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Ma~Maste

/ MAH – məs – tay /

Author

Kristin Gore

Happiness vs. Joy

There is a difference between temporary happiness and long-lasting joy.

Happiness. We all want it. Most of us deserve it. Happiness is inarguably a desirable state of emotional well being. However, there is one little problem. The emotion of happiness is fueled by external sources and is therefore, by nature, temporary. In other words, you find happiness when you look to things outside of yourself to make you feel better. These things tend to stimulate the senses and are typically pretty easy to access. And although they make you feel good for a little bit, they don’t last forever. As soon as something bad happens, the happiness disappears. The external search for that feeling begins again, and the cycle continues. This constant search for happiness can be likened to journeying down the rabbit hole of “chasing that first high” but falling harder and harder each time. In the words of Sheryl Crow, “If it makes you happy it can’t be that bad. If it makes you happy then why the hell are you so sad?” Get the point? Happiness is lovely, but it is fleeting.

Joy, on the other hand, is an experience of the spirit. It is a state of being that comes from deep within. When you know yourself, love yourself, and are at peace with your truth, you find joy. When something bad happens, joy remains because it is inside you. It IS you. It is unshakeable, undeniable, and magical. There is no rabbit hole; joy is a constant presence.

The ease of finding happiness seems good at first glance, but quick and convenient is not the answer when it comes to living a joyful, fulfilled life. The real payoff comes from the hours, days, months, and many times YEARS of putting in the hard work. Seeking gratitude, maintaining a positive mindset, taking care of your body, saving space for your mind, limiting distractions, and living in the present moment are all just examples of this work. And when you are willing to dig deep within yourself, joy shines through even when times are hard and the going gets tough. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.

“Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. Remember that.”

-Nicholas Sparks

See You in Savasana

Savasana: “corpse pose,” a reclined posture in yoga (usually at the end of a class) focused on complete relaxation of the body and mind

Have you ever been in yoga class and found yourself tempted to skip out on savasana? Perhaps the thought of lying in stillness for a few minutes seems like a complete waste of time. Or maybe the challenge of fully relaxing the body and mind is just too overwhelming. If so, you are not alone. Contrary to how easy it looks, savasana is commonly considered one of the most difficult of the yoga postures. While many students feel fine bending, twisting, and balancing their way through a practice, this final relaxation pose is a whole different ball game. It can feel foreign, uncomfortable, and at times just downright excruciating.

Especially in the Western world, we tend to view yoga as an exercise routine. And while it is indeed a great movement practice for the physical body, the fact is that asana (the practice of the poses themselves) was actually created to prepare the body and mind for stillness…the main emphasis of yoga then being on meditation. And this is where the importance of savasana comes in. By consistently practicing savasana, you can learn to let go of the constant need for “doing” and embrace the art of “being.” And the good news is that, as with anything else, practice makes progress. The benefits that come along with this progress are numerous and just may make you rethink missing out next time.

Savasana:

  1. Allows for integration of your asana practice
  2. Settles the mind
  3. Relaxes the body
  4. Reduces blood pressure
  5. Balances out the central nervous system by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system “rest and digest” response and calming the sympathetic nervous system “fight, flight, or freeze” response
  6. Relieves stress and anxiety
  7. Improves concentration and memory
  8. Increases energy and productivity
  9. Provides a much needed break from the business of day-to-day life
  10. Lets you be with the breath and practice detachment from thought

When the Mess Becomes the Message

A few times a month I have the great pleasure of volunteer teaching at a local hospital that provides care and recovery from substance abuse/addiction, as well as various mental health disorders. I work primarily in the detox unit, and as you can imagine I see a lot of interesting and often unpredictable behavior. I never know what I’m walking into on any given day, and it’s always a “go with the flow” type situation. Sometimes I leave the hospital with a heavy heart, fighting back tears until I can make it back to the car (empath here). Other times I leave with a feeling of joy and lightness, knowing that my time there really did make a difference in even one person’s life. Regardless, I always leave feeling humbled, and this opportunity has been such an absolute blessing to me.

