Mindfulness Monday

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Mindfulness is something I thought I’d had a handle on for years. It’s become a common buzzword in the West, and was a  supplementary concept that frequently arose in literature and practices I engaged with during my eating disorder recovery and while diving deeper into my yoga practice.  Mindfulness, I gathered, was, like, paying more attention to stuff, right? Got it, easy enough.

Except that’s not a complete definition. Like a lot of Eastern practices that gain popularity in the West, the concept has gotten muddled down and commodified in a way that makes it more accessible for mass audiences. Paying attention might seem easy enough, but what about this more thorough definition from Buddhist-influenced scientist (and son-in-law of the late, great Howard Zinn), Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”  For me, the addition of presence and nonjudgement are game changers. Paying attention is one thing, but to focus solely on the present and to do it without judging any thoughts that take you out of that presence? It’s a big ask! It’s literally saying, “you’re not going to do this perfectly probably ever, but your goal is to do it anyway and never judge yourself for not doing it perfectly, (even though you’re never going to do it perfectly).” Like Michelle Tea says in her chapter on Buddhism in her memoir: “Buddhism embraces failure because it embraces humanity, and to fail is human.” Mindfulness means inevitable failure but striving to do better anyway, even in the midst of it.

That kind of commitment to a practice of almost-inevitable failure requires a huge amount of self-love. And, spoiler alert to my readers who haven’t already figured it out: self-love is probably the hardest (and most important)  thing we’ll ever have to learn in life.

Understanding the more complete version of mindfulness has made my attempts at the practice both more challenging and more rewarding. For years, I’ve been attempting to think before I speak and act, but I would still do things that weren’t mindful. Sometimes in big, ugly ways. Why was it that I could spend two hours at my yoga studio feeling centered, grounded, calm, and loving, only to drive home and feel irritable in traffic or snap at my mom on the phone? How, I longed to discover, could I practice mindfulness outside of the optimal conditions presented in the yoga room, and apply it in all the other parts of life when I need it even more?

Non-judgement is crucial here. When I’d drive home and get irritable in traffic, instead of observing that irritability and letting it go, I would criticize myself for not being a better all-loving yogi. This creates a terrible cycle. In Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach describes this stuck place of judgment as “the trance of unworthiness,” and explains that judging ourselves in these moments will not make us do better. On the contrary, “Feeling guilty and bad about ourselves for something we’ve done might temporary restrain us from doing harm, but intimately blaming and hating ourselves only leads to further harmful actions. We can’t punish ourselves into being a good person. Only by holding ourselves with the compassion of forgiveness do we experience our goodness and respond to our circumstances with wisdom and care.”

Practicing this in the middle of life-stuff is really hard. It’s asking a lot of you all at once, in seemingly contradictory ways. Be aware of your emotions, but also let them go, don’t judge yourself, but still observe that feeling. All at the same time, in one moment (and then the next moment, and the next, and so on)! As Brach notes, “Often the moment when we most need to pause is exactly when it feels most intolerable to do so.” 

Because it is so challenging to do that in real life, intentional mindfulness practices become invaluable. Meditation is key here. If you can practice sitting in a safe-to-you-space, with as few external distractions as possible, you can start to lay the groundwork and literally rewire your brain to do better when you are back in the “real world.” I have been working through a lot of resources to enhance my meditation practice, and these are some I’ve found especially helpful: Andy Puddicombe’s Do Talk (I appreciate that, in addition to the common analogy of clouds in the sky, Puddicombe also uses a traffic analogy that feels much more conducive to my city-girl sensibilities),  this Mindfulness App on my phone, and a place I’m now visiting in Cambridge called Inner Space.

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Another practice, outside of traditional meditation, that I’ve come to turn to is working through a book called How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness by Jan Chozen Bays. The book provides a mindfulness exercise “task” to focus on each week. Examples include using your non-dominant hand, noticing filler words, committing to taking three breaths, etc. The idea is that you focus on this exercise throughout the whole week to help draw attention to the present. This book was gifted to me over a year ago, and I’ve attempted to use it on a weekly basis, but it’s admittedly been rather hit or miss. I will start really strong on Monday morning, and by Monday night it dawns on me that I’ve sometimes already forgotten the task.

