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  • Summer Dreams

    My maternal grandmother, Grams, died four years ago today.  Her spunky attitude was infective, her humor was a delight, and her warmth was vast. I wrote this haiku at her funeral in Fargo, ND:

    Fall turns to winter,
    Hot tears turn to icicles.
    Empty sky, full heart.

  • Prioritizing Our Personal Values

    “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard

    Deep down we all know what we value in a vague sense, but very few people stop and consider what their core values actually are.  Recognizing what they are can usher success; not being aware of them can cause strife both internally and in relationships.  There are a lot of personal development books that address this awareness and prioritization of values.  Knowing what your values are can help you to arrange and spend your time in a manner that is most stimulating and rewarding for you.  If you’ve never really stopped to consider your values, do so now.  Some examples of what different values might be are as follows:

    • Love
    • Creativity
    • Success
    • Family
    • Spirituality
    • Passion
    • Fun
    • Athleticism
    • Wealth
    • Balance
    • Happiness
    • Growth
    • Faith
    • Achievement
    • Security
    • Health
    • Peacefulness
    • Power
    • Boldness
    • Charity
    • Freedom
    • Honesty
    • Adventure
    • Gregariousness
    • Activeness

    You get the idea.  This list is as diverse as the people that make up the world.  Most of us value all these things to some extent but certain values will float to the top for you.  Try and list your top 10 values.  Doing so will allow you to learn something about yourself.  Then focus on the top 5 values and try to prioritize them.

    If the way that we’re spending our days is not feeding our values, that is when we start to feel out of sorts and frustrated.  For example, if you love adventure and creativity, then working at a job that doesn’t allow you to live either value is going to cause some resentment.  This resentment may cause problems with your boss and/or co-workers and with the quality of your own work .  On the other hand, if you’re feeling frustrated by all the demands of home life, maybe it is because your values of freedom and balance are being tested.

    You should also note the order of these values and determine what your most important value is to help you prioritize and understand your actions.  For example, if you’re having trouble committing to a relationship and two of your top five values are intimacy/love and freedom, you might be able to see where this struggle is stemming from and then can think in an honest way about what is more important to you.  If your top value is family and your second value is success, you can come to understand why you feel so upset at having to explain to your boss that your child is sick today, yet again, and you won’t be able to make it in.  Knowing in your heart that family comes first makes it easier to deliver the news without feeling guilt.

    The other way the value hierarchy can manifest itself is strife between two people.  It’s helpful to know what your family members, partner or friends value so you can see where they’re coming from when you’re at odds.  For example, if one spouse is always craving to have people over for parties or loves going to big matches and events (values = excitement, gregariousness, competition, activeness) and the other spouse’s idea of a good time is taking a bath and reading an interesting book (values = peacefulness, personal growth, balance, tranquility), it’s hard to see eye to eye on whose activity will eventually win out without understanding where the other person is coming from.  If one person continues to “win,” these can stack up and build animosity.  It’s easier to discuss from a place where people can talk about their values.

    As an example, I keep my top five values in a list on my phone.  They weren’t easy to pick and I realize they could change if my life circumstances changed.  I visit them nearly every day.   They are as follows:

    1. Health
    2. Love
    3. Security
    4. Peace
    5. Adventure

    There are days I feel pulled in too many directions.  My friends or family suggest one thing and I want to do another.  Other days, I feel frustration as to what I’m doing at the office instead of at home doing passion projects such as tending to my garden, cooking up a storm, and writing a novel.  I question why I choose to sit under buzzing fluorescent lights 40 hours a week when I have the means to experience exciting adventures and relaxation in the great outdoors.  But then I realize how important security is to me.  I am one of those people that needs a reliable source of income and saving for the future is very important to me.  I strive for self-sufficiency and independence which are associated with my security value.  I can see that this need for security and this need for peace and adventure are something that I have to focus on balancing so that I feed portions of my day with all of them.

    There are days I wake up chiding myself because I over-indulged in wine the night before and feel crappy.  The reason I’m upset with myself is that even though I love adventure (and these hangovers are usually born of a grand exercise in spontaneity, adventure and companionship), I realize that I compromised my values of health and peace.

