Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Safety of Home

I feel blessed to live near my family and many of my closest friends.  In emotional, busy and crazy times, I am extremely lucky to be able to seek comfort in my loved ones.  To share a movie night or a nice meal means so much more to me than trying to find sollace in a new dress.  We shop for so many reasons: boredom, sadness, fun, out of hope for how that item will make us feel, look, appear.  We believe that particular object will enhance our lives and make us truly, finally, happy.  That illusion is what keeps us shopping.

I'm ready to scream it out, "I am enough, and I have enough!"  I've been reciting this mantra for about 2 years. It eases my feelings of anxiety or stress about all the things I still "need" in my life.  It frees me from holding on to items and people that don't fit anymore.  The truth is that I don't need much, and I already have it all.

This experiment helps me value life's real riches.  It may sound cliche, but I feel deeply wealthy and see the immeasurable abundance in my life.  I am so grateful.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm Not Buying It!

This week I started reading the book, Not Buying It, by Judith Levine.  It documents her year-long experiment concerning shopping.  She and her partner decide to buy nothing except the essentials.  They outlaw high-end products, entertainment costs, etc.  I'm eager to read more about their growth, learning and experiences.

It also makes me wonder what in my life I don't want to "buy" anymore.  I'm tired of buying...
  • my unhealthy habits like drinking wine until my throat is sore.
  • excuses from the man in my life who won't (can't?) dive into our relationship.
  • my overreactions.
I am interested in buying more...
  • honesty about how I really feel.
  • my supportive family.
  • my yoga practice.
  • my new challenge of National Boards.
  • my finacial security. 
In order to keep choosing this new financial stability, I have to say no to other things, like new clothes or frivolous entertainment costs. This month's experiment helps me see what I really need in my life even beyond objects.
Even if my situation looked like this:

Or even this:

I would still need to decide what is important to me and what makes me truly happy everyday instead of frustrated, unhealthy or confused.  What are you not buying anymore?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are Flowers a Necessity?

The day after Valentine's Day, I bought myself some beautiful red tulips, my favorite.  They were on sale, so pretty and right next to the check-out stand.  Only later did I second-guess my decision.  Flowers are beautiful and natural and found at the supermarket, but I can obviously live without them.  I guess that makes the flowers my first shopping experiment slip-up.

Despite that small oversight, this experiment has been surprising easy thus far.  I've been busy; the weather has been beautiful; and I've kept myself occupied with fun friends, new recipes, free library books, a cute boy, walks around Volunteer park, National Boards and going out at night.  What more could I really want?

My friend, Stacy, has mentioned a few ways to make this month's experiment a little harder and maybe a little more meaningful.  I'm open to turning this challenge up a notch.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Month Two: Shopping-Free

This month, February 12- March 12, 2010, I am experimenting with no shopping.  Let me first outline the rules of this experiment.  I consider food shopping a necessity, so that's allowed.  However, I am outlawing shopping for clothes, accessories, home decorations, cooking gadgets, presents, etc.  I'm expecting this experiment to be much easier than the vegetarian month.  Today is day number four, and I haven't bought anything off-limits.

A friend of mine is hosting a dinner party/swap on March 5th, so it will be interesting to see how I feel then.  It will be a convenient time to collect a few new things for my closet (and soul?).  Also, today my friend, Ginger, gave me two beautiful mirrors for my place.  It's curious how some things just find their way to you while others seem to require a determined search.

The biggest temptation this month will be Urban Outfitters, a mere two blocks from my house.  Let me first state, I LOVE THAT STORE!  It has so many fun clothes and funky accessories.  I adore the hats and hair pieces especially.  It always has a large sale section, and I've found some great dresses there.  I did go in last night with a girlfriend.  I happily sat on the couch looking at books while she tried on and purchased a few things.  Like I said before, the beginning of each experiment is easy and filled with calm resolve.  I'm going to enjoy this feeling while it lasts.  I'm ready to save some $!

Letting Go of Western Rhythms

As I wrap up my month of vegetarianism, I'm reminded of another month without meat.  During the summer of 2008, I spent time in Bali studying yoga.  Here's something I wrote during that meatless time...

I don’t know what time it is. I’ve been in Bali 9 days living without a watch, without a cell phone, without a computer or T.V. I have to look for other direction to tell me when and where to go. I’m here for a month-long yoga retreat. I came to dive deeper into my practice and learn to let go. I never thought about what it would take to let go of time.

Day begins at sunrise. The night insects quiet their chirping to let the rooster holler and croak out his sound. We turn on the light and immediately the mosquitoes gather, followed by the geckos. They move along the bamboo border, cleaning up the ceiling, taking their breakfast as we wait for ours. The tray of black rice, fruit and coffee arrives. Wayan singing us a “hel-lo” as she rounds the corner. The ants march along the patio greeting each other as they pass on their route. I sneak looks into the yoga studio next door, waiting for the first person to enter. That’s my signal to gather my mat and water bottle and start the day.