And so, I thought I’d use the blog as a way to be more accountable to these kinds of exercises. Out of respect to the author, I don’t plan to reveal the entire contents of the book, but I will  post some of the exercises from there, and also other places, on the blog each Monday to engage with it more fully for myself, and hopefully inspire you to do the same.

One task from the book that felt very relevant to the RGL community is to “Look Deeply Into Food.” Now, this is not a mindfulness practice about eating and fullness (although those are excellent tools for those of us who struggle with not eating enough or eating too much, and can be more thoroughly explored in Tich Nhat Hanh’s Savor), but rather this is about thinking about where our food comes from. This is about committing, for the rest of the week, to take a moment to imagine the process it took to get the food you are about to eat into your hands. It’s about honoring the work of not only farmers, and food industry labor, but also of soil and bugs and sunlight. And then, take a moment to thank them.

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A mindfulness exercise that is also a lesson in Marx’s commodity fetishism! Win! : )

Two final notes here on this inaugural Mindfulness Monday post. First, I feel it’s important to give credit to people and things who have influenced me on this path to deepening what feels like a very life-changing spiritual practice: AC, LC, AP, DC, BAB, GH, and yoga. You know who you are;  thank you. Second, the reason I have been immersing myself in this so rigorously is because life has been really, really difficult since I moved to Boston almost two years ago. I have never had a more challenging 18 months in my adult life than I have since living here (big moves, heartbreak, death, job insecurity, ptsd, etc.). We have a two options when life gets big and overwhelming and scary: we can numb it out and distract ourselves or we can confront it and allow the suffering to make us more compassionate. I’ve done both, and turns out the second option is a lot more liberating.

There is a Buddhist proverb that states, “No mud, no lotus.” That is, you need the crappy stuff to get something good; lotus flowers need mud to grow. I’m starting to realize that my lotus may not mean getting what I want externally, but rather finding peace internally, regardless of circumstance. These mindfulness practices help remind me of that, and for that, I am so very grateful.

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Do you engage in mindfulness practices? Will you join me in Looking Deeply Into Food this week? 

Friday Five

Dear friends, happy Friday. My heart has been as full as my week. It was Social Justice Week at school, and I spent most of my free time staying on campus to help facilitate screenings, discussions, and performances to encourage my little college community to think about issues related to oppression and liberation. We had some really powerful events, including a performance by  And Still We Rise, “a collaborative theater project dedicated to healing, public awareness, and social change through empowering the voices of formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones.” I was humbled and grateful to share space with these defiantly vulnerable human beings.

And Still We Rise

And Still We Rise

Despite a lot of things in my life urging me to feel blue and stuck, it’s been hard to indulge either of those feelings after this week’s events. Instead, I am feeling so glad to be alive and to have an opportunity to share in the struggle to create a better world….

and to, you know, make the Friday Five. So here we go!  : )

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Mexican Farm Workers on Strike

It is so easy to forget where our food comes from. It doesn’t just fly from the earth to our plate, it is a process of intense labor, provided to us largely by immigrant workers. The conditions these workers endure are often grueling—-“subpar housing, inadequate sanitation, poverty wages, and often, labor arrangements that approach slavery;” currently in Baja California, Mexican farmworkers are taking a stand against this exploitation by going on strike. The strike’s organizers also plan to launch a boycott, so stay tuned for how you can stand in solidarity by not purchasing the food from companies who refuse to treat their workers like human beings.

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Zen and the Art of Social Movement Maintenance

This article is everything to me right now. The deeper I get into Buddhism and the more I incorporate yoga into my life outside the studio, the more I am challenged to confront how these spiritual practices support or complicate my radical politics. In this thoughtful essay, James K. Rowe analyses the Occupy movement to suggest how a commitment to dismantling systems of oppression does not necessarily conflict with practices of mindfulness and  lovingkindness. One activist notes, “If you look at the general mechanics of anti-oppression discourse and training, it is observing how socialization and social structure speak through us, and then finding points of intervention so that we can make deliberate decisions about our agency rather than just moving through racist, patriarchal, colonial inertia. It is a form of meditation.” If you’re at all interested in these questions, I highly recommend reading the whole piece.

