequence ends with a final resting pose, savasana, usually done flat on one’s back with arms and legs stretched out, relaxing heavily on the floor. The use of props like a bolster under the knees or a blanket under the head may make make this resting posture most comfortable. The pose name translates in Sanskrit to “corpse pose”, not because the ancient yogi’s had a morbid obsession, but because the pose is meant to facilitate complete surrender and letting go – physically and mentally. The body and mind are still and quiet. So is corpse pose the same as a power nap? Not really. Lying down on your back sounds simple, but if you look up the posture on yogajournal.com, you will find that it takes 5 paragraphs of step-by-step instructions to tell you how to set yourself up in this uncomplicated pose – and that’s just instructing the physical aspects of the posture! The biggest reason for setting yourself up with care for savasana is so that the body is completely open and at ease and is no longer a distraction to the mind. Understanding the benefits, which are so worth staying on your mat for that extra 5 to 10 minutes, might be key to helping you experience those benefits first-hand.

I could go on for 15 pages about the benefits of savasana for every system in the body, for hormone regulation, for mental and emotional wellbeing, and for spiritual connectedness (whatever your religious beliefs), but since I’d rather you finish this and head off to your mat to practice, I’ll focus on just two areas of benefit: One from a western, more medical standpoint about the nervous system and the other from a more holistic Ayurvedic view about the flow of energy.

Maintaining Balance and Homeostasis of the Nervous System

Quick refresher: The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is made up of two main corresponding systems – the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), associated with the physiological response of “fight or flight”, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), associated with the response of “rest and digest” or “feed and breed”. Good old Wikipedia draws out this phrase:To be specific, the parasympathetic system is responsible for stimulation of “rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed” activities that occur when the body is at rest, including sexual arousal, salivation, lacrimation (tears), urination, digestion, and defecation.”  It’s no news flash that modern life keeps us in a state of fight or flight most of the time where our SNS is dominant. However, as Dr. Veronique Mead so simply states, “A healthy nervous system maintains homeostasis by balancing input from both branches of the ANS during activites ranging from relaxing, digesting and sleeping, to waking, feeling excited, and running.” Relaxing and lettting go completely in Savasana is one of the best ways to activate the PNS, receiving the benefits of better digestion, detoxification, and sexual health as well as lower heart rate, lower levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, higher levels or endorphins (“feel good” hormones), and increased resistance to infection.

Rivers of Prana

In the practice of yoga, the postures and the breath are used to cleanse, tone, and strengthen the whole body – each system – on a holistic level. From an Ayurvedic viewpoint, health is achieved when Prana, or “life force energy”, is able to move uninterrupted throughout the whole body. Sickness and disease are seen as the result of poor energy flow. Those who regularly practice yoga may be able to tune into their body’s subtle rhythms and notice where and when they feel “blocked” or “stagnant” in a particular part of their body. During a well-rounded yoga practice, stagnant and blocked energy channels are opened up and cleansed, and during savasana, Prana is able to flow freely through the body to any places that need healing and extra nourishment. This is one reason for the very open and easy alignment in this pose. There are no “kinks” or bent angles in the body. All the energy channels are wide open for life force to flow easily.

If You Skip Out, You are Missing Out! 

Like I said before, there are so many other benefits to practicing savasana, such as the integration of new neuromuscular patterns and the quieting of the mind that happens from withdrawing the senses. However, I think you will learn about these just from experiencing them if you give yourself the chance. So stay, surrender to the practice of letting go, and see what happens. And please, don’t eat pop tarts for breakfast, even if you toast ’em.

Gluten-Free Pancakes

Gluten Free Pancakes

There is nothing like sitting down on a Sunday morning to a hot stack of pancakes right off the griddle, topped with real butter and pure maple syrup. My husband and I went gluten-free a few months ago (totally worth it), and giving up pancakes wasn’t all that sad to me because I had never felt very good after eating them. Recently my mother-in-law (thanks again, Rea) came up with the best recipe for gluten-free pancakes, and I have to share it because they are so so good! Even if you’re not gluten-free, I promise you’ll love the flavor, the texture, and you’ll probably even notice that you still feel full and satisfied hours later.

In a blender combine:

1.5 cup milk   (could substitute soy, rice, or almond milk)
1 egg   (could use egg alternative)
1.5 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup coconut oil (melt it before adding)
1/2 banana
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
splash of water as needed to blend

Blend all ingredients in the blender until mixed well and drop about 1/4 cup mixture per cake on an oiled hot griddle or cast iron pan. So easy!

I love lots of protein at breakfast, so I topped one stack of mine with my favorite smooth almond butter and honey.


Joie de Vivre and the Power of Coral Lipstick


Joy in the Kitchen

I’ve put off finishing this entry because I couldn’t think of a way to combine all the elements in an articulate way that would express how they are all related to me. I began writing while I waited for a pot of Beef Bourguignon to finish cooking. The most incredible smells of congnac and wine drench beef and vegetables filled the house, and I was feeling quite content and blissed out doing one of my favorite things – cooking – and feeling like a rockstar at it. (Thank you very much to Rea, my mother-in-law, for inspiring me and teaching me how to make this). The thing I loved most about making this dish, besides the incredible aroma that filled my house, is the flair and charisma that is so easily excited by simply following the steps of the recipe. At this point you might be thinking, “Wow. Poor Grace needs to get out more if following a recipe seems exciting and stokes her into a state of bliss and passion.” But come on! You get to poor cognac into the pot and light it on fire! When’s the last time you lit something on fire in the kitchen? Intentionally and with great results? Its fun!!! And you can not possible spark your pot of Beef Bourguignon into flame without some flair.

