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My journey with Yoga

For years I have studied various forms of Yoga and have enjoyed practice with instructors all over the world. Some of my favorite teachers are Megan Crum, teaching Vinyasa Flow in Los Angeles, Paula Ahlberg and Karina from Wellbeing Warehouse in Newmarket UK, teaching Ashtanga and Hot Yoga and Cora Rosen at Moksha Yoga in Wellington, FL, also teaching Vinyasa Flow amongst other classes. Just had to do a quick shout out in recognition of their awesomeness.

After many people telling me I should teach it, I’ve finally decided to begin my journey as a Yoga Instructor. Paula among others have convinced me that it won’t ruin my love of Yoga, if I don’t teach too many classes, and that becoming an instructor will broaden my knowledge and deepen my practice…..so I’m on board!

The first thing to do is choose a mentor. This is actually quite difficult to do. There are lots of Yoga teacher training courses out there. Generally speaking, if they’re not recognized by the Yoga Alliance, you probably won’t get a job teaching with your qualification, so that’s a must. But, more importantly, I’m looking for a Yogi that will give me inspiration and challenge me to grow.

It seems no matter who you pick, Yoga teacher training courses cost a mint! So picking carefully is important. I will only get to do this once. It will take YEARS to earn back the cost of the course, so it isn’t really something to do for an income….rather a labor of love and something I’m doing for my own personal spiritual journey.

New vegan treats

The hardest thing about being vegan for me, is satisfying my sweet tooth. I’m always on the search for vegan treats that taste wonderful, but sadly, most things labeled vegan are really quite nasty tasting. It’s always quite disappointing.

The trick is to find treats that are vegan, but just by chance, not because they meant to be vegan, or treats that don’t necessarily say vegan on them. Stores tell me a lot of times companies know their treats are vegan, but don’t write it on the box because so many vegan treats taste terrible, and they don’t want to put off people who would otherwise enjoy them. So it becomes a real search in the supermarket to find something healthy as well as vegan that would be enjoyable as a treat.

I’m delighted to say that I’ve recently been scouring the shelves at Trader Joe’s and have found some non-labeled vegan friendly treats that I want to share with you:

Trader Joe’s Candy-cane cookies…..look and taste like Mint Oreo cookies, but better. And they’re vegan…..and don’t contain any harmful chemicals or other ingredients. (btw. Oreo cookies are technically vegan too….though the list of ingredients isn’t ideal).

Trader Joe’s makes the same cookies in several flavors, including vanilla cream, which taste like the traditional British Custard Cream cookie. One of my favorites!

Also, Trader Joe’s own brand of chocolate covered fruit sticks in raspberry or orange are delicious. Vegan friendly, though probably not dentist friendly!

One thing Trader Joe’s has that I have to warn against, is the S’more chocolate pieces. These are vegan, but the chocolate is far too bitter to taste good as a S’more. These were disappointing. But if you like bitter chocolate, you might like them. I love dark chocolate, but not if it leaves me with a weird bitter after taste.

And one last unrelated vegan food revelation.

If you go to Disneyland, don’t worry about having to break your vegan ways…..there’s options!!! In the burger place at California Adventure, the one that looks like an Airplane hanger, to the right of the main entrance, they serve veggie burgers….and they’re delicious. Rick and I went there over the New Year, and I had thought all I would be able to eat would be some fries and greasy onion rings……but the burger was a wonderful surprise, and really good! They also serve herbal tea in the coffee shop next door. So all dietary needs are now met at this location…..for me at least.

If you read this and want to share your vegan recommendations, I’d love to hear from you.

Tai Chi and breathing

Every time I’m at Kung Fu or Tai Chi class, the repeated comment is “breathe”. Breathing is the connecting factor for all things really. One might argue that it’s impossible to not breathe when you’re exercising or meditating…..but the quality of that breathe is oh so important. Despite the fact that in all my studies I’ve been focused on my breathe, I had yet to really have a break through with connecting it until recently. First of all, I’ve started to connect my breathe to the power in my strikes in Kung Fu, and it’s impact has completely changed because of it. I have much more power than ever before, and I’m sure it’s only going to get better and better.