How to Sleep Better

With all the self-care I’ve been working on lately, something I still struggle with is getting to bed at an early hour. A lot of these tips from Kris Carr are things most of us have heard a lot (no screens before bed, exercise, etc.), but, for me, it’s still good to see them written out to help me stay accountable to best practices. I also know good sleep is a problem for a lot of other people I know (hi mom!), so I hope it can be a helpful reminder for some of you too! Relatedly, I also recommend checking out Rande Moss’s ideas on “Detoxing Your Evening Routine: 29 Things To Do Instead of Watching TV.”

 Mung Bean Cakes with Cilantro Cream Sauce

This recipe from Ashley Neese looks and sounds so delicious. I don’t actually eat mung beans a lot, but this seems like a great excuse to give them a try. And it’s definitely very springy, right?

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Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy

yoga; sculpt teacher training; kitten; phone calls, emails, and texts from dear friends; laughing; Social Justice Week and the inspiring conversations it nurtured; warmer weather; sticking to my meditation practice; empathy; compiling care packages; planning ladies’ weekend; my students; fresh arugula; femmey bow-collar blouses; and green tea.

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What made you happy this week? Have a great weekend! xoxo

Friday Five!

Well, somehow it’s Friday again, and it’s yet another week when I haven’t posted anything since the last FF. Apologies! Some week I’ll manage to post a recipe or a WIAW or some musings on the latest buzz. This, however, is not that week. Instead I was busy with work, busy with self-care/healing/growth, busy getting tattooed (it’s a multiple-session kind of deal), etc. It’s been okay.

Here’s some cool art by Sayaka Maruyama:

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And now, the Friday Five!

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“It Ain’t All Good, and That Sucks, and It’s Okay”

I think a lot about this conflict between the New Agey Woo World of positive affirmations and visualizations and universe-trusting mantras, compared to the reality of the material world of systemic oppression and concrete struggle. Author Toni Bell, a self-described “recovering New Ageaholic,” describes how some of the workshops she’s attended have described racism and genocide as “bad vibrations.” Understandably, she became disillusioned. Bell goes on to make a case against always trying to feel positive and defends the importance of feeling anger and grief. My reaction to that (and something Bell gives a nod to) is that Buddhism provides the best of both worlds—(feel all your feelings, but also trust that the universe/your buddha nature can provide you the tools and space to heal)—but I see her point all the same. There is a fine line between the practice of positive thinking and the practice of ignoring problems in the world that can’t be mantra’d or affirmed away.

Taboo LGBT Sex-Education

Speaking of feeling angry, I just can’t with the reality of sex-ed in our schools, especially this: “Only 22 states plus the District of Columbia requires sex education in schools. Twelve of those states require sex education teachers to discuss sexual orientation. Three of those 12 states require teachers to impart only negative information on sexual orientation to students. Yes, three states in the United States make LGBTQ youth listen to discriminatory information directed at them by their own teachers. Take Alabama, whose sex education instructors are required to teach that homosexuality ‘is an unacceptable, criminal lifestyle.'” Currently, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, which would ameliorate some of this, is just sitting around Congress, not getting addressed. All young people deserve comprehensive sex ed, and our LGBT youth especially deserve something better than being either invisible or villainized. Ugh.

America’s White Fragility Complex

This interview with Robin DiAngelo is so important. DiAngelo discusses what she terms as “white fragility” that is the foundation for our current climate surrounding race in the US. DiAngelo states, “For white people, their identities rest on the idea of racism as about good or bad people, about moral or immoral singular acts, and if we’re good, moral people we can’t be racist – we don’t engage in those acts. This is one of the most effective adaptations of racism over time—that we can think of racism as only something that individuals either are or are not “doing.” In large part, white fragility—the defensiveness, the fear of conflict—is rooted in this good/bad binary. If you call someone out, they think to themselves, “What you just said was that I am a bad person, and that is intolerable to me.” It’s a deep challenge to the core of our identity as good, moral people.” And that defensiveness leaves us at a stand-still. I experience this a lot when I’m teaching (white) students about race, and we see it all the time in the media when white people talk about things like Ferguson, Oklahoma, etc. Hey, white people, let’s stop making everything about us, and start acknowledging the very real systemic violence experienced by people of color, yeah?

