I just returned from an amazing journey to Thailand and Laos. I was very moved by the daily ritual of offering and devotion that I experienced in all walks of life. I experienced the similar daily acts of ritual beauty and offering during my previous journeys to India and Bali. It was such a sweet reminder.
Each day began with the monks alms offering in which the people of the town give rice and food to the monks as they silently walk in their saffron robes as the darkness of the night turns to day. For these people their first action of the day is an offering of generosity which will bring them merit and opens their heart through the act of giving.
The first day of my thai massage training with master teacher, Pichet Bontumee, we were instructed to arrive with incense, lotus lowers, and fruit. These were offered to to the buddha and the lineage of teachers through our chants and prayers. Pichet is a very inspiring teacher who began every class with an hour dharma talk in broken English and dramatic gestures. He talked alot about how he felt one thing we are missing in the west are the acts of devotion, offering and prayer. We are all wrapped up in “I think, I want, I need”. He encouraged us to practice opening the heart through generosity and by doing what we can to help others. His gesture for this was slightly bowing his head and touching his heart with both hands then opening his arms outward in a forward sweeping motion…”do like this”…
In the early hours of the morning, flower markets are bustling with vendors creating exquisite flower sculptures for daily offerings. These gorgeous ephemeral flowers are offered in generosity, gratitude and devotion everywhere, to the buddha, to one’s ancestors, to the spirits of the land for protection and blessing. You see them hanging around the neck of the Buddha, placed before the feet of the buddha, on the altar, on every boat, taxi, spirit house (miniature house for the spirits of the land that your house or building is built on), on rocks, trees, in every dwelling.
I return to my home here in Brooklyn with a deeper understanding of generosity, devotion and offering. How I can incorporate this more into my life and teaching will unfold each morning as I start my day.
in sweet gratitude,
by Kelley Voegelin
Winter is upon us. Bare branches carve patterns in the sky. A coat of leaves offering their last gestures covers the ground. The thin veil of snow dusting the withering plants brings a quieting hush and invites us inside. The frozen water on the surface of the earth provides the necessary darkness and quietude for the seeds and roots below to tap in with their source and nourish germination. As we too are part of nature, in Winter our beings need to draw inwards to consolidate our essential energy, qi or prana. As we let go of our constant outward activity and take rest, we return to our source and preserve our roots. The world is quiet now, providing us with the support to refine our spiritual essence, settle down and meditate deeply. It is a time to listen inside, crystallize our intuition, pay attention to our dreams, and envision our intentions.
Unfortunately, our fast paced lives don’t allow us much time and space for internal reflection. This disconnection between the call of our inner being and the constant outward and active needs of our day to day lives, causes us to deplete instead of nourish our essential energy in Winter. This often gets heightened as we become caught up in a whirlwind of extra activities around the holidays.
To help you release your habitual outward activity include Garudasana, Eagle Pose, in your yoga practice. In this powerful balancing pose, your arms and legs, the limbs that usually physically engage you in activity in the world, are wrapping tightly around themselves like a double helix. This double spiraling action encourages a release of outer engagement and a drawing into the interior of your being. Garudasana helps us reconnect with the central channel of the body, the spine, and the essential energetic channel, Sushumna nadi. Physically balancing in this precarious situation requires concentration, demanding the mind to relinquish any distracting thoughts that may be thwarting your efforts. With our outer grasping harnessed both physically and mentally, our inner awakening can take flight.
To help you delve deeper into your interior and replenish the well of your being, include more restorative poses in your yoga practice this Winter.
This Fall I’ve been waking early and taking a walk in my neighborhood park, McGorlick Park, feeling the morning light on my skin, and enjoying the trees as they change daily. I’ve been embracing the process of of letting go and distilling that the Fall season offers. It is the perfect time to reflect and see what isn’t essential in your life and let it go. By releasing the unnecessary, we create space for the recognition of what we do want and for who we are. Fall is the time to contract and draw inwards—the time to study, meditate, and embrace more focused internal activities, plan, and store up only what is essential for the deep hibernation of Winter yin. I’ve been spending alot of time journaling, harvesting my dreams, and clarifying my vision for my life. It’s been very grounding and I feel more connected to my inner voice. I invite you to try some of these practices this Fall to help you refine your essence and connect with your deepest self.
3TBSP LEMON JUICE
1/4 CUP RAW HONEY
2 TBSP COCONUT OIL
Honey has powerful anti-viral and anti-microbial properties! In clinical studies, honey has shown to be just as affective in alleviating coughs as over the counter cough medicine. Honey is also known to help alleviate allergies. According to this article, taking a few teaspoons of local raw honey a day prior to pollen season can be affective in boosting your immunity to pollen!
Lemon juice is often used in home remedies for a good reason! It is known to help boost the immune system and also has antiviral and antibacterial properties. I personally like to drink lemon juice when I have a stuffy nose. It helps to clear my sinuses so I can breathe better.
Coconut oil is rich in antioxidants and contains lauric acid, which is anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Coconut oil can be used to help prevent colds by boosting the immune system. Once the cold is set in, coconut oil can help reduce the length of sickness and can be quite soothing when added to warm honey-lemon water or tea.
Mix these three ingredients together and you have yourself a super immune boosting syrup that will help alleviate coughs and sore throats!
101 Uses for Coconut Oil from Wellnessmama.com
From Fruit to Root: Seasonal Practices for Body, Mind and Spirit
Take a look around! This present moment has within it a story to tell about your wellbeing.
