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06 Aug

The Plush and Pretty PediPocket Blanket!

If you’re like me, you work hard all week long and Friday night comes along and it’s time to kick back and relax! Couch, TV, kitty cat… what else do you need? A cuddly blanket, of course! I’m kind of a blanket connoisseur. I’m always cold (hey, I’m a Vata! – check out whatsyourdosha.com if you don’t know what that means!) My mom crochets and has made me some beautiful blankets. The only problem with blankets knitted or crocheted is that they are heavy. Too heavy to travel with for sure, and too heavy for summer. So I’ve been on the look-out for a light-weight comfy blanket that looks beautiful enough to keep on the couch, and that I could throw in the car when I travel.

I found one! And BONUS is that it is super long for my long legs, and it comes with a nice little pocket for my cold tootsies!  It’s the PediPocket – and it comes in a variety of colors – you can check it out here: PediPocketBlanket.com

The PediPocket has Clara’s pawprint of approval as well 🙂  Look how cute we are!!

I love the pretty paisley pattern – it goes great with my blue sofa! Plus, the PediPocket is machine washable and dryable, just follow the easy care instructions. The fabric is a plush fleece that feels super luxurious. It doesn’t shrink or wrinkle. I can toss it in the back of my car and take it anywhere I go. It can easily double as a picnic blanket! It’s six feet long, so even my 6’4″ son with the size 12 feet can cuddle up with it!

So now I’m spoiled, and will be finding more excuses to kick back and relax mid-week. Just me, and PediPocket, the couch and Clara. If I’m not on that couch Clara’s there without me anyway!

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23 Jul

New Day, New Decade: Setting Goals Around Desires

The year 2011 is now well under way. Not only is this a new year; it’s a new decade! We had our grand finale, wrapping up 2010 with the solstice and coinciding full moon and lunar eclipse, bringing change and a shift in energy. Then Jan. 4 welcomed a new moon, signaling new beginnings.

Many of us choose to set new year’s resolutions, goals that we work towards to better ourselves in one way or another. This is a good exercise, as it helps us to consider what we want for ourselves, and how we can take action to make things happen.

Of course, we can set goals at any time. Many people choose their birthdays to do this because it’s a time of reflection. You might also choose any new moon, or the beginning of any season. These are all natural times to invoke change.

We know the importance of setting goals, and we know how good it feels when we reach those goals. But at the same time, we need to remember that each step is an important part of the process. We need to recognize this and understand that we are moving forward. This will keep us invested in the long run. Breaking down “big” goals into more easily achievable steps is a good way to mark our progress. We are learning and growing every day.

We can learn a lot about ourselves by looking at our goals and our desires. There’s a reason why we want what we want. And we wouldn’t want it if it weren’t attainable. We learn and grow on the way to our goals.

Desire is our greatest motivator because it spurs us into action! Through action comes experience, achievement, accomplishment and many great things. We are busy fulfilling our desires everyday, and sometimes so easily that we aren’t even aware of what we are doing. So when setting your resolution or goal, look at your desires first. These are the steps you can take to get things going:

  1. Recognize that you have this desire. Label it. Define it. Know it.
  2. Evaluate the desire — do you really want it? What is it exactly that you really want? Explain it to yourself. Make sure that it makes sense to you and that you understand why you want this, and what it means to you to achieve this goal.
  3. Create an intention to fulfill the desire, to reach your goal. Make that commitment. Set this as a priority in your life.
  4. Release the desire to the universe — state your intention clearly. It’s a good idea to write it down and then burn the piece of paper, or file it away somewhere with the date on it.
  5. Give up any attachment to what happens. Just let it go, knowing anything can happen; the outcome is usually better than we ever could have anticipated. In spirit, there is no time or space. Be flexible, be open, and observe how things unfold.
  6. Let the universe handle the details — don’t try to control or manipulate how things occur. Rather than making demands, leave room to allow nature to take its course in whatever way, shape or form that might be. There’s always some reason behind everything that happens, so have a little faith that work is being done, even if you don’t see it. Know that creation and growth takes place every moment.
  7. Feel grateful, and express gratitude! Your emotions electrify the process.
  8. Be aware of things that happen that may help you to achieve your goal. There are no accidents, and no coincidences in life. When opportunities arise, be ready to embrace them.
  9. Celebrate every success and let it build your confidence and warm your heart. Continue to express gratitude all along the way.

Happy new day, happy new year, happy new decade!

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28 May

Prescription: Media Fast — Stat !

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As someone who has been called a “media maven,” and who participates in and contributes to practically every form of print and broadcast media out there, this is probably the last thing you expect to hear from me: Turn it all off. Unplug. Seriously. We — and yes, I am speaking for just about anyone who is plugged in at the moment — are desperately in big-time need of a media fast. I wouldn’t say this if I were not experiencing it myself.

How many times do we need to come across the photo of a celebrity’s mugshot? Are we really sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to learn the most popular baby names of 2012? Do we really care that a 40-something newscaster covets a 20-something model’s dyed blonde hair? How many times do we need to hear about getting in shape for swimsuit season? And yet, these are the kinds of topics that permeate the airwaves on any given media outlet, at any given time.

Social media serves an important purpose in highlighting and encouraging the connection between us all. And yet, it is also a place for idleness, a distraction, where the trivial meets the banal. Then, when our social media “friends” post their political viewpoints, respect and courtesy often fly out the window. This forum creates as much tension and controversy as any other.

