Category Archives: meditation

Meringue over meditation

Easy hazelnut chocolate cookiesMy commitment to daily meditation in March faded almost immediately after my mid-March update – and my commitment to posting seems to have ended with it ūüėČ I have, however, been making an inordinate number of meringue-based treats! Spring has been all about¬†whipping up egg whites to use in pavlovas or cookies.

These Nutella-inspired confections¬†are based on an Italian recipe for¬†Brutti ma Buoni (ugly but delicious) cookies that has just three ingredients (egg white, sugar, ground hazelnuts). I’ve added a bit of depth with vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar) and amped up the deliciousness by covering them with chocolate.

These really aren’t that ugly (especially when topped with chocolate!), but they sure are easy – and delicious! ūüôā If only committing to daily meditation was as delicious as meringue!

Hazelnut crunch cookies

Ingredients
  • 1 large egg white
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (if you have it available, use 3g vanilla sugar and cut down the regular sugar by 3g)
  • 100g (2/3 cup) ground hazelnuts (ground almonds also work)
  • 80g (1/3 cup + 1/2 tbsp) sugar
  • 80g (1/2 cup) baker’s chocolate (most chocolate chips contain wax and won’t melt well, so stay away from those)
Method
  • Preheat oven to 150¬įC (300¬įF) and line baking sheet with parchment
  • Beat egg white and salt in a bowl with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form
  • Combine sugar and nuts; then gently fold mixture into beaten egg whites
  • Spoon teaspoons of batter on baking sheet, making sure they have a little room to spread
  • Bake until golden brown – about 30 minutes
  • Remove cookies from baking sheets and cool on wire rack
  • Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave
  • Dollop each cookie with a bit of melted chocolate and allow chocolate to set, which takes at least half an hour – you may need to hide the cookies in a cool location¬†to keep from eating them while the chocolate is still soft ūüėČ
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Mid-March measure

Laura sitting cross-legged on a bench, meditating at nightI’ve been successful thus far in my commitment to meditate at least once a day in March. In fact, I’m at 16 consecutive¬†days of meditation because I jumped the gun by starting on February 28 ūüėČ

So far I’ve done my¬†Om Shreem Mahalakshmiyei Namaha¬†meditation mostly at home, but I’ve also sat and silently chanted in an airport, an empty hotel conference room, and my brother’s guest room. I’ve meditated with my dog, Sofie, curled up next to me, while lying down in savasana (corpse pose),¬†and with my legs up the wall. I’ve meditated in yoga gear (stretchy pants and a tank top) and in jeans. I’ve meditated in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. I’ve meditated as part of a yoga practice and as a quick 10 minute stand alone.

I have not¬†sought out a regular meditation routine (like a specific time of day or location), but have been able to fit it into my life without feeling like it’s an imposition.¬†I have embraced the idea that there’s no wrong way to meditate. Simply sitting and being mindful is enough.

And it’s even been warm enough in Calgary to meditate outdoors¬†in March! (Although winter has made its return after a few days of 15¬ļ+ temperatures –¬†it’s currently snowing!) I suspect I’ll be meditating indoors for the rest of March ūüôā

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March is for meditating

Laura sitting in easy pose meditatingLarge-scale change has been a constant for me over the last year and a half (new languages! new cities! new places to travel! new residences!) and, despite being somewhat settled in Calgary,¬†there are still many more changes coming. To help me manage¬†this upheaval, I’m undertaking a personal meditation challenge and committing to daily meditation for the month of March.

I’ve selected a Sanskrit meditation for abundance; partially to encourage my levels of¬†energy and enthusiasm and partially just because I like the way it sounds ūüėČ I’ll be chanting 108 repetitions of¬†Om Shreem Mahalakshmiyei Namaha along with Deva Premal for the next 31 days and hoping that the regularity helps me feel content and calm.

The words are relatively simple (no long complicated Sanskrit phrases!), it takes under 10 minutes, and Deva Premal’s version is well-paced and easy to follow (take a listen on YouTube, if you’d like). I’ll have very few excuses not to stick to meditating for¬†abundance in March!

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Peace peace peace

Peace peace peace on turquoise butterfly backgroundHaving just returned from an amazing week with a group of students in the Prana Yoga College Teacher Training program, I’m feeling very much at peace right now. But it’s hard not to feel peaceful when¬†every day starts with¬†three hours of breathing exercises and yoga postures – the challenge is keeping that serenity¬†afterwards!

Thankfully, I can still hear Shakti closing each daily class¬†with a chant: ‘Ohm. Shanti shanti shanti. Om; peace peace peace.” Shanti means peace in Sanskrit and it’s no mistake that the concept is repeated at the end of each session.

With every yoga practice, Shakti tries to bring a sense of peace to each student. Her style of classical hatha yoga aims to bring stillness in every posture, meditation throughout the sequence, and a deeply calm mind.

