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13 Aug

Eat, Pray, Blog: Getting There Without Going Anywhere

“Eat, Pray, Love” has spiritual seekers everywhere following in Elizabeth Gilbert’s footsteps — literally — traveling to Italy, India and Bali on an adventure of a lifetime. And now that Julia Roberts has followed suit on the big screen, it is likely that many more will make the sojourn to these exotic locations in pursuit of something to “marvel” at. There is much to marvel at anytime you travel. Everything is new, and different. It opens your eyes, engages the senses. Travel is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow through new experiences.

And yet, as Confucius stated so plainly: “No matter where you go, there you are.” The spiritual journey is a journey within. We don’t need to climb a mountain in Tibet to achieve the kind of inner peace we so desperately crave. We don’t need to go anywhere, we don’t even need to do anything, to find ourselves in a place of balance and bliss.

So, given that we can’t all jet off to foreign countries on a whim, let’s go on our own spiritual quest, right where we are, starting with “eat.”

Tantra teaches us that we experience the world through our five senses. Taste is definitely one of those senses where we can experience much pleasure — and given the cuisine, one might even say nirvana. When eating, the sense of smell also comes into play; the aroma heightens the anticipation, and enhances the flavors. Sight is involved with food. We’ve learned from the many Food Network shows how important presentation is in a meal. When food looks good, we’re more likely to perceive it as tasting good. Touch is in the texture of the food. How does it feel in your mouth? And even sound is in food — from the sizzle on the grill to the crunch of that perfect bite, to the oohs and aahs that emerge from satisfied diners.

Great pasta dinners aren’t only in Italy. We can cook, and have fun in our very own kitchen creating and experimenting with sauces and seasonings. Or we can find a lovely little neighborhood restaurant, and allow ourselves to be served with careful attention. Eating gives us a chance to indulge all of our five senses, to be present in the moment, to savor the experience and to be aware of the feelings that it evokes from deep within. When we are in present moment awareness there is no regret, fear or guilt. There is only gratitude. And that is a beautiful place to be.

“Pray” takes us into silence, into the stillness where all the wisdom of the universe can be found. Our busy world is filled with commotion. We are inundated with errands and emails and obligations. Our lives are slaves to the clock and the calendar, scheduled out farther that we even care to plan. But when we meditate, there is no time and space. The world seems to stop; our mind begins to quiet. Gone are the commercials and the traffic and the to-do lists. Suddenly we become aware of our breath, which brings us back to ourselves. We listen, and answers come, truth reveals itself, calmness settles in.

We could be in a temple, some historically preserved monument. Or we could be right where we are, perhaps smack dab in the middle of the couch. It doesn’t matter, because it’s all the same, it’s all connected. When we get together and meditate in groups, the experience is amplified. Energy rises, and circulates, and infuses each participant. Take that time away from the busyness, shut off the phone, unplug from technology — get back to nature, get back to yourself and you’ll remember who you are.

“Love” is all about relationships. And life is all about love. Who we love, and what we love. When we are doing what we love and also helping people, then we have found our “dharma” or purpose in life. There is nothing more fulfilling. If there is anything this world needs more of, it is love. We can never get too much of it! Extend yourself beyond your comfort zone, beyond the parameters that have been self-imposed, and reach out to someone with love. It’s easy to love a baby, or a kitten. So innocent and sweet, so receptive and accepting. The challenge is for us to love something or someone that might appear to us to be unlovable. The rejected, the downtrodden, the messy, the annoying. Yet when we do open our hearts, and we allow that love to pour forth, we feel an influx of love coming right back to us.

Love the moment, every moment. Love where you are, wherever that is. Marvel at your surroundings, the miracles that extend in and around the immediate environment. Everything that is here is here for you. The ground yearns for your footsteps. You love, and you are loved completely.

When you implement these simple techniques, what starts as a holiday becomes a habit. That habit then becomes a lifestyle. It’s a matter of mindfulness. We have the opportunity to practice every day, every moment, anywhere we are.

