Miracles & Care for the Soul
Finally, we have it ready! As Russill and I reflected upon our recent pilgrimage to India, we were stunned and humbled by this journey's miracles and deep shifts.
It was miraculous from start to finish. Here I will recount one of them with the minimum of details:
Even though many of the travel bans were lifted, we were on tenterhooks due to some new travel rules, especially in India.
When Russill and I arrived at the airport to meet with our North American group (Europeans met us in India) who were flying with us, the airline officials met us with open arms and gave the royal treatment for the entire group.
Likewise, when we stepped off the plane in India, we were met by a contingent of airline officials with our names who stayed through the official process and led us out to Mother India's earth. Oh, did I want to kneel and kiss the soil? You bet I did!
One of our return participants looked at me and asked, "What did you do to get this red-carpet celebrity reception for all of us?"
For starters, we work non-stop behind the scenes, let the right officials know the issues we might face, and have unwavering faith in the Divine.
Now, our report does not talk about such incidents. But we write about the following:
Part 1: Care For the Soul
Part 2: The Art Of Transforming In India
Part 3: A Day In The Life Of A Pilgrim
And the report is interspersed with several informative and fun videos.
Here is the link: 2023 Pilgrimage Report
P.S. Participants from the US and Europe have already registered for India 2024; we invite you to also consider joining us in 2024 as the countdown to the last of our pilgrimages has begun...
Your Best Life Now
What did Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Gandhi, & Martin Luther King Jr. have in common? And what does that have to do with you?
In this blog, you will be inspired by these three luminaries to pursue your best life now. After you read the main section, engage the worksheet questions and, if you want to go further, take a step in that direction.
Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Gandhi, and MLK were engaged in the fight for freedom. They cared deeply for others. And they were willing to do whatever it took to stay the course and go the length. They had courage and determination and could keep their faith despite the odds. Throughout their mission, they maintained an authentic connection to a higher power.
And then there is this: these extraordinary human beings believed and remained committed to their cause with no clear evidence that they would succeed in their mission. Nevertheless, they succeeded in liberating millions from tyranny and oppression. This quality, among a few others, can inspire us in our mission to heal, which is also a form of freedom.
What I admire most about Tubman, Gandhi, and MLK, especially from the point of view of being a health and wellness coach, is their consistency in expressing their power of choice. They consistently chose courage over fear, confidence over skepticism, and faith over doubt, even when dark shadows were long and, at times, relentless.
I consider all three Mahatmas, the great-souled one in Sanskrit, derived from maha (great) and atma (soul). And their invitation to us is to step up to the plate and grow our souls beyond the limits we've imposed upon them or the limits we've been conditioned by. For some of us, this may be trauma, myself included. For some, the circumstances of our life.
No matter what has transpired in our past, we must heal in the present to create a better future for ourselves. In this context, the Buddha has incisive wisdom when he advises us to focus on the wound and its healing. The arrow's direction, who shot it, or what the arrow is made of is not as important.
You and I can learn to cultivate courage, confidence, and faith in the face of whatever the odds. Our mission may not be as majestic as our Mahatmas and, initially, may not be about society. However, we can still make it about others, and the desire to create a better world, even if that world begins with our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. When we engage in the healing process, we also draw people close to us into that process.
Healing can be associated with freedom because integral to the healing process is freeing ourselves from the soul-sapping clutches of worry, anxiety, and analysis paralysis. These sappers drain us mentally, creating emotional distress and imbalance and often leading to disease or fortifying chronic pain.
Sadly, most of us accept these devitalizing conditions as the norm of life. And we seek respite for an hour or two a day by trying to meditate, watch adrenaline-pumping ( stress hormone) mind-numbing TV, or mechanically scroll through social media. In other words, being attached to our mobiles or electronic devices, if not 24/7, for most of our waking hours. It is safe to say our digital devices and mobiles are our present-day pacifiers for children and grownups alike!
You might say, hang on a minute: what about all the advantages of our digital age? You are indeed correct. There are values to the internet and the various technologies we use today. However, it is not their intrinsic value that is the problem; it is how we use them when maladaptive behaviors persist in the background. Or when they help us procrastinate the deep work of healing, we must engage.
Technology can become our enabler if we are unaware, preventing our healing. A good coach is an accountability partner who helps us understand how we use things in life, such as food, digital media, etc., in ways that heal or hurt our process. And yes, we can use technology as part of our healing, but only within an overarching agenda with many other components that address our conditions and habits.
As my darling Russill would say, and I quote, "don't compare the light of one thing with the darkness of another. Instead, compare the shadow with the shadow." Unfortunately, when we incorrectly draw analogies to validate something, we are unaware that we've put on blinders. And these blinders fortify our confirmation bias, meaning they don't get us out of our negativity loops and the kind of reasoning harming rather than helping our healing process.
I acknowledge that the digital age has been and continues to be a boon, mainly as it makes inroads into underprivileged societies worldwide. People are becoming more aware of their rights, and their sense of global awareness is growing. The blessings of the digital age, from bioscience to engineering to agriculture, are enormous. Yet, the cost to our environment is at an all-time high resulting in the extinction of numerous species and fragile ecosystems, while ominous climate emergencies seriously threaten the planet.
Our mental and personal ecosystems are consequently affected by this chaotic and unprecedented growth in technological advancement. And there is a corresponding fragility and foreboding of emergencies.
Obesity, depression, and anxiety are at an all-time high. A point to note is that these modern plagues are interrelated and have complex correlations. And so are chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke, to name a few. The same goes for auto-immune diseases like Type I diabetes, hypothyroidism, and multiple sclerosis (MS), the most common progressive neurologic disease of young adults worldwide!
It is easy to give up on ourselves and the world. Or we might trudge on without a thought while we nurse our resentments in secret. Others might shrug it off and say that none of this affects them.
However, everything affects us. If there is one thing we know today, it is how interconnected everything is. And this is precisely where our three Mahatmas can inspire us toward action.
Like Tubman, Gandhi, and MLK, we can create our destiny. You can choose to be:
When we place great men and women on a pedestal, it is easy to forget they were willing to take continuous action toward their dreams. And they did this despite unsavory and challenging circumstances that could have overshadowed their goals and blocked their mission.
Tubman, Gandhi, and MLK clearly defined what they wanted. And they trained and re-trained themselves to focus and achieve that vision no matter what.
Imagine the freedom from overcoming whatever prevents you from living your best life, life to the fullest, a meaningful, purposeful, consciousness-enriched life. I want to help you achieve this through wellness, health, or applied spiritual coaching.
Here are some features of my coaching process:
You take the step; I promise you you are in for a fantastic adventure that often has a ripple effect in multiple areas of your life, including your happiness—one of the reasons why students value their process with me.
This blog invites you to a free session to unite us on many world issues via prayer, chant, and food. Women in Iran is one of them, as is the war in Ukraine. It is also a way for me to informally share some healthy, delicious cooking with you, particularly since the holidays are when we pay less attention to what we are eating and its effects on our well-being and consciousness.
To get you into the spirit of the process, I share some personal history, as back then, meaning when I first came West, little did I know that it would become one of my life's missions to create BBS (Brain-Body-Soul) recipes. These are the kinds of recipes we will gather together in our respective kitchens if you take me up on this free offer at the end, which is also when you will understand why this blog is titled "belonging."
As a child and into my mid-twenties, I was convinced that cooking was not for me. I stepped into my mother's kitchen only to dish out delicious mouthwatering food onto my plate or, on rare occasions, to fix a cuppa.
