Imagine Balance

imagining balance to achieve balance

asana acoustics {1}

I used to practice to led audio podcasts or maybe a soft classical playlist. Lately I’ve been taking it up a notch and using music to get me motivated and on my mat. Here are some songs that inspired me this week.

What were your yoga songs this week?

Buddha’s Brain {book review}

Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson & Richard Mendius

– non-fiction, philosophy, religion/spirituality –

purchased eBook via Amazon.com

Links

Author’s Website : www.wisebrain.org

Amazon : paperback / eBook (92 reviews : 4.5 avg)

Add To Your GoodReads TBR List (101 ratings : 4.04 avg)

In Six Words

never thought about it like that

Brief Summary

Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and other great teachers were born with brains built essentially like anyone else’s. Then they used their minds to change their brains in ways that changed history.

With the new breakthroughs in neuroscience, combined with the insights from thousands of years of contemplative practice, you, too, can shape your own brain for greater happiness, love, and wisdom.

Buddha’s Brain joins the forces of modern science with ancient teachings to show readers how to have greater emotional balance in turbulent times, as well as healthier relationships, more effective actions, and a deeper religious or spiritual practice.

Well-referenced and grounded in science, the book is full of practical tools and skills readers can use in daily life to tap the unused potential of the brain-and rewire it over time for greater peace and well-being.

If you can change your brain, you can change your life.

-via GoodReads.com

What I Loved

As a non-Christian science nerd, this was geared towards me. Not to say that you couldn’t enjoy this book if you are a Christian (but you have to take the evolution sections with a grain of salt if that doesn’t fit with your beliefs) or that if you aren’t into science that this will be boring (this is probably the opposite).

I really enjoyed the sections that explained why we react the way we do to certain situations and related these back to why our brains developed that way to begin with. While the book was full with the minute details of the inner-working of the brain, the author did a good job of breaking it down and relating it to things we’re more likely to understand.

I also really loved that the author even admits to not being perfect about following these steps. He often encourages you to not be upset if you can’t “think” this way, we aren’t meant to. It takes work and practice.

My favorite sections were on empathy, attention/concentration, and how to intensify rapture and joy.

What I Liked

Each chapter ends with a “key points” overview that sums things up really nicely. There also were some great tips for furthering your meditation practice, or beginning one if you don’t meditate. I also thought it was great that they included references in the book. It gives you an idea of where they are getting their information and allows you look up more if you want to.

What I Disliked

At first I was shocked that this had such high ratings with all the science in it. I thought it would bore people. However, I think my brain was triggered to lose interest due to having studied the way the brain works in college. I probably saw terms I had to learn and instantly lost interest. After about halfway, I started really getting into the book and finding that I was learning more than I intended. For me it was easier to gloss over some of the details and focus on the big picture.

Favorite Quotes

…in relationships, it typically takes about five positive interactions to overcome the effects of a single negative one.

“In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.”

– I had heard this story prior to reading the book and my computer background actually says “Don’t feed the bad wolf”

Say only what is well-intended, true, beneficial, timely, expressed without harshness or malice, and – ideally – what is wanted.

Ill will tries to justify itself: This is just an animal. In the moment, the rationalizations sound plausible, like the whisperings of Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings. Only later do we realize how we have tricked ourselves.

Recommendations

If you are interested to learn more about how and why the brain functions the way it does while also learning tricks to wire yourself to be more positive and compassionate, then this is the book for you. It does include sections on evolution and how the brain has evolved, so if this goes against your religious beliefs, you might want to pass on this one. It has amazing reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads, so I don’t think only science nerds like it.

#365yoga {01.30 – 02.05}

source : NamWizard

I’ve realized that while this blog is mostly for to me to be able to look back on my journey, neither one of us wants to read bland recaps of something you may be doing yourself. How I’m going to solve this, however, I haven’t completely worked out. So this week I’m going to try to go a little deeper into my favorite and most challenging day of A Year of Living Your Yoga and see where that takes us.

Favorite Lesson : Jan 31 – Yoga is not about avoiding difficulty.

When challenged to do something difficult for me for 5 minutes, I chose to apply for jobs. You might be thinking “that does not sound difficult” or if you’re my husband you might be thinking “it’s about damn time”. I really don’t like to think about why it’s hard for me, but without facing this, I can’t move past it.

When I lost my job 2 years ago (has it really been that long?!), I felt completely rejected. While rationally I can see that the elimination of my territory was more about the company’s lack of market research prior to hiring me, emotionally I feel like I wasn’t good enough. I did, however, jump full force into the application process right away. Hundreds of applications and months later without a lead just made the initial emotional wound that much deeper.