My new e-course with Daily Om is 9 Weeks to Joyful Living. You pick the price! Do the exercises and you’ll find you are living a life filled with elegance, joy, and simplicity. Once you do that, you can’t go back.

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09 Aug

Serenity finds a home

Sacred space can inhabit a quiet, uncluttered corner or a specially designed room
by Gary Soulsman
The News Journal
Delawareonline
When Kate Walsh graduated from college and launched a career, her parents turned her bedroom into a space for meditation and yoga.

Jim and Zina Walsh of surburban Newark kept a daybed for Kate’s visits home, but they took down the Cal Ripken posters and painted over the stencils of ballet slippers.

They made the walls a soothing misty green and added meditation cushions, a yoga mat, Tibetan prayer flags and a statue of the Buddha. “It’s really a work in progress, ” Jim says.

Yoga teacher Beth Shaw encourages people to carve out such a space, even in the tiniest apartment. She did that once in a shoebox-sized New York apartment. She once made a meditation room in a kitchen garbage closet with what she found around her home.

“It can be done anywhere,” says Shaw, founder of YogaFit, a nationwide yoga training program with headquarters in Redondo Beach, Calf.

In places such as Los Angeles, the spiritual has blended with decorating to such an extent that a new hybrid had developed — the lifestyle designer. Lissa Coffey is one such designer, advising clients that a home feels better “when there is some sacred space included in the design.”

It’s because of our harried lives, she says. “Having places where we can retreat to a little bit of silence gives us balance,” she writes in an e-mail.

She maintains that altars are easy — all you need is a flat surface, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. “Add a scarf, some candles and some items that are meaningful and you’ve got your own little corner of serenity,” Coffey says.

Walsh created such an alter in a meditation room with a chest, scarf and a Buddha. Some of the objects he already owned, others he and Zina purchased at Pier 1 Imports.

Walsh has meditated for more than 20 years, his experience teaching him that the practice is giving a greater sense of choice and flexibility in how to react in each moment. He is a Catholic and says meditation has enhanced his sense of connection to others during the celebration of the Eucharist.

He is also a faculty member at Wilmington College, as well as a pastorial counselor and, in these rols, often recommends meditation to others.

“Staying sane is often a matter of having things like mediation and a refuge to go to,” he says.

Jose Ramirez of Avondale, Pa., has devoted an upstairs room in his home to his meditation practice, too. Ramirez is abbout of the Delaware Valley Zen Center in Newark, and he can be found in his meditation room most mornings.

“I tell people that Zen is a way of understanding yourself,” he says. “It’s a way of spending time with whatever comes up.”


An incense burner is lit before a statue of Buddha in Jose Ramirez’s meditation space.


When their daughter graduated college, Jim and Zina Walsh turned her bedroom into a meditation room.


Salley “Sara” Hostelley added yurt to her Wilmington back yard. She uses the space for yoga, meditation and other quiet activities.


A sculpture posted on a tree alerts visitors to the yurt of the importance of quiet.

Double windows seem to bring nearby trees indoors and make the room inviting. In his home, Ramirez sits before an altar with a beautiful gold Buddha. It was sculpted in the Korean Zen style, the style in which Ramirez has been trained. The sculpture shows the Buddha, awakened to his own true nature, after a long spiritual quest.

“If you sit every day for just 10 minutes, you see what it’s like to be sad, angry or neutral in an environment where you don’t have to react.”

Another person who has taken time to create a setting for spiritual practice is Sally “Sara” Hostelley. Seven years ago, she was wondering how to create this space in her Wilmington home when a friend suggested she look into building a circular domed dwelling. In some parts of the world, such dwellings are known as yurts.

Hostelley found that Oregon Yurtworks had modular yurts of many sizes, and they could be assembled in about a day. Since purchasing the $10,275 cedar-shake yurt it’s proved a handy and inviting retreat.

The yurt is 19 feet in diameter and brings in plenty of light. A skylight and windows allow her to feel close to nature.