By the way, mum created breakfast, lunch, and dinner freshly every day! Everything was homemade from scratch.
Oh, and the tiffin (snacks) at 4:45 pm was extra:)
However, when I left India for N. America with the love of my life (hubby Russill) some 33 years ago, I was assigned cooking duties almost from day one in the monastery that hosted us. I was not asked if I could cook, but it was assumed since I was a woman from India, I was born to do it!!!
My jet-lagged self was whisked away in the cold to the supermarket and asked to load up the cart with all the ingredients needed for the first grand meal.
To the amazement of my companions, the shopping cart had nothing more than a bunch of limp cilantro leaves, a few containers of yogurt (I had never seen plastic tubs of curd, a.k.a. yogurt before), a bag of polished rice, and a chili or two.
"Are you sure this is it?" inquired my companion.
After a long pause, I looked up at the tall giant of a man with bewildered eyes and said, "Maybe I need curry leaves."
The friendly giant asked, "What are curry leaves?"
Since I did not know how to describe it, I blurted out, "It is the most important stuff for Indian cooking."
The giant's lady friend said, "Ok, let us ask the store manager, he/she is bound to know if it is a key ingredient."
The manager was just as perplexed and asked me to spell the word curry. Next, she asked some of her staff if they knew what I was looking for. Then, finally, a booming voice from one of the aisles said, "They should try the farmer's market; we don't carry such things here."
Off we went to the farmer's market but did not find any curry leaves there too.
The silence in the car on our way back from the market was so thick you could have sliced and served it up. I could not help but wonder if my companions thought I had made this whole curry leaf thing up.
You see, on the way to the store, we were a lively bunch, and I was quizzed about all things Indian.
I will forever remember one of the questions: did Indian women always walk a few steps behind men? I was so taken aback and mumbled something like maybe that happens only in remote villages.
Now picture this:
A skinny 21-year-old female from what was then considered a 3rd world country, clad in mismatched hand-me-downs (people were kind and trying to keep the poor thing warm), who, for the love of God who could not boil an egg, was trying to nervously figure out how to put together the ingredients that have just been procured for a meal of twenty or more people.
Remember, back then; there was no Google to look up a recipe. And she couldn't call mom back in India because it was the age of no cell phones, and international calls were reserved only for emergencies due to the cost.
As the car zipped through the freeway, I stared at the frigid leafless trees, trying not to cry. I missed home dearly and wanted to take the next flight back to my beloved India.
The monastery's kitchen was huge, with immaculate white tiles from floor to ceiling, large islands, and professional cooktops. A little brown girl like me banging pots and pans must have been quite a sight.
As lunchtime rolled up, there was a line of hungry people eager to taste the new girl's food who had come all the way from an exotic land renowned for its cuisine.
The look on people's faces when all they saw was a large pot of gooey mess with some flecks of green here and there was disheartening and bleak; the words that would aptly describe their reactions were disbelief and flabbergasted.
I was promptly demoted as the cook's assistant and ended up peeling potatoes & carrots for the next seven months until we bid goodbye to Canada!
Well, I have indeed come a long way. Glad to say that I can churn out tasty, healthy, and delicious meals to feed body and soul :)
Cooking has also become a means to soothe my nerves, and the day's stress seems to melt away.
Creating recipes and seeing people, including my beloved, relish them gives me great joy.
I feel blessed when the students I work with seem to love them too. It tickle's me when they ooh and aah as I suggest modifications to satisfy their taste :)
In view of Thanksgiving this month here in the US and, more importantly, to stand in solidarity with the girls and women of Iran, I invite you to gather with Russill and me from the comfort of your kitchen.
Let us cook together to usher in freedom of life for all, including the Ukrainians.
The reason for titling this blog "Belonging" is to remind us that regardless of gender, color, race, or creed, we deserve to walk this beautiful planet we call "our home" with dignity, equality, and liberty!
Community cooking, around the globe and for generations, has served more than physical nourishment. It is a way of building goodwill, bonding relationships, and healing our woundedness.
In this free cooking session, we will create simple yet tasty dishes you can share with your family and friends. You can also donate the food you cook to your local soup kitchen. So get ready to make some magic in your kitchen!
Apart from cooking together, we will also be chanting and praying for the world's well-being. Russill will contribute his mantra and music gifts to this live event.
If you cannot make the live event on Nov 20 but are interested in getting the replay, please be sure to register, and you can access it.
Happy, Unhappy? You are not alone...
The stories we tell ourselves become our reality! If you had heard this statement 20 years ago, you would not be faulted for dismissing it as a new-age mumbo jumbo. You would have been in good company, and I would have been, too :)
Regardless of who we are, meaning male or female, cultured or uncultured, holder of multiple degrees, or a high school dropout, you and I tell stories to ourselves and others all day long. So what, right? Where is the harm in that? Surprisingly, the story we tell matters not only to our physiological health but to our emotional well-being as well.
Today, Narrative and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy use story-telling as a healing modality. I can attest to this as I have not only been studiously preoccupied with emotional well-being for decades but have also dealt with trauma.
2018 marked my 50th birth year, one of the most emotionally challenging years both as a married couple and individually, as Russill and I discovered and started dealing with our childhood traumas.
To make things further interesting, both of us were diagnosed with not just PTSD but with CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder).
As I have written before, we lovely humans are hard-wired to focus on the negative more than the positive, a.k.a. Negativity bias. And it happens to the best of us.
Take a moment to recount your day thus far; how many times in the last 24 hours did your brain paint a scenario where you experienced mild to moderate discomfort about your future? Now compare it to how often you felt profound gratitude for a bright future?
Whether or not you have been affected by trauma, many of us perceive the world as a scary place. This is because we have been trained to be on guard, or else real or imagined tigers are waiting to devour us. Although, to be fair, our training mainly stems from well-meaning people; parents, teachers, and the like.
However, fear begets fear, and voila, negativity bias's twin confirmation bias steps in! Slowly but surely, our fears are validated, we become strong in our convictions of how correct our fears are, and out steps our Joie de vivre (joy of life).
In case you need to jog your memory, here are a couple of quick definitions:
Negativity bias: Humans use positive & negative information to make sense of their world. However, we have abundant observational evidence that adults display a negativity bias (1), or the propensity to attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive.
Confirmation bias: Is the way in which we process information, facts, data, etc., by looking for and interpreting them to fit our existing beliefs (2).
These biases are a fundamental issue when manifesting our Soul's desire. Because our clever minds start to use reasons to justify our beliefs, habits, and behaviors rather than changing them to obtain the desired outcomes.
Humanistic psychologists Abraham Maslow (one of the most cited psychologists of the last century) and Carl Rogers (a founding father of psychotherapy research) viewed Joie de vivre,(3) or Joy of life, as the by-product of self-actualization.
And one of Maslow's famous quotes is, "It is as if Freud supplied us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half."
Returning to Joie de vivre, we are not discussing chasing happiness here. On the contrary, it involves our entire self, our whole being. It is taking delight in being just alive!
When I share this aspect in-depth with my students, I caution them that Joie de vivre is not pollyannaism.
Being positive sucks when our emotional life is imbalanced. Repeating affirmations and bypassing proactively addressing emotional issues will NOT lead to manifesting your heartfelt desires. Instead, it can lead to excessive self-absorption, overthinking, and in-action, a classic case of analysis paralysis. I trust you would agree that this is not the path to fulfilling our souls.
