Sunday, February 21, 2016

POUR / maple olive oil banana bread

Lately, I've been noticing that I do not spend any time in my kitchen. It's tiny and the walls are a blazing white. It's one of the least inspiring rooms in my home and as I dreamed about ways to make it all the more dreamy I got inspired to get my hands dirty. This receipt fit my kitchen without any effort. The bananas on my counter were almost fully black, the Greek yogurt in the fridge had just enough left for this recipe, and miraculously I had maple syrup in the fridge. It was a moment of baking synchronicity and moments like that should not be wasted. Let's bake some bread!

I hope you get to share this with someone you LOVE. Happy Sunday!

Maple Olive Oil Banana Bread from Tracy Benjamin, originally adapted from a Tara O'Brady recipe

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed (the closer to black, the better)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used Fage; we happened to have some in the fridge)
sprinkling of cinnamon sugar blend on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8x4 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until fully incorporated. With a wooden spoons, stir in the mashed bananas, then added the Greek yogurt. Add the flour mixture to the liquids, stirring until just combined. Do not over mix. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Add a sprinkling of your cinnamon sugar blend on top!

Bake about 60-70 minutes, it took abut 65 minutes in my oven, until a inserted cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, then let it cool for at least 10 minutes before removing and letting fully cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy with your favorite cup of coffee goodness for the perfect afternoon pick me up!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

FOLD / get your mudra on

A beautiful yoga teacher and friend of mine Brianna Turpin loves to incorporate yoga mudras into her intelligently designed yoga flows, deeply restorative and nourishing yoga classes, and meditation practice. I am so inspired by the way in which Bri brings this mystical force into her teaching; she is always illuminating new and meaningful ways to engage with our practice that create an element of play, something that I always need reminding to bring into my personal yoga practice.

So what exactly is a mudra? A mudra is a gesture made with out hands that "engages certain areas of the brain and/or soul and exercise a corresponding influence on them". Each mudra should be led by the breath to support the mudra; find a relaxed and effortless position where you feel supported and comfortable; inhabit a meditative seat. You want to engage with these energy fields in a supportive and positive way; harmony creates synergy. Try practicing a single mudra in your yoga practice this week, while finding a moment of stillness or quiet before or after you wake up or go to sleep. Try really feeling into how this one specific gesture helps you to shift energy and bring healing into your week. The pressure of the finger tips should be light and hands should remain relaxed.

All of this beautiful knowledge on mudras comes from the wonderful book, Mudras: Yoga In Your Hands by Gertrud Hirschi. This is an easy to understand text that deconstructs the wisdom of mudras, and with easy photographs and descriptions to help aid in this healing art right from your own home.

So here we go, down the mudra rabbit hole. Let's deconstruct three of my new favorites.

Chin [Jnana] Mudra:

thumb: divine cosmic energy (intuition - inner energy)
index finger: individual consciousness (inspiration - outward energy)

Bring your pointer finger and thumb to touch, extend your other three fingers.

Through this mudra we can connect the individual with the diving creating a symbolic gesture of unity with ourselves and the greater forces gently guiding us

Isn't that beautiful, just by bringing together our thumb and pointer finger together in momentary acknowledgement that we are not alone, we only sometimes think we are alone. It's a gesture of longing to connect with that which is greater than ourselves.

In this mudra, INSPIRATION AND INTUITION JOIN together. Both lie within. 

Shell [Shankh] Mudra:

Encircle your thumb with the four fingers of your right hand, while at the same time, touch the right thumb to the extended middle finder of your left hand. Curve your left hand around the fist you've made with your right hand. It should resemble a conch shell.

I love this mudra because it calls on us to use our voices to help resonate the energy in our hands. It's best practiced after a few rounds of "OM" in your present space. Try taking a deep breath in and letting your voice open in to the sound of OM. Try this several times and then sit with your hands in the mudra. See how this settles in your body.

Through this mudra, we come to connect with our higher self, which helps us to remember that all we need is already present within.

Ganesha [the elephant; remover of obstacles] Mudra:

Hold you left hand (facing palm out) in front of your chest. Bend your fingers and grasp the left hand with the right hand (backside of the hand facing out). As you exhale, pull the hands apart from each other without releasing the grip. As you inhale, release all the tension in your hands, chest and shoulders. Repeat this up to six times. Then spend a few moments with your hands on your heart, sitting in silence. Then repeat the mudra, this time switching the grip of your hands.