Lemony Lentil Chickpea Salad with Radish and Herbs

Oh em gee, you guys, look at how springy this salad from Cookie + Kate looks! I love everything about this—protein? good. lemon? good. herbs and radishes? good good. It is not actually spring weather yet here on the east coast, but I’m committed to making more spring-like meals in an effort to manifest some warm weather quicker, and this looks like just the dish!

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Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy

beginnings of new tattoo; kitten snuggles; yoga; Sculpt Teacher Training starting tonight!; sunshine; hosting a st. patrick’s day party for two (with theme-appropriate food & drink, obvi); my students; boxing! (srsly, such an amazing and fun workout); friend phone calls; feeling the evidence of growth and change in my bones; sticking with my meditation practice; this song (and the dreams of summer it inspires); also, new best coast (for the same reason); seeing local boston pop-punk bands at new-to-me venus; reading (this book, still, because i don’t want it to end); first run outside since september; therapy (#realtalk); cat island!; coordinating some pretty femme-tastic teaching outfits; showers; & the scent of the impending spring persistently fighting its way through the cold winter air….

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What made you happy this week? Have a great weekend! xoxo

Friday Five!

I’m not sure how it’s Friday again. This past week was spring break for me. I didn’t do anything wild–mostly just did a little more yoga than usual and made time for pleasure reading. And now here we are on Friday once again, and so here I am again with the Friday Five!

I guess the coolest thing about this spring break is that I’m getting tattooed later today. It’s been over a year, so I’m definitely ready for more ink. This is NOT the tattoo that I will be getting, but I found it while looking for art, and just love it. And so it is now the obligatory FF pre-list image. Fierce femme flash art, for the win!

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Meditation Literally Rebuilds Gray Matter

So, I’ve begun a meditation practice; I’ve attempted this before, but this time it’s in earnest and I think it will stick. Although I wish that I wasn’t currently going through such a challenging time, I am grateful it has inspired some really solid self-care practices, meditation included. Anyway, because this is now part of my daily routine, I was especially stoked to stumble upon this Harvard study that explains how meditation can literally rebuild your brain matter. The study “demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.” What?! I really love with holistic stuff is backed up with science. Very cool.

“Does Being Vegan Really Help Animals?” 

Pretty solid interview on NPR with three vegan activists from the Human Society, Farm Sanctuary, and PETA. The interviewer seems to try to pose “gotchya!” questions, but the interviewees respond with some excellent responses that shut down the skepticism. I especially enjoyed the discussion of veganism and poverty: “If we look at the volume of resources that are expended to produce meat, dairy and eggs, it seems clear that animal products are, in an increasingly crowded world, the fare of the wealthy. And, we can look to some stark examples — the razing of rain forests in Brazil to raise grain for factory farmed chickens in the U.S., and the exporting of grains from Ethiopia during the height of the Ethiopian famine to factory farmers in Europe, for instance — to recognize that reliance on animal-derived foods contributes to inequality.”

Level Up Your Allyship

I always appreciate anything that makes me think about how to be a better ally. Most of us have elements of our identity that are privileged and also elements that are oppressed, but it’s super important that we use our positions of privilege to eradicate oppression rather than entrench it. Shannon Barber generously offers some best practices for those of us who want to do solidarity better.

Cauliflower & Chard Fritters with Spicy [Yogurt] Cilantro Sauce

So, this recipe from My California Roots needs some tweaks to make it fully vegan (and I’d also sub the wheat flour for something gf), but don’t these look delicious and springy?!

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Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

glow flow sculpt (basically a fitness class rave without drugs), michelle tea’s new book (specifically that the book reveals that michelle didn’t really have her shit together until her late 30s, which is just hugely comforting for me right now), yoga, kitten, melting snow, lady lamb, lip-synching sing alongs to kelly clarkson with friends in public, seeing a preview for this movie (because it looks so bad ass!), vegan taco night at M&G’s, planning for tattoo day, ginger & turmeric carrot soup, meditation, being outside, & peppermint tea.

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What made you happy this week? Have a great weekend! xoxox

Friday Five!

Hello, it’s Friday. First, thank you all for the kind words about my reflective post from Monday. It was definitely vulnerable, so it was cool to see that people could relate. It’s becoming more and more important to me to share stories of overcoming life stuff with other people. Empathy been a major player in getting me through a really tough past year and a half. So, thank you. <3

Anyway, on to brighter things. It’s been a long, busy, and somewhat emotional few weeks, but also, simultaneously, a time of positive growth and changes. I am holding a lot of heaviness and also a lot of resolve. I feel like I am a good complement to this time of end of winter/early spring.