Then I got my current job as a waitress. While I wouldn’t call it “stress-free”, I don’t bring work home. It is easy for me and I’m good at it. Is it what I want to do for the rest of my life? NO! So why am I clinging to it? Because I’m excellent at denial. I’m comfortable here and it’s easy to let time pass without acknowledging the need for change.

Thinking about only having to apply for jobs for 5 minutes made it feel less of a big deal. I actually ended up working on them for longer than I anticipated. I’m hoping to go into this “only 5 minutes” mode for at least one night a week from now on.

Most Difficult Lesson : Feb 03 – Life is holy.

When asked to dedicate my practice to God or a divine being, I was at a complete loss. As I’ve mentioned on my Open Mind page, I’m not a religious person. I neither believe nor disbelieve in a higher power. I honestly don’t care either way. I am a good person (most of the time) and do so merely to be a good person. My parents chose to raise my sister and I to follow many of the same moral rules you see in religions like Christianity, but without the faith or fear of an afterlife or higher being.

So how do I align my beliefs, or lack there of, with this aspect of my yoga? I ended up dedicating that day to my husband instead. I picked someone who loves and supports me. Someone who helps me be a better person. I could have easily picked my parents, sister, or a close friend with the same intention.

I tried to look up some information on yoga for non-theists and came across a lot of articles about fear of yogic religion. Let me be clear, I don’t fear religion and welcome the ideas of many different cultures. To each their own. While I’m aware that I can benefit my life both physically and mentally with yoga without the spiritual aspects, I’m wondering how to best supplement them. If you are an atheist, or agnostic, or even Buddhist, how do you approach the theist side of your practice?

 

Mexican Tortilla Soup

This is probably our favorite at home dinner. It is insanely easy to make, delicious, and good for you. This is another recipe that I had posted once upon a time on my 101/1001 blog, but decided to repost here with some changes Shane and I have made over the past year.

ingrediants

we normally split this in 2 and maybe have a little left over

1 bag frozen pre-cooked shrimp (sometimes we use chicken)

1/2 white (or red) onion

1 can diced Rotel tomatoes (we use Mild)

1 tsp garlic

4 cups chicken broth

tortilla chips

cilantro

avocado

green onion

directions

  • Cook meat how desired and cut into bite sized pieces.
  • Simmer veggies (onion, tomatoes, garlic) in pot until soft
  • Add meat to pot.
  • Add chicken broth to pot.
  • Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Garnish with crushed tortilla chips, green onion, cilantro, and avocado.

nutrition

(if split in half – including shrimp and 24 bite size Tostitos chips)

  • Calories: 426
  • Total Fat: 23.4 g (mostly from the avocado)
  • Total Carbs: 42.2 g
  • Protein: 16.8 g

Being Present {Music – Divenire}

My greatest challenge is staying present. My mind is constantly wandering. I think about the past. Mostly I worry about the future. I didn’t realize how much this affected my daily life until I began to focus on it during yoga and meditation. While it is insanely frustrating during those practices, it’s even more so while I’m reading, working, talking with friends, etc. While I probably noticed being distracted, I did not realize how much it was taking away from my life.

My favorite aphorism (so far) from A Year of Living Your Yoga is “Suffering comes from our unwillingness to be present.” From what little I’ve begun to read about Buddhism, it also focuses on living in the now.

Yes, my yoga and meditation are helping. Realizing you have a problem is the biggest step, right? I also want to do small things in my day to day life to help get me on track. First up, listening to a full song and only listening to the song. I sat in a comfortable seated position and put on one of my favorite songs. I let my body sway or move however it wanted while trying to not notice. I focused on the notes. When I felt myself drift, I came back to the music much like I do with my breath in yoga/meditation. I’m not planning on doing this every day, but at least a few times a week. Aside from working on my attention span, it’s also really relaxing.

Song for today:

One-Moment Meditation {Week 1}

{source : Svenmarck}

Having made it though the first week, I’m about 5 days further in than I made it last time. Go me! I’m still unsure of how I want to summarize things on here so I’m just going to post a brief description of what we learned that day and what I journaled and see how this goes…

01 –Introduced the Basic Minute. Get in a comfortable seated position with a timer. Focus on your breath.

  • went by really fast / mind wander quite a bit

02 –What to do with your mind? Clear your thoughts and continue to come back to your breath.

  • again went really fast / is OK to use yoga breathing (ujjayi)? / don’t do right after yoga again

03 –What to do with your body? Sit in a comfortable position. Don’t let your legs dangle so that they can sway if in a chair. Sit up straight without feeling stiff.

  • felt long today / can I use mantras?

04 –What happens in a minute? You relax a little, improve your ability to focus, and you are clearing some space in your mind.

