cancel your cable TV.

TV Commercials are my downfall. Advertising firms should be proud– every time a commercial comes on, I am immediately sucked in: slack-jawed, eyes glued, ears tuned in to the Very Exciting! Limited Time! Opportunity to spend money!

Canceling cable TV was a game changer. A conscious choice to reduce my mental clutter by limiting TV and its addicting commercials (and wearying newscasts) helped me commit to saucha.

Saucha, as introduced in the previous two posts, means clarity and self-care. It is not a directive to condemn anything as ‘dirty’ or ‘impure.’ It is simply the practice of reducing mental and physical clutter so that your mind is clear and focused.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with TV, but omygosh who can focus after watching  neon flashing signs and political rivalry and New Cars! and all the incredible cleaning product demos that are like MAGIC?

Cancelling cable TV was one extremely effective way to reduce mental clutter and practice saucha. And, four years later, I’m happier for it.

What is yours?

Culling your Facebook feed? Turning down the radio? Deleting your Twitter app? Limiting social media to once a day? Taking a walk? Practicing yoga outside?

This article series examined 3 aspects of saucha: keeping the house tidy, making loving food choices, and reducing mental turbulence. I’d like to hear your stories: what actions are you taking to promote clarity, self-care and self-love?

What small “one-minute action” will you take to reduce mental turbulence and increase health and happiness?

Happy Cancelling,

-lisa

“yes please!”

At Westport Yoga KCwe have these little green consent cards that say “Yes, please” on one side and our logo on the back. We use these cards so students can communicate with our yoga teachers to tell us if they consent to hands-on adjustments or if they really just want to be left alone. (Often, our students really just want to be left alone. I get it; me, too.)

I love these “Yes, please” cards because they remind me to be very clear about what I am saying, “Yes, please” to. The cards are a perfect example of practicing brahmacharya, which means moderation and conservation. Brahmacharya is an appeal for a balanced lifestyle and healthy self-care, as we discussed in last week’s post.

Brahmacharya asks me to conserve my energy, refusing to spend it on worry, shame, frustration, crappy coffee, donuts and Twitter, saving it up to use it only on what’s really important. (Coincidentally, love, acceptance, humility, Roasterie Coffee, pumpkin bread and Instagram are pretty darn important.)

Asking myself what I’m actively saying, “yes, please!” to helps me simplify my intentions, my practices and my daily choices. It helps me live a full, abundant life and say ‘no thanks’ to the things that tend to drag me down and deplete my energy.

Are you saying, “yes, please!” to self-care, simplicity,mindfulness and grace? Are you saying, “yes, please!” to conserving your energy in order to spend it on what’s precious and beautiful and life-affirming? Are you saying, “yes, please!” to living a balanced, whole and consecrated lifestyle?

Literally, what are you saying “Yes please!” to? I’d love to hear from you?

-lisa

incredibly healthy! carrot pumpkin oat breakfast bread recipe.

carrot pumpkin oat breakfast bread recipe.

We bought a post-apocalypse-pack of canned pumpkin from Costco.  That fact alone should explain my fixation with everything pumpkin this winter.  I truly think if it’s below 40 degrees outside, something should be in the oven baking.  It’s been interesting finding, tweaking and inventing recipes using pumpkin, which is low in calories and ultra-nutritious. I’ve made pumpkin quiche, pumpkin scones, pumpkin curry, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes and now this, my new specialty: carrot pumpkin oat breakfast bread (vegan!).

Feel free to add your special touches to this recipe: fold in pecans, cranberries, or raisins carrot pumpkin bread ingredfor extra crunch and flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 C oat flour
  • 1/2 C oats
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 C shredded carrots
  • 3 tbsp milled flax mixed with 3 tbsp cold water (or you can use 3 eggs for a non-vegan version)
  • 3/4 C light brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 3/4 C packed pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 C non-sweetened soy milk
  • 1/2 C walnuts

Procedure:

1.  Preheat oven to 325 and oil a 9 inch loaf pan with coconut oil.  (Place pan in oven as it heats to melt coconut oil so it will spread evenly across bottom and sides of pan.)

2. In a large bowl, stir together oat flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and nutmeg.

3.  Mix in wet ingredients: carrots, flax, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla and milk.  Gently stir until well mixed and pour into prepared pan.

4.  Press walnuts on top of loaf.

5.  Bake until the top is golden brown, about 50 to 55 minutes.  Let stand (it’s really delicious when it’s hot!) and enjoy a bite.  Save the rest for breakfast!

carrot pumpkin bread

vegan carrot pumpkin oat breakfast bread. you’ll eat the whole loaf in one sitting…

 

You will love it!  Super moist, hearty, and filling.

