Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Clarity: Who (and how) do you want to be when you "grow up"?

I had the most inspiring conversation this Monday! I met this woman at a WOW Talks event, and she arrived to my house with a sassy hairdo and wearing red lipstick.

As we talked, she described her intention this year of stepping into the full expression of herself, and told me about her desire to embodying more of the divine feminine. She described a woman who embodies the divine feminine to me, sitting up straighter in her chair and suddenly looking quite divine herself. "She just has this aura, this powerful presence," she said, motioning in the air around her relaxed shoulders as if she was glowing. (Was she?)

I was struck. I find that I don't particularly resonate with the term "divine feminine" myself, but the sense and aura of power, confidence and ease she was talking about... yes, wanting that is very familiar to me.

Our conversation has been whirling around my head ever since. As I began writing in my journal this morning, the usual stuff came up... what I did yesterday, my feelings and insecurities, my desire to get more done... and then I started writing about this shared vision and image of the empowered, embodied woman we'd been talking about. I realized I'd been having flashes of my own particular vision on my morning walks. Knowing the power of clear visions and intentions to guide my day-to-day decisions and choices, I took a deep breath and asked myself to describe her.

Who was this woman I have been imagining I want to become, desiring to step into being?

She walks tall and proud - not because she thinks she's all that - but because she knows herself and knows she's doing the best she can and that's good enough.
She knows that beauty comes from living in your truth, in choosing to allow yourself to be turned on by life, by sensations, by feelings, by being vulnerable and unafraid of mess.
She knows what she wants and she knows she has the power to make it real.
She's purposeful, intentional, thoughtful, awake and aware.
Her body is toned and strong, supple and flexible.
She knows what she brings to the table and how much it means to other people.
She knows what she's worth.
She's financially free, abundant and organized.
She's an unabashedly sensual and sexual being.
She's deep and watchful, expressive and artsy.
She's open and learning and constantly readjusting and she doesn't take anything too seriously.
She laughs easily, cries easily and feels opened and relieved after both.
She savors her food, eats mindfully and slowly, and only when she's hungry... or wants a taste.
She takes care of herself and doesn't worry about making other people feel uncomfortable.
She takes her time.
he listens to her body and her intuition.
She knows and loves her friends and makes quality time with them regularly.
She celebrates life.
She feels at peace in the world, in the universe, with her place in the cosmic unfolding.
She loves and supports her family roots and they love and support her back.
She is grounded and centered, she dances.
She loves fresh flowers and vegetables, nature and trees and lakes.
Her art is a celebration of life.
Her movements are a reflection of what she wants to create in the world.
She believes all things are one, all things are whole, all things are connected.
She calls herself a fascinating creature.
She calls herself Alex.
She calls herself beauty.
She calls herself deep.
She calls herself love.

This is how I spent my 15 minutes in the sun on the front porch drinking tea this morning. I write to get inspired. I write to create my visions at which to aim, on which to act. I do this every morning.

How would you like to start your day this clear and inspired? All you have to do is give yourself a pen, paper, and a few extra minutes. Don't worry about getting it perfect, just write and see what expresses itself. Remember, you can always change your mind at any time.

Life is play. Life is a series of experiments, of launches and course corrections. You're living it anyway, why not live it more the way you really want to? Start by exploring what you want.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Foods for Cleansing

In this technological age it's easy to forget that we are animal creatures and that our bodies and energetic systems are attuned to the seasons, just like that of the animal and plant creatures around us. We've just largely removed ourselves. But it's worth remembering, here's why:

Winter Foods & Feelings
In the winter, we often crave cooked, hearty soups, carbs, and proteins, originally to bulk up and keep warm. When you look around the farmers' market, you see these hardy and hearty offerings reflected: a huge array of winter squashes (like butternut and kabocha), potatoes, collards, garlic, yams, kale. It's a time many traditions celebrate the season with meats, ostensibly to stock up for winter.