It’s funny because although I’m the yoga teacher, I feel like I’m the one who is really being taught the lesson. I’ve learned that we all struggle in our own ways but that we are all human and are deserving of love and respect. I’ve learned that ultimately we all want to be healthy, happy, and accepted. I’ve learned that we all need connection. I’ve learned that we all have a strong desire to be seen and heard. And I’ve learned that most of us are doing the best we can with the tools we have been given.

As someone who has seen the effects of addiction and severe mental illness firsthand, I have always had a soft heart for this community and a strong desire to help in some capacity. For the longest time, I didn’t know where to begin; I couldn’t understand how someone like me could possibly make a difference. But now the pieces have come together (as they always do), and I am able to use something that changed my life so deeply (yoga!) to impact other lives, helping to create connection and empowerment in this often under-served community. To me, there is no greater honor and nothing more fulfilling than knowing I am sharing the lessons I’ve learned along my own journey in hopes of helping others find transformation along theirs.

“Successful people repurpose the messes of their lives in ways that other people don’t.” -Ed Mylett

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my own share of messes. For me, it wasn’t addiction. But it was depression. It was unhealthy relationships with others. It was negative thought patterns and self sabotage. It was a broken spirit and a faltering faith in God. Yoga was instrumental in helping me heal these things in my life, and I can now appreciate all the mountains I had to climb to get to the other side. I see clearly that it is my life’s work to turn my personal messes into my message to others. On the surface, my message is yoga, but deep down it is about understanding, healing, and love.

You see, when you allow your mess to become your message you know you have found your purpose. The pain of the mess turns into the joy of a higher calling, of living your truth, and of making a difference. Your tests become your testimony to others. And that to me is what life is all about.

7 Ways to Better Days

Since the month of August (a.k.a. National Wellness Month) has come to an end, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care and what that looks like in my own life. Typically I do a fairly decent job staying on top of the practices that fill me up and keep me sane, but with the recent transition from summer to school year I’ve realized just how quick and easy it is to lose focus and let it all slide a bit. For me, August became more a month of chaos and stress than anything else. Getting back into a daily wellness routine has never felt better, and these 7 simple practices help me stay more grounded, joyful, and at peace.

7 Ways To Better Days

1. Start with gratitude.

Wake up in the morning and say “thank you”…every. single day. That simple. If you want to get a little more serious, think of 5 very specific things for which you are thankful. Write them down in a gratitude journal. Speak them out loud if you need to. This process flips the script from focusing on the negative to focusing on the positive and actually affects the brain for the better. When it comes to gratitude, some days are harder than others, but the more you practice the easier it becomes. Even…especially…in the times you have to search far and wide, take time to identify your blessings. No matter what turmoil you find yourself in, there is always something, no matter how small, for which to be grateful.

2. Breathe intentionally.

Of course as long as you are living, you are constantly breathing. But most of the time this happens on autopilot. Take time every day to breathe intentionally. Inhale deeply through the nose all the way down into the belly. Then slowly and completely empty out, exhaling through the nose or mouth. Not only does conscious breathing help you stay present, but it also helps you balance out your central nervous system. You will spend less time in that primal “fight or flight” response mode and more time in “rest and digest,” therefore becoming more capable of making thoughtful choices and demonstrating higher level responses to stress.

3. Be still.

If you are like most people, you are constantly on the go, from the time your feet hit the floor in the morning to the time your head hits the pillow at night. You feel overwhelmed by your to-do list and bombarded by the constant influx of information coming at you every single day. Finding a few minutes of quiet stillness each day can give you much needed relief. It allows you to check in with yourself…mind, body, and spirit…giving you the chance to listen to your thoughts and feelings and to practice observing them without judgement or expectation. It is a wonderful opportunity to set aside the “doing” for just a moment and to thoroughly embrace the “being.” Set a reminder if you need to, but enjoy this state of stillness daily. Savor the space and freedom you find there.