Let me know what you think,

-lisa

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2:  Turn it Off.

If we are working from the framework of aparigraha as “trusting that we do not have to hold on to things for dear life, because life is already dear”, then we do not need to hoard the world’s most precious resources. 

These resources are buzzwords in environmental conservationist conversations. ‘Going green’ means using less resources like petroleum, water, and electricity.  And ‘going green’ is a natural extension of your yoga: realizing our innate connection to all living beings, including the Earth, compels us to live an ahimsa (non-harming) and aparigraha (non-hoarding) lifestyle.

Put simply: please stop hoarding the natural, or unnaturally and disastrously produced, precious resources.  We only have one Earth.

“What if our religion was each other,

If our practice was our life

If prayer, our words.

What if the temple was the Earth

If forests were our church

If holy water—the rivers, lakes, and ocean

What if meditation was our relationships

If the teacher was life

If wisdom was self-knowledge

If love was the center of our being.”

– Ganga White.

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Wisdom in this case means seeing the intimate connection between honoring Earth’s resources and our yoga lifestyle. Overconsumption of the Earth’s resources is not yoga.  Overconsumption can be extremely disastrous (think landslides on over-logged hillsides and severe storms spawned by changing weather patterns and global warming) and even extremely violent (think communities of the Mexican desert who are downstream of the Colorado River and are limited to a trickle of water thanks to the massive hydroelectric dams providing electricity to Las Vegas).

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the popular lists of ‘Do This! to Go Green.’  I checked out over fifteen books from the library about this.  My book bag included a book titled something like ‘1,001 ways to Be More Eco-Friendly.’  (Are you kidding me?! One thousand and one things I need to do?!  Every day?!  No wonder people throw up their hands and say: ‘To hell with this environmentalist crap.  I’m just going to live my life.’ I was overwhelmed by page six!)

So, never fear, dear readers.  I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, and distilled 3 resource saving techniques to recommend.  I’ve tried them all and they seem… manageable.  Took a little getting used to, but I gave it a good shot, and I think you should too.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

1.    Unplug everything.  David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich, thinks I could save $94.00 a year on my electric bills by unplugging everything in my house.  He also thinks I can reduce my home’s carbon-dioxide emissions by 1,430 pounds a year.  I wasn’t not sure about this.  But, because I rent a house (therefore I will not buy an Energy Star dishwashing machine, or replace my refrigerator with a highly efficient model) I had to start somewhere.  We’ve all heard of phantom energy by now: even when your appliances are turned off, they continue to suck energy out of the socket, accounting for 27 million tons of CO2 emissions a year in the United States.  Your phantom load is also known as your Stand By or Idle current, and can total up to 15% of your monthly electric bill.  That sounds alarming and outrageous.  I really thought I was good about unplugging things when I left the house: my two space heaters, my standing lamps, my straightening iron, etc.  These are all double-checks before walking out the door.  But what about when I’m sleeping?  I can’t believe I never thought of this: electronics do not need to be plugged in at night.  Unplug everything when not in use, you say?  Here’s what worked and didn’t work for me:

Worked:

  • Electric kettle.  Unplug unless you are, literally, boiling water for a hot drink.  Also, do not fill the kettle (stove top or electric).  Only boil as much as you need for the drinks you are about to enjoy.  This can be a huge energy saver.
  • Phone Charger.  Like most of you, even though I know that small electronics use up an exorbitant amount of electricity, I will not give up my iPhone.  But for God’s sake, do not leave your phone charger plugged in the wall when your phone is in your purse.  What are you charging?  (Just your wallet.)  This one is easy.  Every time you remove your phone from the charger, take the charge out of the wall socket.
  • Computer.  A few times, I’ve closed my laptop (idle, schmidle) and plugged it in to charge.  And then left it charging overnight.  This seems like overkill.  Now I check every night to make sure nothing at my desk is plugged in, including my small desk lamp.  Most Green Guides suggest a power strip that can be turned “off” with one switch, controlling your electronics.  You don’t need your internet wireless router on all night either!