With Tai Chi, breathing is much more therapeutic, but for the longest time, for me, it hasn’t really been especially connected. My teacher, Briannah pointed this out to me recently, and it’s been my focus ever since. I had always had trouble breathing along with the moves, as there are so many, it feels like I’m hyperventilating. I’ve since changed my thinking, and instead of breathing along with the moves, I’m moving along with my breathe. What a difference this makes! Try it! :)

Inspired Art

 

Commission for the dojo

 

I’ve finally found my inspiration to paint. This is the first of 2 commissions I’m creating for the dojo tea room. It’s inspired by Japanese watercolors and of course my Buddhist studies. This piece is very literal, but I plan on pushing this subject to a more abstract idea, in order to grow it in to some kind of spiritual mandala theme. I’m really excited about it. Having cleared my art room and made space to work, I’ve been able to clear my head and let my creativity flow.

Last night, I went to a gallery show at San Pedro’s monthly art walk, in support of a fellow artist who was exhibiting. It was an inspiring experience, as it was based at a communal art space, where I got to see local artists in their studios. I started to realize that I’d probably create more if I were surrounded by other artists in this type of environment….and that having a space would allow me to work at a size that I’d feel more comfortablewith, instead of limiting myself to smaller pieces. So I’m now on the list to get a studio space downtown. I will have to see if I can afford to indulge in it, if one comes up.

Out with the old and in with the new!

Happy Chinese New Year!

This week is the turn of the Chinese Calendar Year, and it is now the Year of the Rabbit. This is my birth year. To welcome it in, we’ve been organizing and cleaning our house, office and studio. Everything is now organized and clear for us to think and work with focus and clarity. It’s amazing how just organizing your closets, and cleaning those usually neglected shelves and cupboards can give you a renewed energy to focus and work. I’ve done everything from overhauling my art studio, to preparing my taxes ahead of deadline. I’ve also rewritten my entire Kung Fu personal notebook, full of meditation, practice, Qi Gong and Tai Chi notes, and in doing so, got to revisit the teachings again.

We’ve done all this in the past few weeks, and it’s really been a great help towards better focusing our work projects, which is also helping us create more personal time. I highly recommend doing it.

I’ve also made a resolution with my sister to learn Mandarin. I find learning languages difficult, and of all languages, Mandarin is one of the harder ones to master. However,  I’ve decided that learning this language will be a perfect way to stretch my mind and help me understand the culture of my ancestors.

This week we went to see the Dalai Lama talk at the San Jose Convention Center. It was an amazing experience and rare opportunity that I will never forget. His website features images from the event that you can see here. He talked about the 8 Verses for Training the Mind, but didn’t really elaborate on the verses’ text much, instead choosing to talk about religious tolerance and compassion in general quite a bit before going over the verses and their relevance. It was all related though, as everything ultimately is. He spoke mostly in English, but had an interpreter there for when he had trouble explaining his thoughts, and also to translate his teachings about the verses. I was really impressed with how much English he actually did speak….and also at his sense of humor. He cracked jokes frequently and laughed quite heartily at them too. Saying things like, ‘normally, we should now  chant and meditate, but there’s no time, so today, it’s not necessary’, then picking up a sun visor and pointing at the spot lights on the stage, says ‘this hat….necessary’. The way he said it was very cute and everyone chuckled :)

We arrived at the convention center at around 10am to line up for the event and were lucky enough to be the first to be seated in our designated section. We were about 30 rows from the stage, behind the reserved area for Buddhist groups, who had preferential seating. So we ended up getting great seats, with a huge gang-way between us and the rows in front. The Dalai Lama made his way to the stage at around 2pm to address the room of approx. 12,000 people. I’ve never heard 12,000 people make so little noise. It was a deafening silence in respect of his presence. At this moment I was over-whelmed and welled up with tears of awe and respect. I’ve never felt that before in this way. It was really something.

The entire room rose for his entrance. He walked up to the fr0nt of the stage passing several monks and acknowledging them as he went. Then he turned to his bowing audience, placed his hands in prayer and bowed right back at us. We all stooped a little lower in our bows, while trying to look up to see him at the same time. He smiled generously at us all. Even with the powerful energy of his presence, his humble demeanor still shone through. He really does embody the lessons that he teaches.