There are literally hundreds of television networks. And there are thousands of radio stations to choose from, probably even more if we count all the new online stations. There are millions of websites to peruse. We hear the same thing over and over again — in different ways at different times, through different mouths. Tweets are pre-programmed, pitches are automated, and shows are rerun ad infinitum. There is never a moment when we aren’t presented with some sort of tap dance from some form of media. Even as I’m writing this I’m feeling overwhelmed, knowing that I’m just adding more to the mix. We are on information overload! It’s time for a reboot.

Silence. Do you remember what that sounds like? Silence is the antidote to all the noise we are bombarded with every minute of every day. We’ve gotten so used to the cacophony that we don’t even hear it anymore. I know many people can’t even get to sleep without the TV or radio on. When was the last time you drove in a car without the stereo blaring? We need to detox the brain, to get some space in between the billboards so that we can think clearly, and remember what is really important in life.

Imagine what it would be like if we had to read sentences with no spaces between words. Wewoulddefinitelystruggletomakesenseofthings! There are so many media outlets literally fighting for our attention that we don’t know where to look or listen first. No wonder we’re so stressed out.

Instead, let’s start with silence. Let’s end the day with silence. Let’s spend some time in nature listening to the birds, the rain, and the wind as it moves through the trees. This is where all the wisdom of the world lives. Tap into that. When we sit quietly, check in with ourselves, we regain that sense of calm and balance that gets out of what when our attention is placed outside of ourselves for so long.

This is why traveling is so healthy and restorative. When we travel, especially if we travel to a foreign county, we’re away from media. We don’t watch TV or read the paper because it’s in another language. We give ourselves that luxury of time to rest, and to just be. There’s no reason why we can’t have that same experience wherever we are, at any time. It just takes the commitment to a regular practice. We can’t let ourselves get into bad habits.

It would be totally amazing if we could go cold turkey and just have a media-free day once a week. And for those who can do that — go for it! For others, we might want to work in a media-free hour once a day. Set aside some time when you might normally be surfing the net or watching a TV show, or, as is probably most likely, when you would be multitasking with multimedia. Media-free means no media: no books, computers, phones, games, movies, television — none of that! No going to the mall, either. This is time to reflect, to be still, to gain insight, to be calm. Sit outside, take a bath, or go for a hike. There are lots of options. Don’t try to distract yourself, just be with yourself. Novel concept, I know — but I think you’ll find that you are very good company.

The idea behind a media fast is to regain balance. We’ve been so inundated with media for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to just be quiet. We need that reminder that our inner world is alive and well and ready to serve us. Everything we could possibly need or want resides within each one of us. When there’s a power outage, we’re kind of forced to take a media break — unless of course you’ve got backup systems and generators. But a media fast is proactive. It’s purposeful, and meant to help us set our priorities straight.

Shall we start right now? Who’s in?

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on unplugging and recharging, click here.

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14 May

Weekend Getaway to Pechanga Resort Casino!

Just a short drive from the heart of  Los Angeles there’s an amazing resort and spa that gives you the feeling that you are on a luxury vacation! Pechanga Resort Casino is located in Temecula, California and includes a casino and golf course along with its spa, swimming pool and other amenities. Greg and I recently spent the weekend there and had a fabulous time!

We arrived Friday evening, checked in, had a quick bite and then went to their Comedy Club for some drinks and entertainment. Lots of laughs! Then we hit the hay early because we had an early wake-up time to go hot air ballooning!

The van picked us up at 5:30 am and drove us to the Europa winery, where A Grape Escape (HotAirTours.com) whisked us off to the field to meet our balloon. We watched the balloons fill up, and climbed into the basket with the rest of our group – and away we went! Up, up and away! I had no idea what to expect, but honestly, it was totally relaxing. Everyone had a great time. There’s no wind up there because you’re going with the breeze! The scenery was beautiful – lots of vineyards, and we got some amazing pics. The hour flew by quickly – it was a bright blue sky day and we enjoyed every minute of it.

ballooning over Temecula

Hot air balloon ride while staying at Pechanga

Back at Pechanga I checked into the spa for my 10:30 appointment. The spa is all new, and totally GORGEOUS! They served me some orange-passionfruit-ginger infused water while I waited for my massage in a cozy white robe. This is the life, right? I got my choice of aromatherapy for the massage and it was delightful. Then a reflexology massage for my tired tootsies, and then a Sound Wave Massage on an anti-gravity recliner that took me off into a deep meditation. I could have stayed there all day – they have a beautiful whirlpool, sauna, steam room, sun porch, snack and hang-out room – very inviting and so refreshing.

Then it was off to lunch – Greg and I are vegan and the restaurants at Pechanga are super flexible and accommodating so we always had delicious meals. We split a strawberry salad with citrus vinaigrette and a taco bar -perfect food to eat while hanging out by the pool!

After lunch we participated in a cocktail class on the lawn where we learned how to make a margarita (it was Cinco de Mayo after all!) and a Mint Julep (it was also Kentucky Derby weekend!) and a Banana Colada. Good stuff to know! Greg is a big margarita fan, so this was likely his favorite part of the day.

Then we indulged in a little personalized, home-made aromatherapy products from Body Bliss back at the spa.   Oooh – la- la!

We had just about enough time to shower and change for a lovely dinner in one of Pechanga’s 13 restaurants. When the chef heard that we were vegan he came out and said he’d create a special meal for us. We of course took him up on the offer and were not disappointed. We started off with a crunchy salad with quinoa and apples – and then a beautiful pasta primavera dish with kale pesto. Paired this with a delicious rose from one of the local wineries.