That quiet mind seems to be the goal of every style of meditation. Whether you prefer a silent Zen style or an active Kundalini version, the point of meditation is to get your brain to shut up. To find peace within your own thoughts.

Global Meditation for Peace - 8 August 2014

Despite¬†no longer doing¬†a¬†guided¬†yoga practice with Shakti every morning, there are still resources to guide me towards peacefulness. The Chopra Centre’s Global Meditation for Peace¬†hopes to inspire peace through¬†thousands of people meditating at the same time on 8 August 2014.¬†Although 8 August is almost over and I’m too late to join the Chopra Centre’s event… it’s never too late¬†¬†for peaceful meditation!

With the sound of the teacher training group chanting “Peace, peace, peace” echoing in my mind, I wish you all quiet thoughts.

May you find peace within yourself that will help overcome strife. And may that peace spread and help quell conflicts throughout the world.

Shanti shanti shanti.

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Gone to the dogs

On Sunday evening, I went to the Healing Circle Meditation at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre, along with 30 or so other people and one dog! My dog, Sofie, is a skilled meditator and has participated in a number of group meditations at Bound Lotus.

During the meditations, which involve chanting mantras and sometimes use¬†mudras (hand gestures), Sofie curls up in front of me and settles into a meditative state of her own. She helps bring out my meditative best and seems to create an even more calming energy for the group. And she loves getting petted and cooed at by students ūüôā

Sofie regularly joins me when I practice yoga or meditate at home, so she’s very used to the process. Within minutes of rolling out my yoga mat, she’s on it. Sometimes I can convince her to provide assists, like applying a little pressure to my hips in swan/pigeon pose or letting me use her as a prop in child’s pose. And she’s always willing to rest next to me during savasana.

One of the challenges of any meditation or yoga practice is letting go of all the mental clutter and simply experiencing the present moment. Dogs are masters of ‘now.’ Sofie doesn’t understand ‘later,’ or ‘before,’ she’s entirely in the present. Exactly how I want to be when meditating!

The Healing Circle Meditation is a free monthly event at Bound Lotus. If you or someone you love could use a little healing boost and/or you’re interested in experiencing a group Kundalini meditation look for the next date on the¬†Bound Lotus website. Hopefully Sofie and I will be meditating there with you!

Laura and Sofie stretching together

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Change the way you think

If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

Practicing meditation can be a powerful way to change the way you think.

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt posits that there are three ways to change your thinking and permanently alter the way you view the world: Prozac (or other similar medications), cognitive behavioural therapy, and meditation.

Meditation is the cheapest and comes with far fewer side effects that medication!

And I highly recommend taking a look at Haidt’s website and reading his book. It’s a scientific approach to why we think the way we do… and how to make ourselves happier.

If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.

Mary Engelbreit

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Savasana is where the magic happens

Rich Roll, ultra-marathoner and triathlete, recently wrote an article on Why Every Athlete Should Do Yoga¬†for wellness site Mind Body Green. I’m not convinced that yoga is a cure-all or would provide everyone with an athletic edge, but I wholeheartedly agree with Rich’s position on the importance of savasana – the relaxation part at the close of class.

Rich writes that savasana allows us

to clean mental house, center focus and promote serenity by silencing the endless and seemingly unmanageable mental chatter that invades our daily experience and undermines the expression of our ‚Äúbest self‚ÄĚ within.

Savasana gives students the power to settle in to their bodies, quiet their minds, and commit to a few moments of deliberate relaxation. It’s rare that we give our brains permission to fully relax. My usual “relaxation” is watching TV, reading, or surfing online, often while having a glass of wine. While these activities may feel calming and my body can rest, my brain is still engaged and often flitting between thoughts.

Savasana is quite different from relaxing in front of the TV. The mindful relaxation at the end of a yoga practice is focused on allowing the mind to go blank Рthinking of nothing and disengaging with any thoughts. It truly enables the brain and body to relax and students often slip into a deep meditative state.

Join me at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre tonight at 6:30pm for yin yoga and an extra-long savasana with a guided relaxation – known as yoga nidra. Guiding students through yoga nidra helps me¬†tap into my own meditative state – and I’m lucky enough to lead an extra-long savasana during the¬†last Friday night yin class of every month!

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Anti-negativity muffins

Yesterday afternoon I was feeling a bit low and struggling to combat negative thoughts. Needing to raise my spirits before teaching yin yoga at Bound Lotus in the evening, I decided to bake a batch of muffins.

Baking generally distracts me from whatever’s¬†swirling¬†around my brain, but I needed a little something extra to clear those negative thoughts. Cue the Gobinday Mukunday mantra, perfect for overcoming negativity. With¬†SatKirin Kaur Khalsa chanting in the background I stirred my way to more positive thoughts and a dozen muffins.

