Monday, July 31, 2017

SPIRITUAL SMACK: THE TOMORROW LIST


S P I R I T U A L   S M A C K  |  T H E   T O M O R R O W  L I S T
On how to expand and extend gratitude from just here & now into tomorrow . . .


lthough I look chipper as a little bird here, swinging on a wicker chair, I was experiencing one of the toughest days of my life so far. I'll spare the details for my privacy and safety's sake, but I felt the anxiety of this particular event to ensue the following day down to the single strands of my hair. I felt like Medusa with coiled thoughts snaking around my mind, stifling any settled or stable thought. 

That night, my husband asked me, as we ask each other every night, the three things I was grateful for that day. An internal coup d'œeil, and I was about to chuckle over my desire to instead make a list of all the things that I was nervous about but then I held my tongue. I remembered a sentiment that Elena Brower had shared of Dr. Douglas Brooks's teachings: "See through the eyes of one who has already done it, accomplished it, climbed over and above that hill." As I glanced over again over the piled-high mountain of anxiety, I decided to turn towards the different view of what's rising. 

Instead of listing what I was grateful for that day, which despite my inability to articulate was still aplenty, I made a list of what I would be grateful to have realised tomorrow. If all went according to my desire's and the sake of my safety, how I would feel at the end of my day. Following that night, I have continued this practise. If I have a project with a deadline looming over me, I express gratitude for the financial support it's going to bring me upon completion. If I'm in a rut with my training and feel tired by the mere thought of my morning run, I dwell in awe of how my legs are going to carry me through the park then back home for a comforting breakfast. Perhaps it's a conversation that I have been delaying having with someone. It's simply a list we can create—out loud or by pen—to restructure and reprogramme the way our minds view what we are about to approach.

This practise of The Tomorrow List allows me to extricate myself from the bounds of my own universe of here and now. I expand into a perspective of a future that has an effect beyond my microcosm of today's anxiety. Our ability to have gratitude for the effect of having something realised, finished, or achieved in the future can allow us to surrender our inhibitions against beginning the task. It also enables us to slide the lens on events that are grander or beyond our control to focus on elsewhere—the weight we will leave behind to carry matters important to us when it is over in our favour.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

SPIRITUAL SMACK: DATING OURSELVES


S P I R I T U A L   S M A C K  |  D A T I N G   O U R S E L V E S
On the one distinction to bypass loneliness, the double-meaning of dating, & befriending ourselves . . .


When I was single, I was not alone. Certainly, there were moments wherein I felt lonely but I did not feel alone. Neither did I when I got married and moved out to a barren West TX desert border town. Plopped in an adobe home away from heat but also anyone I could remotely befriend, I lived without any friends for a year. My husband and I used to joke that the UPS delivery man was my best friend. I made him cookies for the Holidays . . .

The isolation served its purpose in creating a haven for writing my upcoming book (Prestel/Random House Spring 2018); I had not a distraction! What it could have also handed or dealt me with is loneliness. In a state of remoteness, our immediate emotional response is loneliness. And that's what it is: loneliness is an emotional response to the state of being alone. It stems not only from our innate desire to connect with another but also of stability or familiarity. Think about the times during your daily life where you're alone but not lonely, even such as going to the bathroom. Despite its simplicity and routine aspect, this act illustrates the effect of emotional attachment. We don't place emotional relations to going to the bathroom; there is no time planning to charge our here and now. 

The sense of familiarity is a trusting relationship with the unknown. What often squeezes our perspective of being alone into a diminutive one of loneliness is how we relate to ourselves. Many of us have a tendency to place ourselves within a time capsule where we travel back to the future. We relate to our current context and self by mirroring our past into a victimised future. Here, future events are extrapolated based solely on what happened to us in the past. We find a paradoxical comfort in the familiarity of assuming what the future holds based upon past experiences

“Many of us have a tendency to place ourselves within a time capsule where we travel back to the future”

An admitted semi-comical "Jesus, take the wheel" approach, we cease to take a hold of the future in a view of the world coming at us. This presents a focused highlight reel of past unfortunate events, allowing or pushing us into an assumption of a future where we remain helpless victims of our external happenings. Our present becomes an onslaught of oncoming traffic, the past from the left and future from the right. We consequently date ourselves—the here and now becomes timestamped by what has happened with what might.