To bring this point home to you, one of my first trauma therapists, upon learning that I was a big proponent of affirmations, tried to use affirmations to fix my situation without fully comprehending my emotional condition. I knew then and there that I needed to look for a new therapist.
After searching high and low, the Universe provided a different therapist who was able to help me effectively address my trauma and integrate my professional understanding of whole-person health. In this instance, the new therapist successfully suggested affirmations for my therapeutic process.
Going back to the exercise mentioned above that we previewed, most if not all of the discomfort we feel about our future is because none of us can be certain about our future. To a great extent, it is a big unknown.
A major con of the modern lifestyle is our unconscious lack of resilience. A lack of hardiness. We have so many things that we can control at the tip of our fingertips; for example, the temperature of our homes, workspace, automobiles, etc., we have become accustomed to certain outcomes.
Just as we control our indoor temperature, we also try to control our emotions. We abuse food, drink, drugs, and even healing tools such as meditation to understate or deny our feelings.
A while ago, I heard an insightful Ted talk where the speaker spoke eloquently about dealing with anger. She compared our angry adult self to a 4-year-old. She said when we are mad, we cannot let the kid take the wheel, nor can we stuff the kid in the trunk!
Well-being is about the ability to entertain the whole spectrum of human emotions (happy, sad, joy, fear, and so on) effectively and purposefully without being lost in the highs and lows of life. This is true spiritual equanimity. A stark contrast to indifference or wanting to run away from the world.
Let us not sugarcoat it. Healthily dealing with our emotions takes skill, practice, and the need to take a hard look at our habits/behaviors. And most importantly, the willingness to flourish.
This is how we build resilience 1.0, and then we can look forward to building resilience 2.0 that takes us to the level of thriving despite all the bad hands we have been dealt with and in the face of an uncertain life.
The good news is emotional thriving is a learned skill and a huge part of spiritual fulfillment.
The secret ingredient is choice, or rather the willingness to choose the actions needed to thrive.
The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita (the most revered Hindu scripture) begins wonderfully at the moment of despair. The Gita teaches us that discovering how our Soul can choose - is its way out of disempowerment and despair. When the Soul begins to make wise choices, it can regain its rightful place as the director of our consciousness. This path uses Viveka (spiritual discernment) to navigate.
I trust that you have found this blog helpful. If you would like to learn more about how our Spiritual Wellness program can help you please click this link
My Friend the Banana Lady
A couple of years ago, right after our annual pilgrimage, I spent a few weeks studying to master traditional Tamil village-style cooking in a seaside town of picturesque Tamil Nadu in South India.
The most common fruit that Tamilians (a.k.a Tamilar's) enjoy eating almost daily is bananas. And we are not talking about the same old Dole bananas, the most common ones (and often the only kind) found here in North America. No Sir!
India is a major cultivator of bananas. Tamil Nadu (my native state) alone grows 11 to 12 types of bananas that vary in texture and taste, ranging from delightful to honey-sweet.
My father loved banana's so much that he had to have at least one or two every night after supper. And if my mother forgot to buy some, he would put me, his youngest child, on his bicycle crossbar and peddle away to the nearest store to procure his beloved bananas. This is one of my fondest and earliest childhood memories.
Even though the narrow metal crossbar was uncomfortable for my small behind, I loved this ride with my dad on tropical India's pleasantly warm star-studded nights. It was a real adventure, and my alone time with my father was invariably a lesson on moral science. I cherished his advice.
Dad also enjoyed eating the inside of the banana peel by scraping it and encouraged all of us to do so, for he believed that the peel was the most nutritious part. And guess what, he was right! The peels contain a decent amount of vitamin B6, B12, magnesium, and potassium.
Decades later, my beloved father, who turned to full-time farming after retiring as an electrical engineer, grew a packed field of bananas called "Robusta." Even today, I can see his kind, dusky smiling face as he eagerly awaited our verdicts on the quality and taste.
You can safely say that most Indians enjoy eating bananas, especially after a spicy meal. We are bananas for bananas :)
And the standard fixture around small towns and villages is the banana vendor, like my friend I am about to introduce to you.
The lady in the picture above has one of the most powerful voices I have heard. I would hear her all the way high up in my 4th-floor apartment the moment she entered the street and until she walked her way to the next one.
And when she comes to our door number, she will call out to me with a single long utterance, "ammmaaaa," and I would tumble down the stairwell to be greeted by her warm toothless smile.
I would then help her bring down her oversized aluminum container from her dainty but strong head, we would chat for a bit before I purchased the bananas for the day, and she was on her way to take care of her next customer.
A bit of history: My friend, whom I called "Patti" was ageless. (Patti, by the way, is pronounced like "party" and means grandmother in Tamil.) Now, even if I wanted to know her age, she would not tell me, not because she was bashful, but simply because she did not know it herself. This is very common among older people living in rural India with little or no formal education.
Patti woke up at the crack of dawn, did her ablutions, boarded the local town bus carrying her large basin heavy-laden with bananas, and left for her long work day to the nearby city from her humble home shared with her son and his family. She did this every single day, rain or shine.
She was indeed an inspiring figure, for I was amazed at her soft strength. For the next three weeks or so, I had the blessing of seeing Patti and speaking to her almost daily. Not once did I hear her complain or waver in her stamina.
As you can see from the picture, Patti is a delicate figure, but she carried a hefty load on her head and walked several hours a day until her bananas were all gone! Then she started all over again the next day.
This seems to be the hallmark of the Tamil people, who are resilient yet relaxed, laid back but hard-working, and mostly friendly. The ancientness that they emanate is tangible in their penetrating and gentle eyes.
Patti is not only Tamil but from a lower rung on the Indian caste ladder. Sadly, despite all its progress and spiritual greatness, the caste system persists in present-day India.
Russill writes in one of the chapters of our Pilgrim's Orientation and Preparation Handbook, "The caste system, which continues to prevail today, has been significantly challenged to change and evolve in the last five decades. Tamilnadu – the land of the Tamil people –seems to be the region where many of these ostracized people made their settlements thousands of years ago. Perhaps they were always here, an ancient aboriginal people who speak a language (Tamil) that is Dravidian in its roots. It appears that in Tamilnadu, the indigenous people of India preserved their links to the ancient Indus Valley civilization, keeping their devotion to the mother goddess alive and honoring her in their rituals and ceremonies."
When Patti calls out "amma," she calls out to the divine mother. In Tamilnadu, all females, regardless of age, are often addressed as divine mothers. Isn't that special? It is one of the many reasons we love going to India each year. Another reason we love India is its ancientness.
We encounter this throughout our pilgrimage no matter where we are, be it a venerable old priest at the magnificent stone temple sanctuaries or a day laborer toiling under the tropical Indian sun.
In our photo essay, we quote Mark Twain, who called India "the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, grandmother of legend, and great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the moldering antiquities of the rest of the nations."
In this blog, I want to honor two things. First, my friend, Patti, represents a combination of resilience, grace, wisdom, strength, and humor. No matter her meager life, Patti seemed to radiate peace. A sense of purpose that only an inner conviction can instill in us.
Second, I want to honor India, this ancient land that continues to inspire and feed our soul, the land that gave birth to us, and one that birthed spiritual consciousness and methods of meditation that continue to influence our world.
As we prepare for our 24th pilgrimage in Jan 2023, I am eagerly looking forward to returning to Tamilnadu, our beloved land of temples, with a group of fantastic individuals from around the world who are registered and preparing for this life-changing journey.
