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New ideas and thoughts from some of our very favorite health and wellness experts.

Experience Life Magazine

SUMMER STRESS DETOX! Reassess and Remove: Step 2: Clear the Clutter

This blog is part of our “SUMMER STRESS DETOX!” Series.

Time to clear your slate—and start the summer season refreshed and revitalized. To that end, Experience Life has partnered with meQuilibrium, the first-ever online stress management system, to bring you this 8-part series on detoxing mind, body, and spirit. You’ll discover strategies for everything from rethinking your diet to clearing clutter and shifting your stress response so that you can feel lighter, cleaner, and healthier than ever. (Learn more about the 28-day summer stress detox challenge!

WEEK 1: REASSESS & REMOVE 

Step 2: Remove the Junk; Clear the Clutter

In step 1 of our month-long detox, you started to identify how thoughts are your #1 stress-inducing enemy, and how your response to your surroundings can make stress worse.

So let’s take a closer look at what is surrounding you, exactly.

Ask yourself the following:

  • How do I feel when I look around my home? My workspace?
  • What piles or other unaddressed items are taking up space?
  • What am I hanging onto that I no longer need or want, but have a hard time getting rid of?
  • What can I do to improve my working and living environments?

a pile of multi-colored folders with documents

Declutter—and Detox Your Space 

Taking some time early in the process to make some dramatic physical changes to your environment can kickstart your motivation. The immediate payoff of looking around your place and seeing a cleaner, more ordered space is incredibly energizing, as a detox should be, plus can make you feel far more in control of your home and your life.

Here’s how to get started.

  • Set a timer. You can start with a drawer, a closet, or one area of your home that seems to be a clutter magnet—but set a timer. Start with 20 minutes and keep moving.
  • Sort into three piles: Keep, Trash, and Donate. Whether it’s clothes you don’t wear or appliances you never use, figure out what to do with them and then make it a point to get them off the premises within two days. If you want to sell a few items on eBay or craigslist, post the ads immediately.
  • Let go of the things you don’t love. It sounds like common sense, and yet there are likely lots of space-eating objects in your home that were either expensive mistakes or unwanted gifts that you feel bad about tossing. This is precisely the kind of thing to get rid of. If it makes you feel bad every time you look at it, that’s a toxic drag on the psyche. Re-gift, donate, or sell to someone who will make good use of it.
  • Store it—temporarily. If you’re really on the fence about a few items, put them in a box in the garage or closet. If, after three months, you never seek it out, and can’t name what’s in it, out it goes.
  • Make the decision today. Most piles that gather on a desk or table are there because you haven’t made a choice as to what to do with them—and you’re procrastinating. Make today the day you do what you must to get the paperwork, recycled, shredded, or filed away.
  • Unsubscribe. Catalogs and magazines are big clutter culprits. Visit catalogchoice.org to unsubscribe from unwanted catalogs, and unsubscribe from e-newsletters you don’t read, or apply filters on your email so they don’t junk up the joint.
  • Do a digital cleanup. It may not take up the same kind of space as a pile of mail, but the digital clutter on your desktop or unsorted emails are also a drain on your energy and time. Spend 15 minutes a day this week sorting, discarding, and filing whatever’s taking up space on your computer so you can streamline your workday.

Step 3: Revitalize Your Diet

Want to make an even more dramatic change? Take the 28-day summer stress detox challenge!

Terri Trespicio is editor of meQuilibrium, the first-ever online stress management program. Find out more about how meQuilibrium can help you reduce your stress.

 

Experience Life Magazine

The Truth About How To Have A Good Marriage: 5 Unconventional Lessons

Yesterday was Ryan and my 8th wedding anniversary. This past weekend, while on a getaway to celebrate in San Diego, I said to him, “We made it, sweetums! We’re past the 7-year itch. Everything should be smooooth sailing from here.”

He knows I’m joking because, well, no relationship is ever perfect. I think the sooner you realize this, the happier you will be.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s worth noting again.

It’s easy to look at other people’s relationships and think they’ve got it made, but we all have our challenges. We all have our moments where we question if we’ve got what it takes to be one of those couples that hits that 50 year anniversary and beyond.