It's natural to gain a little extra weight in the winter (we blame that on holiday parties now, but it's built into our systems as a survival mechanism)! Winter is the time of hibernation, of rest and turning inward. It can be especially challenging for sensitive people to cope with the outgoing, busy holiday energy during the time of year when our natural instinct is to slow down and reflect internally. No wonder January and February can feel like such a come down. We crave that stay home, snuggle up and rest time.

Spring Foods & Feelings
Spring brings the re-awakening of energy. Sprouts come up. We feel our creative juices stirring, a desire to get back out into the world. To see people. To go places. To make things happen! It is a time of natural lightening and expansion, in body and in spirit.

If you're at the farmers' market, you will see this lightness reflected in the tender young vegetables. It's not too surprising that all of the spring vegetables -  sprouts, onions, snap peas, spinach, romaine, arugula, asparagus, beets, chard, spring carrots, radishes, cilantro - are highly alkalizing and cleansing! After a winter of holding onto extra calories, and eating extra rich foods, our bodies are wired to crave these crunchy, juicy veggies. Check in with your body? What's it saying?

Around this time of year, you start to see tons of hype about Spring Cleanses and Detoxes from the health community. While I do believe these can be so important for flushing the body of toxins, I invite you to go into any kind of cleansing from a place of:

  1. Listening to what your body wants and needs, not what your head thinks you "should" be doing.
  2. Self-love, self-care and kindness, not because you're trying to fix yourself.

This is why I invited you to check in with your body. When you think about filling yourself on fresh young vegetables, how does that feel inside? Compare that to the feeling of eating cheeseburgers or just bread for a week (just so you can get a good reading). As women, we've been programmed to follow an outside lead about what kind of diet our bodies need. I invite you to be aware of that energy and influence and choose for yourself.

Ways to Cleanse
There are so many different kinds of cleanses and detoxes, from the Master Cleanse (lemon juice, cayenne
and maple syrup for 10 days) to Ayurvedic cleansing (a yogic tradition based on eating a mung bean and veggie curry) to whole foods-based eating cleanses.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of the latter. Whole foods eating cleansing, baby. Because I love eating, and I love celebrating the seasons. And because my body does not like extremes. It sends my sensitive energy on a roller coaster ride and I don't like having to recover from something that was supposed to make me feel good.

The easiest way to cleanse when spring hits your area? Commit (and that's a big COMMIT) to shopping and eating primarily from the Farmer's Market. Find some new recipes - check out my resources section for ideas - and get cooking. These great foods will crowd out the other "stuff" you're eating otherwise. It can be IMMENSELY helpful to join a group cleanse for the support and accountability, but if you've got a good grasp on cooking and eating healthy already, I say go for it!

In general, when cleansing, it is beneficial to INCREASE your intake of whole foods like greens, the onion and garlic family, non-starchy vegetables of all kinds, whole grains, colorful foods, healthy fats (like avocado and olive oil) and fresh, clean water.

It is beneficial to DECREASE (or temporarily stop) you intake of processed/premade foods with artificial flavors or preservatives, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, sugar, meat, dairy, eggs and all animal products (high in saturated fats, and they often accumulate their own toxic loads that get passed on to you when you eat them). If animal protein is a non-negotiable part of your diet, go for pasture-raised varieties or clean fish that check out on the Monterey Bay Aquarium guide.

The Commitment Piece
I've done enough things half-way to say definitively that it's not worth it. "Do or don't do. There is no try." When we say we want something but don't commit, we don't make it a priority in our minds, in our calendars, and with other people. Then we "fall off the wagon", we feel bad about ourselves. It undermines our core confidence! I don't recommend doing that to yourself. I invite you to commit in these ways, even if you decide to join a structured cleanse - though you will find many pieces already covered.