Instead of visiting India just to explore temples and tinsel towns, we have designed our pilgrimage to create a sense of deep community and belonging. And there are also constant encounters with local people, like Patti, who is at the bottom of the caste system. These folks touch our hearts unimaginably, and we also touch theirs.
Touch is so important, primarily because, in India, people placed entirely outside the caste system were called "untouchables." Later, Mahatma Gandhi dignified them with the term "Harijan," meaning "people of God." Generally speaking, touch between castes does not occur.
So, when we are on pilgrimage, one of our experiences is to offer our touch to people deprived of healthy physical contact. For this reason, we spend quality time at an old-age home bringing love through reverential touch to people like Patti. It is one of the most exhilarating experiences of our journey. Russill and I would love for you to join us in January 2023.
If there is someone in your life who has been an unexcepted source of inspiration for you (like Patti), please share a line or two about them in the comment section below so we can honor them as well :)
Birth, Weeping & Cleanse...
What a year it has started to be, huh?
As we began to contemplate the possibility of biding good riddance to the pandemic this year, we are thrust into facing an existential crisis for Ukraine/Ukrainians and maybe for other parts of Europe.
Though I was blessed to grow up in a free and democratic India, I remember chanting our freedom fighters' names from the age I could speak. Russill and I continue to stand united in supporting Ukraine and her people. Message us if you are interested in learning about the organizations we have supported in their efforts to ease this humanitarian crisis.
About a week ago here in the US, the infamous Chris Rock slap has dominated newsfeeds and made headlines across the globe. This incident affected me deeply, as it seemed to have triggered my childhood trauma. It took me a couple of days to get clarity on my trigger, and once it came to the forefront of my consciousness, I could stop being weepy and sad. Thanks to my frontal lobe and spiritual practice, I could move forward rather than being sucked into a vicious cycle of sadness, anger, and self-pity.
A note about self-pity at the outset, although it might seem harmless, research cautions us that self-pity typically arises when we attribute our sense of failure (disempowerment) to external factors that we believe are uncontrollable.
Now here is some good news:
*On March 29th, the United States, as per the CDC's (center for disease control) guidelines, has relaxed the COVID travel rating for India from Level 3 to Level 1.
Yay! We can now get ready for the Jan 2023 India pilgrimage with our group and have opened registration.
*My hubby & I gratefully celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary: the Universe gifted us with a perfect day of sunshine and fun.
*Our family back in India welcomed a brand new baby girl a few weeks ago, and I am a grand-aunt:)
Spring is here! It is the season when plants awaken and put out their new leaves as they begin to warm our hearts with colorful flowers.
It is also the time for Spring clean: a tradition that dates back to ancient times across the globe, particularly in the Middle East, North America, and Northern Europe.
When we think of Spring cleaning, what comes to our minds is the practice of meticulously cleaning our homes, closet space, nooks and corners, etc.
What about our body and mind? When do we do that? Daily, of course, but earmarking a time of the year to focus on cleanse that is not just limited to the physical but includes our mental and spiritual aspects is crucial to incorporate into our lives at least once a year. And Spring is the perfect time to do so :)
When people think of a detox or a cleanse, the thought that usually jumps-out is, "oh, I will need to give up my favorite comfort foods, boohoo :(."
If you have worked with me, you know that I am a big proponent of "Diets Don't Work!"
Likewise, when it comes to a cleanse or detoxification, my training as a health coach has helped me think outside the box where we focus not on giving up but on adding and enhancing!
Though our brain is extraordinary, and our frontal lobes are the crowning glory of the human species, we are hard-wired to focus on the negative more than the positive: this is known as negativity bias. And it happens to the best of us.
In other words, every human being, regardless of how evolved they may consider themselves to be, has to deal with it. We face a double whammy when it comes to health, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.
Allow me to explain.
Negativity bias is a significant problem, especially when dealing with our health because we use reasons (often convincing ones) to justify our habits rather than proactively changing them.
Believe me, I go kicking and screaming when I encounter change as well.
With this in mind, Russill & I have created a 21-Day Cleanse Made Simple. This fun, doable class is designed to create a sense of deep community, and it is not going to be an exhaustive to-do list, but each day, you will be guided by accessible and attainable things to act upon.
Finally, whether you are a vegan or a person who enjoys eating animal products, this cleanse can be helpful for you. Our aim is not to convert you to one way of eating or the other. Instead, to guide you to a place of centeredness and peace from the comfort of your home. Moreover, the uniqueness of this cleanse is the focus on the holistic approach to health because viewing health solely on the physical or emotional, or spiritual level is not healthy.
Russill and I would love for you to join us both on this cleanse.
Please scroll down below for more information and enrollment.
Creating A Healthy Valentine's Day
A week ago, I was invited to a radio interview focused on Valentine's Day.
I welcomed the change of topic, went into a headspace, started researching the history behind this day, built my upcoming (Feb 12th) online cooking class around it, and am now blogging about it!
Let me start with a brief history: St. Valentine was a real person martyred in the 3rd century and recognized by the Catholic Church as the patron saint (1) of lovers, people with epilepsy, and beekeepers. Several stories associate him with romantic legends, but scholarly accounts say that there is little truth in that.
All the same, the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in his poem "Parliament of Fowls" (the title sounds anything but romantic), associated Saint Valentine with romantic love (2), and since then, he (Valentine) has been stuck with it!
Whether you love this day or hate it, here is my take on it.
Despite the insane commercialization, being a sucker for romance, I have a soft spot for it! Having said that, my sweetheart and I have been married now for 33 years, and not once have we exchanged Valentine's day cards nor bought gifts for each other on this day.
So how then do we celebrate?
*If our work permits, we try to take off the day and hang out with each other
*We cook each other's favorite dish
*Cuddle up as much as we can throughout the day.
*We make it a point to recall the very first time we met & how we fell in love with each other.
In my case, the overwhelming feeling of love was accompanied by guilt as well, as my sweetheart was a bald monk when I first laid eyes on him. And he was my first love.
Well, I will admit I have had my share of school-girl crushes, but the feeling of romantic love that took over me was new, thrilling, and intoxicating.
You might say that I was head over heels in love. Ooh, I didn't mean to reveal so much, but you know now :)
Now the question is must you celebrate Valentine's Day? Of course, I would encourage you to do so, in your way, nevertheless make it special.
Who does not want to love and be loved? It is a tremendous force in the Universe and crucial for our well-being.
And what if you are single? I believe that this day can be your day to celebrate as well. It is the perfect day to indulge in self-love and self-care!
This year Valentine's Day happens to be on a Monday, and most of us may be working, so it is the best excuse to start preparing for your romantic dinner on Sunday itself.
Then, even if you have to work on Monday, you can enjoy hanging out in the evening with a romantic meal from the comfort of your home.
Of course, it does not have to be complicated at all.
This coming Sunday, the day before Valentine's Day, I plan to do precisely that. I am excited because I will be cooking not only with my sweetheart but with several of my online cooking class students who are all across the country, and some living outside the US.
Here are a few tips to make your Valentine's day extra special at home:
* Bring out you're fine china,
* Light candles, play your special song
*Make sure you dress up by wearing your best outfit that makes you feel gorgeous / handsome
*Create a beautiful table setting with linen table cloth / napkins
* Sprinkle fragrant-smelling flowers like fresh rose petals
* And if weather permits, have it outdoors on your patio or balcony.
Check out the radio interview below for recipe suggestions.
I believe you will agree that the idea is to create an atmosphere that feels sensual and pleasurable. Make it memorable!
