November 28, 2013


I'll admit it, I've been in a bit of a funk this year.

There's a lot in there - loneliness that make weekends and holidays difficult, injuries that have kept me out of the hot and power yoga practices that have kept me going the past many years, an awareness of time moving past, less than healthy eating, and all of it wrapped around a core of struggle that has made me a bit of a curmudgeon, a bit of a misanthrope.

And yet, there is much to be grateful for.

I'm grateful for my home - so many of my friends struggle to find housing, have roommates that are not always nurturing, or are unrooted. I bought my condo four years ago and it's become a little nest - space to work, space to practice, space for my dog, space to relax and unwind. It's not always rarely clean throughout, but I keep at least 1-2 spaces presentable.

I'm grateful for Elo, my little dog. When I moved into this place I was not expecting to bring him with me - thinking he'd not do well alone, in a condo, without a back yard to run in. But he's done well - not too barky, not too neurotic, and a good excuse to get me out for a long walk every day. So often when I've felt down and alone, his warm body and brown eyes keep me going.

I'm grateful for my band. Who would have guessed that 30+ years from high school and college, when music was such a big part of my life, that I'd still have the opportunity to pick up a guitar, pick up a bass, and make some music. We play and rehearse enough to keep the music tight and enjoyable, but not so much as to overwhelm and burn out.

I'm grateful for my teacher, and my practice. While yoga has become a place of struggle for me over the past year, and is no longer my daily addiction. I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to practice, and the opportunity to teach. And I am grateful for a community that is tolerant of my recent thrashing around and lashing out, and does not seem interested in letting me disappear.

I am grateful for my work and my clients - it has been 15 years since I unfurled my business banner and launched my engineering practice. I am admittedly spoiled for a regular 40 hour a week, 9-5 job now, but I am grateful for enough work to pay my bills and live my life, yet gives me plenty of space for yoga, for music, for folk fests and weeks at camp.

I am grateful for my friends. I am not particularly gregarious - and struggle to find people and communities in which I feel at home. So my friends who have been there and hung on, who have space in their lives for an occasional call, a text message, or a Facebook message, are precious to me. 

I am grateful for folk music, and the Falcon Ridge Folk Fest. Who could have predicted that when I rolled into the fest back in '98 (or was it '97?), parked my little Mazda along the creek line at Long Hill Farm, that I'd be meeting people and joining a community that would be with me for 25+ years.

Along those lines, I am grateful for social media. As much as Falcon Ridge has been a regular part of my life, it took Facebook to turn that precious week in July into a 52 week a year community. I'm a bit of a Facebook crank (not really accepting friend requests from folks I have not met in person) and yet I've ended up with 550+ friends, reaching across the country. Part of that is diversity (yoga, Falcon Ridge, Camp Camp, music, history) yet the connection (however tenuous or virtual) to a circle of others is precious.

I am grateful for my family. So many folks who have taken my journey have lost family. While I miss having a huge extended family nearby, and my nuclear family is somewhat distant, they are always there for me. I'm heading up for a visit later this morning.

I'm sure I am forgetting many things - communities, people, opportunities, comforts. But even so, there is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day.

November 21, 2013

New Food Rules

Following my juice cleanse, I've decided to establish some new food rules to encourage myself to eat better. These are almost entirely behavior related and have very little to do with nutrition, calories, etc. I know how to eat well; I just rarely do - choosing expedience, convenience, etc. So from here on:

* I will eat two meals at home each day. Maximum of one meal eaten outside the home.
* I will eat two meals with no animal protein each day. I can choose animal protein (including dairy and eggs) at one meal each day. 
* I will limit myself to one (1) fast food meal per week (McDs, BK, Wendy's, Arby's, as well as local burger joints). Basically, anything that includes French fries and comes in a bag counts as "fast food"
* Maximum of one carbonated beverage (i.e. - soda, sugar or diet) per week. 
* No meals through the drive-thru. If I want fast food, I need to go in and get it.
* No meals eaten in the car.  I will eat in the restaurant or bring it home. 
* No donuts. A particular weakness of mine. If I need a bakery nosh, it will be a bagel.