Ways To Make Your Cleanse Commitment Stick:

  • Find a cleanse accountability buddy who will either do it with you (best!) or be willing to do some sort of daily check in.
  • Write down your intentions and parameters for your cleanse. What are you doing and why are you doing it? What am I committing to eat more of, what am I committing to eat less (or none) of. Your time frame. Your ease-into and exit strategies. Be clear.
  • Research shopping options, recipes and ingredients beforehand. Make a plan. It generally requires extra time in the kitchen. Remember, it's self-love time. Put whatever is necessary into your calendar.
  • Tell your partner (and/or house mates) about the cleanse, and, if appropriate, invite them to eat what you're making for yourself or to be prepared to bring home or ask for what they want (if you are usually the cook for you both).
  • Be gentle with yourself! Sometimes unforseen situations or emotions or opportunities arise. Do the best you can, and remember that one "off" meal doesn't a cleanse ruin.
What do you think? Have you cleansed before? Are there questions or worries you have around doing one? I'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

7 Everyday Detox Practices

It's Spring and you might be feeling the natural urge to clean out the old and stagnant! We're wired to crave more active, fresh energy this time of year. I'll be writing a series of articles on Spring Cleaning this March & April for your self-care delights.

After wrapping up my virtual program, Ignite Your Energy, I was feeling called to flush out and cleanse my body on a deeper level. (More on whole foods eating cleanses to come!) I just completed two weeks of cleansing and was amazed by some of the results:
  • clearer, more glowing skin (by the end)
  • whiter eyes
  • less cravings (especially for sweets, dessert and peanut butter)
  • greater sense of grounding and clarity
  • more energy (even with no caffeine!)
  • better sleep
Your Body is Already Detoxing Every Day
Your liver, large intestine, skin, and lymphatic system (a network of organs, nodes, ducts, and vessels that produce and transport lymph - your inner "juice" of white blood cells) are all working around the clock to transport toxins and body waste OUT. The trouble is, over time, they can get overloaded with accumulated toxins from daily modern living, from chemicals on and in foods, body products, cleaners and our environment.

The great news is that there are many daily practices you can begin to incorporate into your self-care routine that will improve your body's daily detox capabilities. You don't have do an in-depth cleanse to get the benefits of these self-care practices.

7 Everyday Detox Practices
  1. Lemon water: Drink a big glass of (warm is gentlest) lemon water every morning, right when you get up. Lemon alkalizes the body, reduces inflammation, and flushes the liver.
  2. Dry brushing: You can buy these dry bristle brushes online or at health food stores and some pharmacies. Brushing before showers stimulates your skin, removes dead cells, and activating any stagnant lymph to promote cleansing. Brush in a circular motion, towards your heart. You can get similar exfoliating effects from using a salt or sugar scrub in the shower 1-2 times a week.
  3. Hot & cold shower bursts: If I can do this (I HATE being cold), anyone can do this. Towards the end of your shower, alternate between hot and (as) cold (as you can stand) water. This opens and closes your pores, pumping toxins out so they can be washed away.
  4. Self-massage with oil: Massage is another way to move lymph and release toxins from your muscles. Use all-natural straight-up coconut oil (which has antibacterial properties), raw sesame, or almond oil (available in most grocery stores). My motto is: Don't put it on your skin if you don't want it in your body. Our skin is porous and absorbs a large percentage of whatever you put on it.
  5. Sweat it out: Your skin is your largest organ of elimination and detox, and it does so through your sweat. Find a sauna or steam room (bonus points for taking a cool or cold shower after/before getting back in). A few times a week, get in workouts (even if brief) that get your heart rate up, your blood pumping and your skin sweating. Nature's best detox medicine comes built in.
  6. Eating more fiber: Fiber is like the internal swiffer for your intestines, moving everything along smoothly. My favorite source is freshly ground flax seed (store in the fridge), sprinkled over grains, cereal or veggie salads, or blended into smoothies. Upping your intake of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds is super effective as well. If all else fails, opt for a natural supplement.
  7. Eating more whole fermented foods: These are rich in probiotics and easy to digest. Strong digestion and regular bowel movements = your most important daily detox (and, yes, BM's should be happening EVERY day, at least once, otherwise you're constipated, then see #1+6). My go-to's are raw sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, apple cider vinegar (diluted in water), kombucha, and plain yogurt (look for "live culture" on the label).
Set yourself up for success: Don't take all of these practices on at once! Start with 1 or 2, see how they work for you, integrate them into your daily self-care routine, and then introduce others. Let me know what you're planning to do first, leave a comment below. Happy detoxing!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When Cooking Feels Like a Chore...

