Posted on May 17th, 2012 by in Life Lessons

On the Road to Querencia

J.L. Johnson, Guest Blogger

I don’t know exactly when or how I came across the Spanish word querencia. Like torschlusspanik and esprit de l’escalier, it simply appeared as one of those foreignisms I’d scribbled down on scrap paper, marking a handy little bridge from feeling to expression that my own language—despite its sprawling infrastructure of a million or so words—had forgotten to build.

Broadly translated, querencia describes a place where you feel most at home. Its literal meaning comes from the world of bullfighting, where querencia refers to “that mysterious little area in the bullring that catches the fancy of the fighting bull when he charges in,” as one writer describes it. “He imagines it his sanctuary … there, he supposes he cannot be hurt.”

That connotation of animal instinct is much of what makes querencia an especially powerful word for me. But instead of a bull in its lair, I think of little Mole in The Wind in the Willows, as he catches the scent of his old burrow while traveling a country road:

[It] suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while as yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again … Home!

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Posted on May 16th, 2012 by in Creative Corner

Creativity Corner

“I painted this during a time in my life when I felt like I was under water. Addiction had riddled my life with heartache, misery, and pain. I would float, feeling like I was close to the surface, but would continually be pulled under by my inability to control my obsession.” ~Django Hulphers, musician

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Posted on May 15th, 2012 by in Conscious Living, Relationships

Conscious Living: Creating Your Own Relationship Roadmap

A satisfying relationship is one of life’s great blessings. Yet this has been both a source of joy and a source of frustration for me. As modern life has gotten faster and more demanding, the challenges of having a successful relationship seem to grow exponentially. Creating a healthy relationship, like raising children, may be among the hardest and most satisfying things we do in our lives. We want our partner to understand us and to see us for who we really are.

We all want our relationships to work. No one wants to fail. No one wants to give up expectations and hopes for the future. But, often, something isn’t working as we expect. The staggering divorce and separation rates are well documented and reflect the disappointments and failures of so many well-intentioned couples. I, too, had my dreams dashed when I got divorced, and nothing in my life has created more pain for me than the loss of my imagined future with my family.

Improving Your Relationship from the Inside Out

The marketplace is full of advice on how to improve your relationships. Such counsel has existed for centuries and there is much wisdom to tap. Yet the conditions we live in are different than ever before: demanding, complex, and continuing to change and evolve at a remarkable pace. The pressures of living the 24/7 life–the constant interruptions of new technology, increased productivity, the long hours–all complicate the challenge of creating a mutually satisfying relationship. Don’t we each feel a little bit of “speed shock”?

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Posted on May 14th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Should Your Kids Be Vegan?

Vegan Is Love: A new children’s book incites debate

A new children’s book heralding the widespread benefits of veganism is stirring more pots than PETA. Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action, now in stores, has nutritionists, psychologists, and even gossip columnists, asking whether veganism is appropriate for kids—and, more poignantly, how we should be talking to little ones about the ethics and politics of food. On Today, Matt Lauer wondered if the title itself suggested that “if you’re not a vegan, is it about hate?” while a widely read Hollywood gossip columnist asked, “Would you read this book to your child?” On FOX News, child psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein called the book “the most disturbing children’s book I’ve ever seen.”

Author-illustrator Ruby Roth’s intent in writing Vegan Is Love was to judge—at least a little bit. Through clear, simple dialogue and colorful illustrations of smog-covered land and sad animals in cages and zoos, the book calls on children to start protecting animals, the environment, and starving kids in Africa through a plant-based diet. It explores complex themes like animal cruelty, big agriculture, and world hunger, and while the message is not overly heavy-handed, Roth doesn’t dance around the idea that she believes eating meat will destroy the Earth and everyone we love, and soon—a heady concept for a kid, for sure.