Listening to meditative music while baking, cooking, or doing dishes is wonderful. I can’t help but start chanting along and it turns into a quasi-meditation as my mind starts to clear.

Combining baking and quasi-meditation was perfect! The muffins are yummy, my negativity cleared, and I had a really lovely time teaching ūüôā

Here’s the recipe for my anti-negativity (aka applesauce pecan) muffins.

Applesauce pecan muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped

Method

  • Preheat oven to 375¬įF and prepare a 12 cup muffin tin
    • Prepare muffin tin by lining with paper wrappers, inserting silicon muffin cups, or greasing with vegetable oil.
  • Stir together dry ingredients.
  • Combine applesauce, almond milk, maple syrup, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
  • Stir wet ingredients and pecans into dry ingredients until just mixed.
  • Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes; muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Cool on wire racks.
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Meditating on authenticity

Today marks day 40 (the last day!) of the second meditation challenge of 2012 at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre. While I didn’t partake in the meditation challenge this time around, I did get to lead the Friday evening sessions.

Leading meditation sessions was a unique opportunity for me as all the Bound Lotus meditation challenges use Kundalini meditations (which tend to be quite active and can be pretty complex) and I’m not a trained Kundalini yoga teacher.

The meditation was focused on the second chakra and involved chanting the mantra “Har hare haree – Wahe guru”¬†for 11 minutes while holding guyan mudra and performing arm gestures. It celebrates the creative spirit and a¬†loose translation of the mantra is ‚ÄúHallelujah for the creativity of the universe!‚ÄĚ Guyan mudra is the hand gesture of wisdom and the arm gestures are meant to gather creative energy into the second chakra (roughly at the level of the tailbone).

I was a little nervous before leading my first meditation a few weeks ago Рluckily a few friends were willing to let me use them as guinea pigs beforehand! After leading a practice meditation session with friends, I knew I could do it for real at Bound Lotus.

The five Friday evening meditations I led went well, but I didn’t feel quite settled for them. While students assured me that I was doing fine and seemed quite comfortable, something felt awkward to me.

Maybe it was wearing the full whites of a Kundalini teacher but not being trained in that tradition; maybe it was not partaking in the whole 40 days of meditation; maybe it was just too far out of my comfort zone. Wherever the disconnect was, I wasn’t confident leading the meditations.

The contrast between how I feel teaching yoga classes (awesome! empowering! satisfied!) and the unease I experienced for each meditation session underscored my unsuitability for leading Kundalini meditations.

I was asked to continue leading the Friday evening sessions for the next meditation challenge, but felt too inauthentic doing the second chakra ones to carry on with the third chakra cycle. I feel like a great version of myself when I teach yoga classes or do a Kundalini practice, but I felt like a fraudulent version of myself while leading the meditation sessions.

I’m happy to have led Kundalini meditations and I’m grateful for the experience (particularly the students’ support!) but I’m also happy to discover how much I value teaching with¬†authenticity and confidence. Mostly, I’m happy to be able to say ‘no’ to situations where I don’t feel like a great version of myself.

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Healing from the heart

I have a couple friends whose mothers are going in for surgery today… and I’m thinking of them.

Loved ones with health problems are one of the many¬†circumstances where we feel powerless to have any kind of impact. We can worry all we want but deep down we “know that worrying is as¬†effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing¬†bubblegum,” to quote¬†Baz Luhrmann in Everybody’s Free.

I’ve started using meditation to channel my energies towards whoever is having health issues¬†and away from my own fretting. I like doing the Kundalini healing meditation, which uses¬†the¬†Ramadasa¬†mantra and an easy mudra (hand or body position).

The mantra is Ra ma da sa; Sa say so hung and all you do is repeat it. There are lots of recordings to chant along with, my favourite is by Snatam Kaur, and I usually chant for 11 or 31 minutes.

To come into the mudra, sit cross-legged (or in easy pose) and bend your elbows into your body; let your forearms fall open over your thighs, with your inner arms facing up. Your palms are flat and facing upwards with your fingers together and thumbs stretched outwards. The mudra is a gesture of receiving.

KundaliniYoga.org has full instructions if you want more details, including an illustration of the position.

I did Ramadasa as a 31 minute meditation with my dad when he was in atrial fibrillation (a-fib), which is persistently elevated heart rate. He had been in a-fib for a few days and medication was not helping his heart convert to its normal rhythm.

I was thrilled that he was open to meditating together, although immeditately after we were done¬†his heart rate was even higher. While I was on my way home from my parents’ place a couple hours later, though, dad called to¬†let me know that his heart had converted back to a normal rhythm and the a-fib had passed.

I’m hesitant to say that the meditation is the reason my dad’s heart reverted to its normal rhythm, but I don’t think it hurt! And at least it made me feel like I was doing something and let dad know that I love him.

So today I’ll send the love and energy from my Ramasada meditation to my friends and their moms… letting them know that I love them¬†‚ô•

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