Hostelley has held mettings of her women’s spiritual growth group in the yurt, which is a short walk to the back of the property. When she’s there alone, she has a variety of activities she turns to — meditation, prayer, reading, working with her balance ball or yoga.

“Many people tell me it’s a treat to come here,” she says. “They see it as a way to escape the pressures of everyday life and find a moment of serenity.”

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09 Aug

Say It With Flowers!

I like gardens that are family friendly and “hands-on,” where you can step outside and clip a bouquet for the kitchen table anytime you want to! Here are some ideas to help you get started creating your own cutting garden.

-Prepare the area:
Look for a sunny, well-drained area to plant your garden. Work in lots of compost and some slow release fertilizer to prepare the soil for planting.

-Choose your flowers:
Which flowers do you prefer? Think in terms of size and color, and look for what grows best in your climate. Long-stemmed flowers tend to make the best cutting flowers for arrangements, so keep that in mind. You might also want to add in a few foliage plants for texture and color.

-Group your plants:
Plan which plants go where by grouping plants with similar sun, water, and drainage requirements together. Flowers tend to look better when they are grouped together, rather than mixed up.

-Plant and maintain:
Water plants with about one inch of water per week. Remove faded blossoms periodically. Check for aphids and other insects, which are attracted to flowering plants. Give plants a dose of organic liquid fertilizer every once in awhile.

-Clip and display!
Pick blossoms regularly and plants will continue to bloom throughout the summer. The more flowers you cut, the more you’ll have! When cutting flowers, snip each stem at an angle, using sharp shears. Place cut ends in water immediately. Once indoors, cut off another quarter inch of stem and remove all the leafy growth below the water line. Keep flowers fresher, longer, by adding some lemon-lime soda and a drop or two of chlorine bleach to the water. Change water daily, and make sure no leaves or buds are under water to decay.

Tradition says that each flower has a special meaning, so think about the language of flowers when you are giving and receiving this gift:

Alstroemeria – friendship
Alyssum – worth beyond beauty
Amaryllis – pride
Anemone – anticipation
Aster – patience
Bird of Paradise – joyfulness
Bluebell – constancy
Bouvardia – enthusiasm
Calla lily – magnificent beauty
Carnation – fascination
Chrysanthemum – fidelity
Cornflower – great happiness
Crocus – cheerfulness
Daffodil – chivalry
Daisy – innocence
Forget-Me-Not – memories, farewell
Freesia – innocence
Gardenia – secret love
Gerbera Daisy – beauty
Gladiolus – sincerity
Honeysuckle – generous affection
Hydrangea – heartfelt
Iris – my compliments
Jasmine – amiability]
Jonquil – love me
Larkspur – levity
Lilac – first love
Lily – majesty
Magnolia – nobility
Orange blossoms – innocence
Orchid – refinement
Ranunculus – radiant
Rose – love
Snapdragon – desire
Sunflower – cheerfulness
Sweetpea – farewell
Tulip – declaration of love

Colors give added meaning to flowers:
Red- love, respect, passion, courage
Pink – perfect happiness, gentility, grace, admiration
Yellow – friendship, joy, zeal
White – innocence, purity, secrecy
Peach/Orange – enthusiasm, sweetness, modesty
Purple – faithfulness, passion, hope

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06 Aug

Zen and the Art of Grocery Shopping

It happens at least once a week, the ritual trek to the local grocery store. We need food, we need supplies, we are creatures whose needs must be met and this is how we do it. It’s more convenient than growing our own vegetables, or baking our own bread. And although we may not get the same satisfaction that our ancestors did by working the land, we are in a sense doing our own harvesting by what we choose, and how we shop at the supermarket.

Here are some ways that we can get the most out of the experience, and turn what could possibly be mundane into something rather special and spiritual. This is how we can “bloom where we are planted” even if that happens to be in the middle of suburbia.