If we choose to stay in optimal health then paying attention to the natural cycles around us are of utmost importance. In the wisdom healing traditions of the east, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, the transition between seasons is the time when we are most prone to getting sick or out of balance.
September is a transition month from late summer to early fall. We see this in the way the days become cooler and shorter as leaves begin to change color. This is the time when apples are ready, potatoes and winter squash begin to ripen and the last of the tomatoes are picked. Michael Meier, the farmer at Seven Arrows East describes how the unpicked fruit falls from the plant and goes back to the earth to add supported nutrients to the roots. “The crown of the perennial plant begins to die back from its outward expression toward the sun, so its energy is sent downward, concentrated and sustained in its roots.”
In a similar way our bodies begin to do the same thing in the fall. We play hard in the summer, enjoy the sweetness of NJ peaches, blueberries and corn and then, as autumn begins to wave her multi-colored locks in the wind, fall brings the energy of settling down, rooting into projects and making commitments.
As the transition happens in the world around us as well as in our bodies and minds, there are a few things we can do to find ease. Transition whether good or bad is a vulnerable time for most and can come with a bag of mixed emotions. These five tips help establish firm and optimal health both physically and mentally during the transition between seasons.
Touch the earth. One of the many ways to do this is stand barefoot on the earth. Inhale as you raise your arms above your head with palms facing the sky. Exhale and lower the arms palms facing down. Feel the energy of nature around you move through you.
Abhyanga, (self massage with oil). Our skin is our natural layer of protection from the outside world. If the skin is dry and cracked, it is easy for germs to take root and grow. If the skin has natural lubrication it can fight off germs more easily. Don’t worry the oil you use will be absorbed into your skin and not leave an oily coating on your skin or clothes. Here’s how to do it. After a shower, use a good cold pressed almond oil or sesame, which can be purchased at Dean’s or Healthfare. You can also mix your favorite essential oil in the base oil. Frankincense, rose, jasmine and sandlewood are all excellent oils for the fall. Start with the feet and massage up the legs toward the heart. Massage from the arms to the heart. Circle around the belly and low back, shoulders and face. Allow a few minutes for the oil to absorb before you dress. Abhyanga increases circulation, protects the skin, boost the immune system and grounds scattered thoughts.
Cook for yourself. Pay attention to the food you eat. Visit one of the many farmers markets throughout Monmouth County. See the bounty of colors that appear this fall. Establish a connection with what is growing locally. Cook simply. A little salt and ghee or clarified butter on fresh steamed root vegetables like potatoes, daikon or beets can open your sensitivity to the sun, wind, earth and rain that came together to create the food.
Awareness and gratitude. Experience each day for what it is- rain/sun, cold/hot, sun/clouds, solitary/social, work/play. All of the manifestations of weather and the elements are necessary. Be aware of how the weather makes you feel without judgment. If we are aware in the moment of what we hear, smell, see and even think then we can release worry about the past or future. Attunement to the present moment will automatically align us with the seasons and inspire a desire to take optimal care of this body for the long haul.
Even if life is challenging we can always be grateful we are alive and have another breath and another opportunity. This helps to keep your mind clear and in the present. It’s unrealistic to try to always “be happy”. Life happens and we need to experience the varying degrees of emotions life holds, while holding a realistic view that the happiness and sadness both come and go.
A balanced life comes from awareness. As the seasons transition from summer to fall we can nourish our body, mind and spirit through food, massage, connecting with the earth and staying grateful.
Balance Vata Dosha this Fall
Are you always rushing? Taking on too many tasks simultaneously? Is it difficult to complete projects? Are you finding your skin and lips drying out and your joints cracking alot? Are you experiencing insomnia or having difficulty sleeping? Are you spacey and ungrounded? Do you feel anxious, nervous, or afraid? Are your emotions swinging all over the place-one minute you are ecstatic and the next full of grief? Are you constipated or gassy? Feeling confused, isolated, or lacking in goals? If you are experiencing any of these things, your Vata dosha may be out of balance.
According to Ayurveda, Fall is the season when the wind element or Vata Dosha increases in all of us. Those who are predominantly vata dosha have a particularly difficult time and will deeply benefit from adopting some simple Ayurvedic suggestions to help keep the wind element in balance this Fall.
To help you stay grounded and connected, take care of yourself by eating warm nourishing foods, plenty of time for relaxation and quiet, a steady routine, loving touch through massage, and make time for intimate relationships with friends and family. Add more sweet, salty, and sour tastes in your diet. Eat plenty of root veggies with warming spices to boost your digestive fire this Fall. Soups are particularly helpful and we love soup as the weather starts to get cold!
Add this yummy cashew cream on top of your favorite root veggie soup to add more sweetness into your life!
2 cups raw cashews
1 cup cold water, and more as needed
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1-2 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
2 tablespoons demerara sugar or maple syrup (optional)
To make the cashew cream, soak the cashews in cold water overnight.
Drain cashews. Add them to a food processor and pulse a few times to grind them up.
With the motor running, drizzle in fresh water (start with 1 cup), stopping a few times to scrape the bowl of the food processor down. You can continue to add more water depending on how thick or thin you’d like the cream to be; you may want it as thick as whipped cream, or you may want it to be closer to the texture of coconut milk. Keep adding water until you like the consistency.
For a savory cream, add the lemon and sea salt. For a sweet cream, add the maple syrup, cane juice, or sugar. Feel free to vary flavorings as you like!
Join Leigh Evans for her Vata Dosha Dinner, Sun. Oct 6 at her house in Brooklyn. Share a meal together and learn ways to balance your Vata dosha this fall.
contact Leigh - firstname.lastname@example.org