I would love to hear some of your suggestions to make this day significant. So now, don't be shy, and please leave your suggestions and comments below...
A sweet Korean lady introduced me to Kimchi 30 years ago! Like me, she was new to N. America, and both of us were not only fresh off the boat but dearly missed the food that we grew up eating.
Although Kimchi is not an Indian dish, the flavors resembled the foods my mom would cook.
I am unsure if my Korean friend made the Kimchi herself or if it was store-bought. Regardless it was very generous of her to share it with me, as we were both living in a Zen center and trying to make our way in the US.
I was so starved for spicy food, which is why, the moment she offered me some Kimchi, I wolfed it down without a second thought of wanting to share with my beloved. But, you see, like me, Russill was missing spicy food as well, and both of us made it an unconscious habit from the time we were married to share almost everything. Most often, it included even sharing a piece of gum.
Anyways to make it up to him, I pled with my new friend for a few more spoonfuls of her mouthwatering Kimchi, and she was once again generous to share it with us.
Since then, both Russill and I, whenever we could, started indulging in this gut-healthy goodness (see benefits below). But until six years ago, it never occurred to me to make it at home. I guess I was terrified of the fermentation process.
Surprisingly, I found it relaxing to make it and equally enjoyed checking on the fermentation action! However, I confess if you plan on making a large quantity, it can be a chore, mainly preparing the veggies. So be sure to get your family or friends involved and make it into a fun affair.
If you love spicy food, Kimchi is a must-have in your fridge. What's more, it will last you for a long no, let me rephrase it a very long time! For instance, I made my batch of Kimchi last September, and I still have half a jar left.
Tips for storing it:
a) As noted in my vlog, store it in airtight glass jars, and after the fermentation process is complete, refrigerate the glass container.
b) Ensure to use clean and dry spoons to dish it out and replace the jar in the fridge.
c) I keep mine in the lowest shelf way in the back of the fridge.
A word of caution: Homemade Kimchi needs extra caution, for it need not come outright. You can know this by the odor and the color of the veggies. If it is foul-smelling or it does not appear suitable, please discard it! Also, remember that it is a live culture, and take extra precautions during the fermentation and storage processes.
And here is the list of ingredients:
* 1 large green cabbage
* 3 large carrots
* 1 pound daikon radish
* 1 large yellow onion
* 8 cloves of garlic
* 2 green apples
* Red Chili flakes
* 1 TBS ginger
* Celtic Salt
Are you now ready for some of the health benefits of this humble yet excellent probiotic food?
1. Plant-based Probiotic: As Kimchi is a fermented food, it is brimming with numerous beneficial bacteria, but the predominant one is lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Hence it is considered a plant-based probiotic with similar benefits to dairy products such as yogurt (1). Therefore, it can be a good option for vegans as well.
2. Could Improve Gut health: in the above paragraph, we learned that Kimchi is probiotic-rich food. If you are not too familiar with what are probiotics and how they are beneficial to us, here below is a quick summary:
Probiotics are microbes that combine beneficial bacteria and fungi that live in your body. They are good bacteria. And yes, we have both kinds in our bodies.
Recent studies claim the number of bacteria may be very similar to the number of cells in the body (2).
Still, other studies claim that we house lot more bacteria than human cells. How about that?
For a microbe to be qualified as a probiotic (3), it needs to:
An excellent way to increase the good bacteria in your gut is by consuming probiotic-rich foods and beverages.
However, here is a News flash: every single human being's microbiome is unique. Therefore, what works for one need not work for another.
3. Powerful antioxidants: Although there are various ways of making Kimchi, traditionally, it is made with cabbage, garlic, ginger, radish, carrots, and scallions. These veggies are a nutritional powerhouse and potent source of antioxidants.
Antioxidants help with cell repair, reduce the aging process, assist heart health, and even protect against certain cancers. However, scientific studies point out that it is better to obtain antioxidants from a well-rounded diet than supplements (4).
4. May support Immune health: Quite a few of you reading this blog may be aware of the connection between gut bacteria and digestion. But, are you also familiar with the relationship between your body's immune system and the microbes that exist in your intestines?
About 70% of the immune system resides in your gut (5).
Earlier, we explored how Kimchi could help your gut health. So we can say a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system.
FYI, I work with students who have suffered for decades from issues such as constipation or irritable bowel syndrome. And it is an absolute joy to be able to reverse it in a matter of few sessions.
Moreover, almost all of them say that the relief is not just in their bodies, but their mental clarity improves. This additional benefit is not surprising at all. Why? Because numerous institutes, including Harvard and John Hopkins, have and continue to research the gut- brain-mental health connection. And the verdict is that microbes affect the way we think and feel.
5. Economic and easy to make: Like most homemade food, Kimchi is economical and easy to prepare in your kitchen. And a sixty-four-ounce jar of Kimchi could last several months for a family of two or more.
Giving you a heads up that I have a delicious salad recipe in my upcoming book with homemade Kimchi.
I trust you have enjoyed reading this blog :)
Feel free to share your comments below, and do reach out to me if you need help to manage your waist with taste or take your health to the next level.
Delicious Summer Probiotic Drink
"Please, sir, can I have some more?" Remember that famous Dickensian line? Well, "mor" is the traditional Tamil name of this delicious summer probiotic that you can learn to make in this vlog. And your kids, including the grown-up ones, will be begging you for more:)
Fourth of July message below the video...
In the spirit of the Fourth of July and the celebration of summer, we offer you a healthy beverage that can soften the effects of heat. But, we also acknowledge the sadness of so many people worldwide, including here in America. People are facing extenuating circumstances, such as the fires and heatwaves on our west coast. And there are the grave discoveries of the genocide of indigenous people in Canada.
As we celebrate the Fourth of July weekend in N. America, the celebration of independence, we consider what is fundamental to the human spirit. Regardless of our nationality, we all want freedom and the ability to make choices, even if we make wrong choices and learn from our mistakes.
Cooking, too, is about freedom. We might learn from someone how to make a recipe, and the very first time we try it, we follow the instructions to a T. Once we've learned the recipe, we exercise our freedom. For example, we might choose to use a bit more salt or less chili to suit our taste.
In this way, cooking models life. We learn from others and then find a way to integrate that teaching into our lives. And each time we recreate the recipe, it is a bit different. This freedom, including the freedom to mess up, keeps us in the present moment and gives us that distinctive sense of being alive.
My husband, Russill, and I have made N. America our home. As American citizens, we celebrate the fourth of July, loving the fireworks, music, and the sense of community we share with our fellow Americans. We love that special feeling of being out in the open and knowing that democracy protects our rights and dignity.
No matter who we are, we all want to live freely, make choices, and get better at exercising our options.
Sometimes, we pay the price for the choices of others. For example, it is hard to know whose responsibility it is for the excessive heat and wildfires happening in California. And there is the tragic collapse of the building in Miami. In comparison, other similar events are happening around the world. Humans and other beautiful species are being affected, sometimes annihilated.
And so, while celebrating freedom and all the good vibes of this memorable fourth, combined with the sadness of so many difficult circumstances of people worldwide, including here in America, we share this recipe with you.
Enjoy it and share it with others.
Love - Asha
PS. This beverage recipe is from my upcoming 2nd book, which explores brain-body health, food politics, recipes and more...
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Holiday Recipe And Prayer
This usually festive time of the year is dulled by covid. We just returned from a drive to downtown Austin and were struck by how different the vibe is despite the lights and decorations.