Didn’t work:

  • Dishwasher.  This is a huge, energy-sucking, appliance.  And I turn it on once a week (usually less, mine is terrible so I end up hand-washing anyway).  Is it draining energy the other six days a week when it’s empty and idle?  Actually. Yes.  But I couldn’t manage to unplug it… It’s behind the cupboard with Russell’s dog food and dog treats. It was an ordeal just to look for the plug/socket combo.  I’m not going to do this every time I want to wash my dishes.  #fail
  • Clothes Dryer.  Same thing as the dishwasher.  My small storage/ laundry room is packed too nicely for me to move the dryer away from the wall to unplug it.  It’s just too heavy.  But there are loads of other energy-saving tips I learned about drying clothes: choose the Air Dry setting because it uses less energy to heat the dryer, hang-dry all delicates, and always use the ‘less dry’ setting.  #50%fail

Here are some phantom energy vampires to look for in your house:

Window A/C units, air humidifiers, air purifiers (which don’t need to be on when you aren’t home to breathe.  Better yet: buy a plant), your massive TV (no one should be watching it while you are sleeping.  Unplug it.), your DVD/Blue Ray player, your Xbox, your wireless router, your coffee pot, your microwave (that one is obvious: you can nuke something in your microwave in less than four minutes… why is it plugged in the other 23 hours and 56 minutes of the day?), your blowdryer, your curling iron, your bathroom fan, your electric toothbrush holder, your electric shaver.  It may seem like a lot.  That’s because it is.  Stop hoardingStart Unplugging.

 2Cook smart. I learned about a bajillion things from the book How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint, by Jane Yarrow, about how to conserve energy in my kitchen.  I usually bake 2 or 3 things at once when I’m using the oven to save energy, but here are other tips I tried (that worked!) to use less energy:

  • Size your pots and pans.  Use a pot that fits the stove-top heating unit.   Yarrow says that choosing the right size pan and keeping the lid on for most of the cooking process can reduce energy use by up to 90%.  I realized how often I let my veggies cook and my beans warm up without a lid on the pot.  Easy fix.
  • Don’t preheat your oven.  What a huge waste of energy to cook nothing.  Unless you are baking a soufflé or a pastry/goodie, you don’t need to pre-heat your oven.  You shouldn’t have to adjust the cooking time, either.  The food will heat up as the oven heats up.
  • Turn off the oven four minutes before the cook-time ends.  The food will continue to cook through residual heat. 

3. Chill out.  Fridges and freezers account for about a quarter of domestic electric consumption (Yarrow).  I’m not great at fractions (sorry, Dad, your tutoring helped me get good math grades, but I still don’t really get them), but that seems like a lot.   I’m not ready to forgo a fridge (this podcast about the No Fridge Movement is awesome, by the way) so I better look for ways to make it more efficient.

  • Check your Temperature.  Fridges don’t need to be colder than 37-41°F.  My fridge doesn’t have a thermometer… it just as a dial that says ‘colder’ and ‘warmer.’  I guessed and put the dial in the middle.  Guess what?  Nothing rotted.  Turn your fridge down.
  • Spring Clean.  Dust the coils at the back of your fridge and increase its efficiency by 30%.
  • Organize.  Lots of cold air escapes when the door is open.  Keeping your fridge organized makes it easy for you to grab what you need quickly and seal it back shut.

Ok, friends, that’s only 3 challenges, but each of them has a few parts.  I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.  (I bet you can find at least 6 things in your house to unplug.)  Happy Saving.

-lisa

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA

Aparigraha April Challenge #1: make room in your closet and your heart.

Aparigraha April Challenge #1:  Make room in your closet and in your heart.

I am a big proponent of ‘less stuff.’  I’m also a big proponent of holding on to keepsakes and seemingly useless items that have accrued deep sentimental value. Actually, I’m a big proponent of never throwing anything away.  I think I get that from my grandma.  (While cleaning her basement a few years ago, I recycled 3 boxes of Better Homes and Gardens magazines.  From pre-1982.  Seriously?  Seriously.)  So how can I reconcile these two incongruent predispositions?

This is what I’ve set out to do over the past few years.  In three years, I’ve moved houses four times.  Moving all your earthly possessions is serious evidence for the case of aparigraha.  The experience of living out of a hiking backpack in sub-Saharan Africa for five months, a constant house-guest of families living meagerly, only adds to that case.  The basic rule is this: Life is not about things.  If you have less things, you have more life.  Aparigraha is about learning to trust that we do not have to hold on to material things for dear life.  Life is already dear.

“Most of our energy goes into upholding our importance. If we were capable of losing some of that importance, two extraordinary things would happen to us.  One, we would free our energy from trying to maintain the illusory idea of our grandeur; and two, we would provide ourselves with enough energy to catch a glimpse of the actual grandeur of the universe.”  – Carlos Castaneda.

