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

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

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!

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.

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

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

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!