  • recalled something I had forgotten to do and let it go

05 –Warm-up and cool-down. Stretch or shake out tension prior to getting into position to set your intention. Take your time coming out of your peaceful minute.

  • made Shane practice with me

06 –Nothing. Striving for nothingness during your meditation.

  • had problems letting my surroundings sink in without dwelling on them

07 –Silence. How to deal with the sounds around you. “The point of this is that we can experience the sound around us not as interference in our lives, but as an expression of the life from which we are not separate.”

  • mind drifted, but was able to come back to my breath

On to Week 2!

Any suggestions on how I can better do these posts?

Apple Lemon Muffins

Yes, I made another batch of muffins. I can only assume that this baking streak (and the cleaning of the kitchen as soon as I’m done) is some kind of odd side-effect of meditation. It’s possible I’ve been replaced by a pod person. If I start cleaning the rest of the house, have tests done. That being said, these muffins are freaking awesome. I asked Shane what kind he wanted next and he said “lemon”. I happen to LOVE  lemon. While I changed the original recipe a little to make it healthier (and because I wasn’t braving the snowstorm to get lemon juice), they still turned out really good. I kinda hope Shane doesn’t like them…

Ingredients

8 servings

    1 cup flour {I used whole wheat flour}
    2 tsp baking powder
    a pinch of salt
    a dash of cinnamon {optional – I did NOT use}
    2 tbsp Splenda Brown
    1 egg, beaten {I used two egg whites}
    5 tbsp apple sauce {I subbed unsweetened and added a little Splenda}
    0.5 tbsp lemon juice {I only had lemon extract in the house}
    0.5 cups milk {used skim}
    a dash of vanilla
    1 med. apple, peeled and diced {didn’t peal}

Directions

  • preheat oven to 425F, lightly grease muffin tin or line with papers
  • sift together dry ingredients, set aside
  • mix together splenda brown sugar, egg, apple sauce, and lemon juice {since I only had lemon extract, I put in around a 1/2 teaspoon – maybe a little more – and just tested for taste} then add milk and vanilla
  • add dry ingredients and mix until just moistened, being careful not to over mix; fold in apples; spoon into muffin tins
  • back 15 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean; cool 2-5 minutes in pan before removing to rack to cool completely

Nutrition

{following original instructions}

  • Total Calories : 101.5
  • Total Fat : 0.9 g
  • Total Carbs : 19.9 g
  • Protein : 2.9 g

{with my substitions}

  • Total Calories : 98
  • Total Fat : 0.3 g
  • Total Carbs : 19.7 g
  • Protein : 3.5 g

top 5 honeys {reply to Y is for Yogini’s drool worthy post}

Y is for Yogini posted her top 5 honeys she’d love to savasana with in honor of the the month of love. While I could have just posted my list in her comments section, I wouldn’t have had an excuse to look up pictures of my choices 🙂

{in no particular order}

1. Ian Somerhalder

2. Ryan Kwanten

3. Alexander Skarsgård

4. Bradley Cooper

5. Ryan Reynolds

Now head over to Y is for Yogini and see who her 5 were

and let her know who you’d like to savasana with!

 

Wholly Guacamole!!

Two years ago my friend Alex made me try guacamole… Holy Sh!t I love the stuff! How did I live the first 24 years of my life without avocados?!

Problem: I can’t shouldn’t eat a whole batch of guac by myself and with the hubs working 12-hour night shifts, he’s not home to help. Also, guac looks gross if you leave it in the fridge overnight.

Solution: Wholly Guacamole!

These delicious 100-calorie packets are made with all natural ingredients (Hass Avocados, Jalapeno Puree (white vinegar, jalapeno peppers, salt) Dehydrated Onion, Salt, Granulated Garlic). I was a little worried about the Jalapeno Puree since I’m someone who cannot handle spicy food. However, the little kick is just enough (sometimes I do add cilantro to it for a little extra pop). These suckers are perfect for me. I can pull one out and it’s not only portion controlled, but I don’t have to worry about the rest of the box going bad overnight (I think the box I bought had 6 packets). Also, easy clean up 🙂

(1 packet Wholly Guac & 24 Tostitos bite-size chips = 240 cals)

My Happiness Journal

Before I go to bed each night, I write down what made me happy that day. I started this back in 2008 and have kept up with it on and off since then. I’ve recently picked up this amazing habit again. Sometimes what made me happy was simple like something I ate. Other times it’s Shane doing something sweet. Maybe my favorite song played twice on the radio at work that day. Whatever it was, I take a few minutes to write them down and then go to bed with those thoughts on the day in my head.

Here’s my Happiness Journal:

Best part about it?

The inside cover is full of post-its the hubs left around the house for me to find one morning 🙂

Do you journal before bed?

How do you celebrate the moments that make you happy?