As the evening session ends, we walk back to our cottage. My mind swirls with anatomy, sutras and poses. Dinner appears as dusk settles in. The sun sets behind the valley casting pink shadows off every surface. I press my palms together and say a silent prayer as grateful tears pool in my eyes. Once it’s too dark to see, we head inside chatting and eventually reading. We prepare for an early bedtime and an unreliable sleep. Every night he scurries up the pipe, enters through the bamboo-slatted window, hurries along its ledge with an alarming rattle and escapes back out the other side. Our rat friend is becoming yet another natural hour marker. Sniffing for food and making his entrance, we watch with fascination as he completes his routine. The bats, geckos, birds, bugs and rats dance around us like clockwork. The watch I didn’t bring doesn’t matter to them. They’re teaching me to tell a different kind of time.

I always learned to respect time, especially that of other people. Punctuality was an ingredient for success. I remember the eye rolls when my brother claimed he could tell time by the shadows of the trees like the Native Americans. “No wonder he always misses his flights home,” they’d said. Keeping track of time helps me be a reliable friend, daughter, teacher. I don’t know what it will feel like to put down that load for awhile. Put down my control, my responsibility, my nervous energy. Put it down.

In Bali I’ve entered a world where time is marked by rituals and prayers. Constructing elaborate offerings and going to temple are the landmarks of the day. Ceremonies based on the moon cycle, deaths and cremations- these are life’s true clock hands. My busy rushing has no place alongside this devotion.

I didn’t know how much I needed this time in Bali. Time to get healthy, to slow down, to process. Time to untie my wounded heart strings and time to reveal my new truths. Time off from high heels, traffic, hangovers. Time on me, on walking, on breathing and on prayer. Time to clean up. I’m holding onto this new freedom and releasing the grip of a clock that doesn’t serve me. I’m open to listen now as life directs me where and when to go.

When Chocolate and Chakras Collide

I read this interesting article about yoga and food recently.  With Valentine's Day, a new moon and the year of the tiger, it seems like a perfect time to rethink some of our old connections and expectations.  Check it out!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Ritual of Food

I love to cook.  I'm not necessarily a gourmet chef, but I love trying something new or feeling nourished by my own efforts.  My kitchen is tiny and was built in 1925.  There's no dishwasher nor fancy gadgets.  It's just me, a sharp knife and some good ingredients.  This week I made Eggplant Parmesan.  I dipped the sliced eggplant in egg and flour and then fried it gently in olive oil.  I added tomato sauce and cheese and baked it at 425 degress for about 10 minutes.  I received some organic Beecher's cheese as a gift last week, so I let that melt in globs on top of the tomato sauce.  The result was a hearty vegetable dish that disguised itself as meat.  It was so pretty, I had to pair it with some red wine and dark chocolate for dessert.  I drank and munched happily thinking about all of the vital antioxidants I was consuming.  Living alone does provide me a chance to really enjoy the solitary and satisfying experience of cooking and eating.  If things don't turn out perfectly, that's only my secret to know.  It my own trial-and-error safe haven.

Some people say they don't like to cook for one, so they microwave a burrito or defrost a pizza.  How depressing!  I actually prefer cooking for one.  That way I can load up with vegetables without having to consider what another person likes.  Of course I also enjoy having people over for dinner, but I notice that my cooking stress goes up with additional guests.

Noah Levine wrote about "mindful eating" in his book, Dharma Punx.  Limiting distractions (no TV, no reading) allows us to breathe, smell and actually taste our food.  The time spent eating affects digestion, and I believe, absorbtion of nutrients.  There's nothing better than settling in for a meal and really meaning it.  It's not crammed in between appointments or in the car while driving.  It's eating on purpose.  As Portage Bay Cafe declares... Eat like you give a damn! 

My days of deprivation are over.  That limited view of the body and of food is too restricting.  Negativity and shame keep extra weight on.  I believe that the way we look at food sometimes matters more than the food itself.  These last few years food has turned more into a source of joy, ritual and quality.  I vow to make my daily eating ritual nourish my body, my creativity and my soul.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A little inspiration

While looking for photos to accompany my blog posts, I realized that there are a ton of websites to help new vegetarians.  I have no idea why I haven't tapped into this resource earlier.  It really shows me how many other people in the world have cut out meat and other animal products.  Here are a few inspiring quotes I found:


“I quit eating beef when I was about thirteen. I kind of phased everything out, so it took a few years actually. I do it because I really love animals.
 ~Carrie Underwood, Singer-songwriter, Vegetarian

To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body.