Let's see how this works. So far so good. 

November 17, 2013

Seven Day Chakra Karma Cleanse

Today, Sunday, marks the final day of a seven day cleanse for me.

Since Monday, I've been hitting a 6 am (eep!) Kundalini yoga class led by Marcia Vallier. And my only nourishment has been a selection of juices, broths, and elixers supplied by Karma Cleanse in Bloomfield.  It's been an interesting week, with a lot of self (re)discovery / realization. Some initial thoughts.

Juice Cleanse

This was a good program for me - I'm not good at food prep and managing / preparing this sort of thing. So I'd be more than likely to step back from the cleanse for lack of an ingredient, or a tool (like a juicer), or a simply laziness / fatigue. But  Alicia at Karma Cleanse brought us a "six-pack" of bottles each day (supplemented by fresh solid food today) - typically three juices, two "healing broths" and an herbal tea. So there was nothing to prepare - just open the freshly juiced / brewed concoction and consume, clean the bottle, and return the next day. Just my speed.

The juices were aligned to the seven chakra's (each day's practice focused on a particular chakra) - so on Day #1 we had a red beet based juice, Day #2 was a carrot based, Day #3 was a delicious pineapple (with cayenne for kick!), Day #4 was green (apple?), Day #5 was blueberry based. It seemed a little forced to me (choosing a product based on "chakra color" rather than cleansing properties) although I was willing to suspend disbelief for the duration. Regardless of the sequence, the variety was most welcome and all of the juices were pleasant, flavorful, and nourishing.  In addition, each mid-day juice was a mixed greens juice (little less sweet, very nourishing).

The healing broth was delicious and warming, and the last few days has included a small amount of quinoa, a welcome addition. And the teas varied - lemongrass, ginger, etc. and were tasty either cold or warm. I'm not sure I can afford (nor logistically manage) a regular integration of the Karma Cleanse products into my diet, but I'd certainly pick up a few days worth for an occasional short cleanse. A very high quality product, well packaged and marketed, and quite tasty and refreshing.

Kundalini Yoga

I've said it before, and I will say it again - Kundalini Yoga drives me crazy. It would not be my first choice for a cleanse or series. Mostly, I feel as if I move into my body / spine with quick, jerky motions long before I am really warm and even when warm it feels a bit rough / risky. In addition, the various arm positions crank right into shoulder injuries and limitations. So I spent the week working through and around a lot of stuff related to the practice, but really I had no problems with it.

What I *do* like about Kundalini is the internal / spiritual practice (lot of time to pause and go inward), the chanting / singing, the energetic aspects. And I adore Marcia as a teacher and a person - with my recent shoulder limitations and various other ailments / struggle, I've stayed away from her power classes, so it was a treat to work with her for a week straight. And as much as I growled about 6 am yoga (usually via humorously cranky Facebook updates), I am in truth a morning person and driving home at 7:15 am with the day in front of me was a good feeling.

Personal Observations

I was surprisingly not all that miserable throughout the cleanse. Monday was a tough day - low grade headache, fatigue, crankiness. I got through the morning yoga and my 9 am class, and then spent a lot of the day vegging out and watching Netflix (Ken Burns' Civil War, for the second time, for those interested).

The rest of the week I was surprisingly not suffering serious detox symptoms. I was low energy most of the week (I compared it to going into hibernation) and fortunately work was kind of slow - so I picked off the things that came in, took a few meetings, but did not push ahead any big projects. Worked for me. I think that I was not all that "detoxy" because the juice based cleanse was high enough in sugars (fruit based) and while my past habits have been pretty horrible in terms of gluten, dairy, fast / fried food, sugar-free sodas, giving my body a regular dose of higher quality sugars made me happy enough. That suspicion was supported by my hamstrings (which got pretty tight during the cleanse week, although they have eased off a bit). The past few days I've been a little light-headed, not really dizzy, just a little floating.