    There are times I feel guilty about having to leave work early or take some time off.  I am doing that to tend to my health, find peace or adventure, or to exercise my value of love to Chief and to Dove or to visit my family and friends.  If career success and achievement were in my top five values (instead of only my top 10), I might be there at the office with the workaholics who value success, pride, or status above all else, watching my precious Paid Time Off hours going unused.  I generally imagine that they just don’t like their home life as much as I adore mine, but who knows?  Perhaps family is at the top of their values and they are caring for their family the best way they know how.

    There are days these values shift.  Some times you have to put one in front of the other for the short-term.   But it at least becomes a tool for recognizing why I am feeling torn on those days.

    These values tend to be fairly different for genders, generations, personalities and for cultures.  I recognize that and I am at peace with that and am content to be who I am.

  • Nauli for Good Digestion

    There are a number of kriyas associated with yoga that may seem freakish at first but are wonderful ways to care for the body.  The kriyas are various cleansing rituals that serve the purpose of keeping the body healthy, clear, and free of disease.  Some have become archaic since we now have more access to clean foods and drinking water but some still have a place in modern society.  One that I like to do every single morning when I wake up and before I consume anything is called nauli.  It is a way to massage the internal organs in the abdomen area, thereby working the abdominal muscles, the intestines, the reproductive organs and the whole digestive system.  One of the things this accomplishes is that it prevents the digestive system from getting too slow.  It relieves constipation and keeps things moving along.  It promotes a feeling of well being for me like I am cleared out and attentive to a key component of my health, superior digestion.  Expect to notice the digestive system in alert mode an hour or two after this exercise.  It’s a bit hard to explain and I won’t dig myself in to a hole by doing a YouTube video that could result in an infamous claim to fame but you can try your luck Googling around.  The way I do it is as follows:

    • Start standing up with your feet a couple of feet apart as you take a big inhale.
    • Exhale everything out through the mouth quickly and forcefully with the lips pursed as you double over (head higher than hips with hands on knees)
    • Begin 10 “pumps” of the stomach while holding the breath.  These pumps can be explained by pulling the stomach creepily far in and then pumping it back out to fully inflated.  You may feel the stomach sort of jiggle on the out since it is done with a pretty intense energy.
    • Inhale back up after you finish the 10 pumps.
    • Exhale through the mouth again as you bend over with your hands on your knees for the second set of 10 pumps.  Do not inhale or exhale as you do this.
    • Inhale back to standing
    • Exhale down and at the bottom with the hand on the knees, pull your stomach in as absolutely far as it can go.  Really suck it in so that you can feel a pressure on your inner organs and hold for as long as you can, or approximately 10 seconds.  Inhale back up and exhale standing to finish.

     I like to perform this every morning.  I usually do it the very first thing when I get out of bed because it must be done on a totally empty stomach.  If I do it within a couple minutes of waking, I know there is no chance of me having drunk any water.  It energizes me to begin my day on a healthy and pure note.  There are more advanced ways of doing nauli which involve rolling the stomach muscles from side to side so that both the ascending and descending colon are deeply massaged but stick with this simple routine until you get more used to it.

  • Skinny Bitch Breakfast Fruit Smoothie

    The book Skinny Bitch has some good nuggets of information, despite being a little too hardcore in its suggestions for me and seemingly shallow in its premise.  I don’t think all the science is quite right but they did give me some things to think about.

    One aspect I definitely agreed with the authors on was the ridiculousness of the carb avoidance fad, including avoiding fruit.  They conclude that fruit is one of nature’s most perfect foods, supplying all kinds of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.  And, of course, it’s loaded with fiber and antioxidants and everything else we’re supposed to eat.

    The part I really like is they suggest we eat it in the morning before we eat anything else because fruit is very simple and breaks down and passes through the digestive system quickly.  For that reason, it shouldn’t be stuck in there with other things that take more time to process, like fats, starches, and protein.  I absolutely agree with this and have an intuitive understanding because my belly never feels quite right when I consume fruit with a meal.  The simple fruit sugar will stay in the stomach too long if it is being digested with the other things that break down slowly, so it will begin to ferment and cause problems like bloating, gas, and heartburn.