While we cannot make light of what is for so many their worst Christmas season ever, we also feel it is crucial to find some simple way to lift the spirit. We hope what we share in this video is taken in that context.
Recipe Ingredients: Cocoa or Cacao powder, sweetener, milk, and heavy whipping cream. Watch the video for an additional mystery ingredient.
Our prayer this holiday season:
In the name of all that is good, we pray for the health of all the people on our planet. May we achieve worldwide herd immunity to covid, and normal activities resume for us all soon.
In the name of all that is wise, we also pray for our planet's health, that we may be more attuned to her requirements for a sustainable ecosystem.
Last but not least, and in the name of all that is holy, we pray for health, protection, and continuance of all remaining species on our precious earth.
Finally, in the name of all that is joyful, (watch the video…)
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE
And Happy "Holydays" To All
Channukah, Kwanza, et al.
Russill & Asha
Mint Chutney Egg Sandwich
It's that time of the year, here in the US, to think about family. We like you to feel that that you are part of our extended spiritual family.
I am passing on a recipe to you originally inspired by Russill's mom that I've developed with my own unique flavor. Here are the ingredients. Watch the video below to create.
If you don't do eggs, you can substitute with an alternative, or enjoy it just as a mint sandwich.
Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving, or if you reside outside the US, a day of gratitude perhaps.
Love -- Asha
Please share your comments below...
Noted author and teacher Wayne Teasdale passed on that further shore on Oct 20, 2004. It was devastating for us. He was our best friend, and he was instrumental in our coming to America.
Part Irish and part Italian, his wit and wisdom came through almost every moment. He never missed a beat when it came to making a joke. "And there's truth in humor," he would add, with a twinkle in his eye.
Image 1: Not long after we arrived in the US (top picture), we lived with Wayne at Hundred Acres Monastery in New Hampshire. We were strict vegetarians at the time, and since Wayne had taken the vow of Sannyasa from Bede Griffiths, he said he would observe the same diet as we did. But Wayne loved chicken. And Jennifer, the monastery cook, made the best. Wayne said it was sufficient for him to smell it.
One day, Russill needed to use the restroom during the meal. The door was slightly ajar, and when pushed, revealed Wayne wolfing down a large leg of chicken. Russill called out to the rest of the community to come to check out the scene. There was gravy dripping all over the floor, and Wayne had sauce on his face.
But we thought you were vegetarian, Wayne, Russill teased him. Yeah, but only part-time", he quipped.
Image 2: We taught alongside Wayne all across the US, Canada, and internationally until he became ill with cancer in 2002. We moved to Austin to care for him but sadly, he died before he could relocate.
During every single one of our retreats, we created skits that we enacted together. Here, Asha is an air hostess for Air India with a crazy Indian accent. Wayne was cabin steward with an equally hilarious Indian accent and a bobbing head. Russill played an orthodox Brahmin who unknowingly ends up with a non-vegetarian meal and gets his mantras mixed up.
Image 3: Bede Griffiths came to live with us in Vermont after our Hundred Acres Monastery stint. Many famous people came to visit, including contemplative outreach founder Fr. Thomas Keating and folk legend Arlo Guthrie. We were all on a strict diet due to Bede's health condition. It was the time Asha was inspired to begin her lifelong passion for nutrition and holistic health. We sneaked out with Wayne sneaked for ice cream and fries.
We love him so much! And we still miss him terribly!
If you are interested in his books, consider reading The Mystic Heart or A Monk In The World. They are both inspiring reads. Click an image below...
How Ageism Affects You
"You can either be bitter or better about growing old" and I say this at the expense of sounding corny.
How, then, does one get better at growing old in a culture prone to ageism? That's what this blog is about.
If you type the word "ageism" in google's search engine, it pulls up over three and a half million results. Ageism, like racism, sexism, casteism, and most other ism's, is a crippling and ugly, worldwide reality.
Are you over forty and feel discriminated against due to your age? Do you find it more prevalent in your workplace? Or is it closer to home, with friends, children, or grandchildren? Or is it particularly pronounced when you are in public places, especially in a grocery store?
According to demographic research, until the 19th century, no country in the world had a life expectancy longer than 40 years.
Although our average life expectancy has more than doubled, it might be posited that our lives are emotionally shortened by age discrimination.
A question for you: Are you an ageist?
When you try and answer the question, keep in mind that your immediate mental response might not reveal the whole truth. So I suggest that you take the time to sit with this question.
And we do want the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us, God, right? Sorry, I think a little levity might come in handy, as we delve into this sensitive topic.
Before objecting that you are not susceptible to being ageist, let me confess that, until two years ago, I was not conscious that I was one. I will expand on this with a delightful story later on in this blog. And just so you know, I am presently 52 years of age.
In our pop-culture society, once people become aware that they are in their elder years, they can begin to feel victimized. Self-pity and resentment start to develop in our minds, and this creates an insidious dis-ease, so to speak, within us. Unconsciously we begin to expect preferential treatments, which can lead to what might be called "entitlement traps."
Most of us, let us say about 80% to 90%, can do something about feeling victimized. For starters, all you may be able to do is to realize that you can do something to change your feelings around feeling like a victim. And believe me, that is an excellent place to start.
The next step is to be willing to examine your thinking and feeling, and this requires honesty on our part. Most of us would balk at the idea because it is convenient and less painful to point away from ourselves.
"The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude."- Oprah Winfrey
Just to be clear, the topic we are discussing is ageism. I do not want the above statement to be equated with the other nasty ism's, such as casteism sexism or racism.
Age, we sometimes hear, is how old we think we are. I would like to build upon this by asking you to examine how you think. FYI, I do this, too.
Examining our thoughts and feelings requires:
a) monitoring our self- talk, and
b) understanding the difference between mindless chatter and clear thinking.
When you start to pay attention to how you think, you become aware of what you think and how that affects you. This will reveal the negativity in your thinking.
Negativity predominantly enters into our lives in two ways:
1. Peoples' remarks, opinions, projections, and fears often come to our consciousness from well-meaning parents, teachers, siblings, friends, peers, etc.
2. Unmonitored negative self-talk and chatter that perpetuates paralyzing self-doubt.
The latter is far more dangerous than the former. Why? Because you and I cannot control what others say or do, including our loved ones. However, you and I can control our own thinking.
Controlling our thinking is not easy. Nevertheless, it is an art that needs to be mastered if we want to be genuinely happy. Controlling our thinking is also necessary to fulfill our soul's calling.
Regardless of how successful, influential, and happy a person may appear to be, all humans are affected by self-doubt, if not daily, at least from time to time.
Self-doubt is a human condition and a human affliction.
The best of the best among us see this condition for what it is, and they do NOT let their self-doubts stop them from living out their true potential. Nor do they make their fears drown out their dreams and aspirations from being achieved.
"Everything you want in life is on the other side of fear." - Jack Canfield
Growing old is part and parcel of life. It is a fact that our body ages! Changes such as wrinkles, age spots, and blemishes happen whether we cover it up with makeup or a facelift.
Wouldn't you like to feel comfortable in your own skin? To do that, owning and loving the aging process is essential for growing into a happy and satisfied soul!
Isn't that what we truly want, to age like fine wine?
In our celebrity culture and social media mania, most of us can quickly sink into feelings of envy, comparison, inadequacy, and become emotionally trapped in such beliefs.
Don't let someone's else reality be yours!
And never let someone else's achievement, including what you have achieved, limit your life.
Life is limitless! For life stems from the Source of all creation, which, although unfathomable, is teeming with abundance and intelligence.