This is the integral point which can allow us to shift our understanding of alone versus lonely.  When we see the world coming from rather than at us, we anchor the future in the stability of the self rather than outside events or people. In the other sense of the word, dating or taking ourselves out on a date is one approach in establishing this kinship with the self. Be aware of how our quick tendencies to eat while scrolling through Instagram or pushing ourselves to go out when we are drained might just be a way to distract ourselves from loneliness. Although the microcosm of Instagram or physically being surrounded by people may quell this feeling, it's an unsustainable Band-Aid fix. Ultimately, we have distracted ourselves from the true matter at hand making us emotionally respond to being alone. 

Instead, let's rekindle our awareness with ourselves. Don't have someone to eat a meal with? Take yourself out to lunch or dinner. Grab a cup of tea by a windowsill in the afternoon, breaking your gaze away from your screen and onto the street. To sit still with yourself and by yourself in time will mend not only your inner relationship but that which you have woven of the past & future; those you interact with; and your current and possibly future lover, but that's for another date . . .
loneliness is an emotional response to the state of being alone
—@thirlby

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

CURRENTLY CREASING №16


C U R R E N T L Y   C R E A S I N G
A collection of weekly reads to guide you through your days . . .

1 | Ordering this collection of essays soon to balance out this upcoming re-read
2 | I'm about to dig deep into my pockets with this challenge
3 | On reducing our carbon footprint by swapping super foods for local foods
4 | A humbling snapshot of vulnerability via artist Mari Andrew
6 | A D.C. food bike tour with a few spots you may have not yet heard of . . .
7 | How to make the most out of  summer's awkward social opportunities
8 | A quick 101 on adaptogens
9 | For those of us not in NY & yearning to take a class at Sky Ting
10 | A Modern Love story on a 12-hour goodbye

the T H O U G H T  O F  T H E  W E E K

"People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.
Out of a fear of the unknown,
they prefer suffering that is familiar"

—THICH NHAT HANH

Friday, July 21, 2017

FARMACY: POST-EXERCISE SKINCARE


F A R M A C Y   |   P O S T - E X E R C I S E   S K I N C A R E
A guide to combatting not-so-glowy exercise-induced redness, breakouts, & dehydration  . . .



lthough some of us enjoy a glow after exercise, some others are more prone to breakouts caused by pores clogged with sweat & oil buildup. Whether it's an HBO-bum routine or an anti-workout regimen, sweat is inevitable. Clogged pores, on the other hand, are avoidable. As I train for a marathon in the hot humid hellfire that is Washington, D.C., here are the tips I follow to care for my skin as I care for my body with exercise . . .

Detoxify Your Skin

Exercise increases oxygenation & blood flow, heightening the benefits of a pre-exercise detoxification regimen. Before your workout, gently jumpstart this process by dry brushing your body. This sheds the skin of dead cells that clog pores, which can cause facial or back acne. It also invigorates the skin cells, allowing for greater circulation to release toxins through perspiration. The slight warming of the skin tissue that dry brushing generates also allows the muscles to relax, easing them into the demands of exercise. Grab a brush like this one, which is great for reaching harder parts such as the back, and follow these directions!

Avoid Makeup

This one might be a no-brainer for some but it's an uncomfortable challenge for many others who feel more comfortable in public with makeup on. As understandable as it is, having any makeup—from the full coverage foundation to a simple dab of under-eye concealer—can be a contributing factor to post-exercise induced pimples. As sweat drips down our face, it mixes with these ingredients along with the dead skin cells and sebum that already pose as comedogenic factors. 

Try facing the challenge of going makeup-free during exercise, which will not only allow your skin to perspire more freely but might surprisingly free you to gradually embrace your own skin as it is. 