You just got home from a hectic day. You'd made sure to buy all kinds of fresh ingredients to cook earlier in the week, but when you open your fridge to find dinner, you're overwhelmed by all those raw ingredients, staring back at you blankly. Sigh... What the heck are you going to make? Why can't dinner just cook itself tonight?

We've all been there, despite our best intentions. I get it. It's important to me to eat organic, fresh, whole foods and so I prepare most of my own meals. When I'm working from home, that means three times a day. I often rely on leftovers and throw-together salads to keep things simple and easy, but sometimes I feel like I have "better" things to do than be in the kitchen.

Here's the thing: If I know I want to make myself food, and that I'm going to, despite my current feelings about it, I can either let it be a drag, or decide to change my mind. So I usually take a deep breath, shake my shoulders, and change my mind.

Three of my favorite ways to cook:
  • With My Super Sensual Senses. Preparing and cooking food is a gorgeously sensory experience when we remember to be awake to them. Go slow. I smell my ingredients, especially once I've cut them open. I feel my knife. I marvel at the inner world complexity of fruits and vegetables. I taste pieces - raw, cooked and everything in between, I lick my fingers, I take a sip with a spoon. I enjoy the sizzle. My senses tell me when everything is good and ready. Cooking becomes my zen time.
  •  I Make Food My Art. I pretend like I'm a professional chef with my own TV show. I'll orate food poetry and describe my process. I'll chop and arrange my ingredients extra fine or symmetrically. I grab my camera, and photograph the whole process, start to finish. I plate my food carefully, in layers, or with a design in mind, perhaps with a decorative smattering of herbs or drizzle of oil.
  • As a Gourmet Foodie PlayGround. I open my creative mind to all things in my kitchen and pantry. Pull out and look at all my spices. Ask myself, What one simple but unsual spice or ingredient can I include here that will accent and mix up what I've got going on? I notice what's calling or what pops out at me. I start cooking and trust the inspiration will grab me. I pull something random from the fruit basket and figure out how to incorporate it. I make garnishes. I rummage through the fridge for unusual condiments, sides and drink ingredients. My kitchen is my play ground.
How do you keep it fresh? What's your favorite way to cook? LOVE to hear what you're doing and loving in your kitchen... please leave a comment below!

My first Sensual Cooking Feasts have been booked! If you want to boost your creative confidence, wake up your senses big time, or try a new way of shopping and cooking for yourself, come over and let's do it. Learn more here :) I look forward to playing with you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Using Sensitivity for GOOD: Sensual Cooking Feasts

Back in January, I decided that this year I'm doing more of what I love, more of what feeds me. I'm going to have more fun. More play. And I'm bringing all of that into my work... because why get paid to work when you can get paid to play?

I've got a really special announcement!
I'm talking about something I really really love.
Something that ignites one of my SuperPowers and feeds my sensitivity...


Still drooling over this..
As we've been "warming our house" with guests and gatherings, I've been getting the itch to host more! I've been on a wave of dreaming about food and planning parties and get-togethers of all kinds...

Then, a little entrepreneurial voice in my brain said, "Hey! You've been wanting to get real and face to face with people. Workshops haven't felt right. How about cooking parties?! Imagine... going to the farmer's market and tasting through the best strawberries of your life, and then bringing people home to cook with you!? Your sensitivity has made you an amazing and intuitive cook! It's WHY you love it so much. Why keep that to yourself?"

Cooking parties!! Oh universe, I love my brain.

Are you ready? I'm doing it. This is my new way of creating and curating my livelihood. I've cooked up delicious storms at yoga retreats, Whole Foods cooking classes, gyms, corporate team-building events, supper clubs, and for countless friends.

For me, it's about connecting with people and our local food, and supporting each other to live fuller, healthier, happier lives. I want you to feel as in love with your self-care as I do. I want it to feel sooo gooood that to do anything else would be ridiculous.

Are you into this?

