Spring arrives in the Berkshires.
Lori Shridhare, Guest Blogger
If this sentiment sounds familiar, you’re not alone. With dozens of books on the market that help nurture one’s creativity, this movement (as it might be called) is gaining in popularity. Of course, this is not surprising. Who doesn’t want to be more creative in life? Whether you aspire to enjoy more creativity as an artist-in-training or as CEO of a corporation, enhancing your know-how in this area can bring more success—and, most importantly—fulfillment.
As a writer, nothing thrills me more than to experience the fullness and abundance that envelop me when ideas are flowing. Conversely, nothing frightens me more than when I experience what I can only describe as a loss of grounding—when I’m faced with a vacuum. I wish I could provide the magic solution to overcoming the trepidation that strikes when I feel uncreative and out of touch. What I’ve learned is to cultivate patience in recapturing this part of my self. As you search for peace, stillness, and tranquility in life, so too will creativity come. Over the years, I’ve watched my own cycles of ups and downs and have learned to accept them rather than react to them. Just as, while meditating, I attempt to simply observe my mind while it continues to have thoughts, in the midst of daily activities, I’m learning to embrace the universal challenges that come with maintaining creativity.
What do you do when you invite 10 people over for dinner and only have eight dining room chairs? Well, when you’re eating Moroccan cuisine, why not do what the Moroccans do: Get cozy on cushions. Granted, most Moroccans use low tables with their cushions, but after 30 seconds of near panic, I decided to throw a blanket and a tablecloth on the floor, along with an abundance of pillows, and call it part of the dinner theme!
Although my daily diet is relatively simple (I’m a rice with dahl fan), I love taking the time to explore the flavors and cooking styles of various cultures. When my daughters surprised me at Christmas with the gift of a beautiful copper couscousiere (a large double boiler–type pot used specifically for steaming couscous) I knew that a Moroccan dinner party was in my future.
I’ve seen pictures of couscousieres before—the copper ones are especially beautiful—but I never really understood the point; I had always just boiled water, let the couscous soak it up, and called it a day. Why use a special pot that requires you to steam the couscous multiple times? All I can tell you is that this couscous is unlike any you’ve ever tasted! I looked up several recipes before I was truly convinced that the way to use one of these things was to mix the couscous with water and a bit of olive oil and steam it for 15 minutes, then remove and fluff it, add more water, and steam again—then repeat the entire process! The difference? Incredibly light and fluffy couscous. The couscous itself actually had a flavor even before I added almonds, cinnamon, and dried fruit. I’m sold—thank you, girls!
Need a refresher course in establishing, or reestablishing, a pranayama routine at home? Here are some practical approaches for planning a regular routine and taking this self-nurturing, transformative practice into you daily life.
Begin by creating safe and sacred space for your pranayama practice. Choose a private place free from interruption and distraction, with good air circulation. If possible, find a spot void of electronics. In good weather, consider an outdoor location (this is my favorite and most frequent choice for my personal pranayama practice). Make it welcoming. Beautify your space with bits of inspiration (fresh flowers, mala beads, statues, photos of loved ones or teachers, sentimental objects, favorite quotes). Have fresh water, tissues, and a journal handy.
Choose a time to practice daily. Pranayama is best done in the early morning and on an empty stomach, but gentle techniques-like dirgha, ujjayi, and nadi shodhana-can be practiced just about any time of day. Consistency is more important than duration, so choose the most viable time to delve into the enlivening rhythm of your home practice.
A visiting friend riding with me on a New York City subway said, “Wow, I didn’t realize so many people here had a meditation practice.” I looked around and laughed, hard. Indeed, we could have been surrounded by meditating monks using a variety of techniques. Some stared into the middle distance, others had an eyes-shut, chin-down approach, and some riders were fixed on a small gadget, jaws dangling.
Alright, so maybe they were doing the opposite of meditation–checking out so they could be anywhere other than crowded public transportation. Been there. A lot. Eco-friendly as they may be, trains, planes, and buses are simply not where most of us choose to be. Pretty much everyone in transit has a psychic bumper sticker that reads: I’d Rather Be… Absolutely Anywhere Else. This, of course, is what makes these interim spots, these transitional moments, perfect places to practice being present. (Say that six times fast!)
I’ve heard some yoga teachers talk about the importance of these over-looked transitional moments on the mat. Our minds are so focused on lining up the pose just right, breathing with movement, holding, watching our minds, etc. but when it’s time to switch postures we often drop it all—our gaze, our breath, our attuned awareness. That’s why, anecdotally, most yoga injuries happen while we’re shifting from one asana to the next.
Is there a potential transformation possible for us all? When you are experiencing a sense of awakening, such an idea makes sense. When you are not, it is a strange thing to hear. Aren’t I already “awake”?
I was in my mid-20s when I first heard about “waking up”. I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, but it implied that there was a way of living that was more conscious, more aware, and that allowed you to see things as they truly are.
My Zen Buddhism meditation teacher suggested the goal was to “wake up to your true nature”. This implied that I was somehow asleep. I began to notice similar metaphors in writing and poetry that stated we were in “in prison”, able to “be reborn” and that there is a possibility to shift “from fragmentation to wholeness.”
I’m waiting in the yoga classroom of a western Massachusetts high school—the site of one of the Yoga in the Schools projects being developed and scientifically evaluated by Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living. The room is decorated in vibrant student-painted murals and yoga posters, transforming the windowless space, which was once the detention room, into a bright area for mindful movement and self-inquiry. The bell rings and instead of desks and chairs, students filter into a circular arrangement of yoga mats. With upbeat melodies humming in the background, bags and shoes are left at the door. One student, who three weeks earlier came to class with snacks and a cell phone in hand, greets me today with a smile and goes sit on his mat, looking receptive. I assist the instructor by inviting the rest of the group to find a comfortable seat. We’re ready to begin.
It’s no revelation that adolescents today are stressed. Naturally, in a time of physical and psychosocial transformation, teens face the tasks of identity development and belonging—while managing a cascade of hormonal changes. For many, the teenage years can feel like a minefield, finding the precarious balance between standing out and fitting in, trying on values and dealing with the accompanying emotions. The demands of academic and extracurricular achievement, along with decisions about whether and how to get to college, weigh as well. It’s a heavy toll! And that’s assuming there’s stability at home. Knowing that lifelong patterns take root in adolescence, yogic wisdom offers support. Tools to manage life’s challenges and practice self-compassion are at the heart of what’s available.
Many of us have watershed moments in our lives, when everything changes. For holistic health coach and natural-foods chef Andrea Beaman, that moment came when she witnessed her mother undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A I teach people how to achieve vibrant health through diet and lifestyle choices.
Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
A Witnessing the devastating effects of chemotherapy and radiation on my mother’s breast cancer. The destruction of her body planted the idea in me that there was something terribly amiss with our modern treatments of disease. Five years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with incurable thyroid disease. I refused the treatment recommended and instead improved my diet, lifestyle, and consciousness. It took time and patience, but my condition healed. Since that time, I’ve been teaching others how to naturally heal their physical, emotional, and spiritual conditions.
Q What do you love about teaching?
Kripalu Nutritionist Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN shares her wisdom on all things food-related in this series focusing on nutrition and healthy digestion. FODMAPs sounds like it might be the latest automobile GPS navigation system or weather radar detection unit. Instead, FODMAPS is a therapeutic eating plan that has been gaining ground as an effective protocol to help people who are suffering with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).