I’ve developed the following five rules.  Here are your challenges for Week #1:

1. Set Limits.  There are things in your closet that you need.  There are things in your closet that you don’t need, but that you want.  There are things in your closet that you want, but you definitely do not need four of them.  Start there.  Look at items you have more than one of and ask yourself: ‘Do I really need this many?  When was the last time I used this?’  For example, nail polish.  My feet are literally in people’s faces when I’m adjusting a yoga pose.  I need my feet to look well-groomed and to feel professional.  I need one, maybe two, colors of nail polish.  I do NOT need sixteen.  No one needs sixteen.  Use what you have, and commit to not buying any more.  (Side note: your extra items and your lack of needing these items will soon become apparent to you… after committing to this rule, I immediately broke two bottles of nail polish and caught my extra hair straightener on fire.  Apparently, I didn’t need those.)

2. “Well…” = Sell.  I’m in my closet, unpacking my tubs of spring clothes and folding sweaters to put in storage until next summer.  This is a great time to decide which clothes were useful to me, and which clothes I no longer need.  Here’s my rule: if your sentence starts off with the word, “Well…” then Sell It.  For example: “Well… I didn’t wear it this winter, but next year I might go to the symphony and need a dress like this” or “Well… I don’t really like this sweater, but maybe I’ll wear it next fall” or “Well… it’s just such a nice sweater, I don’t want it to sit on the racks in a thrift store forever.”  This is futile, and slightly ridiculous.  If you aren’t wearing that sweater, find someone who will.  Create an eBay account and sell your stuff.  It’s easy.  eBay takes a small commission when the item sells, but listing items is usually free.  I’ve learned that you don’t have to sit by the computer waiting for your item to be off auction.  You can use an option called “Buy It Now” and list your sweater for a fixed price.  It’s beyond exciting when something sells and your phone makes that “cha-ching!” sound.

3. Give one box.  Carry one (just 1!) empty box around your house.  Walk through your closet, your basement, your spare room, your kitchen, your bathroom, etc. and simply ask: “What can I give?”  You will be amazed at what you discover.  Those three extra towels that are unravelling at the edges?  Doggies and kitties at the GreatPlains SPCA could use a bath.  The board games in your upstairs cabinet that no one has played since 2001?  Kiddos in after school programs like the Boys and Girls Club would love to play them.  The random candles you stuffed in a drawer after Christmas?  Your yoga studio would love to burn them.  Most of us think we don’t have time to overhaul and clean out our entire house.  We probably don’t.  But one box is not overwhelming.  It’s only one box.  And the sheer act of giving is rewarding and heartwarming.  I promise.

4.    Forgive. Internally, aparigraha asks us to make room in our hearts.  The biggest culprit of emotional constipation is resentment.  Make room for more enjoyable, healthy emotions by choosing one grievance and choosing to forgive it. You may need to forgive yourself.  You may need to forgive another person.  You may need to forgive a situation.  Research is clear: forgiveness is good for you and good for communities.  You can expect to feel better immediately.

 5.  Make a List.  Every day, practice gratitude intentionally by writing down one thing you are grateful for.  I started doing this on my Notes app (because I’m attached to my iPhone) to save paper (because I love trees) and it changed my entire perspective on the day.  I still occasionally complained when things didn’t go my way, but my frustration level dropped significantly every time I remembered my gratitude note.  For example: dirty dishes– which I hate to wash.  One morning I heard myself sighing in exasperation at the sight of pots and pans in the sink… silently complaining.  And then I remembered: Lisa, you are lucky to have pots and pans, and you are more-than-lucky to have food to cook.  In other words: Get over it, be grateful.  Are you going to forget to do this?  My Notes app reminds me every day at 9:00 am.

Remember:  Aparigraha is about learning to trust that we do not have to hold on to things for dear life.  Life is already dear.

Take the challenge and share with me.

-lisa

 

 

Aparigraha April 101: introduction to the how and why of life.

Aparigraha April 101: introduction to the how and why of life.

“You know,” Eric confided in me the other day, “I sorta wish my family wasn’t used to the lifestyle we live… my kids have so many toys that they are constantly bored. We are constantly stressed about cleaning our house and maintaining everything.  I get up every day and go to my J-O-B, but that’s all it is: a job to keep the money rolling in.”  Eric told me he wished that he could do something different with his days, perhaps become a personal trainer or a physical therapist, but he felt like there was too much baggage holding him back.  I told him: be patient, go for it when the time is right, and take the Aparigraha Challenge… maybe he’d discover that he didn’t have to hold on to all the things holding him back.