For dessert – the dessert bar was set up outside and included a variety of home-made sorbets – the mango was my fave! They also had decadent macarons in every flavor you could imagine, and a variety of ice cream sandwiches.

The next morning, while the rest of our group golfed, Greg and I opted to sleep in, then take in the view of the course during a hearty breakfast. Strawberry and blueberry waffles… yummy!

We got so much fun into such a short amount of time! If you’re looking for a weekend getaway for romance, or with family or friends, Pechanga has a lot to offer. Oh, yes, they have a casino, too! 😀

About Pechanga Resort & Casino
Pechanga Resort & Casino offers one of the largest and most expansive resort/casino experience anywhere in the United States. Voted the Number One casino in America by the readers of USA TODAY and rated a Four Diamond property by AAA since 2002, Pechanga Resort & Casino provides an unparalleled getaway. Offering more than 4,000 of the hottest slots, table games, world-class entertainment, 517 hotel rooms, dining, spa and championship golf at Journey at Pechanga, Pechanga Resort & Casino features a destination that meets and exceeds the needs of its guests and the community. Pechanga Resort & Casino is owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. For more information, call toll free 1-888-PECHANGA or visit www.Pechanga.com. Follow Pechanga Resort & Casino on Facebook and on Twitter @PechangaCasino. Pechanga Resort & Casino is open 24-hours. Guests must be 21 and older to enter the casino.

 

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10 May

Feng Shui Fixes for Fabulous Sleep!

May is Better Sleep Month and The Better Sleep Council is celebrating by helping all of us to be #BetterInBed – when it comes to sleep, of course!

Your bedroom is not only your sanctuary, your retreat from the world, your place of rest – it’s the one room where you spend the most time. Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese science that works with the energy of the earth to make spaces most harmonic and peaceful. This energy, or “chi,” when used positively can help strengthen relationships, support health, promote wealth, and also help you to achieve better sleep. Feng Shui shows us how, with just a few simple adjustments, the energy in the bedroom can work for you, even while you sleep!

Location, Location, Location

Where the bedroom is located within the house can affect how well you sleep. Feng Shui advises to choose a bedroom that is at the back-end of the home, close to the backyard. This area is usually much quieter because front-end rooms are closer to the street, and hence street noise. With a room near backyard you also get more privacy, so you feel safer.

If you have a two-story home, avoid stationing your bedroom over the garage. Having a room on top of the garage is disruptive to sleep for many reasons: noise, smells, warmer temperatures, and even insects. For similar reasons, it’s best to not place your bedroom over the kitchen, particularly over the stove. Much heat comes from the kitchen due to the appliances, and this will affect the temperature of the room above, as heat rises.

You also want to avoid placing your first-floor bedroom below very active areas. You can imagine how sleep would be affected if you’re hearing laughter, a TV, footsteps, or a toilet flushing right over your head. Fortunately, apartment buildings and hotels tend to have thick sound-proof flooring so that this doesn’t apply in those circumstances.

Size Matters

When it comes to both size of the bedroom, and size of the bed, we’re looking for that “Goldilocks” fit: not too big, not too small, but “just right!” We are at our most vulnerable when we are asleep. If the room is too big, it can be difficult for us to fully relax enough to sleep soundly. This feeling of needing to be “on alert” is a survival instinct from way back when. If the room is too small, we can feel cramped, or trapped, like we’re in a prison cell.

A twin sized bed is generally too small for an average-sized adult to feel comfortable in. Most colleges provide “XL Twin” mattresses in their dormitories for this reason. A full-size or queen-size bed is usually a good fit for most adults. If you happen to play in the NFL or NBA, you’re going to want a King size bed for your large frame! Most couples are happy with a Queen mattress. If you prefer a King, look for one that does not have split box springs under the mattress, so as not to create “disharmony” in your relationship, according to Feng Shui.

The Command Center

Feng Shui says that the bed should be placed in a “commanding position” in the bedroom. When you are lying in bed, you should be able to see the door in front of you so that you have a feeling of safety and stability – you can easily see when someone or something enters your space. The wall opposite the door is the best place to position the bed. At the same time, you do not want to be directly in front of the door. The head of the bed should be placed against a wall, and there should be a headboard to “stabilize” the bed’s position in the room. Ideally there should be equal space on either side of the bed so each person can get in and out easily and the room feels balanced. In the command center you want to have access to turning on the light quickly and easily.

Avoid putting the head of the bed under a window. Windows represent the gateway from the bedroom to the outside world. Having your head right under a window affects sleep from all the energy that comes from the outside – including noise, light, wind, scents, and shadows. When you sense something unfamiliar, that survival instinct kicks in and you wake up, and it can be difficult to fall back asleep.

Circulation

It is important that chi, or energy, be allowed to circulate freely throughout the room, and around and under the bed. For this reason, clutter should be kept to a minimum. The bed should be elevated off the floor on a frame or a platform, not placed directly on the floor. Don’t store boxes, books, or shoes under the bed; leave that space open for chi to flow through. Don’t overcrowd the room with furniture, and keep any work-related, or exercise-related items out of the bedroom. This works on a practical level as well – as you probably know the agony of stubbing a toe in the middle of the night. How can you not wake up after that?