Bring your own bags. This seems like such a simple thing to do, and yet when you look around at the other shoppers, how many people actually do it? In Europe there is not the option of paper or plastic. You bring your own bag or you carry your purchases out in your arms. We did an informal survey recently in front of our neighborhood market and found that although most people thought this was a good idea, they hadn’t gotten themselves in the habit. (You can see the video we made up on CoffeyTalk.tv.) Make this conscious choice. Carry your bags in your car so they are there for you when you need them. It’s one little contribution towards making the world a better place.

After you park, if you see a stray cart in the lot, take it with you into the store. Many carts are left loose in the parking lot only to bump into cars, or block the way as someone is trying to open their car door. Returning a cart is being a good citizen, and also setting a good example.

Many stores have now been kind enough to provide anti-bacterial wipes at their entries so that we can wipe down the handle of the cart. Use them to protect yourself and others from germs that are easily passed around in public places. And when you’re done with the wipe, dispose of it carefully in the container provided.

When shopping for produce, choose fruits and vegetables that are locally grown. Shipping from far away places puts a burden on the planet by requiring extra fuel to get items where they need to be. Also, be aware of packaging. Again, reuse bags from home, or don’t bother to use bags at all when selecting your produce. Select one thing that you might not have tried before — open yourself up to new culinary possibilities!

Consider your time in the market as an opportunity to practice present-moment awareness. Be fully present when choosing your items. Smile at the people sharing this experience with you. This is a community, and you are an important part of it. Be grateful for the store employees who work so hard to keep the place neat and orderly so that you can find what you are looking for. Marvel at the abundance of choices that we have before us.

Think about the many ways that you can be a conscientious consumer. Rather than buying paper napkins, use cloth napkins at the table for dinner. Rather than using paper towels to clean, use dishcloths and rags. Rather than using cleaning products with chemicals, investigate the many natural alternatives, such as vinegar, that can be used just as efficiently with less impact on the planet. Take lunch boxes or cloth lunch bags to work or school instead of using paper lunch bags. These are all the little things that end up making a big difference. Consciously participate in green living.

Read labels to know what you are putting into your body. There are so many options now, so check the shelves for products that are lower in sugar, sodium and fat. Opt for healthier alternatives, like whole grains and higher fiber cereals.

More and more people are deciding on a vegetarian or even vegan lifestyle. Even if you don’t want to commit all the way, try going meat-free at least one day a week.

If you have a full cart of groceries and someone behind you in line has just one or two items, practice kindness by offering to let them go ahead of you. If someone ahead of you is having trouble getting credit approval, or is taking a long time to write out a check, this is an opportunity to practice patience and compassion.

When checking out, have your discount cards or coupons ready so as not to keep the people behind you in line waiting longer than necessary. Make sure to present your bags to the bag-person before he or she starts to pack. If there is no one helping the cashier to bag the groceries, pitch in and help yourself. Always show gratitude for the help you were given by expressing thanks.

Everything in life, every moment we live, can be a meditation, a learning experience. With this state of mind, we can turn something like grocery shopping, which we might have thought of as a chore, into an adventure.

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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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30 Jul

The Cost of Kindness

The world is in pain. We are feeling the effects of crisis on every level; we are suffering. In this condition, when we feel weak, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to fight, to lash out, to argue, accuse, bully, complain, and blame. But that only creates more suffering. And so it goes, and has been going, over centuries. But this doesn’t have to be the human condition. We have choices. And by now we really do need to know better, and choose differently.

 

Sometime around 30 BC Hillel said “If not now, when?” Now is the time that we need to dig deep within us, to find the courage and make the changes we need to make in order to survive. Indeed, our very survival is at stake. Our brothers and sisters are giving years of their lives, if not their very lives, in wars. Our children are killing themselves to escape being tormented by their peers for what are perceived to be their differences. The cost of war, economically and personally is horrendous. The cost of hate, violence, and intolerance is just as bad. We have to stop the bleeding, and we have to heal.

 

It doesn’t have to take an act of Congress to make a change. It only takes an act of kindness, or many little acts of kindness that all add up to getting our priorities straight. We need to shift from focusing on the material, on the “stuff” in life, and instead focus on people and relationships. We need to pay attention, to be receptive, to be honest and to show that we care. Kindness is a virtue that we need to cultivate and value. It is the salve for our wounds. It is the medicine for our dis-ease. We need to invest our time and energy into programs that promote kindness. This will pay off for us in the long run.