4. Consume wisely.

Your diet is not just what you eat and drink. It is everything you take into your body (physically, mentally, and emotionally), including the TV you watch, the music you listen to, the books you read, the people you hang around, the words you tell yourself, and so on and so forth. Yes, you know you should eat well and drink lots of water. But being mindful of EVERYTHING you consume, day in and day out, can have an enormous positive impact on your overall wellbeing. Be careful to consume only the things that serve you and fill you up. As the old saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

5. Move.

I used to think that in order to “exercise” I had to go out and pound the pavement…the more miles the better. Well let me tell you, I’ve run a lot of miles in my life and hated just about every single one of them. And guess what? That’s ok! While consistent cardio activity is important for a healthy heart, understand that movement comes in a lot of different forms. Figure out what you love and what keeps you interested. For me, that’s most often long walks and yoga. I try to sprinkle in light weight training and forms of cardio that I find more exciting (I love a trampoline class!) here and there. Make time for it, especially if you have a sedentary job. A body that moves a lot is much healthier, and the effect on the mind is incredible.

6. Stay inspired.

Avoid burnout by doing activities that keep you inspired and that get your creative juices flowing. I personally love prayer, meditation, cooking, blogging, journaling, manifesting, listening to podcasts and music, and spending lots of time outdoors. Decide what lights your spirit up, and dedicate a little time each day to doing just that. If you are strapped for time, even just a couple minutes goes a long way.

7. Begin again.

Remember that you are human and are therefore, by default, not perfect. So first off, let that knowledge remove any pressure you feel, and give yourself grace when you fall off track. Understand that you have an amazing opportunity in each and every moment to choose to begin again. Learn to recognize when it’s time to make that choice, and be gentle with yourself. We are all works in progess.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Turkey Curry

Roasted Butternut Squash and Turkey Curry

(Serves about 6)


Ingredients:

  • extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • salt and pepper (S&P)
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 small butternut squash, chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • approx. 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 13.5 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • cilantro for topping

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Once preheated, lay out butternut squash cubes on cookie sheet, toss with EVOO, S & P, and roast for about 20 minutes, until just fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, brown the turkey in EVOO and season with S & P. Remove and set aside when done.
  3. Add more EVOO if necessary and sauté onions and red pepper, seasoning with S & P, on medium heat until onions are translucent and peppers are tender (about 10 minutes).
  4. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for another few minutes or until garlic and ginger soften, careful not to burn.
  5. Add curry powder and stir well.
  6. Add chicken stock and deglaze pan, letting liquid simmer and reduce for about 5 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes and coconut milk.
  8. Add back in the turkey and add roasted squash. Simmer all together for about 5 minutes. Taste and add more S & P if needed.
  9. Serve over a bed of cauliflower rice or basmati rice, top with fresh cilantro, and enjoy!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers (Grain and Dairy-Free)

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Grain and Dairy Free

(makes 6 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 6 bell peppers, cut in half long ways with insides removed
  • 1 lb. chorizo
  • 1 medium yellow or sweet onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced with insides removed
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup frozen riced cauliflower
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • Salt and Pepper (S&P)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional toppings: your fav salsa, chopped cilantro, nutritional yeast

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Brown chorizo in pan. (I like cast iron to get that good crispiness.)
  • Meanwhile, parboil bell peppers in a big pot full of water for about 3-5 minutes, until just tender. Remove, drain, and line up in baking dish, open side up. Season with S & P.
  • Once chorizo is cooked, remove from pan to drain and set aside.
  • Return pan to stovetop and add onion, jalapeño, and a little extra virgin olive oil if necessary. Season with S & P and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Once onion and jalapeño are tender, add zucchini and riced cauliflower, seasoning again with S & P.
  • Add tomatoes, black beans, chili powder, and cumin. Mix well and sauté for an additional 3-5 minutes. Return chorizo to pan and mix well.
  • Stuff pepper halves full with chorizo mixture. Bake in oven for about 10-15 minutes to fully cook peppers and let everything come together.
  • Top with whatever you like and enjoy!