A clean and organized bedroom also helps you to feel more relaxed, and that is good preparation for sleep.

For the best sleep, all doors and windows should be kept shut to keep out noises and smells. Closet doors and cupboards should also be closed at night so that chi can circulate in the room and not get “stuck” in small spaces. During the day, open windows to allow fresh air in.

Décor

When it comes to décor, choose colors that are soothing and relaxing. Nature’s colors, blues, greens and browns, are ideal. Think of the sky, a field of trees, a beautiful meadow, this is the feeling you want to evoke. Warm colors signify activity and are energizing, so avoid colors like bright reds, pinks and oranges. If you like those tones, choose more muted versions such as peach, maroon, or lavender.

For wall décor, choose artwork that makes you feel happy. A beautiful floral design is more likely to make you feel relaxed than a painting of a shipwreck, for example. Think about what you see when you first wake up in the morning, and how you want it to make you feel.

It is always best to keep electronics out of the bedroom, but if you insist on having a TV in the room, keep it in a media cabinet behind closed doors. You can also cover it with a pretty blanket or piece of fabric when not in use. This way you don’t have a big black void taking up valuable space in the room.

Mirrors are not generally recommended in the bedroom per Feng Shui. The main rule is that you don’t want to see yourself in the mirror when you’re in bed. This can be startling, and disturb your sleep. So, if you want to have a mirror in the room, place it inside the closet door. Also, mirrors that are round, or oval, are preferred because they can help with the flow of energy in a room, and the shape symbolizes continuity in a relationship.

Keep water features, such as fountains, out of the bedroom. The sound can be disruptive to sleep, and the sound of water might make you feel like you need to get up to use the bathroom!

Lighting should be set on dimmers wherever possible, so you can control the light in the room and have options depending on how much light you need during any time of day.

Comfort is Key

Feng Shui recognizes how important it is that the bedroom be a comfortable place to rest. The room needs to be cool, a nice 68 degrees is good. The room should also have good windows treatments to block out lights from outside. Most importantly, your mattress is the foundation of a good night’s sleep. Invest in the best mattress you can afford. And make sure your mattress continues to support you with time. Mattresses generally need to be replaced every 5-7 years, so keep checking to make sure your mattress is in good shape.

Bedding is also important. Choose soft fabrics that are comfortable against the skin. Pure cotton is best, as it breathes. A standard rule of thumb is that the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets. Blankets should also be soft and cozy. And don’t go crazy with the pillows! Beds with too many decorative pillows can feel cluttered and crowded. You need one great pillow to actually sleep on, one that works for your preferred sleep position. Pillows you sleep on need to be replaced about every 2 years. After that, one or two decorative pillows is sufficient.

A good night’s sleep prepares us for a good day’s activity. When we implement some of these feng shui strategies to circulate chi in the bedroom, it helps us to have good energy, too!

More tips for Better Sleep from the Better Sleep Council. 

 

Feng Shui Living Room Make-Over on YouTube.com/CoffeyTalk

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07 May

Living a Balanced, Beautiful Life With Ayurveda

Imagine you’re outside by a beautiful lake, enjoying the perfection of your surroundings. You feel comfortable, relaxed, as if you are an important part of it all. You are so in tune that it is as if you can hear nature speaking to you.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan is thinking to itself, “How wonderful it is to be a swan. I can take my time. Life is serene. I am graceful and lovely. All is right with the world.”

And then you notice an eagle flying high overhead, and the eagle is thinking, “Ah, what a joy it is to be an eagle. I am strong and free. This is the life!”

A hummingbird flits past, and you can hear the hummingbird is thinking, “I’m having so much fun on this glorious day. There’s so much to see and do. I’m so glad I’m a hummingbird and can move easily to all the things I love.”

Everything in nature has a purpose. We’re all connected. Sitting amongst the trees and looking at the clear blue sky you know that you are an important part of this connection. You breathe deeply and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace.

Now, imagine you’re in that same place, same time. When you hear nature speaking to you, things are a bit different.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan thinks to itself, “Oh, my. Why am I stuck being a swan? I would so much rather be like that little hummingbird. I want to flit around like that! I feel so dumpy just floating here on this silly lake.”

Then the eagle flies overhead, and you read its thoughts, “Wow. Look at that swan down there. He’s got the good life. Why can’t I just hang out on the lake? Instead I’m up here working so hard. This isn’t fair. I’d rather be a swan.”

Then the hummingbird flits by and thinks, “Really? That eagle is so lucky. She’s way up there with a great vantage point. She can go so far without even flapping her wings. I’m down here pumping away a million beats a minute! Man, I want to be an eagle.”

Somehow, this second scenario just doesn’t make sense, does it? Because this is not how nature operates! And yet, this is exactly what we do as human beings all the time. We fight our own nature. We compare ourselves to one another. We think we need to always be thinner, more beautiful, more successful, more something, anything! When the truth is that we are inherently perfect. If we are carrying around excess weight or stress or feeling bad about ourselves, it is because we are out of balance, our lives are out of balance in one way or another. We can find that perfect state of balance and regain our strength and confidence and energy to be the best that we can be.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves, to be our healthiest and happiest body, mind and spirit, is to know who we are. Some of us are swans, some of us are eagles and some of us are hummingbirds. Each being is valid, each being has value and each being brings his or her unique gifts to the world. When we know ourselves, and our own nature, we allow the best of ourselves to shine through. Nature operates through us. So why are we fighting it?

Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old “science of life” from India. It explains the nature of everything in the universe. It teaches us how to live in harmony with nature, knowing the connections that we share. Ayurveda is all about balance, and this is something we are in dire need of today.

There are a lot of things that take us away from our state of balance. We are overstressed and overworked. We overeat and are overweight. We overexert ourselves and overspend so that we end up tired, hungry, in debt and living in a mess. Look at all the extra “stuff” we carry around with us. We need to lighten up! We need to shed the stress, the pounds, the debt and the distractions and focus on what is good for us, what serves us. Food is a huge part of all this. We use food to soothe our emotions and to fill up our tummies when we feel a lack in some part of our lives. We fall into habits, with food and otherwise, that we think are easy, and they become mindless and robotic so that we don’t see any other possibilities or potential for ourselves.

It’s time to get back to nature, to get back to basics, to get back into balance. And what better way than by turning to a practice that has been tried and true for all these centuries? Ayurveda is a “sister science” with yoga and meditation. As we experience the benefits of these practices in our lives we naturally want to learn more — and that’s where Ayurveda is positioned right now.

Twenty years ago or so here in the West, feng shui was a somewhat foreign concept — but now it’s a part of our everyday vernacular. If you haven’t heard of Ayurveda yet — now you have! And if you haven’t lived the Ayurveda lifestyle yet, I encourage you to try it now.

Lots more info in my new book: “The Perfect Balance Diet: 4 Weeks to a Lighter Body, Mind, Spirit & Space” and on my new website: perfectbalancediet.com

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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16 Apr

Life Lessons Learned From Salsa

Summer 2014 will go down in my personal history as the “Summer of Salsa!” I’ve spent the past seven weeks going from 0 to 60 in learning this particular style of Latin dance, and I’ve loved every minute of it!

This all came about because of the Oxnard Salsa Festival, held every year near my hometown. As a part of the festivities, they hold a “Dancing With the Community Stars” Salsa competition. Community “stars” are matched up with seasoned professional dancers and then the pair comes up with a dance routine to perform at the Festival. All of this helps local charities raise money as the charities campaign for their stars through the various events. Of course, when I found out about this, I loved the idea, and was thrilled to take up the challenge! So I’m dancing for my favorite nonprofit organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County.

My partner, Lovie Hernandez, has years of experience and his own studio in Santa Paula. Before meeting him I had never danced a step of Salsa in my life — wouldn’t even know where to start. The two of us hit it off quickly as we were faced with the same goal: get this girl dancing and win the contest!

With Lovie’s background and teaching experience, I knew that, despite my awkwardness, that somehow he’d get me to looking at least a little bit like a Salsa dancer. But what I didn’t know is that Lovie would become my own personal Yoda, sharing with me the wisdom of the Salsa philosophy. While I learned to dance, what surprised me is how much I learned about life through this whole experience. Over the course of our time together I got some great takeaways and I want to share them with you.

— Mix it up. Salsa dancing is actually a mix of different styles from different countries. That’s how it got its name, after the famous spicy salsa dip that’s made out of a mix of different ingredients. Mixing things up to create something new is a good thing! The combination as a whole can be absolutely amazing. Life is like that. We don’t always have to stick to a formula, we can try things out to see what we like, what works. Whether it’s adding new elements to a recipe or a dance or anything, we can always be unique in our self-expression.

— Dancing is communication without words. Lovie says this over and over again. And it’s absolutely true! The body is an instrument, and partners can tell when either one is nervous, unsure, tired, or distracted. You don’t have to say a word, it comes through in the way you move. Relationships are like that, too. We learn to read our partners such that a sigh or the twitch of an eyebrow speaks volumes. We go through a dance with everyone we meet, but those who really know us can sense when something is amiss. The body just doesn’t lie.

— Take your time. Every one of us is going to have our own pace. We can’t compare ourselves to other dancers, or other people. We need to be patient, and gentle with ourselves. Just do your best and trust in the process. When we keep going, we eventually get there. There are many paths to any destination. Once I took Lovie’s advice and was easier on myself, I could enjoy the dance so much more.

— Be in the moment. Choreography is like following a map. You know where you’re going, but you can’t focus on that end goal, you have to be present for every step along the way. If you race ahead, or have your head in the next move rather than the current move, the whole thing is going to fall apart. Not that you can’t recover! A good partner, like Lovie, can help you get back on track. We don’t even realize how much we’re missing out on in life when we’re not paying attention. Be mindful, pay attention, and you’ll be surprised at what you can do.

— Trust your partner. I knew I could trust Lovie from the first moment I met him. We were posing for a photo, and he asked me if we should do a dip. I gave an enthusiastic “yes!” and he proceeded to turn me heels over head. Literally. What fun! I knew that Lovie was strong, and would not let me fall no matter what. When Lovie says “look at me” during our dance, it’s a reminder to me to “spot” so that I don’t get dizzy. At the same time, it’s a reminder to me that we’re a team in this thing, and he’s got my back.

— Keep your eye on the prize. From the very beginning, our motto has been that we are “in it to win it!” And it’s definitely been our goal to win this competition and make as big a splash as possible for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I hope we do win, but I know that all of the other dancers have also put in their work and want to win as well! Now that I’ve been through all this training, spent so much time, sweat, and energy working on this dance, I realize that I already have gained much more than any win. The real prize is the new-found knowledge and skills that I now have. The real prize is all the wonderful people I’ve met who have share my enthusiasm. The real prize is my terrific new friend, a dancer and philosopher who has taught me so much.