There are many organizations making a conscious effort to practice and promote kindness in our communities. One group is Big Brothers Big Sisters. Youth who are identified as “at-risk” are brought into the program and matched with a mentor. A Public/Private Ventures study shows that children matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, as compared to their peers, are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 52% less likely to skip school, and one-third less likely to hit someone. The financial cost to support a match is just $1m200 per year. Contrast that with the cost to incarcerate a youth in Juvenile Hall at $125,000 per year. Mentors in this program are volunteers, and most will tell you that as much as they see that the youth are getting out of the program, they feel that the benefits are mutual.

 

“Karuna” is a Sanskrit word that means “compassionate action.” It refers to any action that is taken to diminish the suffering of another. As we help others, as we extend kindness, we all benefit. By serving each other we are serving ourselves. “Metta” is a Pali word that means loving-kindness, benevolence, fellowship, goodwill, and friendliness. Metta is the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others. It is an attitude of altruism.

 

There is no cost to kindness. A smile, a word of thanks, a good deed, a friendly gesture — there is no cost to these things, and yet the benefits are priceless.

 

Ellen DeGeneres is now signing off her show with the statement: “Be kind to one another.” I heard that and was inspired. We all have to do our part. We need to be ever mindful that kindness must be practiced and demonstrated. To help with this I created “The Kindness Movement.” It’s a simple commitment of seven days of putting kindness into action. It costs nothing to join The Kindness Movement. And it is very likely that as the movement spreads the benefits will be far-reaching. The Internet holds that power, as it is an illustration of our interconnection.

We are all in this together. The time to recognize our connection to each other, and to be kind to one another, is at hand. It all starts right here, right now. Please join us in The Kindness Movement. Thank you for your kindness.

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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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16 Jul

Parenting the Vedic Way

Ayurveda is India’s 5,000 year old “Science of Life,” and it is the art of living in harmony with nature. Ayurveda gives us tools for living that we can apply to every aspect of our lives, especially parenting. Your dosha is your Ayurveda mind and body type. There are three doshas in Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We each have all three of the doshas in our physiology, just in different proportions, so your dosha is unique and personal; it is like your fingerprint. To determine your dosha, or ayurveda mind and body type, start by taking the dosha quiz. This will tell you which dosha is dominant for you. What’s your dosha, baby? Take the dosha quiz and find out!

Parenting is an application of love in our daily lives. Our children give us the opportunity to experience and express love, every day. As parents, we have a very unique relationship with each of our children. We interact with them on so many different levels at the same time. We can be a parent, teacher, friend, chauffeur, psychologist, advisor, disciplinarian, coach, referee, or whatever!

Mind-body type does have genetic components, but a family doesn’t necessarily have to be dominant in one dosha or another. A Kapha mother and father very well could have a Pitta child, for example. You need to look on both sides of the family to see where a dosha may be inherited. For example, a Pitta child could get her blue eyes from her Pitta grandmother, or her athletic ability from her Pitta uncle.

It is interesting to look back at your own childhood and discover the doshas of each of your brothers and sisters. Look at how you interacted with your siblings. What were these relationships like? Remember that your kids look to you for skills to handle each other, too. They learn from your example.

When you know your child’s dominant dosha, you are better able to handle the myriad of things that come up at any given moment. You are better able to parent from a place of love rather than expectation. You know, for example, that your Vata child may have some anxiety about a friend’s sleepover, or that our Kapha child may need two different alarm clocks to get up in the morning.

Kapha Kids

Kapha kids tend to be more solidly built. They’re stockier and more resistant to illness. They love to eat and have a sweet tooth. You need to watch their diets so that they don’t overeat. Kapha children are very caring. They’ll be the first ones to give you a hug. They may be a little shy at first, but once they warm up, they’re all smiles.