I totally blew off regular yoga this week - spending some time on the mat prior to teaching but not doing any formal classes - because I felt like I needed the break, and that feels like the right decision. Going to hit a class this afternoon, although not a hot / power class quite yet.

So what does it all mean to me? When it comes to healthy eating / food / nutrition, I've been through everything, often twice: mindful based eating, detox cleanse, a week at Kripalu doing a healthy eating workshop, a juice cleanse (with betamite clay for colon clearing), Weight Watchers. (and in the case of the whole foods heavy WHY Teacher Training, 4 times, once as a trainee, thrice as an assistant) - so it's not about information - it's mostly will and getting past psychological and emotional blocks. Mostly, I'm planning to use this week as a line of demarcation - trying to lose bad habits (pre-cleanse) and develop some good habits (post-cleanse) - the cleanse gives me a little bit of space and perspective that a "starting Monday morning I'm going to change" approach, or a "small incremental changes" approach have so far failed to provide.

One thing that became clear, this week as well as in a previous detox cleanse, was how much I use my meals as the tent pole "structure" and reward of my daily life. Being self employed and tending towards a bit of introversion, I could go entire days with zero human contact other than when I am teaching or visiting the studio to practice. So the simple interaction of a restaurant worker or check-out person becomes a kind of precious daily contact for me. I need desperately to put in place some other mechanisms for human contact that do not involve purchasing (usually unhealthy) food.

My plan going forward: I'm going to ease back into real food - picking up some organic broths and soups and continuing that for at least one daily meal. While I do not feel particularly sensitive to things like dairy, gluten, etc. I'm planning to switch to a rice based mild substitute for the small bits of dairy I use, and to work with healthy grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa) as a meal base. I'm not going vegetarian, but I do plan to cut back on animal protein, and use more beans. And of course, working with more fresh veggies (green and otherwise) and fruits. I'll still eat crap on occasion but the emphasis here is "on occasion" - 1-2 meals a week, either socially or when my schedule keeps me away from home at meal times.

In summary: a really positive experience - totally manageable, realistic, and enriching. While my sundry and myriad aches, pains, injuries and limitations remain active, I do feel lighter, brighter, and more positive. With 2014 teacher training coming up in two short months, I'm motivated to eat healthier, strengthen my asana practice, and get healthier. Let's see where things go from here....

Faithful Sky at Roaring Brook Nature Center

Yes, I am a big folk / acoustic music fan. And no, I do not get out to see live music enough. But I did venture out last  evening, to see The Faithful Sky at the Roaring Brook Nature Center

The Faithful Sky is the new collaboration, built around Hugh Blumenfeld, with longtime collaborators Jim Mercik and Diane Chodkowski, and relative newcomers Jeff Buchbinder and Mark Hall. While I seem to catch up with Hugh semi-regularly, it was delightful to see him for a full show, in such a great space, and with a full band backing him up.

I sat in the back and happily mouthed the words to many of Hugh's old songs - Diane and Jim both took leads for a pair of songs (Diane's cover of Shindell's Fleur de Lis was lovely, Jim's song Is This Enough was driving and wonderful).  A few covers came along - Hugh's rendition of This Land is Your Land sequed into Which Side Are You On, with what seemed like a lyrical makeover. Hugh brought out a cover of Eliza Gilkyson's to-be-released song All Right Here that was romantic and sweet. There were plenty of sing-along opportunities. And the closer, Cohen's Hallelujah, which Hugh was playing before Rufus Wainwright, Shrek, and Jeff Buckley, was so reverent and powerful.

It was so sweet to be in that wonderful acoustic and energetic space, to hear that wonderful music. Roaring Brook tends to bring in more of the old time, road weary folkies as well as acoustic guitar heroes - not always my first choice in live music. (Stan the organizer appeared not to have seen a Cajon before....which is kind of indicative of the little time warp of folk music that Roaring Brook has become) But this was a great opportunity to hear and old friends.