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08 Apr

How We Can Help the Homeless

Getty Images/Flickr RF

Sometimes a day starts out like any other — and then something happens that stops you in your tracks. I had one of those days last week. Totally unexpected, and it left me changed. Here’s what happened:

After some meetings, I stopped by my local grocery store to pick up some food for dinner. This is something I’ve done hundreds of times. I’m so familiar with the layout, the people, I can buzz through and get what I need almost without thinking about it. I entered, turned the corner towards the produce department and came face to face with a woman. This woman was clearly out of place in this upscale market — on a hot summer day she was wearing a sweater and a coat, a knit hat, and sandals. Her clothes were dirty, and she was carrying several plastic bags. Our eyes met and I gave her a big smile. She smiled back, and to my surprise she said: “Lissa!” I turned back and she took a step towards me. “You’re Lissa, right?”

I did not recognize her at all. I asked her we knew each other and I never got a clear answer. She talked and talked, about various things, but nothing that helped me to figure out who she was. Although she didn’t say so, I could tell she was homeless. She hadn’t had a shower in a long time, and she acted a bit confused and scattered. It seemed that she needed a friend, and my heart went out to her. I tried to give her some money, but she refused — and after some time I told her I needed to go, but that I would feel better knowing she had some money. I tucked a twenty-dollar bill in her hand and she didn’t seem to notice. After following me through the store for a bit, she was gone.

On the drive home I kept going over the conversation in my head, trying to figure out if I knew this woman. She was about my age, and she could have been a mom at my kids’ school when they were little. She could have gone to my church. She could have been a neighbor at one time — after all, she was in my neighborhood. Although I showed her kindness and respect, I questioned what I could have done differently, how I might have been able to help her.

At my next stop I called Social Services to get some advice, and see if there was anything that they could do to help her. They basically told me that if this woman wanted their help that she would need to call, that there was nothing that they could do unless she reached out to them herself.

So I went home. And sent up a prayer of thanks that I had a home to go to. Whenever I count my blessings, or write down gratitudes, I include my home among the top of my list. Now I felt a new sense of deep compassion for those without a home. I wanted to help but didn’t know how. But I knew that somehow the answer would come. And it did.

The next morning as I was going through my email I followed a link that led me to a video someone posted explaining how he found a way to help the homeless by distributing backpacks. This guy and his friend filled backpacks with basic necessities: toothpaste, shampoo, a towel, socks, some food, and gave them to homeless people in their community. The video showed how much these backpacks were appreciated, and the recipients expressed how much this kindness meant to them.

I did a bit of research online and found that several others have done this same thing. They shared their stories, and ideas of what to put in the backpacks. Now I had my answer – now I had something tangible to do to help this woman, who saw herself as my friend, and for whom I had so much compassion.

I assembled my own list of items and headed out to the Goodwill store. One of the articles I read said that people who are homeless prefer backpacks that are a bit worn over brand new ones because new ones tend to get stolen. I bought several gently used backpacks and loaded up on scarves, hats and hoodies. Nothing that I bought was more than $5. Most items were around $2.

Then I went to the 99 Cent Store. My goal was to get 10 of each item on the list to fill 10 backpacks. This is what I ended up packing in each backpack:

BACKPACK BASICS

• A bar of soap
• Shampoo
• Comb/hairbrush
• Toothbrush and toothpaste
• Body/hand lotion
• Flashlight with batteries
• Socks
• Medium sized terrycloth towel
• Protein bar
• Box of raisins
• Jar of peanut butter and plastic spoon
• Bottle of water
• Toilet paper
• Notebook and pen

At the 99 Cent Store I was able to get everything really cheap — and these are full-sized bottles of shampoo and lotion! Then in each backpack I put a warm scarf, hat, hoodie or blanket that I got at the Goodwill. All in all it cost less than $16 per backpack. I put some of the smaller items in a zippered plastic bag. Other items that I would like to put in the backpacks as I find them or get them donated include: a manicure set, gift cards to grocery stores or restaurants like Subway, and bus tokens. These are small and could definitely fit in with everything else.

Basically I sorted everything out and went down an assembly line to fill up the backpacks. From beginning to end the whole process took less than half a day, including the shopping, and I ended up with 10 filled backpacks.

My plan is to keep some backpacks in my car, so that when I see someone who is homeless I can offer them one. I also went online to find out what resources are available to people who are homeless in our area and found a great place that both helps to prevent homelessness, and helps people who are homeless to get back on their feet with jobs and housing. I will be working with them to help distribute the backpacks to those most in need, and to help them in their efforts to keep their pantries stocked.

I have learned a lot from this experience and would like to share this information with you. Rather than giving money to panhandlers, support solutions by giving to organizations that are working to help the homeless on a daily basis. For every person that is visibly homeless, there are many more that are at risk of becoming homeless, or have been homeless at some point throughout the year. Preventing homelessness is cost-effective as well as morally compelling. It costs far less to prevent homelessness than to help a family that has already become homeless. Here are some additional ways we can all help:

• Find a local non-profit organization that serves the homeless and make a donation of money or items such non-perishable foods and hygiene products, or blankets, hats and socks. Bus passes are also appreciated so that people can get to job interviews, healthcare appointments and dinner sites.
• Share your strengths. You can give of your time and talents – organizations can help match your strengths with the needs in your community. There are many places that will welcome you as a volunteer.
• Conduct food drives for local food banks.
• Spread the word. Provide learning opportunities at your workplace or club to help others understand the most effective ways to assist the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, and to dispel misconceptions about homelessness.