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And now, the Friday Five!

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Overmedicating “Crazy” Women

Julie Holland is a psychiatrist and author of the provocatively titled, Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, The Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having and What’s Really Making You Crazy. She also wrote an article this week for the New York Times called “Medicating Women’s Feelings.” The short version of Holland’s thesis is that the reason that 1 in 4 women are on prescription drugs for mental illness and only 1 in 8 men are is not because women are “crazier,” but rather because women process emotions in ways that our society has deemed crazy. I appreciate the acknowledgment of the historically sexist trope of the “hysterical woman,” but Holland is also relying on a biologically determined gender binary. (She also is far too comfortable with the use of the word “normal.”) It’s a valuable conversation, and one that was discussed at length on On Point (linked above), and I’d be curious to know what others think!

The Buddha Loves Boundaries

(First, right away, before you click on the link–trigger warning re: abuse, violence, poverty). This article is intense for a lot of reasons, but is absolutely worth reading (for those same reasons, really). It’s a discussion of the difference between presence and acceptance and self-harm. It’s about mindful actions. It’s about the weight of our histories. And it’s an article about Buddhism and new age self-helpy skills written by a working-class person of color, which is not a perspective we get very often (because of the racist and exclusionary culture of contemporary self-help). So if any of those things sound intriguing, I’d definitely recommend giving it a read.

In Praise of Meaningless Work

This essay tackles a topic close to my heart: labor. It’s a discussion of the sort of mainstream message that you should find fulfilling work. But how that’s not an option for everyone. I think I’ve written before how I struggle with this—I do do what I love (teaching college classes, teaching yoga, and research/writing), but I am still a part of a university machine that is no different from any other alienating workplace system. Keohane writes, “…we should embrace not the meaningfulness of work, but its meaninglessness. The cold, unromantic transaction. The part that keeps food in our bellies and a roof over our heads. The part that, theoretically, gives us our nights and weekends. Let’s demand that recompense, first and foremost, and deal with the rest later. With unemployment falling to pre-recession levels, employees are hopefully gaining the leverage to say enough. The prayer is that the line will be drawn, and managers will then see that the way forward is actually very simple: Hire good people. Treat them well. Help them succeed. Compensate them fairly. Let them go home. ” What do you think?

Green Goddess Black Quinoa Salad

In an effort to conjure spring more fully, I like the idea of this fresh green salad from Simply Quinoa. The dressing is cashew-based and uses cilantro as the herb. Pour that on top of sprouts and quinoa and top it off with avocado? Yes please!

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Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

yoga; teaching sculpt; review day in my Social Change class when students got to feel stoked about how much awesome stuff they’ve learned so far; friend phone calls; processing & growth; grapefruit; melting snow & the smell of spring; life alive with a true friend; gifted bouquet of tulips blooming on my tiny little dining room table; kitten snuggles; MLH and I recording our first podcast episode tonight!; finding out that i will be a coach for yoga sculpt training (yay!); this pretty-cheesey-(and problematic)-but-had-me-in-happy-tears-anyway-in-the-coffee-shop-video; letter from my prison pen pal (& collecting a bunch of yoga info to send to them, per their request); tara brach videos; health; carrot turmeric ginger soup; and G.L.O.S.S. (thanks Lacy!).

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What made you happy this week? Have a great weekend! xo

20 Lessons from My 20’s: Reflections from a woman at 30

Dear readers, apologies for another bit of absence on my end. I’ve found myself with somewhat less free time to blog as I’ve begun to work in earnest on some particular aspects of self-care that I have come to realize I’ve been neglecting. More on that, perhaps, in another post. 

For now, this is something I started working on about a month ago, on the morning of my 30th birthday.  It was about 5am and I had just awoke from a deeply disturbing dream and couldn’t go back to sleep. This is rare for me. But that morning, when sleep wouldn’t return, I got out of bed and started writing…. thoughts, lessons, advice…Just a lot of things I had come to realize as I reflected on the last decade of my life. I didn’t revisit the document again until recently. I added some more and decided to stop at 20. 20 for my 20’s. Here it is. 

