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Mindfulness Lessons From a Recovery Asana Junkie (Part 1): Inner stillness is the key to outer strength

“Inner stillness is the key to outer strength”

13 years ago I would have (internally) rolled my eyes at that quote. I was a devout “Yogini,” or rather, “Asana Junkie,” hitting the mat 4-6 days a week and sometimes taking 2 classes in a row (3 hours!). To me, outer strength was outer strength and Yoga was just another workout for me. Westernized Yoga can be very competitive; I never competed with anyone else in the room, but I did compete with myself. My Drishti (focus) was 100% on me. Drishti is a technique of focusing one’s mind on a specific point so as to eventually see our own truth and sense our connection to everything and everyone around us. We are all one. We are all Divine – and THAT is actually what Yoga is supposed to be about.

FYI, the word Yoga, literally means Unity.

I can’t say that my Drishti back then was bringing me closer to anyone other than maybe my chiropractor. Like many yogis-in-training, I mistook the technique for the goal. I could stare down a point on my mat for my 3 hour classes no problem because I was there to sweat… and nothing could get between me and my workout.

Flash forward 13 years and I realize my Drishti HAS actually taught me a lot about connection. Through practicing inner stillness (AKA meditation) I am able to observe my opinions, and even prejudices that prevent me from seeing and feeling unified with others.

I am by nature an introvert and get my batteries recharged from solo time, but I also LOVE spending time with strong women. Women with their own ideas and a different perspective about our world (hence the creation of SPL retreats ;)
Sometimes our personalities mesh and sometimes they don’t. It is when they don’t (mesh) that it helps to get quiet. And what I mean by get quiet, is meditate.

My favorite description of Drishti is: To see past our outer differences to finally see our inner essence or truth.

Where does your mind go when you do not agree with someone’s opinions or actions? Do you think ugly things or believe that you are better than that person? What is your current truth?

Are you even aware of that little voice in your head?

As a psychology and sociology major I geek out on discovering why people are who they are, and do what they do. Through my own journey of self-discovery, my greatest lessons have been found not by analyzing others, but by becoming aware of my own emotions and reactions (or non-reactions) to people and situations.

So here are two simple steps towards Unity.

1. Awareness
Awareness of our own thoughts.

2. Acceptance.
Acceptance of our differences.

Both can be attained through getting quiet. Focusing on one point (Drishti) whether that be a candle light, or just your breath. The actual point of meditation is not clear your mind but to notice when you get distracted and bring yourself back to your Drishti. Start with 5 minutes and work up from there. You may find that you actually start to crave meditation time!

I now see that inner stillness IS actually the key to outer strength. Not necessarily physical strength, but more importantly STRENGTH OF CHARACTER. Humility, compassion, and patience can bring us together. Because we ARE actually all one.
Unity.

COCONUTS – Certified “Awesome”

If I could certify my favorite things as “AWESOME”, Coconuts would be at the top of my list.

My fondest childhood memories are of visits to family in Hawaii. Stringing leis with Tutu (my grandmother), fishing and snorkeling off my uncle’s boat and huge meals of Kalbi (Korean BBQ), Kailua pig, poi (yes, I love poi), and haupia (coconut pudding). Coconut has always been magic to me, but for many years it got a bad rap – “…Too high in saturated fat, it will clog your arteries, etc. ” Fortunately, we now know better and the health benefits of coconut cannot be denied…

imageCOCONUT OIL – The fat in coconut is a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) which is processed by the liver quickly and immediately converted to energy instead of being stored as fat. It is very thermogenic meaning it increases energy expenditure and you burn more calories.

Coconut oil stabilizes blood sugar – it helps glucose enter your cells, slowing and reducing insulin levels in the blood.

Studies also show that the consumption of MCT actually improves brain function in mild Alzheimer’s patients.

Almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut are Lauric acid, so when digested it can kill pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi!

COCONUT WATER- Contains potassium and magnesium and rehydrates the body while reducing inflammation.

Living in Mexico, I feel so fortunate to get fresh coconuts anytime I want. If you do not have a coconut stand on your corner, grab some from the market but BEWARE most coconut waters you see in the markets (yes, even WholeFoods) are pasteurized and/or from concentrate (double pasteurized). And don’t let the “flash-pasteurized” label make you feel better… It is basically saying,

“I am going to hit you in the face, but don’t worry because it will be quick.”

It is still a hit. And in the coconut water world it means it is still killing all the nutrients and enzymes. Who does this? Brands like C2O, Naked Juice, O.N.E, Vita Coco, Zico, Purity Organic, Amy & Brian’s, etc. YIKES. So what does that leave? I personally have only found one brand – Harmless Harvest. It is the one that looks pink!

 
Here are 4 ways I incorporate coconut into my days:

 

imageIt is no secret that I love my post-workout smoothie bowl. It is one of my favorite rituals and Almond Joy (Coconut, Chocolate, Almond) is incredible!

Protein of choice, 1/2 C coconut milk, 1 C. water/ice, 2 T. chia seeds, 2 T. cacao nibs, spinach, stevia optional. Blend all and top with shredded coconut, almonds, more cacao nibs, and sea salt!

 

 

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Awesome Coconut Oatmeal:
In large pot heat 1 can coconut milk + 8 cups water to gentle boil. Add 2 heaping cups steele cut oats, 1/2 maple syrup (or proffered sweetener), 1 T. Vanilla extract, 1 Cup unsweetened shredded coconut, Sea salt to taste. Reduce heat to simmer and cook an additional 35-50 minutes. Stir often.

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Quick Coconut water “sports drink”:

My last 2 seasons of MTB racing this is all I used and I felt great!
Fill bottle with 1/2 water, 1/2 coconut water, pinch of sea salt

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Baked Coconut Shrimp :

These are super awesome and SO EASY!!
Peel and clean shrimp.
Bowl with 1/2 cup cornstarch, salt, pepper, (optional cayenne)
Bowl 2 egg whites
Bowl 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Pre-heat oven to 400F. Line pan with foil and light coat of coconut oil. Dredge each shrimp in cornstarch, then egg white, then coat heavily in coconut. Place on baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes. Enjoy hot! I serve mine with honey :)

 

 

 

Last, but not least, I do use coconut oil on my body, lips and especially dry elbows. Whatever is left on my hands, I wipe through the ends of my hair!