"Our Conscious Intelligence Is As Much Of Life As We Understand." - Ernest Holmes
The things we take for granted today, such as our smartphones, a small device the size of our palm that has transformed our day to day lives, was unthinkable just fifty years ago.
A hundred and fifty years ago, such a device and today's technological advancements would have been assigned to the realm of magic or supernatural and would have been dismissed by most of us as unrealistic.
What is being realistic, anyways?
Being realistic, in our post-modern world, often borderlines on pessimism. Being realistic, however, is neither about being a pessimist nor an optimist. A realist can see things and situations for what they are. He or she knows that the future can swing either way, depending on one's choice, behavior, and action.
When we are told to be "realistic," it often comes from well-meaning people who are afraid or shy away from living their true potential. Even worse, it can come from mean people who do not want you to spread your wings and soar high!
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt
Just so you know, I am not equating the above reframing of being realistic with not being responsible. This is a whole different subject, and it might require another blog to differentiate the two.
Are you ready now to hear my story about being an ageist?
My young neighbor, I will call her Mia for the sake of privacy, is about 5 years old. The incident that I am about to recall to you happened a couple of years ago.
When Mia first started speaking, a few years ago, Russill and I were amused, but it was hard for us to understand what she was saying. Exceedingly smart, she was also very engaging, making eye contact to share whatever was in her mind and heart. It was just the way the words came out: adorable, but utterly incomprehensible to me.
One day, as I was chatting outside with her mother, Mia tried telling me something that I simply could not understand for the life of me. Interestingly, she realized that I could not understand her. So she went indoors and came back outside sporting a child's sunglasses. She looked at me long and hard through them without a word, and then slowly took them off and hung them on her tee-shirt. It was as if she said to me, "You don't understand me, and that's just fine with me!"
For this was a bit of a zen moment. It dawned on me that I could choose to suspend my prejudices by recognizing that they are like a pair of spectacles that I can hang up when I want to.
Often, when we are older, we don't understand the norms that are trending. We separate ourselves from what we see and hear. This is part of the problem of aging. We forget that we've got our own sunglasses on. It would help to take off our sunglasses, a symbol of our bias, and appreciate what's trending without trying to understand it or press the need to implement it in our own lives.
We may not consider our playful, well-meaning, nevertheless restrictive attitudes and behaviors towards people younger than us, as being ageist. All the same, it is a form of discrimination.
The insight from my story: "ageism cuts both ways!"
I am not implying that the level of age discrimination between the different age groups is the same. But maybe it is time to start changing to look at traditional ways (that no longer serve us) of growing old and connecting with people younger than ourselves.
I am passionate about aging, particularly the biology of aging, which focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular processes underlying these changes and those accompanying the onset of age-related diseases.
Why is this important to you? Because research shows that diseases related to aging will pose immense social and economic problems in the future.
Do keep in mind aging itself is not the issue here. Still, it is a significant risk factor for developing numerous chronic diseases. And the double whammy is that certain diseases may accelerate the aging process, thus reducing functionality and quality of life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "Age is the single most relevant risk factor for developing neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline."
And the good news?
Despite the naysayers, we live in the most promising of times. Research and development in all sectors of life are astounding. This is true of biological and neurological sciences as well, enabling us to dramatically improve the quality of our aging process.
I work with students from their forties all the way to those in their nineties. When my students start the process with me, they view their more evident issues (weight gain, hormonal imbalance, insomnia, etc.) as independent matters.
My job is to help them understand that this is not the case. These separate issues are part of a larger whole and that there are significant other areas they are not looking at.
Together, we start to look at these missing areas and create a blueprint for wholeness that we work towards. Each step of the way, I offer simple yet effective methods to assist their process and achieve their goals realistically. I also provide the tools to enhance their overall well-being and customized recipes for their particular tastes and needs.
If you are interested in coaching with me, I am glad to provide a 45-minutes free consult.
However, if you are looking for quick fixes or band-aid like options that might deceivingly look like solutions, I am not your person.
On the other hand, if you are open to exploring the potential of a whole new level of wellness, and willing to invest in your own well-being, please click the button below and express your interest in working with me and I will follow up with you.
"A stitch in time saves nine." - An old English saying since 1732
FYI, I am dedicated to my students' well-being and work hard to create a safe and nurturing space for them to transform their concerns into achievable actions.
LimeAid To The Rescue
5 Myths About Weight Loss
"The groundwork of all happiness is health”
None of us can deny that we are at a point when the old way of viewing the world and ourselves is rapidly passing.
We may not know what the future holds for each of us. However, a new order and way of being for humanity as a whole are an absolute given, as never have we been compelled to view our world through the lens of life or death on such a massive scale. The number one issue on top of our minds is the health of our family and ourselves.
These are extraordinary times, and there are two ways to look at our current state of affairs:
a) from a fearful and pessimistic place
b) from a hopeful heart
I invite you to explore with me from the latter, that is, from a favorable perspective.
If you are wondering what this blog has got to do with myths about weight loss, read on.
The fact is that obesity has tripled around the world since 1975.
In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of U.S. adults (older than 20 years) are either overweight or obese.
The good news...
Obesity is preventable and reversible! And I dare say that this is possible regardless of your age, gender, and genetic predisposition.
Regrettably, our current worldview, when it comes down to weight loss, is mostly seen through a cosmetic lens.
Popular media, Hollywood, Bollywood, too, further enhance this mode of perception, making it appear that weight loss is an impossible and inconvenient achievement reserved only for a chosen few. And we unsuspecting consumers absorb these sentiments often unconsciously into our psyche with detrimental effects.
The main reason for this erroneous perception is that we are not adequately educated about weight and waist management. And this is regardless of socio-economic demographics or where in the world we reside. We are tragically unaware that waist and weight management is crucial for the following reasons:
1. Preventing and controlling severe health problems such as heart disease, stroke, many cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
2. Longevity! According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, maintaining a healthy body weight along with good lifestyle habits may add more than a decade to your life expectancy.
3. Proper brain health and function. Research in neuroscience warns us that the more belly fat you have, the size and functioning (memory, attention, etc.) of your brain goes down.
"Prevention is better than cure."
Are you ready to start exploring the most common myths about weight loss? Here goes:
MYTH 1: Popular diets promoted on a massive scale by the media are the only or the best way to lose weight.
FACT: Diets to do not work! Why? Like a snowflake, you, I, and each of the seven-plus billion people on our planet are unique. Our individual biological makeup, also known as bio-individuality defies the one size fits all notion. In fact, diets can do more harm than good.
For weight loss to be sustainable, the approach needs to be holistic in a way that the body's innate intelligence respected!
Let me clarify what I mean by respecting our body's intelligence.
For 27 years, I was fanatical about my dietary preference. Before I turned 40, I was diagnosed with two serious diseases, and I refused to change my way of eating. My severe symptoms (brain fog, blackouts, muscle weakness, fatigue, etc.) lasted for seven long years.
Ironically, I believed that I was on a healthy diet while letting my beliefs override my body's intelligence, calling my attention to change via my symptoms.
This is a classic case of being sincere in our beliefs but wrong in our approach. Our ideology creates blind-spots that we are either unable to see, or refuse to see!
I would be lying if I told you that changing my deeply ingrained notions was a piece of cake. But once I started the process, my health improved dramatically. The difference was night and day.
MYTH 2: Weight loss amounts to a simple equation of calories in versus calories out. Meaning that it is all about restricting calories.