Wash Your Face Immediately

The two things I immediately do after my runs is wash my face and stuff my face. As it's critical, especially for high-intensity or long trainings, to fuel within 20 minutes, I shower after I eat. However, I make sure to wash my face before I do so. I use a gentle cleanser, currently switching between this and this one. I love the foam of the former while the latter is infused with pearl powder to provide for softening & illumination. 

Cleanse, Calm, & Hydrate

If you sweat more profusely or are prone to clogged pores, incorporate a deeper cleansing to your post-workout skincare regimen. Double cleanse by washing your face first with a cleanser such as the two options above then an oil-based cleanser, such as this one. This will clear the sebum build-up more effectively. An oil-based cleanser might sound counter-intuitive in combatting oil, but the combination of oil to oil with water provides for the emulsion necessary to dissolve excess oil. It also reduces enlarged pores and redness, which those with rosacea or fair complexion can face post-exercise. 

Sweating dehydrates our skin, so a deeply-penetrating moisturiser that simultaneously lets the skin breathe is necessary. To allow for best absorption, follow your face wash with a spray of cult favourite thermal water, which will also provide rehydration and cooling, especially in the summer heat. Then spritz a calming toner or hydrosol such as a rose or lavender-based one to prepare the skin for and heighten the benefits of your serum & moisturiser. After your toner, pat on your water-based serum. I love this one, for which you can get 10% off if you follow this BFF link

For moisture, a light oil serum with calming ingredients like rosehip, liqourice, or zinc will create an optimal moisture balance. This Rosehip & Chamomile Calming Cream tames irritation caused by perspiration and reduces redness. 

Don't forget to also hydrate yourself from the inside out with water; coconut water; and whole foods with high water content such as cucumbers, radishes, electrolyte-balancing watermelon.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

THE GUIDE: 4 EASY TIPS FOR LUXURIOUS SLEEP


T H E   G U I D E |   4  E A S Y  T I P S   F O R   L U X U R I O U S   S L E E P
A guide to turning your bedroom into a lush sanctuary, from a high-vibe nighttime routine to between the laundered sheets . . .



Frothy Nightcap Tea Latté
Having a cup of this creamy tonic rather than dessert to cap off dinner will allow your body to quietly ease into eventual rest. It's main ingredient is passionflower, which is an herbal equivalent of a billet-doux to your brain. It induces a sense of tranquility, heightens compassion, and eases nervous tension. It's coupled with the power & earthy tones of rhodiola, another tension-taming adaptogen or herb that allows our body to adapt to daily stresses.

D I R E C T I O N S | To make, simply blend in a high-speed blender hot but not boiling ½ cup of brewed passionflower tea with ½ cup of coconut milk, a teaspoon of pink salt grass-fed ghee, ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of rhodiola, and stevia to taste! For extra creamy frothiness and indulgence, add a tablespoon of Tocos. This extraction of stabilised rice bran is high in vitamin E for an anti-aging and glowing skin boost.

Meditative Skincare
While I apply my nightly facial oil, I always make sure to perform a lymph drainage or simple face massage on my face, even if it's a few quick swipes. Here's a quick guide on how to perform it. I then put a second layer of lotion or oil on my lower legs, intentionally massaging from my toes up to my thighs. This is not only helpful in inducing sleep through skin contact and biofeedback but increases blood flow to allow the muscles to relax. This is especially essential for athletes such as myself or people who are on their feet all day.

Herbal Aid
There are some great natural sleep-aids that are sure to replace the toxic + dependance-forming generics out on the market. Most people do tout melatonin supplements, but melatonin is a hormone and, over time, can cause unwanted irregularities in some people. Some safer options that I take instead are valerian, skullcap, passionflower, and rhodiola.

 Laundered Linens
The easiest yet most impactful secret to creating an indulgent bedtime for me has been investing in linens and scents. We sleep in French linen sheets, often light up our favourite candles as we unplug, and enjoy decadent scents such as the dusky sensuality of this biodegradable & nontoxic Le Labo x Laundress detergent.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

BEAUTY BITES: INFUSED SWEETENERS


B E A U T Y   B I T E S  |  I N F U S E D   S W E E T E N E R S
On how to heighten the medicinal effects of herbs & deepen the flavour of sweeteners . . .