    I’m not much of a fruit lover, so I like the idea of wolfing it all down in a fruit shake first thing when I wake up some mornings, and then continue with whole grains (chia seed pudding or granola) and protein (hard-boiled egg or yogurt) an hour or so later when I arrive at work.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to not like fruit, but I just don’t get excited and jazzed up for it the way I do about vegetables.  The other nice thing about this shake is that fruit provides quick energy to get you going in the morning.

    I have this recipe down to a science now and you’ll notice everything is already prepped so I can prepare it in a bleary-eyed morning condition.  I have been tweaking this shake, but lately I have settled on some variation of the following ingredients:

    • 1 small banana
    • ½ cup frozen organic mixed berries
    • 1/3 cup pre-cut pineapple (frozen works fine)
    • 1/3 cup pre-cut watermelon
    • Any other fresh or frozen fruit you enjoy or that is in season
    • ¼ cup pomegranate cherry juice
    • ¼ cup beet-carrot juice
    • 1 cup coconut water
    • Dash of cinnamon

    Bananas have so much good stuff in them but I’m not a big fan of eating them plain.  I like to freeze bananas as soon as they start to get overly ripe.  Having a frozen banana and/or the frozen mixed berries helps keep the shake cold.  The frozen berries are quite a bit less expensive than the fresh and maintain all their nutritional value.  If something is in-season and available at a good price, I will use the fresh.  Pineapple has an enzyme, bromelain, that aids in digestion.  I really like watermelon because it’s inexpensive and full of the antioxidant lycopene.  Pomegranate cherry juice is high in antioxidants and cherry helps with inflammation.  As far as the beet-carrot juice, any juice you have made or have on hand will do.  Central Market in Houston or Whole Foods make some great fresh juices.  Coconut water is very rich in potassium, provides tons of electrolytes for very few calories, and acts as a natural diuretic and mild laxative to keep the belly slim.  Coconut water is a great way to replenish the body after hot yoga or a hard workout.  It’s basically nature’s Gatorade.  I add in the cinnamon because it helps regulate insulin levels which helps control the sugar in the bloodstream after consuming these natural fruit sugars.

    I like to mix my smoothie in one of those handheld blenders and drink it out of the mixing cup.  It only takes a couple of minutes and then fruit is out of the way!  One trick my mom taught me is to do a round with the handblender with some water and a drop of soap to get it clean after you’re finished.

  • Coconut Water Vampires

    Microfiction by Emily Ness

    Once upon a time, when the dark ages ceased to be so as a result of electricity and democracy and political correctness, all of humankind evolved.  Each of them traded in their armor and swords and lanterns for bicycle helmets and streetlamps that were paid for by a handsome cut taken right out of their corporate salaries.  These funds were hardly missed, as all transactions had become electronic, no gold or silver or trades backing their value.  Even after these cuts, there was enough left over for the drones to stuff their maws with an abundant source of fake food sold in brightly colored crinkly packages.  As these changes took places, a desperate change began to take place in those that relied upon the people as a food source as well – the vampires.  The blood source was tainted and no longer pure.  What’s more, the vampires began to have no cover of darkness due to the nights being constantly lit by crackling electricity.

    It is in this climate that we find two remarkable characters fighting to defend what the latest evolutionary paths seem to have destined for their kind.  So begins the story of the vampires who began to have to depend upon the only reliable source of an isotonic beverage- coconut water.  This coconut water was in abundant supply at natural and organic grocery suburban grocery store chains across the nation.

    Over the years, the strongest survived and the vampires adopted a very peculiar evolutionary mutation.  Due to the extraneous lights that found its way into every dark corner, the vampires that moved amongst the daylight began to thrive.  And they began to prey.  And they began to lurk among these brightly lit residential shops where their life-sustaining material waited, displayed tantalizingly, such easy access.  And the vampires were so thirsty, so very thirsty.  Their thirst had not been quenched for some time.