We all share a home on this planet. We are all connected, and we’re here to help each other learn and grow. When one of us suffers, it affects each and every one of us in some way. I encourage you to do what you can to help those who are struggling with homelessness in your own area.

Making backpacks is one actionable step we can take. Reaching out to an organization that is already helping the homeless is another. You don’t have to do much. But I think we each have to do something if we really want things to change for the better for all of us.

I made a video that explains more about how to make the backpacks and distribute them, and to find resources in your area. You can see it here:
http://youtu.be/W5VPF-XTQ6Q

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02 Apr

The Ayurveda Experience in India

I’m a California girl, born and raised. I never travelled much when I was young, I really couldn’t afford to. Other than a spring break in Mexico I hadn’t even left the country much. But then, in 2000, Deepak Chopra organized a group to go to India, and I felt compelled to go. I had to go, I just somehow felt the trip was a must for me.

And so I went.

What an adventure! I had been studying Ayurveda and Vedic philosophy for many years, but being in the country where it all began was magical and exciting. I loved every single moment I spent there. And I learned so much, not only about the culture and the history of this beautiful place, but about myself. India opened up a whole new world to me, and my life was forever changed after that trip.

Significantly, I took my son along with me to experience India. In India, age 14 is still pretty much considered the time of becoming an adult. In the past, when boys would reach age 14 they’d go off with their teachers and start preparing for life as a man. My son had his 14th birthday at the Taj Mahal, and I felt so fortunate that he had the opportunity to see this magnificent wonder with me. What a gift!

Fast forward to 14 years later. I’ve written several books, taught classes and immersed myself in the Ayurvedic lifestyle. And once again, I had the opportunity to visit Mother India. Fourteen years later! How relevant, how amazing… how perfect.

This trip was very different from the first. I felt calm, relaxed, and at home from the very start. I spent time with friends who live and work in India, so rather than feeling like a tourist, I had the chance to see what it’s like to be a resident there. I went to the grocery store, and to the mall. Life in India is not unlike life here, there’s just a lot more of it! More people, more cars, more commotion.

There are some ways in which India has become more “western” in its culture over the years. Technology, certainly, with just about everyone having smart phones, like we do here. But there are other ways that India is so much more thoughtful, and complex in their thinking than we are, and we could learn from this. Where the U.S. seems to have a Starbucks on every corner, India has a temple pretty much walking distance from wherever you are. There is still a strong tie to spirituality, and all the morals and ethics that go with it. These values are passed down from generation to generation right in the home, as grandparents live right down the hall from their grandchildren. Family watches out for each other still. Multi-generational homes are the norm in India.

Spirituality is where people put their priority. Here in the U.S., we have Disney World, a tribute to corporate culture, and Las Vegas, otherwise known as “Sin City.” One of the largest and most popular attractions in India is Akshardham. Akshardham is a temple complex in Delhi that celebrates traditional Indian culture, spirituality, and architecture. It’s free to get in, and the place is always crowded. Like Disney World there are rides with robotics, but these rides tell of the history of India, and encourage visitors to honor one another, and all of life. There’s a display with all of the important reasons to “go veg” or “vegetarian” as most of the country does. Like Vegas, there is an amazing display of dancing fountains, and a show the lights and special effects. But this show talks about how we are all connected, and how we need to take care of nature and appreciate its gifts to us.

Most of the people I met in India spoke perfect English as well as their native language. There are several different languages spoken in India, depending on the region, and most people can communicate in a few of these languages also. I took a bit of German and Spanish in high school, but I’m by no means fluent in any other language. I deeply respect those who can converse in other languages. It certainly made it easy for me! I intend to go back to India, and I want to study Hindi before I go — I think it’s only fair if I at least try while I’m a guest there!

I feel very blessed to have found a group of people who share my passion for Ayurveda and in bringing it to a larger audience in the west. These friends took good care of me while we worked long hours creating a comprehensive e-course called “The Ayurveda Experience.” It’s filmed in India, with a Bollywood director. And it is absolutely amazing! The crew was so hardworking and kind. Everyone was genuinely happy to be a part of the team. My favorite part of the day was before we got started, we would all gather and do a “puja” or a prayer ritual with a chant and incense. The puja honored Ganesh, the Hindu god who brings good fortune to new endeavors, and it was Ganesh’s picture that was the first image shot on film each day.

I think we’re coming around a bit here in the west. Now alongside the Starbucks on the corner, we’ve also got a yoga studio. The more people see the benefits that a yoga practice brings, the more they will want to explore other gifts that India has brought to us — like Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a sister science with Yoga, and in India, the two are practiced together. It would be unthinkable, silly really, to think of one without the other! And yet, here we are, many thinking of Yoga as merely a form of “exercise.” We have a lot to learn. And hopefully we will catch on. Ayurveda is a good next step to do so. With an ayurvedic lifestyle we can be healthy and happy, in every aspect of our lives. I thank India every day for bringing this beautiful “science of life” to us!

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26 Mar

Lessons Learned From Loreto

The soul is stirred by travel. I have found this to be true with every trip I take. There’s always some purpose that I find, some lessons that I take with me, and carry with me long after I have departed a place. So much so that I am following the Dalai Lama’s advice when he said: “Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before.”