 I was first inspired to infuse sweeteners, mainly raw honey, by the Ayurvedic Medicine staple chyawanprash, a nutritive jam infused containing amalaki fruits and a multitude of herbs, ghee, sesame oil, and honey. The base is used as anupans or carriers for these herbs and fruits as the honey, ghee, and sesame oil function as yogavahis or catalytic agents that deliver the benefits deeper into the cells.


Despite its benefits ranging from the high concentration of anti-aging vitamin C in the amalaki to building digestive fire, chyawanprash or prash does contain sugar to preserve the potency of amalaki. Sesame oil is also a seed oil that is often high-processed, is often rancid from its light- and temperature-sensitive nature, and inflammatory due to its high (forty-one percent omega-6 (Polyunsaturated) fat content. Although it doesn't contain the traditional Ayurvedic herbs, Sun Potion's prash is a great refined sugar- and -oil free option.


The infused sweetener recipes below skip the oils and call for the infusion of various different herbs and flowers. You can use them to sweeten teas, baked goods, salads, marinade, or even serve it alongside charcuterie or cheese platters. Add the brain-fueling and satisfying smear of ghee whenever you'd like! They will function as vehicles to deliver stronger, medicinal doses of the herbs they contain, such as sore throat relief with sage.




I N G R E D I E N T S
8 ounces of sweetener, preferably raw or Manuka Honey
2 tablespoons of dried herbs of your choice, avoid fresh herbs as they can cause growth of Clostridium botulinum spores
Spices of your choice, such as vanilla powder, cinnamon stick, allspice, and nutmeg


D I R E C T I O N S
I. First, make sure that your container is sterile. You can do this by boiling the container and lid then scooping it out gently with tongs.

II. You can use a single herb or a combination, but I suggest using no more than three to not create an overwhelming flavour or dense sweetener. Divide the amount of herbs accordingly. So if you’re using two herbs, place a tablespoon of each into your sweetener.
III. Simply place your herbs along with spices if preferred at the bottom of your clean containers and stir with a wooden spoon or chopstick as metal spoons can scratch the container.
IV. Place the lid on and let it infuse for a week or two weeks for a more intense flavour.
V. When ready, strain the jar into a new, clean container. It can be stored indefinitely.


S U G G E S T I O N S
Vanilla-Cardamon 1 vanilla bean, halved and a tablespoon of crushed cardamom pods Vanilla-Orange 2 slices of dehydrated orange and 1 vanilla bean, halved Sage & Lemon Balm a tablespoon each of crushed dried sage and dried lemon balm leaves Rose 2 tablespoons of dried rose petals Espresso two tablespoons of dark-roasted coffee beans

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

FARMACY: 4 TIPS FOR MINDFUL EATING


F A R M A C Y   |   4   T I P S   F O R   M I N D F U L   E A T I N G
A guide to effortlessly incorporating mindfulness into meals, from intuitive eating to the art of chewing . . .


Turn Off Your Gadgets

hink about what was on your kitchen table during at least one of your recent meals. Most likely you'll miss an item that is a primary barrier for many in mindful eating: technology. Our smartphones that are so often tied to us by the hip follow many of us to our tables. Slowly shift towards having your meals without engaging with your phone or the telly by enjoying at least one quiet meal every week. Find ease in that you can still enjoy a dinner with a move at home from time to time, but as a mindful choice rather than a habitual occurrence. 

Put Down Your Utensils

I'm one for lightly noshing while I prepare my meals, primarily because I'm often rungry after my runs. However, one thing I'm cautious of is resisting the urge or convenience of eating straight from the bag or box without plating it. Plate everything you eat, even if it's a small snack to have a clear visual of your portions. Seeing what and how much you eat will allow you to appreciate your serving and each bite more fully.

When you have your food plated, put down your utensils as you chew. We might find ourselves already preparing our next bite right as the previous one has touched our lips. Instead, rest your fork and knife until you have enjoyed & chewed your bite. 