    “I’m going in,” declared Rainbow Flash, his large hand crossed determinedly across his heart that was leaping with pride under his orange jumpsuit.  He smiled encouragingly at Peacock Fangs.  “It’s not only because I’m thirsty as hell, but it’s for the good of our people.”  He blithely pulled his whip out of its holster and threw it underhand, the tip of its tongue finding the midpoint of the streetlamp between him and the balcony over the soccer practice rush hour below.  He launched and flipped and landed without hesitation on the coconut water truck heading into the loading dock area.

    “Right ON.  Right ON,” yelled Peacock Fangs.  He bit his yellow Lycra gloves and looked skyward, his heart swelling with pride at the success of his vampire clan and his special friendship with Rainbow Flash.  His unit sputtered to life.

    “Peacock Fangs.  We have a potential unattended victim.  Do you read me?”

    Peacock Fangs unharnessed his unit and brought it to his lips.

    “Rainbow Flash. You must redirect the palette or life-sustaining nectar to headquarters by any means necessary.  If you detect any purity in the driver’s blood, detain him, as he may be necessary to completing the mission to deliver the product to the clan.”

    Peacock Fangs felt a surge of arousal as he imagined the gray uniformed driver and his muscles, trembling as a result of being overworked by pumping weights at the gym and surging with nutritional blood, rich with a diet of dairy and meat and whey protein and wheatgrass.

    His reverie was shattered by static on his unit and the threads of his imagination shattered like glass.

    “The coconut water driver interrupted me trying to drive away with his load of nourishment!” cried Rainbow Flash.  “I did the only thing I could do, Peacock Fangs.  I’m so sorry.”

    The coconut water truck driver lay quietly in the street, the back of his thick brown hair sticky with blood, his large arms splayed and two small holes at his jugular.  A Golden Retriever that had escaped its fenced yard was lopping his way toward him with a vacant look.

    “He could have done it the easy way or the hard way, Rainbow Flash.  You did what you needed to do for the people.  Pick me up in the coconut water truck in the designated meeting spot and we’ll take you home where we’ll make you a peppermint bath and float some candles in it. Good job, Rainbow Flash.  Our people will live.”

    He smiled adoringly.

  • Spirited Solstice

    ~a tanka by Emily Ness

    Morning kiss of rain;
    Silk drops caress weary soul.
    Stirring thunder groan,
    White hot love sears like lightning;
    Cloud duvet his downy grasp.

  • Tao Te Ching text, attributed to Lao-tzu

    “When you are content to be simply yourself
    and don’t compare or compete,
    everybody will respect you.

    Fill your bowl to the brim
    and it will spill.
    Keep sharpening your knife
    and it will blunt.
    Chase after money and security
    and your heart will never unclench.
    Care about people’s approval
    and you will be their prisoner.

    Do your work, then step back.
    The only path to serenity.”

    The Tao Te Ching is a short and elegant book.  There are many different translations from the original, which is ascribed to the Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu, from the 6th century B.C.  This book, composed of 81 beautiful verses, is hard to describe.  It feels like it is written from the perspective of a wise and all-knowing soul.  The soul is akin to a grandparent or great-grandparent who has reached the end of their life, figured out the way to live, and is looking back on it all with a mischievous and knowing smile. It is reminiscent of someone who is too content with their own wisdom to attempt to change things that can only be figured out by others living and learning.

    Written like an abstract poem, this text somehow covers the ideas of governance, generosity, love, gratitude, spirituality and acceptance in a voice like a lullaby.  This is one of those books that I keep nearby and like to pull out when I am having a difficult moment.  Pretty much any verse I open to somehow helps me step back and put everything in perspective.  The passage above is one of my favorites to reflect on when I feel like I’m not good enough or like I am being judged.  It is a way to let go of achieving perfection.  The perfection is in the effort and mindfulness, but not in the over achievement at the expense of everything else.

  • Anxiety – The Canary in a Coal Mine

    What if I told you that anxiety can sometimes be good for you?  That’s right.  That horrible, gut-churning feeling and runaway train of a mind can be the proverbial canary in a coal mine.  It can warn you of toxicity entering in to your life before it affects you on a more profound level. I have had a few brushes of anxiety in my lifetime.  It has taken me a few times to recognize it for what it is.