Morning Reflections.1

Morning is my favorite. I love watching the world come to life. As I sit here sipping coffee in a hammock by the lake, contemplating this new day dawning, I’m truly in awe of God’s creation. The birds salute the sun with their songs. The fish rise to the top of the water for their breakfast, creating spontaneous ripples amidst an otherwise placid surface. A deer sweetly and unknowingly tiptoes past me. All the while, the sun and moon know just what to do, working as a team to keep time moving right along. With all these goings on, I’m reminded what a magical world it is and that maybe it really is possible to live in harmony with one another.

Yet in the midst of all this activity there is a profound stillness. The kind of stillness that brings joy to a broken heart and peace to a weary soul. A stillness in which anything is possible, and the only roadblock is the one that is self-created. A stillness that overcomes ego and radiates pure spirit. And in this moment, I realize that THIS is what Deepak Chopra means by the Law of Pure Potentiality (from his book “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” which I’ve been studying and teaching from for the past few weeks). THIS is it, in the flesh. The ultimate expression of what it means to be in silence and meditation, to commune with nature, and to choose love over judgement. And with this realization I’m humbled, and I’m grateful.

The Brain on Meditation

Meditate: “to engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” (Merriam-Webster)

Meditation is on the rise in America, and when you look at the benefits it is easy to see why. With all kinds of positive side effects, from enhanced immunity and improved mood to decreased stress, depression, and pain, this sort of “strength training” for the mind seems too good to be true. Yet the proof is right there in the science.

And the science in itself is fascinating. For a very rough overview, it is helpful to understand two specific parts of the brain, the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that deals with higher level thinking, such as awareness, concentration, decision making, and more rational problem-solving processes. On the other hand, the amygdala, a.k.a. the “fight or flight” response center, is fear-based, emotionally unstable, and extremely reactive. With meditation, we can actually begin to thicken and strengthen the prefrontal cortex while simultaneously shrinking the amygdala, resulting in more thoughtful and balanced responses to stress outweighing perhaps more primal and fearful responses.

The mind is just naturally wired to be constantly active and alert to danger. But through consistent practice and this restructuring of the brain, we can begin to tap into more and more of these physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. Like anything else, consistency is key, and practice makes progress. But there’s no better time to start than now.

Looking Out For Number 1

The human heart is a fascinating mechanism. Each day, it beats roughly 100,000 times and pumps somewhere around 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the body. This blood has the very important task of delivering oxygen and nutrients to the cells, as well as removing metabolic waste. The circulatory system is so efficient that it only takes about one minute for the blood to make its round trip from, and then back to, the heart. And it’s a good thing it is so good at its job because the job is never-ending.

Perhaps the most intriguing part though? As incredible as it is that the heart continuously takes care of everybody else, it makes sure to take care of itself first. Let’s break that down. In rudimentary terms, the right side of the heart sends old blood to the lungs, where the blood is oxygenated. The lungs then send this “new” blood to the left side of the heart, which then pumps it into the aorta, where it prepares to make its journey through the rest of the body. And HERE is where the magic happens. Coronary arteries branch off of the aorta and lead to the heart itself, allowing this amazing muscle to receive fresh, glorious blood before anyone else. In other words, the heart is always looking out for number one when it comes to its own health and wellbeing. And for good reason.

What would happen if the heart did not take care of itself before taking care of everyone else? It’s the same reason the airline stewardess instructs you to first put on your own mask before attempting to help others. And it boils down to the number one life lesson I’ve learned to date: You cannot take care of others without first taking care of yourself. You’ve heard it before…you can’t pour from an empty cup. You can try as hard as you want, but it’s not feasible, and it’s certainly not sustainable. Eventually, you will wipe out energetically, putting yourself in danger of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil.

There’s a lot of pressure on the heart to perform well. And like the heart, you may have a lot of people who depend on you to be your best. By taking time to find out what it is that fills your soul and then taking the steps to ensure that happens, you will set yourself up for much greater success, and you will be able to pour into others from the overflow you will experience in your own life. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it is necessary. We are called to serve and to love, and it begins right at home. It begins with number one.

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