Oftentimes we take a vacation to relax, to unwind, or to disconnect from the real world. But what we find is that after we’ve gone through this process, we wake up, we reconnect with our true self, and with everything that is indeed “Real.” This is how I feel after my trip to Loreto, Mexico. What started out as a getaway to a luxury resort ended up as an enriching spiritual experience, one that I will remember always. Here are some of the lessons I learned from Loreto:

1. Honor Where You Are. Loreto is one of those “middle of nowhere” places. When most people think of Baja, California, they think of Cabo San Lucas – a popular tourist destination. But Loreto is a jewel that is often overlooked. Situated on the east coast of Baja, and set on the pristine Sea of Cortez, Loreto offers the beauty of nature and an authentic experience of Mexican culture and cuisine.

Eight-hundred square miles of Loreto is a National Marine Park that includes its five islands. Jacques Cousteau was a frequent visitor. As a National Park, the animals, including whale, dolphin and a wide variety of birds, including the blue-footed booby, are protected in the marine sanctuary. We ventured out to see the islands and enjoyed lunch at Honeymoon Beach where a seagull stole an unattended sandwich! It’s his home; we were just visiting, so I didn’t mind sharing.

The Pitaya cactus plants found throughout Loreto are tall and proud, some more than 200 years old. These are also protected in Mexico, both revered and appreciated by the locals.

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Because Loreto is so far from large cities local chefs emphasize foods that can be grown in their own gardens. Chef Alfonso Pelegrina grows many herbs and vegetables right on the property of the Villa del Palmar at Loreto and uses them in the recipes he makes for his three restaurants. Super fresh, organic, local, cared for with love — what could be better? This! Whether you are gluten-free, vegan, kosher — whatever your particular dietary needs are — the Chef is happy to accommodate and create something special just for you.

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“Honor Where You Are” also can be taken in a spiritual sense. How are you feeling? What does your body need right now? It’s being in tune with your senses, and giving yourself that gift of care. During morning yoga on the beach I felt refreshed by the salt air. I adjusted each pose gently, honoring my body’s need to stretch without overdoing it. Yoga isn’t a competition; it’s a personal practice. Yoga on the sand is an extra challenge, but a delightful one.

2. Practica Sus Sonrisas. This translates to “Practice Your Smiles!” In a small town like Loreto, with a population of 15,000, it’s easy to see how we are all connected. The Law of Relationship says that we are here to help each other learn and grow, and that’s even more true in the “middle of nowhere.” We rely on each other. Everyone becomes your friend. The people in Loreto are so warm and welcoming and happy and helpful. I was greeted with smiles everywhere I went.

Loreto was established in 1697. Now those were difficult times! To set up a city in the desert was tough. No water, no electricity. There were many obstacles to overcome, and it took several decades. You can see process of building the Nuestra Senora de Loreto Mission by looking at the styles and ages of the brick walls. Somehow they hung in there and got it done. At one point, explorers thought that California, and Baja California, was one big island. The Museum in Loreto has old maps that illustrate this. As a California native I especially appreciate the glimpse into history.

In town I bought a beautiful, handmade sterling silver ring to keep as a souvenir. I also indulged in a homemade frozen guava treat — vegan, of course! I’m sure the ice cream store’s owner, who served me personally, grew the guavas himself, too. It was so yummy on a hot day as I strolled through the arched trees marking the start of the original El Camino Real, a California landmark. How could I not have a smile on my face?

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3. Explore Your Potential. Loreto is a small town, but it was a much smaller town back in the 1700’s. It’s come a long way. And right now it is growing. There’s an airport, with direct flights from Los Angeles, Calgary, and some cities in Mexico. The Villa del Palmar at Loreto is a luxury resort on 137,000 acres, with gourmet restaurants, three pools, a spa, and soon they’ll have a golf course as well. The hotel is self-sustaining. They have a desalination plant on site, so you can drink the water. Plus, it’s super eco-friendly as they are powered mostly by solar energy. Employees are encouraged to further their education and supported with classes right on the property.

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We can surprise ourselves by all that we can accomplish when we set our minds to it. There are no limits — even if we think there are. It’s just pure potential. We have the capacity to do whatever it is that we want to do. We have the desires that we have for a reason, because it is possible for us to achieve them, to make them a reality in our own lives. There are examples all around us.

4. Leave Some Time to Just Hang Out. Life keeps us busy, that’s for sure. We’re constantly jumping from one thing to the next, with hardly a pause in between. We’re so in the habit of this that we continue the pace even when we’re on vacation. I can think of many places I’ve visited where our scheduled were jam-packed with activity, and the only rest I got was in the car on the way.

But Loreto is different. Instead of an ocean that is in constant motion, the Sea of Cortez is calm, almost still. It’s gentle quiet sets the pace. Rather than going surfing, people go paddle boarding, and snorkeling. The water is like glistening gems – aquamarine, emerald, and sapphire in color – clear, clean and beautiful. You can hike along the surrounding ridges and see the islands from a higher vantage point, nestled in the sea like they were placed there artistically and with precision. You can’t help but stop and take in the glory of nature that is everywhere you look. There’s no rush. There’s room to breathe, and time to enjoy.

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I came home from Loreto refreshed, renewed, and inspired. A little sun, a little spa, and some good food does wonders for the soul. I enjoyed both the adventure of exploring a new place, and the relaxation of feeling completely comfortable. Loreto is a place I will return to, as there are many more lessons to be learned.

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