This mudra engages our heart and opens our fourth chakra (the heart chakra) which helps us cultivate courage, openness, and generosity to those around us and inward towards ourselves. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

GATHER / a lesson in loving

This year our anniversary, five years in, felt remarkable; as in, "wait a minute, it's actually been such a long time, we should take a moment to truly honor that". Over the past five years, we've had so much life happen to us both; we've morphed, changed, been altered and somehow having each other at the end of the day is the thread that pulls us through.

I am by no means an expert on, in, or through relationships; but these are some honest observations and reflections I've made throughout the last five years of ours.

1. Give yourself and your partner permission to speak freely. We had a contract very early on, "I will never be mad at you for being honest". This has served to firmly root us in honestly, even blunt and brutal honesty that stings upon hearing, but the truth always finds a way to land, settle and resonate. It's hard to ask for honesty and then stay to hear it, but I truly believe that this is why we are still here, still together.

2. Don't let it fester. Not speaking your truth will just build up and cause resentment; trust me, we've been there, on both sides. That old adage about never going to sleep angry is so very very true. We did it once, about 3 months in, and it was a very lonnnngggg night in the dark.

3. Remind them that you love them; with all the scars, flaws, and insecurities. Let your partner know you love them because of those things. We are all weird and scared and hoping to be loved.This is a constant practice and a forever reminder. We need to hear these things, all of the time.

4. Take down your walls - Look, I know they're there because you built them: to keep something or someone out, to shore up your defenses for the agony of experience, but the beauty about our ability to create is also our choice for destruction. Someone is worth letting down that wall for. And loving without the walls is filled with miraculous wonder among new nicks and scratches, but your heart can manage without all the protection.

5. At the end of day, I know deep in my bones that this man; the one that I fall asleep next to every night, the one who breaths in soft whispers, the one that holds my hand, and challenges me and fills me to the brim and is the only one I want to be in trenches next to. The battles will come, they always do, but I know that I'd rather be with him than on my own.

6. Family is complicated, and difficult, and messy, and so-far from perfect. But we only have the one, and if we are lucky, we get to create our own. This has been such a huge area of stretching and growing for me. It's helped me access patience, where I thought miles existed. It's help me find new and deeper ways of supporting from a loving distance. It's helped me learn how to navigate language in unfamiliar and sticky situations. It's shown me that intimacy and trust must be earned and sometimes aren't so easily given. It's a work in progress, but I've got the rest of my life to keep on trying.

7. Listening is as important as being heard. Let them talk, acknowledge them and then just listen. I know it's hard: something is on the tip of your tongue, you want them to know what you're thinking, you really really need to speak. Trust me, it can wait, and if you're anything like me, you need to listen more. Stop interrupting; your time to be heard will be honored when you need it. This is a major work in progress for me, but when I take the time to really listen, he softens into me.

8. You are enough. You really are. It's taken a lot of soul searching and I think I am still in the space of learning how to re-charge my own batteries before helping others. I have gotten lost in loving, taking care of, supporting, and engaging with my partner; it's something chronic and deeply rooted and I am working on it. But I came to realize that when I speak to myself in a kind, loving, and supportive voice, I am able to love bigger and harder and more. It comes way more easily when I've put my own oxygen mask first.

9. Take an interest. Be your partner's champion. Be their biggest fan. I know that I feel the most comforted in my relationship when he acknowledges how far I've come, all the insecurities I've conquered, and the life goals I've crushed. We really just want to know that you're proud of us. We are proud of you.

10. Love, love, love, and then dig deeper and love them even more. After five years, through life's trials and errors, new beginnings and excavating old wounds, remember that they entrusted you with their fragile and oh so tender heart and so did you, to them. That's a lot of responsibility and such an honor to behold and bear witness too. Just love them, with everything you've got and make sure to love yourself too.

What have been the your difficulties? Where do you find ease? How to you get all touchy feeley together? Do you have misunderstood moments? Do you get vulnerability hangovers? How have you deepened the intimacy?

These are the questions I ask myself and the questions I hope to always be answering. I think the beauty of loving someone a long time is the unwavering sense of questioning; of always seeking to uncover who they are becoming and to be loved that way in return.