Kapha kids like to lounge around, so make sure there are plenty of activities for them to participate in so that they don’t turn into couch potatoes. If given a choice, the Kapha child would choose playing video games over a trampoline, but the trampoline would do so much more to keep him in balance. To get Kapha kids outdoors, have them help in the garden — they love tending to flowers and gardening.

Kaphas tend to have beautiful singing voices, so it’s a good idea to nurture that at a young age. Have your kids join the church choir, or take singing lessons.

In school, it seems like Kapha kids take longer to learn things, but the upside to this is that once they learn something, they don’t forget it. Kaphas learn best by association, so it’s a good idea to tell stories and give them experiences that help make the subject matter relevant to them. Be patient with them, work at their speed and don’t give up.

Kapha kids tend to be very loyal and loving toward their friends, but they are also sensitive, and their feelings are easily hurt.

Pitta Kids

Pitta kids are the ones who play baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey. They go from one sport to the next, and like whichever one they’re doing at the time the best! They want to be the best one on the team, and they want to bring home the trophy to prove it.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the Pitta competitive spirit will spill over into the classroom. The Pitta child will be motivated to work hard and get good grades. They’ll be keenly aware of their grade point average and do extra credit work if necessary to make honor roll. Pitta kids are great at memorizing and do well with flash cards, which is a visual tool for learning. They love to read.

Pittas can be show-offs, and they like to be in charge. As parents, you can teach them social skills to help them control their anger and get along with everyone.

Vata Kids

The day-dreamy child drawing rainbows on a pad in the back of the room is the Vata child. These kids have great imaginations, and they’re gifted at making up stories. If you ask them a question, they’ll talk up a storm. They’re often perceived as “spacey” or “weird.”

Physically, Vata is slight. Whether tall or short, these kids look skinny; they have narrow hips and shoulders. Their appetite varies, but no matter how much they eat, they don’t seem to put on weight.

Vata kids learn things quickly, but then they forget them almost as quickly. You might think they’ve got their times tables down cold, only to have them fail a test the next day. Very often, kids with ADHD are Vata dominant. They are auditory learners, so sometimes it’s easier for them to listen to a book on tape rather than try to sit still and read for long periods of time. A multi-modal approach to learning in general is best for Vata kids — they like to hear it, see it, touch it and experience it. They’re great at all things creative, and likely will be in the school plays, draw cartoons for the school paper or be nominated for class clown.

Lots of hugs and a warm environment help keep Vata kids from getting out of balance and feeling nervous.

Growing and Glowing

It doesn’t matter how many children you have. As a parent, you soon learn that you can’t parent any two kids the same way. When we look at all the factors involved in a child’s individuality and the different ages and stages they all go through, there is no question that parenting is the most difficult job there is! Ayurveda gives us tools to help us relate to our children, and to help our children relate to each other.

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09 Jul

Bin Laden Aftermath: A Time for Reflection

The news spread quickly, almost immediately given our near constant connectivity to all things media. Osama bin Laden, easily the most hated man in the world, was dead. After a brief pause for confirmation and reassurance, the celebration began. Hoots and hollers, chants of “U-S-A” and toasts of cheers filled the usually mundane Sunday night. Radio hosts almost giddily proclaimed that we will always remember where we were when we heard the announcement.

In what seemed like no time at all, there were graphic photographs posted on websites, videos shared on social media pages, news updates back-to-back. The Internet was bursting with a kind of excitement that fans exude when their team wins a championship. But these images, bloody, gory, like something out of a slasher film, and which are still being dispersed, are nothing to cheer about.