Here are four ways you can dive into the Sensual Cooking Feast movement:
  1. Go here to read more about feasting, my Food Philosophy & how to sign up...
  2. Follow me on Instagram to start your #healthyfoodie #sensualfeast taste buds a-watering...
  3. Pass it on to your foodie friends (and get in on a cooking party together?)...
  4. Check out my Sensual Cooking Feast vision board below!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What if being Sensitive was a SuperPower?!

Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., coined this term with her publishing of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You in 1996. Turns out, being highly sensitive is a trait that about 20% of us carry. From what I've observed in myself and others, it seems to express itself differently and to different degrees in each one of us, based on how we were brought up and have lived.

My hunch is that many of us, myself included, didn't feel like there was space for us and our sensitivity in this very sensationalized, hyped-up and power-heavy world. So we tried our best to bury it, to disconnect, or isolate ourselves in order to cope and carry on. Many of us have even managed to fit ourselves into mainstream boxes, but often wind up feeling drained, disenchanted or depressed.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of hiding out, of feeling like I have to choose between sacrificing my health, energy and sanity or sacrificing my social life, career ambitions and dreams. I'm tired of wondering what is WRONG with me.

Like Dr. Aron, I'm on a mission to turn our judgments and experiences of being sensitive around. What if it was no longer a weakness, a burden, a thing that got in the way?

What if you could lean into your innate sensitivity as a heightened experience, a gift... a SUPERPOWER?

How much better would that be? Like any Superpower, it will require awareness, choices, and care to cultivate its optimal expression. Like Superman, we all have weaknesses that will trigger us to break down. We need to know ourselves and our power intimately so that we can use it, love it, honor it, master it.

What I know for sure is that Luke Skywalker didn't master the Force by ignoring his feelings and stuffing his face with almond butter and cookies ... like I've tried. (Didn't work so well for me either, by the way.)

Can you see what a gift being sensitive can be? I decided to make a list of my Superpowers to get in touch with what I can start loving more about this part of me... It's a work in progress. What do you think?

So... Isn't the next question obvious? What are yours??

Friday, January 31, 2014

Fresh MOTIVATION to Eat Clean & Conscious

I'll admit, I've become skeptical of the "healthy food" documentaries that are out there. I'd think, "Yeah, yeah, I know what a CAFO is, I don't need to see more animal cruelty or hear more about High Fructose Corn Syrup in everything, I get it." I didn't want to watch something that would bring me down and make me feel bad about the world and everything I eat. Quite the contrary.

My friend suggested we watch Food Inc. last week and I figured, well ok, I'm into this healthy lifestyle business, I should at least know what I'm talking about when people ask me about it.

Well, I got seriously REVVED UP and I learned way more than I thought I would! Yep, took me right off my high horse and just about put me on a soap box. (But no one likes that, including me. ;) For real, though, when was the last time you felt really political, deeply morally invested and passionate, about your food choices, not just, "Well, I know it's better for me to eat this way..."?

Our modern food system has some major problems and knowledge is major power. Why? Because where you spend your money is your VOTE. I'd argue it's the most powerful vote you've got. So will the owner of Walmart -  And you can vote multiple times a day - you already do! But are you doing it consciously? Do you know where your money is going? Are you investing consciously to support the people and companies who you agree and align with, or are you holding your nose and covering your eyes, like I did about watching the movie in the first place?

I know it's easier to stay comfortable and look the other way, but if you're like me, you're not into making your choices that way. I know change is challenging and makes waves, sometimes in our most intimate relationships. And I also know if you're reading this that you are here to change the world for the better in whatever way you can. This is the age of personal power and politics. Money talks. I invite you to claim your voice.

Want to be inspired? Want to inspire your kids and family to think about their food choices, not just from a health perspective, but from a moral, ethical, environmental world view? Here is a list of documentaries to check out... many available to stream on Netflix or watch online.

Food Inc.
Forks Over Knives
King Corn
Super Size Me
Hungry For Change

Here is a great "Top 10" resource for food documentaries! What are your favorites? Did I miss any?