Monday, December 31

to reflect and prepare

I have been lazily and happily drifting in a post-holiday haze. Hubby is off work between Christmas and New Year's, and having him around all the time has given these days a lovely sort of out-of-time feel. We haven't been doing much, really, but making and drinking honey-lemon-ginger tea by the half-gallon and playing with Silas' new wooden stacking blocks. It's been great. How have you been?

I love using the time between Christmas and New Year to reflect on the year past, and to plan and prepare for the year ahead. Today I want to share with you a few of the resources I use to this purpose.

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Although it's only in its second year's iteration, I think I can safely declare that Susannah Conway's Unravelling 2013 workbook is my favorite of all time. She puts so much thought and effort in putting together a profound and beautiful tool for reviewing the year that's coming to a close, and creating a vision for the new year--and did I mention it's free? Susannah's book and e-course have rocked my world this year, and I've enjoyed the guidance of her sweet voice as it comes through these pages. I highly recommend you download it yourself.

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My favorite meditation teacher, Susan Piver, has, also for the second year, put together a great line-up of voices to ask seven question in seven days as part of the Week Of Inward Looking. Although I don't typically end up working with all of the questions offered, those that do strike a chord end up provoking some deep and illuminating refection. There is also some thoughtful discussion going on in the related Facebook group.

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I love Nikki McClure's art and get her calendar every year.

For the last few years, I have been choosing a word to guide and inspire my goals and efforts for 12 months. 2012's was expand, and judging from my expanding belly, it was an apt choice! I'll be sharing my word for 2013 in the first few days for the year, but in the meantime, let me point you to a few other accounts of choosing a word for the year. The practice originated with Ali Edwards, who runs a year-long course based on One Little Word. I've also enjoyed Liz Lamoreux's recent post on the topic.

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While you're sitting down to do all of this reflecting, visioning and scribbling, it's lovely to have a soothing warm beverage to keep you company. Here are recipes for the two that have been nourishing and warming us of late. Happy visioning! I'd love to hear what are your plans and intentions for the coming year.

Honey Lemon Ginger Tea
As I've said, we've been drinking the heck out of this tea. It's just the thing when your throat feels a little scratchy and you're looking for extra coziness in your tea. I've been making a batch nearly everyday, and keeping it in a big jar on the counter.

Boil 8 cups of water in a large pot. Remove from heat, and add one lemon, sliced; 2 sticks cinnamon; 10 quarter-sized slices of ginger; 1/3 cup honey. Let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and serve. 

Adapted from a recipe I found on Pinterest, and now cannot locate.

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Chai Tea Concentrate

Unlike many brands of chai mix, this one includes the sweetener and the milk. All you add is a mug of hot tea.


  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Empty condensed milk into a jar or plastic container with tight-fitting lid. Stir in the sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Store in refrigerator.
To use: Brew a cup of strong black tea, such as Assam, then add two heaping teaspoons of concentrate or more to taste. Stir well until concentrate has fully melted.

Friday, December 14

it's okay to be

I am tired.

It's a gray and low day, with a slight drizzle. It isn't really cold, but I seem to carry a chill with me inside. My little bear has finally stopped fighting his nap.  I am still fighting mine. I would love to curl up in bed and drift off, but I feel I need to write.

I am tired.

Why? I wonder. I try to convince myself I shouldn't be. Then I remember: it's December, a week from solstice. I am 17 weeks pregnant. In two days I will be 34 years old. My son is almost two, and lively and fast. Some family health issues loom large and heavy on the horizon. I went to the gym this morning. It's Friday. These are all excellent reasons to be tired.

Then I remind myself that I am also allowed to be tired for no reason.

There are days when I still hold out hope that the practices that support me, that the yoga and meditation and mindful breathing and self-care, will somehow protect me from feeling low. That they will serve as an antidote to the common woes of the human condition. That it's a simple matter of math: that identifying the condition plus applying the appropriate practice equals feeling better. Some days it works like that.

But there is no long-term cure for being human. It is what it is. And some days what the practice gives us is the ability to name the feeling--I am tired--and allows us to sit with it. To let it be, and know that it's okay.

It's okay to be tired.

It's okay to be afraid.

It's okay to be resentful.

It's okay to be angry.

You do not need a reason, and you do not need to fix it. You can acknowledge it, welcome it, hold it in your open hand. Make a place for it within you, or make a place for yourself within it. And know that it will pass.

Some days the practice is just letting it be, and letting it go. And know that it's okay. That you're okay.

How are you feeling these days?

ETA: I have just read the news. Outraged and heartbroken and powerless are okay, too.

Tuesday, December 11

margin breath practice

"I love a broad margin to my life."  -Henry David Thoreau

I often find myself in the position of having to take my own advice. In my work as a yoga teacher, it feels natural to invite my students to be easy and sweet to themselves, but it's not always so easy to do it myself. 

One of my standard little phrases when I teach, especially when I teach a restorative yoga class or when I instruct students to come out of savasana at the end of class, is to create a sense of luxury around time or to cultivate a sense of ease around transitions. I am trying to prevent  them to popping straight up from a deep resting pose and jumping right into the next thing. I want them to bring the profound sense of peace they've been building along with them as they move out of the pose and back out into the world.

One day recently I noticed myself acting out the following scenario: after chasing Silas, carrying him to the car, wrestling him into the car seat, I plopped myself down into the driver's seat, buckled up, jammed the key into the ignition, and promptly started pulling out of the driveway. Putting Silas in the car seat has always been one of my least favorite tasks as a mama, but as he gets bigger and stronger, and as I grow more and more pregnant, it's a greater challenge each day, often leaving me breathless, tired and irritated. What I observed is that, by not cultivating a sense of ease around transitions, I was carrying the stress of one task--buckling Silas into the car seat--right into the next task of driving.