John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu Healthy Living programs, says that kids can be very healthy as vegans, but it’s important to remember that it’s not as simple as “just eat plants.” For example, a vegan diet for children that is mostly grain, flour, and fruit juice is much more unhealthy than one that’s mostly fruits and vegetables with, say, small amounts of fish, he says. “So many vegetarian and vegan parents embark on this journey with the misconception that kids have the same nutritional needs as adults,” says John. “Nothing could be further from reality. Kids’ brains are developing so fast and there is clear evidence that high-quality essential fatty acids, like those found in oily fish, are a factor in brain development. You can also get these nutrients in raw walnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, and power-packed specific greens such as purslane.” But getting them is essential. B12 and zinc are also critical.

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Posted on May 13th, 2012 by in Moment of Quiet

Moment of Quiet with Fresh Dandelions

Every Sunday we provide a space for quiet, calm, and peaceful introspection. Enjoy this week’s Moment of Quiet. Happy Mother’s Day!

The dandelions are in full bloom here in the Berkshires. Did you know that dandelion greens are a nutritious way to get a hearty dose of vitamins and minerals?

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Posted on May 12th, 2012 by in Yoga

What is Ujjayi Breath?

Senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Jovinna Chan, E-RYT 500, teaches us how to practice ujjayi breath.

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Posted on May 11th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen

Foodie Friday: When Smiling Panda Bears Lie

Lately, I’ve been playing around with a gluten-free diet. I often find that wheat feels heavy in my body, so a gluten fast this time of year often helps me lighten up. Because I don’t have a severe reaction to eating gluten, when I go gluten-free I don’t feel overly concerned about consuming any “incidental” amounts of gluten—mainly I just stop eating bread, pastries, and pasta for a few weeks. That said, during my gluten-free windows, I become more aware of how pervasive gluten is in the American diet and I’m always happy when I see companies making an effort to identify it or make versions of their products sans gluten.

Unfortunately, I also become aware of how the marketing potential of what has become, to some, a fad diet can turn this dietary choice into a sneaky way to pawn off cheap food to the unsuspecting!

Case in point: I bought some pre-made maki rolls from a local all natural grocer. In the Berkshires, we’re lucky to have several great locally owned stores that sell whole foods and organic produce. I went to Guidos, which is a wonderful combination of a main store (with all the basics) accompanied by several privately owned sub markets, much like the old indoor year round farmers markets I remember from my childhood in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

So back to my purchase, and, more specifically, the little packets of soy sauce that came with it. As I often take my makis home, I rarely use the soy sauce provided. If they’re all-natural I might save them for a picnic or travel. If they aren‘t, I simply discard them and wish the store would commit to using the all-natural kind.

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Posted on May 10th, 2012 by in Relationships

Bonding Over Backbends

The self-reflective environment at Kripalu is conducive to teaching you valuable lessons about yourself. But it’s also an amazing experience to share with someone else. The first time I came to Kripalu, I brought my boyfriend, Mike. He’d only done yoga once, but he had gotten a glimpse of its potential to improve his well-being and was eager to learn more. He embraced learning more about his body and his breath as we spent a rejuvenating weekend together eating well, practicing yoga, and enjoying the peace. We were happy to find that Kripalu emphasizes a balanced approach to wellness, not just yoga. I remember the two of us being out on the lake, kayaking, and participating in what we called a floating meditation. It was just beautiful, with the quiet mental space that we cultivated together out on the water.

That weekend inspired us to begin a regular yoga practice together. We found a studio near our house in Boston and made an effort to take weekly classes, making room in our lives for a healthful and rewarding routine. Going to yoga as a couple gave us the extra motivation we needed to keep up a regular practice. We also decided we would like to continue going to Kripalu for R&R retreats when we could fit it into our schedules.

A few days into our 2009 stay, we were relaxed and centered, and decided to hike a nearby mountain. Once we got to the peak, Mike dropped down on one knee and proposed. Even though I secretly suspected that he might pop the question—he kept patting his pants pocket as we climbed—it was still overwhelming and so emotional to hear him ask me.

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