Aparigraha is the Sanskrit word for the yama commonly translated as non-hoarding. (Side note: I’m not talking about obsessive hoarders like that TV show…. I know Eric’s wife and she keeps a clean house; I’m talking about the simple non-relinquishment of all the ‘excess stuff’ in your life that magnifies discontent).  I’m challenging all my students and readers, for the month of April, to take my weekly Aparigraha Challenges.  Every week, I’ll post one 5 point challenge.  Read the post, (feel free to commiserate with my failures and celebrate with my successes when appropriate), reflect on your current lifestyle, and then follow the directions for one week.

Ok, so what does aparigraha look like and why would the yoga sages even care about how disorganized my closet is?

First is the obvious: having more ‘stuff’ in your life requires more energy to take care of that ‘stuff.’  Do you need one car?  Possibly, probably.  In Kansas City, Missouri, the answer is probably yes, because this is a geographically expansive city and distances between work and home are likely to be too far to bike or bus for most people.  But, do you need three cars?  Probably, no.  If you own three cars, you spend an exorbitant amount of time and resources taking care of those cars, licensing those cars, changing the oil in those cars, etc.  Time that could instead be spent loving your family, engaging in acts of personal healing such as yoga and meditation, or in service to others.  All actions that will, undoubtedly, enhance the quality of your lived experience and your community.  With the money you are not using to take care of three cars, you could save someone’s life (countless national organizations are looking for cures to chronic diseases like the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society) or create a more just and sacred community where all children are embraced as people of worth (check out The Children’s Place KC and Operation Breakthrough, which are outstanding local non-profits providing children a safe place be loved).

Have you ever heard the motto, attributed to Mother Theresa, “Live simply so that others can simply live”?  That’s what we are going for here.

The second perspective of aparigraha is internal.  Practicing aparigraha, at its finest, is practicing letting go of everything that is no longer serving you.  This means abandoning anger, righteousness, egotistical desires, frustration, and complaining.  It means letting go of worn out beliefs, deserting societal structures that you feel are unethical, and maturing your spiritual understandings.

This month, we will delve into the nuances of aparigrahaAparigraha doesn’t necessitate total renunciation of material items.  (I happen to think that, yes, I do need all four tubs of Christmas decorations that are stored in the basement, Mike.  And yes, I do need an entire set of Pyrex dishes, not just one bowl.  I’ll hold on to those, thank you.)  Instead, aparigraha is about letting go of things accumulated in our spiritual lives, emotional lives, and physical lives that no longer bring joy.

The Yoga Sutras say: “If you persevere in overcoming possessiveness, you will wake up to the how and why of life.” (adapted, II.39)

When my life is overrun by ‘stuff,’ I can’t see clearly in my busy, hurried, overwhelmed life.  It’s like looking for my missing sock in the depths of my sock drawer and realizing that my sock drawer has been invaded by scarves.  I can’t see to the back of the drawer to find the object of my desire (my REI merino wool socks, as it turns out) until the scarves are removed, re-folded, re-considered, and returned to their rightful place.  Overcoming possessiveness means learning through your yoga practice (that you don’t need socks? … we practice barefoot, after all) that the bigger picture in life is much less complicated than it seems:

You are perfect, whole and complete.  You are nothing less than a manifestation of Divine goodness and are created to exist in a state of authentic love.  You are meant for health, happiness, and wholeness at your Soul’s level.  That is the promise of yoga. 

Everything else is just stuff.

Time to wake up to the how and why of life.  Take the Aparigraha April Challenge:

  1. Read.  Each week, I will post actions YOU can take to live a simpler, aparigraha-inspired lifestyle.
  2. Try.  Follow my recommendations.  At least try one.
  3. Share.  Tell me how it’s going.  Individuals succeed at a higher rate when we are accountable to a community.  Share your successes, frustrations, failures and ‘aha moments’ with me through the comment section of this site, or email me at ash.lisamarie at gmail.com
  4. Breathe.  Making a lifestyle change takes longer than one week, and often longer than the required habit-changing 21 days.  Give yourself time.  Be Patient.  But go for it.  (Even you, Eric.)

The challenges will include everything from cleaning out your closet, healing your heart, reducing waste in your home, conserving the Earth’s precious resources, and relinquishing habits that no longer serve you.  Challenge yourself to live simply and tell me all about it.  I double-dog dare you.

-lisa

IMG_1831

photo cred EMA

 “If you persevere in overcoming possessiveness, you will wake up to the how and why of life.” (adapted, II.39)