FACT: One of the most common ways of losing weight is by restricting the number of calories you consume. But this affects your overall health and can lead to severe and harmful conditions, such as reduced immunity, weaker bones, nutrient deficiencies, and fatigue.
Weight loss is not a destination, but a journey that needs to be sustainable for years to come.
Otherwise, you end up yo-yo dieting. If you are not familiar with this term, in the medical community, it is called weight cycling, which is a pattern of losing weight and gaining it back.
Research at Columbia University says that yo-yo dieting impacts heart health negatively in women who have had a history of weight cycling. To clarify, it has a similar effect on men, too, although women seem to be more subject to yo-yo dieting.
"As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself."
MYTH 3: Hormonal disorders makes weight management next to impossible.
FACT: Hormonal imbalance makes it difficult to manage your weight but not impossible. I know this because I am living proof, as are many others. If you want to know more about my story, click here.
Hormonal diseases are a significant concern in our world today. Hundreds of millions of people are affected, many of whom are unaware that their hormones are out of order due to being underdiagnosed. This puts people at serious risks, including heart disease. An estimated 60 million in the U.S. alone are underdiagnosed.
Here are some related facts:
MYTH 4: Drinking more water helps to lose weight faster.
FACT: There is next to little scientific evidence that drinking a ton of water aids weight loss. It is considered a self-perpetuating myth, and almost everyone buys into it.
Keep in mind that your body is designed to regulate water balance to perfection. A slight decrease in water content would secrete a hormone (vasopressin), which signals intense thirst. This would dramatically reduce the amount of water that would be excreted from your body in the form of urine.
While drinking water in and of itself is a good thing, paradoxically, drinking too much water is not, as this can lead to dehydration.
MYTH 5: Diet supplements are a safe option.
FACT: According to the Poison Control Center, most weight loss supplements are riddled with "ingredients that are contaminated, ineffective, dangerous, or actually illegal"! Mind-blogging, right?
The safe option is not popping pills, including herbal ones. It is with your knife and fork!
On this journey, your kitchen is meant to become your altar that honors your health on a day-to-day basis.
In conclusion, here are four takeaways:
I would like to end with a quote from a philosopher who inspired and influenced noted figures like Leo Tolstoy, Mahamata Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.
"What is called genius is the abundance of life and health."
Wishing you vibrant ,
P.S. If you like to receive inspirational and colorful visual messages from me, please be sure to visit and like my FB page.
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Is sleep overrated?
Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you go to bed without any issues but wake up after a few hours? If so, you are not alone.
Before our current pandemic, the magnitude of insomnia was a growing concern in the US and the world over. Many studies peg it at 10% to 30% of the world's population affected. Some research points at 50% to 60% of the entire human race suffering from sleep issues and disorders. Isn't that something!
But today, even those of us usually blessed with a good night's rest are affected otherwise, mainly due to our increased stress levels. Enjoyable and straightforward errands such as grocery shopping have become stressful today.
Regrettably, there appears to be a disconnect between sleep, stress, and a host of metabolic disorders (some examples are obesity, diabetes, and hormonal imbalance). And there lies the rub that sleep, stress, and metabolic disorders are dealt with independent of each other. Instead, they should be addressed in a relationship with one another, which is what I do in my health coaching program.
Then there is the complicated relationship between sleep and depression, anxiety, obesity, and high blood pressure. The list goes on and on. Again, the solution calls for a holistic understanding and approach.
Sleep is an integral component of my coaching strategy. Now, not everyone who comes to me for health coaching necessarily has sleep issues. I can tell you, though, that sleep is much more involved than just having a certain number of hours, which by the way, is essential.
If you are not sleeping at least seven hours, that's the first thing you need to look at. Why? Because neuroscientists caution us that getting less than seven hours of sleep is the quickest way to hurt our brain. In other words, it affects our brainpower, memory, and cognitive functions like decision making, attention span, coordination, etcetera. Further, neuroscience has established that chronic insomnia triples the risk of death from all causes.
Keep in mind that it is not just the number of hours of sleep but the quality of your sleep that is equally important. So are dreams! Almost all ancient cultures knew the value of sleeping and dreaming as they believed we were given divine guidance and counsel during these quiet periods. Remember the oracle of Delphi?
Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the renowned Huffington Post and one of my heroes, knew first-hand the negative impact of sleep deprivation through a scary personal awakening. As a result, she not only started writing about it but established formal nap rooms in her company. To me, this affirms the relationship between sleep and productivity, which in turn confirms the importance of a comprehensive approach.
Invariably, when I get into the subject of sleep with my coaching students, other factors reveal themselves. For instance, the way we deal with circumstances. This would be the way our minds and our emotions process conditions and experiences in ways that create excess stress in the body. Then there is food and drink. Do we tend to eat or drink certain things due to how we try to feel and release stress? Lack of optimal and restful sleep affects how our brains process information, including our memory. Our habitual mental-emotional reactions create a negative loop that affects every aspect of our life.
Just last week, while driving with Russill (my husband), we were remarking to one another on noticing the increased number of trucks delivering alcohol to stores. Interestingly enough, the next day's news featured an article on the significant jump in alcohol sales during this time of crisis.
Beware of the wolves in sheep's clothing, namely alcohol, mistakenly seen as a sedative or relaxant, and sleeping pills. Both alcohol and sleeping pills can create unhealthy dependency and wreak havoc not only in our bodies but also in our minds. In the long run, these are not viable solutions.
Most importantly, don't be quick to buy into the myth and accept your sleep issues as the inevitable process of aging. This is far from the truth. How do I know? Because I have helped a diverse selection of people tackle and reverse their decades-long sleep issues, such as:
I want to conclude by sharing a simple method hoping that it helps improve your sleep quality at this time. Keep in mind this is just a band-aid, not a way to deal with chronic sleep issues.
This is a method I regularly practice, especially before going to sleep. Take a moment to acknowledge whatever you can be grateful for as you lie in bed and do this despite your negative thoughts and projections. See if you can commit to at least 21 days of being thankful at night just before going to sleep. Remember all habits are set over time, and be patient with yourself :)
If you are interested in exploring my proven coaching method, I invite you to work with me.
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This blog aims to solely inform you about the intricate relationship between sleep, stress, and numerous other health conditions that ail our world today. Please note: It is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical doctor nor replace medication of any kind.
Wishing you restful and peaceful sleep :)
Recently, Russill and I sat down to discuss addressing our fears amid the stresses of dealing with the current pandemic. Many years ago, I practiced a method to address stress in my body when dealing with a debilitating health condition. Once I overcame this condition (you can read about it here), I stopped using the technique. However, I continued sharing it with students I coach.
All through 2018 and well into 2019, my husband Russill went through a tough time as memories of childhood trauma resurfaced for him. For more than 18 months, this expressed itself in PTSD. Need I say more? I shared this method with him, and it helped him on many an occasion. Of course, his trauma therapists were essential to his process, but I offered my skills as well during this time. This technique was one of them.
Sharing a technique by itself can be dry, which is why the video offers some context and background as well. Additionally, given the need to be brief in the context of a blog post, a simplified version of the technique is shared.
So often, we try and approach stress through our thinking. There is value to that. Introduced to the power of the mind when I was barely in my teens, I know the importance of such an approach. However, when stress is activated in the body, we cannot just think it away. Even if we are not stressed presently, many of our friends and loved ones are. You can support them by learning the practice I share through your own calm presence.
I genuinely hope that what is shared in the video offers you something of value in these stressful times.
I look forward to your comments below ...
Love -- Asha
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