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selfie. age 29.

selfie. age 29.

1. You do not need to impress the scene kids at school. You do not need to get nervous in the pit of your stomach when you go to the student center because you think you might run into the group of people who you assume know cooler bands than you. They do not know cooler bands than you. You are no less interesting than them, and you are a lot nicer, and you will look back and laugh that you were ever intimidated by their asymmetrical haircuts.

2. In general, you should stop caring about what people think of you, because this will come up again and again. The people who are worth it won’t make you feel so nervous about being who you are.

3. You will find love again. And again and again and again and again. You will think you will never find it again, or feel it again, but you will. Please especially remember this when you think you have found “the one.” Know that anyone who makes you feel that horrible is not the one. Know that you will find kinder and more real love very soon. Know that you deserve better.

4. The cats you have as pets children in your grown-up life will be some of the most important and wonderful things that ever happen to you. You will learn to take care of something and put it’s needs before your own. When you think you are a shit person with nothing going right, you will remember that you have kept alive a living being who thinks you are the most wonderful person on the planet. You will have cats that get you through the deepest kind of heartbreak and the most inconsolable of loneliness—not because of what they do for you, but because you realize you are capable of doing all that you do for them. This will be helpful for you when you are trying to decide if you are ever capable of having a child (which you will never do in your 20s, so don’t sweat it); you will feel like maybe you are maternal after all.

5. Just because that guy has good politics about the war and capitalism and says he’s a feminist does not mean it is okay that he had sex with you when you were blackout drunk. This will only remind you of all the previous times in your life when men have done things to your body without your consent and flashes of it will burgeon, from time to time, like a dull and burning pain in the pit of your stomach. You will, in your later 20s, do a lot of processing about not just that time, but the times before that, when you became a statistic, and you will promise yourself to unlearn the way those incidents made you feel undeserving of kind and respectful relationships. This will not be easy.

6. Being vegan is not a phase. Being an activist and wanting to fix our broken system is not a phase. Being queer is not a phase. Don’t let anyone be dismissive of the parts of yourself that you feel in your gut are true. They are you and they aren’t going anywhere.

7. Stop making fun of yoga. In a few years, it will save your life.

8. In many ways, you are very mature for your age, and always have been. In many other ways, you are extremely immature and have so much more to learn.

9. Stop stressing out so much about what tattoos to get. You will, inevitably, have chosen different things at different points in life, but that’s sort of the point. When you hit thirty, you won’t regret a single tattoo you have because they will act as persistent story-tellers of a time and a place and a you that existed once upon a time. You will be grateful for these ink-scar memories.

10. You will think nothing will be better than the community you had in Cleveland, then you will find it bigger and brighter in Chicago. You will think nothing will be better than the community you had in Chicago, then you will find it stronger and more securely in Minneapolis. You will think nothing will be better than the community you had in Minneapolis, and you may be right, but you will find lovely people and solid routine in Boston and you will grow to love elements of even the hardest years of your life in that city.

11. You will not figure out what you want to do career-wise until the last week of your senior year of college. This may feel too late, but it’s not. You will get your shit together and start on a path that you tackle full-force. You will succeed in so many ways on this path, but you will also question it. 50% of your job will be “doing what you love” (teaching), but the rest of it will be lessons in not having control over big important parts of your life. Lessons about thick skin and being over-worked and under-paid and sacrificing your personal life. You will think many days that you want to leave academia, but you decide that you will not make any move to leave unless you can think of something you’d rather be doing. You will not think of something you’d rather be doing.

12. You will spend so many minutes hating your body, that the minutes will add into days then months then years. It will get better, then it will get worse, and then better again. Tell your body you love it everyday. Say it over and over until you believe it.

13. When you are feeling the world and you are in it, it will be magic and it will be heavy. You will try so desperately to hold on to the magic parts but they will fade, and you will be left with the heaviness. You will build up walls to avoid the fall, and the magic will become less. You will be cognizant of this and you will, every once in a while, re-read this, just to remember.

14. Breakups don’t get easier. They get harder.

15. You will have no choice but to live with the decisions you make and you will never know for certain if many of these decisions were “right.” But you will have to cope with them, and more important learn from them, and more important than that, grow from them. This process will help you make better decisions–(and you will come to find that the best decisions are the ones that feel good in your gut and honor the truest and kindest parts of who you are; the best decisions are made when you act from a place of compassion for yourself and others)–the next time around.