Reflect on Sensations & Chew Thoroughly 

Before you begin your meal, reflect on your sensations. One main reason for mindless eating is senselessness, both physical and emotional. Are you having senseless thoughts or ones that are not conducive to eating, such as boredom or  anger? Are you feeding your body or the void that such discomforts are inflicting on you? Is it food that you are in need of or attentiveness to these emotions? Reflect on your bodily and emotional needs before you eat.

When and if you decide to sit down for a meal or a snack—yes, even snacks should ideally be at a table and not eaten in a rush, on-the-go, or standing up—pay attention to your chewing. When you put down your utensils, aim for at least 20 chews out of each bite, depending on the meal as softer foods yield less chew. Observe the texture and flavour of each component before swallowing. Incorporate the raisin technique, which entails savouring even small elemental aspects of meals, such as raisins, as if eating them for the first time. Make your meal a thorough experience. 

Autopilot & Intuitive Eating

Some of us might experience mindless eating due to what I call autopilot eating. With hectic schedules, we end up having to depend on rotating the same meals. This leads to disconnecting from our meals as our minds become far too acquainted to the flavours of our food. We can resultantly find ourselves looking down at an empty plate before we have even realised we were eating it . . . 

Changing up meals will not only get us out of this autopilot rut but also shift us away from habitual eating or what we believe we should be eating. It gears us to listen to what we crave or need, seeing ourselves as evolving functional bodies rather than predictable automatons. Before each meal, even if you had planned or prepared it the night before, ask yourself what it is that you truly want at the moment. It might be different than what was grumbling your stomach the night before and most likely the same thing you might have been preparing for the past month. 

If it's something other than your possible planned meal that you end up eating, reserve the prepared meal for another time or for your partner to feed your body what it really is humming for. When we eat intuitively this way, we feel more pleased and full, avoiding overeating to compensate for our true cravings or disconnexion from our food.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

FARMACY: EATING SUSTAINABLY ON A BUDGET


F A R M A C Y   |   E A T I N G   S U S T A I N A B L Y   O N  A  B U D G E T
A guide to minimising cost & optimising health on a sustainable plant-centric diet . . .


diagnosis of an autoimmune condition is discouraging in an of itself. When I received my diagnosis six years ago, I had no option for medication and nutrition was my only route for recovery. Although I recognise in gratitude many of the advances that allopathic medicine has provided us, nutrition counseling is not one of them. Many doctors are not trained or are ignorant of nutritional therapy options. Others even continue to believe that saturated or any fat is unhealthy, making minimal distinction between the many versions of this healthy, necessary component of our diet.   

When I opted to treat my condition through diet, I was at a loss that even with the absence of gluten among other things that my symptoms & flare-ups continued. Therein I promptly began researching the healing triggered by cutting grains and legumes from my diet. At this point, I had only recently reintroduced seafood into my diet but knew that my body was craving more. The absence of grains & legumes meant that I was going to require extra nutrition elsewhere, which is where the further reintroduction of meat began. I began slowly with first fish bone broth then graduated onto pasture-raised chicken bone and then grass-fed beef bone broth. My transition afterwards was quite swift: my first meat meal was liver. I had not had it since childhood but for days it was all my body craved.

To completely heal the damage my digestion had suffered pre-diagnosis, I followed the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol. This intricate & quite restrictive yet short-term diet involves avoiding nuts, seeds, eggs, and nightshades amongst other things. You can read more about it here & in my upcoming book, to be published in March 2018 (Random House). What I found to be an element of discouragement during this protocol was that those who do not have access to high-quality produce, meats, seafood, supplements, and even kitchenware would be at a loss. So, as I have navigated frugality on the Autoimmune Paleo protocol & a sustainable plant-centric diet, here are my tips on how to stay on a budget . . .