So I've developed this practice for myself, which I call the margin breath practice. I sit in the car, put the key in the ignition, but before starting the car and driving off, I put my hands on my thighs or my belly and take three, deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through parted lips. This allows me to let go of the tense energy of one task before stepping into the next. To create a sense of luxury around time, to build this little moment into my day that, like meditation, isn't about doing anything, but simply about breathing and being. It's a small thing, but it makes a big difference.

This, I believe, is how we busy mamas can integrate the benefits of mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation into our days, and reap their benefits. Not only by showing up on our mats and cushions at the appointed time (or whenever our kiddos finally go to sleep) but by mindfully carving out these little pockets of time into our days. Try it for yourself: after the difficult diaper change with the reluctant, wriggly toddler, after dinner before getting up to take your plate to the kitchen, before drawing the bathwater, why don't you

rest your hands on your belly
take three deep breaths
create luxury around time
cultivate ease around transitions

See if carving these margins into your days doesn't change your life a little. Or a lot.

Speaking of deep breaths... can't wait for the launch of this offering! What a wonderful Christmas gift for yourself, for a friend.

Thursday, December 6


There are two things that my 22-month-old son loves above all others: cars, and being outside. In fact, except for "mama" and "dada", "cars" and "outside" are his most-used words. Cars is always said as an exclamation. Silas lives in a charmed world where his very favorite thing not only litters every surface of his house (or so it seems to his mama), but also appears at every turn when we are out in the world, and this never fails to surprise and delight him. Cars! Outside is always a question, as in, Mama, are we going outside already?

I always wanted us to be an outside kind of family. We have a little over an acre--it's scrappy, but it's ours. I always imagined a garden and chickens and goats and children running free and happy among them. Reality's always a kicker. After another drought year the garden is all but abandoned and choked with weeds. We do have an almost-completed goat house, and a finished chicken cottage, but no hoofed or feathered friends yet. And, in the blasted heat and absence of rain that characterizes life in Texas, it turns out that going outside? is more complicated for this mama than just stepping out the door.

Silas does get plenty of time to roam the property freely, to investigate every stone and stick and dig in dirt patches--with his daddy. My husband grew up in Texas, and his youthful days in Scouts, and current work as an arborist, make him uniquely suited to life out of doors in these parts. Plus, he has stuff to do outside. While Silas wanders around, he is busy mending fences or clearing brush, and in this manner they both spend hours happily occupied. They don't care that the ground is cracked and dry. When I'm outside with Silas, I do nothing but stand around and worry about him getting messy. Not as fun, for either of us.

But it is clear that being outside? is of tremendous benefit, for me as well as for my boys. Yesterday, after a mile-long stroller walk down the road, we spent a good half-hour outside, doing what Silas loves to do best: wander, wonder, get dirty, chase the dog, be happy. He messed about in a pile of dirt, then splashed around in the fresh water I'd poured for the dog. He climbed his little fort and ran his car back and forth across the top, then slid down to the ground. When it was time for lunch, I stripped him out of his dirty clothes, we had a blast washing our hands at the kitchen sink, then he ate hungrily and napped soundly. And I got to soak up some sun, and begin to learn the long lesson about being less rigid and worried, about letting go and laughing more. It was a morning well-spent. I look forward to more of the same--outside.

Tuesday, December 4

need to retreat

I am feeling the need for some softness and quiet today. So this is where you can find me: tucked away in my celery green chair in my corner of the bedroom, with a cooling cup of earl green tea by my side. It's gray and slightly blustery, and out of the corner of my eye I can see yellow leaves flowing off the hackberry and chinaberry trees in the backyard. It's even been raining a little, off and on. Perfect retreating weather.

I have been spending a lot of time in the bedroom lately. Though I have a fully dedicated and lovely studio space for writing and yoga, those activities have been migrating to our bedroom instead. In one corner, I have a permanent set-up for reclined cobbler's pose, which is a wonderfully nourishing pose for pregnancy, and which I like to do for about 10 minutes almost every night. I have my reading and writing chair, a beloved Goodwill find that is starting to fall apart, but which I love deeply because I nursed my son in it for countless hours, and it's the perfect size and shape for me to retreat into. And I recently set up a little altar of sorts, with my Buddha from Target and candles and books by my favorite teachers

It's the first quiet day I've had to myself in a long, long while. Silas' daycare days, twice a week, have been filled with a flurry of activity of late. In the last few days I have felt my sensitivity/overwhelm/anger issues rise up, a clear sign I need some time and space to quiet down. I hope today will be some of that. More tea, maybe a nap, digging into some of the great books I've been reading. Doing housework slowly, only of it's going to make me happier and calmer to have done it. Some slow and steady yoga for sure.

It's always struck me as weird that as we near the winter solstice, and all of nature quiets down and prepares to fold into itself for the rest and renewal that is the winter season, we enter our busiest, brightest, loudest social season of the year. We keep things very, very low-key here on the Christmas front, with minimal fuss and decorations, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and breakfast tacos on Christmas morning. But I still feel the need for more slowing down, more curling up, more breathing deep. Do you?

Fellow blogger, HSP and soul sister Erin Goodman posted about this very topic today on her blog, which I am deeply grateful for. It is such a relief to me each time I read the words of women who are also dealing with these sensitivity issues. I am not alone! I am not crazy! And neither are you. 

And now over to you: I would love to hear about where you are retreating to these days. Is the hustle and bustle of the holidays getting to you yet? Are you making a plan to slow things down a bit? Do share in the comments, or, along with Erin, let's share the ways we are retreating over on Instagram with the hashtag #slowholidays. Now let's all go make ourselves another cup of tea.