16. Trust the power of getting rid of shit. You will find decluttering to be one of your most effective self-care tools.

17. You will spend most of your 20s thinking you are stronger than your past. You will think that traumatic events from your childhood and adolescence won’t impact you. But you will be wrong. This will all come to a head very soon. When life becomes the most unstable it’s been in your adult life, you will begin enacting patterns you didn’t know you learned. You will have to work very hard to break these patterns. But you will have the tools to do it. You will be okay.

18. You are worthy and deserving of love. You will have to keep re-learning this. Don’t give up.

19. That night you felt like your life was falling apart but had a sense that it wouldn’t be a big deal later? You were right, it won’t be a big deal. But keep feeling those emo-feelings, 21-year old Raechel. It means your heart is still beating.

20. Love is not enough. But it is worth all the hullaballoo.

Review: The Best Green Smoothies On the Planet

Hello from the arctic Northeast! You might think it’s odd to be writing a post about smoothies in the dead of winter, but me and smoothies are kind of ride or die. I like them year-round, because even if they go down cold, the post-nutritious breakfast inner-glow warms me up just right.

I think those of us who are into smoothie breakfasts probably think we’ve seen it all when it comes to these blended delights. There are only so many combinations of fruits and veggies that one can come up with, right? TheBestGreenSmoothies_FrontCover Wrong. I was delighted to discover that Tracy Russell’s The Best Green Smoothies on the Planet was full of ideas I had never entertained. Soaking goji berries, for instance, had never occurred to me, but it made for an awesome Berry-Chia Seed Smoothie. And who would have thought broccoli, kiwi, and grapes would be a good combo? (It was!)

The book is divided into two sections, with twelve total chapters. Part One is an Introduction to Green Smoothies, and is full of tons of information, which would be especially helpful for novices. Russell answers questions about the benefits of green smoothies, whether or not to do an all smoothie “cleanse” (no!), and the best ingredient base to use for smoothies. She also responds to common myths about smoothies, refuting them with well-researched rebuttals.

Part Two is the fun part: the recipes! Russel’s 150 smoothie recipes are divided into the following sections: Detox and Cleansing Green Smoothies, Weight Loss Green Smoothies, Antioxidant Green Smoothies, Fitness and Energy Green Smoothies, Immune-Boosting Green Smoothies, Calcium-Rich Green Smoothies, Heart Healthy Green Smoothies, Iron Rich Green Smoothies, and Mood-Enhancing Green Smoothies. Whew! It’s a truly impressive collection of recipes and I really like the category division. In addition to the ones I mentioned above, I was also really excited by the Pineapple Ginger Smoothie, the Maca Almond Smoothie, and the Ginger-Citrus Green Smoothie. I should mention, all the recipes are vegan and gluten-free.

My biggest critique of the book is that there are no pictures other than on the cover, and I think our Pinterest-obsessed culture is turned off by a lack of images. But I hope this doesn’t deter you from checking out the book, or, even better, gifting it to a newbie green smoothie maker!

BenBella Publishers have kindly offered to share one of the recipes from the book with all of you! I love this one because it incorporates *sweet potatoes* into a smoothie! It is creamy, comforting, nutritious, and delicious!

SWEET POTATO SMOOTHIE

recipe and excerpt from The Best Green Smoothies on the Planet

Sweet potato is an often overlooked hidden gem when it comes to green smoothie ingredients. Just half a cup of sweet potato contains 2 grams of protein, 13 percent of your recommended daily value of fiber, and 137 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin A (as beta-carotene). Sweet potato is also loaded with antioxidants. You can use it raw or cooked. I prefer to use cooked and cooled sweet potato since cooking it brings out more of the flavor.

INGREDIENTS

½ cup cubed sweet potato, cooked and cooled

1 medium banana, peeled

1 medium carrot, sliced

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup butterhead lettuce, torn

8 ounces homemade almond milk (page 64)

NUTRITION INFO Calories: 26 Fat: 1g Protein: 6g Carbs: 54g Calcium: 7% Iron: 1.9mg Vitamin A: 223% Vitamin C: 47%

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

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Note: I was given a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own. 

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What’s your favorite smoothie to make?