    When the little bird first began to show signs of struggle, I was so out of touch and unaware of my mind-body connection that I didn’t recognize it as anxiety. I had just moved to Houston, my first really big city, and I couldn’t figure out why my heart was beating so quickly at night when I lay down to sleep. I would gulp for air and try to quell it, wondering if I had a heart condition. I went to a few doctors picked out of a phone book with these strange, unkempt offices and dismissive staff which served to amplify the beat of my already stressed heart. They hooked me up to various EKG machines, listened to my heart and asked me questions. After two or three dead-ends, one doctor finally suggested it must be anxiety. I was completely confused and taken aback. I was somewhat offended to think that someone was implying that I couldn’t handle life. And what’s more, I kept telling myself that I had absolutely nothing to feel anxious about. My life was just fine.

    As I adjusted to my new job and surroundings, the anxiety slowly began to fade and then reared its head again as my marriage was failing. Once again, I didn’t recognize it for what it was and visited a few doctors about my unknown condition that was causing shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nausea, TMJ, weight loss, shaking, insomnia, nervousness, and exhaustion. It would get worse when I was anticipating an event that I wasn’t interested in attending or spending time with people that didn’t act in line with my values.

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  • Welcome to Discover Sukha!

    “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” ~Jack Kerouac

    Thank you for stopping by my blog!  The idea for this site was seeded quite some time ago and I finally decided to give it some legs.  I hesitated to launch this site for two reasons: 1) disjointedness of my ideas and 2) privacy.

    I love to write, but topics I find myself spilling out are all over the board.  Some days poems crystallize in my head, and other days I like to live in fantasy lands and dream up stories involving anything from feral cats to teenage dramas, which I suppose have some parallels.  At some points in my life, I’m highly focused on my health and quality of life.  On some days, unfortunately, I encounter major impediments to my well-being.  On those days, I write to determine how I can prevent that from happening again.  I write to thoughtfully berate myself.  More importantly, I write to encourage myself to get back up no matter how many times I fall.

    I vacillated about how personal my entries should be.  Please give me latitude as I stumble around and try to determine where my Goldilocks Zone is.  I want what I share to be “just right.”  So, I guess my life is something of an open book.  But it is a book that sits dusty on a shelf.  Like a 1990 encyclopedia – never investigated too thoroughly.  Some of the information might be correct but it is frozen in time as I add it to this site.  And I’m sure some of it I’ll look back on and laugh at the naivety, like that 1990 encyclopedia referencing the internet.  But my life will not be as open and accessible as a People magazine at a nail salon. Some things must be kept tucked away in that odd cabinet in the living room.

    One thing I’ve learned in my 30-odd years on this planet is that all of us tend to have the same struggles and epiphanies.  We may have them at different points in our lives and to different degrees but, all said and done, we experience the same emotions.   I feel we can all learn and grow from each other in this capacity. I don’t see any reason to keep our lives wrapped up tightly and our experiences held so closely and hidden.  I find that this wisdom that comes from living is often times only gleaned when people die.  It’s a shame because I think they have often withheld insights and stories due to the fear of being judged.  Once they are gone, we discuss their life and simply accept them for who they were.  We lament we weren’t able to assemble their thoughts.  How would they have lived differently?  When would they have tried harder? When would they have released earlier?  Read more

  • Dark Chocolate & Cherry Chia Seed Pudding

     

    Ch-ch-ch-CHIA!

    Chia seeds are a whole new craze this time around. You know the ones. We previously knew them better for their ability to grow fuzzy little grass creatures through terracotta shapes from the chia seed sprout contained within. It is these seeds that are one of the “newest” superfoods. In actuality, chia seeds have been around since pre-Columbian times but have only recently been re-discovered by health foodies. Most health food stores have them and they can be purchased in bulk for a relatively low cost.

    The Aztecs harvested them for their nutritional value. They have omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants. The protein in chia seeds is unique in that it contains all nine essential amino acids. Our body cannot produce these on its own and so they must be consumed. Normally, it is animal protein that provides these complete proteins. Chia seeds, therefore, are a very healthy addition to those of us who do not have a lot of meat in our diet or for those trying to add protein to bulk up or stay full.
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