Eat a Plant-Heavy Diet

Protein is a necessary component of our diet, especially for athletes such as myself, & touted to be a cornerstone of a primal diet. However, having studied Food Archeology & Medical Anthropology, I can confidently state that many of our ancestors had instead a plant-heavy diet. Tubers were plentiful while meat was a treat, as hunting was demanding and sometimes animals were even scarce. Balance your protein to vegetables by following the three-quarters vegetables rule. You can read more about the importance of phytonutrients in vegetables here and the protein-to-vegetable ratio here

Prioritise your Expenses

I call this investing in the most nutrient-dense foods. This is often sustainably-raised meats & seafood. It entails purchasing foods that have the highest amount of nutrients at the most affordable price. 

For meats, be selective & smart about the cuts. Tougher and fattier cuts are cheaper and, with the right recipe, soften into a delectable meal. They also contain more gut-healing collagen, gelatin, & connective tissue. Eating offal or organ meats is also not only sustainable as it uses the entire animal but also cheaper. Incorporate liver, kidney, and decadent bone marrow into your diet.

For seafood, follow the Seafood Watch guide on best fresh options. BPA-free canned seafood such as sardines and mackerel are also great options as they are one of the highest sources of omega-3s. 

If you do not consume animal protein, make sure to invest in organic, sprouted nuts & seeds such as almonds or hemp seeds (a complete protein that does not need to be sprouted) as a source of quality protein. 

Plan your Meals

Having a week's worth of meals planned and, preferably, batch-cooked over the weekend or during your allotted free time will keep you on your budget by reducing the possibility of wasted food or depending on eating out during the work week.

Shop Accordingly & in Bulk

 Planning meals also provides a dependable grocery list of items that you will definitely use instead of buying produce that you do not have a definite idea of what to do with. Many of us are all too familiar with the bottom-of-the-drawer wilted greens or shrunken beets . . . Shop according to your meal plan's recipes & buy the dried goods it calls for in bulk, which is often the cheaper option.

Whole Foods over Supplements

With the heightened awareness of healing through nutrition & the hype of herbs or supplements, it's tempting to cash out. However, they're often unnecessary and spending that money on food instead is most always a more nutrient-dense option. You also benefit from avoiding filler, possibly autoimmune-triggering ingredients with which most supplements are packed. Unless it is recommended by a health practitioner or something you cannot get from food, trust your diet. 

Some great examples are drinking bone broth instead of taking powdered collagen or gelatin, which it naturally contains; eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut or drinking kvass for probiotics; eating green banana flour, plantains, or bananas for prebiotics; and eating dark, leafy vegetables for bone supporting vitamins & minerals. For omega-3s, opt for fresh, cold-water fish that's been sustainably raised or BPA-free canned sardines or mackerel instead of fish oil pills that often have gone rancid.

Make & Eat at Home Instead

Many of the foods we buy at grocery stores are things we can make at home. Unfortunately, time is also of essence & many of us are strapped. Make a list of your biggest expenses in regards to packaged or pre-prepared foods. Is it kombucha, kale chips, bone broth, fermented vegetables? Try making one or more of these on the weekends to save yourself time and money. Dried fruits is a great example here, too. A little bag of dried mangoes, for instance, cost between $7-10. If you like to nosh on dried fruits & bars, invest in a dehydrator—it doesn't have to be a $300something Excalibur—and make your own.  


Shop Online & at Multiple Stores

Don't shop for everything at only one store. Sourcing seasonal produce from the farmer's market is often the same price or cheaper than the grocery store counterpart but higher in nutrition (due to minimal travel time from farm to table). If you have access to a farmer's market, shop there for vegetables & fruits. Use this guide for what to buy organic. Farmer's markets are also a great place to find deals for locally-raised, sustainable meats. Otherwise, source them from a store like Whole Foods, MOM's Organic, Sprouts, or other health-food stores. As this is their specialty, the prices will be more reasonable than those in other grocery store chains. As previously mentioned, this is the area in which I recommended investing in your diet so to say. 

You'll discover that shopping at various stores allows you to stretch your money further as certain stores have better deals on particular foods than others do. For dried goods, from nuts to oils to any packaged foods, shop online. I use iHerb—use code QRN510 for 5% off; Vitacost—get $5 off; and Thrive Market—get 15% off!