It was something to see the diversity of the 12,000 people there to see him too. I saw many robed religious figures to include Christian Priests, Hindus, Sikhs and Jewish practitioners.  All there, proud of their own religions, but open and respectful to the words and teachings of  The Dalai Lama. How refreshing and wonderful is that! I wish this was more the norm and less of an anomaly.

At the end of his teachings, we all got to recite in unison the 8 verses along with him. I’m copying them here for you in case you don’t know them. Their message is about compassion, living with out anxiety and anger, but instead acceptance of others and love for others even if those others show you less in return. Taking negative emotions and using them as positive lessons to clear your mind of unproductive thoughts and feelings:

  1. With a determination to achieve the highest aim, For the benefit of all sentient beings, Which surpasses even the wish-fulfilling gem, May I hold them dear at all times.
  2. Whenever I interact with someone, May I view myself as the lowest amongst all, And, from the very depths of my heart, Respectfully hold others as superior.
  3. In all my deeds may I probe into my mind, And as soon as mental and emotional afflictions arise – As they endanger myself or others – May I strongly confront and avert them.
  4. When I see beings of unpleasant character, Oppressed by strong negativity and suffering, May I hold them dear – for they are rare to find – As if I have discovered a jewel treasure!
  5. When others, out of jealousy, Treat me wrongly with abuse, slander, and scorn, May I take upon myself the defeat And offer to others the victory.
  6. When someone whom I have helped, Or in whom I have placed great hopes, Mistreats me in extremely hurtful ways, May I regard him still as my precious teacher.
  7. In brief, may I offer benefit and joy t all my mothers, both directly and indirectly, May I quietly take upon myself All hurts and pains of my mothers.
  8. May all this remain undefiled By the stains of the eight mundane concerns; And may I, recognizing all things as illusion, Devoid of clinging, be released from bondage.

Vacation Time

It’s been a while since my last post due to an extra long vacation back in my home country, UK. We stopped in Italy for 4 days as well, which was wonderful. While in the UK, I bought a Tibetan Singing Bowl which I am now using to aid my meditation. I’m hoping to pick up a couple more singing bowls that resonate with more chakras, but I don’t think this is going to be a quick purchase. The larger ones that make the most amazing deep hypnotic tones cost a lot!

 

San Jose here we come!

Today tickets were released for the Dalai Lama’s visit to San Jose, CA, where he’ll be talking at the Convention Center on Oct 12th. I managed to get tickets, so am now very excited about getting to see him talk in person :)

Angels

So, we’ve hit a stumbling block in our quest to start a non-profit. We have to find about $4000 just to pay for government documents to get set up. SO now we’re on a mission to find investors or what is known as Angels to front some cash for us to get this thing rolling. Our first project is to raise just $800 to buy 2 sewing machines for a village in India. Since we can’t say we’re a non-profit yet, we’re just selling our herbs etc. and saying we donate profits to charity. It will at least get us started and hopefully someone who has the financial means to help us along will come up. Any suggestions would be great.

Vegan Cook Books

Bored with my usual hand full of recipes this week, I’ve been browsing Barnes and Noble for ideas in the kitchen to make my meals less bland and way more exciting. I settled on two books that are now living in on my dining table that I’d love to share with you:

The first is The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. The book totes “200 unforgettable recipes for entertaining every guest at every occasion”, but I’ve just bought it to entertain myself. I chose this book because it has a good range of recipes including breakfasts, dinners and desserts. She’s come up with some fantastic food items I never thought I’d get to eat again since turning vegan, like Pate. I LOVE pate! I can’t wait to try the Mushroom Walnut pate recipe, and will let you know how it turns out. I’m a very visual person, so this book was especially attractive to me, as it has a LOT of colored photos of the prepared dishes, which really helps me when it comes to creating something I’ve never tried before. Colleen also includes fun facts and information in this book that make it a pretty fun casual read.

The second book I bought, is Vegan Bites, Recipes for Singles by Beverly Lynn Bennett. Though I’m not single, this book appealed to me because it has a great list of ‘baking basics’ including recipes for Home-Style biscuits, cornbread, brownies, cookies, cake…the list goes on. We actually tried making the whole wheat biscuits from this book last night, with much pessimism on my boyfriend’s part. I’m glad to say that they tasted pretty good and we’ll be baking them again. This book hasn’t got any pictures, but it makes up for it with a nice clean easy to read layout, and easy, quick recipes.

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