~ Mahatma Gandhi, Indian social and spiritual leader, 1869 - 1948

Additionally, I discovered tips and fun ideas for socializing.  VegCooking writes, "If you’re going to be having a meal with family or friends who eat meat, discuss the menu ahead of time. Offer to make a vegetarian dish or two for everyone to try."  Why didn't I think of that when it was time for that jambalaya dinner?  Brilliant!  Many foods are vegetarian or vegan without even "trying."  I also found a website that lists all kinds of accidentally vegan foods

I see that each experiment may feel most difficult during week number three.  When I used to swim competitively, the 3rd lap of a 4-lap (100 yards) race was always the toughest.  The beginning is exciting; during second lap you still have energy, third lap is the hardest to maintain; and the fourth lap is a final burst of willpower.  I made most of my vegetarian slip-ups during the third week.  This is good to note for my upcoming experiments.  I now know that I should look for extra support and resources during the third week, in whatever form that make take.  Maybe one form of strength is knowing how to address our weaknesses.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Preparing with Hope

While completing the final week of vegetarianism, I begin to plan my next experiment.  I've been considering a few options and finally decided on a month of no shopping.  I'm outlining the rules in my mind... no shopping for new clothes nor accessories, but food and services are ok.  I'm sure the first few days won't be too bad since I'll be uber-content eating all of my favorite meat and seafood dishes.  :)  My vacation week next week may be a little tricky since I usually stop in stores or boutiques on my walks around Capitol Hill.  I'm hoping the experiment will inspire me to get creative with my current wardrobe, maybe try some new combinations/styles.  Perhaps I'll revisit old college habits and borrow fun clothes from my girlfriends.  It's economical, green and fun!  :)  I'm feeling hopeful and ready for a new challenge because avoiding meat constantly (like during two Superbowl parties) is getting exhausting.  I'm ready to keep things fresh, mix it up and move forward.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Emotional Stress Diminishes Resolve

I experienced a moment of weakness last night.  After a stressful day at school and a verbal conflict with an aggressive colleague, my emotional strength was low.  I knowingly ate some nachos with meat during happy hour with friends after work.  I just didn't want to fight or resist anything anymore.  The beers helped me not care.  It was one of those moments when you worry yourself, one of those moments when you want to forget and erase.  This experiment is showing me to myself.

Normally alcohol is a fun accessory to time out with friends.  This time it felt like needed medication.  Alcoholism runs in my family, and my dad has always warned me to be careful.  I had three beers last night, and I don't think the quantity is a problem.  But my attitude calls my attention.  It's interesting that the vegetarian experiment was the vehicle for showing me something else about myself. 

Today I'm feeling much better and have been enjoying healthy, veggie treats again.  I worked on National Boards diligently all morning and then attended a Community Meeting for Yoga Behind Bars.  The hummus, olive and fig spread, hearty bread, chai, carrots, apples and jam fueled me along this experiment.  Again, I see that healthy people encourage my ongoing healthy food choices.  More importantly, it was inspiring to hear the experiences of other volunteers.  To hear about the energy inside jails and prisons, to learn about new meditation techniques, to value the small pieces of time we give...these things matter.  My free class at the New Holly Teen Center matters to those 10 little girls. 

They live better, healthier lives because of our 2 hours a month.  It may not seem like much, but it's something.  Despite the challenges and mistakes, I continue walking along this life and this experiment doing and giving the best I can.

Monday, February 1, 2010


After whinning like a baby, I think I need to go back to my initial motive for this project.  I wanted to try some new lifestyles, learn more about my unconscious choices and become more aware.  A few questions run through my mind as I start week three of vegetarianism.

By avoiding meat, how much impact does that actually have on animals?  My instinct says "very little."  For example, I went to eat sushi with a friend last night.  I didn't really think through that decision.  When I sat down at the conveyor belt, all I could see were miles of fish. 

As we know, I already miss seafood.  I was able to find a few things on the menu like veggie tempura and a noodle soup.  I also tried some great cold saki and a sweet yogurt-flavored soft drink in a cute little bottle.  As I let those small delicious plates of food pass me by, I wondered, "Could my choice not to eat seafood change this business?"  Would they purchase less seafood and expand the vegetarian choices?  If everyone were vegetarian, then yes.  Would that be a good thing?  Not necessarily.  My mind considers the fishermen, Japanese culture and the important health benefits of fish. 

I obviously don't support animals getting slaughtered in terrible conditions.  But I also don't intrinsically feel that eating meat is wrong.  I'm honestly glad this experiment only lasts one month.  In these few weeks, I've realized that vegetarianism isn't right for me, but I'm definitely learning along the way.

A few people have mentioned that I've lost weight recently.  That's an interesting and unintentional effect.  Weight loss wasn't one of my objectives in this experiment, but I don't mind either.  Substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth, skipping a fried beef appetizer last week, passing by the jambalaya and turning down the free meat samples at QFC....I guess all these little things added up.  I also know that trying something new, whatever it may be, can break your eating patterns and sometimes cause weight loss.

This vegetarian experiment may also be the perfect time to finally try an Ayruvedic cleanse.  I'll continue my research about the foods I need and maybe email my amazing acupunturist, Teri Adolfo, at Kerala Ayruveda.  That may be the best way to clear away all the unneeded build-up that we all hold within.  It's a constant challenge to continually let go, think differently and be our best in this moment.  Now.