I understand what bin Laden’s death signifies: an end to terrorism, and closure to one of the most horrific and tragic events our country has ever experienced. I understand what bin Laden represents: a threat to be feared, an evil force beyond our reach. It’s been 10 years of mourning, 10 years of questioning, 10 years of suffering. So I do understand why there would be a sigh of relief and prayers of gratitude that this threat has finally, after all this time, been set aside. But it is difficult and disturbing for me to think of celebrating the death of any human being. Martin Luther King said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Has justice been served? That certainly can be said to be true. But when something like this happens, it is not a time to gloat, or to stir up feelings of revenge and animosity. It is a time for sobriety. It is a time when clear heads should prevail, when we can reflect and learn and turn out attention to the peace that we so deeply crave. Martin Luther King recognized this, and articulated it well. Gandhi understood this. Mother Teresa did as well. We have both the option and the ability to handle ourselves in a spiritually mature manner. These people have set the example for us, and laid the groundwork for a new paradigm. It’s not just how we act that has an impact on the world. It’s also how we react, and how we respond to the situations that arise all around us that can make all the difference in how we learn and grow. We always have choices. And we need to realize the effect that these choices have on our own lives, and the lives of all those around us. The truth is that, as we have seen with the way the Internet works and how quickly news travels, we are all connected. Our actions can either hurt or help.

Whatever our practice happens to be, however we acknowledge the change that has taken place, let us take some time to focus on peace, to take some of the love that is in our hearts and share it out in the world. Love is the most powerful force there is, and we can never have too much of it.

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02 Jul

Royal Marriage Manners

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have just visited Southern California and of course the media covered every moment. Upon their arrival in Los Angeles from Canada, I noticed something that I don’t think everyone did, but that could be very telling of the royal relationship.

After William and Kate disembarked the plane, they went through a receiving line to be welcomed by Governor Jerry Brown and his wife, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other dignitaries. Will went through the line first, followed by his bride. They were greeted, curtseyed to and shook hands with each person graciously. When Will was finished, he made a bee-line for the Range Rover and got in the back seat without a glance back. Kate completed her duties a minute or so later and went to the back seat on the other side of the car.

What is unusual about this? Since the British are such sticklers for etiquette, they should be practicing it in their marriages as well as amongst commoners. The gentlemanly thing for William to do would have been to wait for his wife to shake the last hand and then walk over to the car with her. Ideally, he would walk her to her side of the car and help her in before entering the car himself.

This may be a small thing, but it shows respect and consideration. I get that they’re both on a schedule and being shepherded around by security. But in a marriage, there is a kind of radar that keeps you aware of where that other person is at all times. I get that William is the prince and probable heir to the throne. But whatever happened to common courtesy and “ladies first?” If I were in Kate’s position I’d be saying to my hubby: “Hello? Wait for me!” Of course it’s not good form for couples and especially royals, to correct each other in public.

While I’m on the subject, yes, it was a lovely gesture that William gave Kate his mother’s ring. However, I do believe that Kate deserves her own ring as well. Why have Diana’s ring be her engagement ring? After all, even though Diana’s ring is beautiful and historic, it did originate from a marriage that is widely known as unhappy and that ended in divorce. That’s a lot of baggage to be carrying around on your finger. Already Kate is being compared to Diana and this will inevitably follow her throughout her lifetime. Kate is her own person and this is a new relationship, so I say give her a new ring.

Kate has a lot to put up with. Every bride has to deal with in-laws, but Kate has to do it under the scrutiny of the world. She had her wedding in the same church where her husband’s mother had her funeral. She’s a good sport to go along with her new family in all these decisions and I know this will go far in keeping Will and Kate together.

The royal couple is sure to get lots of attention wherever they go and whatever they do. But they need to remember that it is the attention that they give to one another that will be what makes this marriage succeed. It is both the attention that they give to each other in private, at home, when it is just the two of them. And it is also the attention that they give to each other in public. I remember hearing from body language experts about the sweet glances they gave each other during the wedding ceremony and how that was a good sign of a true loving relationship. The world is watching! The pressures of the position will be there and there will be obligations and schedules and demands. But the smallest reassuring glance, the hand on the back as a guide and the simple act of waiting for the other person to finish before going ahead with the next task, that will make all the difference.

This royal marriage is only a few months in and as time goes on, these simple courtesies will mean more and more. I would advise William to get in the habit of being a gentlemanly husband now. A husband with good manners is a true Prince.

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