Bringing Life to Your Life 

Which brings me to my next subject – flair. In case you don’t frequently use the word and are rusty on the connotation, I will entertain you with some synonyms – aptitude, chic, elegance, genius, glamour, mastery, pizzazz, presence, shine. Those who posses an undeniable zest for life live life with flair. Its the difference between throwing together a boring pot of stew (ho-hum) and creating a French masterpiece with delight, passion, and a sense of excitement. Either way you will make dinner. But the living involved in the process is drastically different. Our lives are not only made up of the big moments – the weddings, vacations, firsts, births, deaths – they are made up of the little moments everyday. Yet we often become numb to this fact, to the beauty and magic of our everyday lives, and we lose our zest and energy for living in the process. We become stagnant, lethargic, and depressed. The funny thing about energy is that the level we become used to in our lives become our normal, and we are all addictive creatures at some level, so we go on creating more of what we have become used to. We get into cycles. Everyone falls prey to the negative cycle at some time. The challenge is to find ways to shift and get out now. Today. Because today is new, and it really has never happened before. We are constantly greeted with opportunities to shift.

Joie de vivre

The French have an expression – Joie de vivre, which roughly translates to “the joy of living” or “zest for life”. It is often used to express a cheerful enjoyment of life or exaltation of the spirit. In Positive Psychology, zest is one of the 24 strengths possessed by humanity. Zest is defined as living life with a sense of excitement, anticipation, and energy, and it is seen as part of the virtue of courage. Those who have zest exude excitement and energy while approaching tasks in life. Albert Einstein is quoted to have said, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”  I think that having this excitement for life comes from seeing the miraculous in our lives each and every day. 

Get Your Game Face On 

And this brings me to the power of coral lipstick. Back to my mother-in-law. Two things you should know: She posses a boatload of zest for life and she wears the most outrageous coral lipstick. It looks lovely on her but quite startling in the tube. I’ve never been one wear lipstick, but the other day I saw her at yoga class, and she there she was in her usual state of flair, looking excited to be there and ready for anything, and I said to myself – I want that. Not necessarily the same coral lips, but that seemed like a good place to start. So off to the Sephora I went, and I discovered the power of lipstick. It’s such a simple thing, but pulling out that black tube and giving it a swipe gives me a sense of feeling ready, of expectation, of zest for life. Now I am not suggesting that everyone head to the cosmetic aisle on their path towards happiness and “exaltation of the spirit”. It could be anything that reminds you to live life with a sense of excitement, anticipation, and energy. Some of my other favorite tools for hitting the switch on the energy shift button are doing yoga, running, hiking. It could be buying a new dress that looks amazing on you (no, I don’t think this is shallow), making a fabulous recipe, or helping a friend in need. Topping the list of quick shift tools are dancing like crazy to your favorite song, signing in the shower, standing up straight and smiling, and committing a random act of kindness. Whatever helps you get your game face on for life because your life is made up of the way your live each moment.

Whatever it is you do, get out there and do it with some Joie de Vivre!

Scheduling a Massage for Your Brain

woman stressed

The Moment It Made Sense To Me 

A few memorable experiences in my life inspired me to become a massage therapist. I remember going to my favorite Naturopath years ago, complaining that I felt like I was in a brain fog, like I couldn’t think straight, my thoughts were all running together and spinning in dizzy circles. I couldn’t focus, and I was craving sugar and caffeine to maintain some sense of having it together mentally. Sound like 3PM at your desk? She worked out tension in my neck and shoulders, and then applied some manual traction and gave me a range-of-motion adjustment. If you’ve ever heard those lovely cracks and pops as pressure releases under the touch of competent and nurturing hands, you know what sweet music it can be. After I stood up from her massage table, I noticed that I felt as though my brain had been rewired. I felt alert, balanced, and clear. I told her as I was leaving the office, “I actually feel like I can think better”, to which she replied, “Well of course, you actually can.”

 East Meets West

She gave me both the Western and the Eastern reasons behind her answer. When the muscles around the shoulders and neck are constricted, tense, and tight, blood flow is reduced to the brain, and your brain doesn’t function so well with lower levels of oxygen. The muscular tension may also pull cervical vertebra out of proper alignment, causing imbalance in the spine itself and putting pressure on the nerves. In Eastern medicine, we find an additional reason: the fluid that surrounds the spine, cerebrospinal fluid, is one of the major conductors (and storehouses) of life force energy or “prana” that flows into the body on the breath, in the foods we eat, and through sunlight. This fluid flows within and around the brain and spinal cord within a three layered “Saran Wrap” like covering called the meninges. If there are blockages or constriction in the meninges, the flow of this life force will be limited.

Taking Care of Your Body and Mind is Not a Luxury 

Next time you are reaching for your 3pm cup of Joe, do yourself a favor and take care of your body holistically. If you can’t schedule a massage at that particular moment, get up and move around to get your blood flowing again. Try a brisk walk, followed by the yoga pose, uttanasana, which is just a standing forward fold. Let your head dangle and nod “yes” gently back and forth.

Everyone gets stressed, and stress always has an effect on your body. However, if you’re like most people, you become numb to the stress and tend not to notice the effects until they get really bad. The good news though is that you can stay in control and learn to be more mindful of what’s happening in your body before it gets to that point. Regular massage can help with that. In addition to boosting your immune system, releasing endorphins, and relieving tension, massage can also make you smarter. Well, maybe not literally, but it can increase mental clarity, reduce mental stress, promote better sleep and relaxation, and heighten your sense of being “present” in the moment whether you are at work or at play. Do your brain a favor; get a massage at least once a month. Cheers to clear thinking and a healthy body free of painful distractions!