I look back on that day we stood on the alter and promised ‘til death do us part. We said we’d be there for each other in good times and in bad, and I realize… we were really young! I was 23 and Ryan was 25.

We had no idea what those promises truly meant. Fast-forward 8 years and I think we’ve got a pretty good idea, but we’re still learning. That said, over our time together, Ryan and I have gotten good at working with each other’s ebbs and flows.

We spent some time at the pool on Saturday, and over a plate of killer nachos and drinks (Stone Arrogant Bastard beer for him and a fresh-squeezed lime margarita for me), we boiled it down to 5 lessons that we think we’ve kinda-mastered during our time together.

how-to-have-a-good-marriage

Like I said, we’ve still got plenty of room to get better at this, and if we’re lucky, we’ve got plenty of years to keep working on it, but these are our 5 best “how to have a good marriage” tips.

Note: For the purposes of not having to say him/her a bazillion times, I will just use “him,” but know that all of these lessons apply to both the guys and us, ladies!

Without further adieu…

5 Unconventional Lessons For How to Have a Good Marriage

1. Ignore what you don’t like.

Whaaa??!! That’s right. Ignore it. We’ve all grown up learning how to point out the things that we don’t like because we think this is the best way to change them. Well in relationships, it’s actually quite the opposite.

Of course, communication is key (more on that in a minute), but after you’ve voiced your concerns, if it’s not something you want to keep happening, then there’s no need to keep bringing it up again and again.

The more attention you put on something, the more it keeps it alive.

And I’m not talking about just the little things (clip your toenails in bed… really?), because most times, the things that irritate us most about our partner are the things that deep down, irritate us about ourselves.

Early in our relationship, Ryan had this habit that whenever he was around “cheat” foods, he’d inhale it like a vacuum. He’d start on a bowl of chips and dip and wouldn’t stop until it was gone or start with one cookie, only to keep grabbing more until the whole plate was gone.

It was so hard for me to watch. Literally, I’d feel all wadded up inside just seeing him do it.

At the time, I thought it was because I wanted to help him and I knew that later on he’d wonder why he was having trouble losing weight or would get down on himself about it. But now I realize the reason why this was so irritating had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.

I was doing the same thing and was pissed off at myself for it, maybe not in the exact same way, but I definitely had my own binge behaviors with food.

Over time I learned to let it go. I stopped analyzing and worrying about what Ryan was doing and let him do his own thing, and instead I worked on myself.

And you know what, he found his way (and I did too). Today, he’s as much a teacher to me about food as I am to him. We both lead by example and help each other to be the healthiest versions of ourselves, not through repeatedly pointing out what each of us might be doing wrong, but rather by showing each other what it looks like to do it right and not make a big deal of it when we choose to do otherwise.

Focus on the good, forget the rest, and you’ll see that your relationship will start to fill up with lots of good… and negligible other stuff.

Note on a relationship where it’s clear it’s ending: Even in this case you want to ignore what you don’t like. Again, this sounds counter-intuitive, but you never want to leave a relationship because you want to get away from what you dislike about it.

As you make the decision to end the relationship from a place of knowing what you do want, you’ll be in your power, you’ll be clear-minded, and the next chapter of your life will be a lot more enjoyable than if you were to leave out of fear, judgment, anger, or resentment.

2. You can’t change people. Period.

Ryan and I met at a time when our lives (individually) were in a state of flux… super flux actually. We were still growing and figuring out who we wanted to be.

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that we were able to come together at such a shaky time and be such a good match, but maybe that’s why it worked so well.

Each of us has changed so much since that first day in 2001, when he walked through the door with his giant side-burns, flowered shirt, and aviators… okay, I guess some things stayed the same.

But, in all that change, we’ve supported each other as best as we could. We’ve taken some pretty big leaps of faith together—moving across the country without a solid plan, starting a business when we really had no experience running one, and through it all we kept the faith, in both ourselves, and in each other. And when one of us started to lose faith in our self, the other would step up and stand strong (see Lesson #3).

Now let’s not kid ourselves, of course there have been lots of things we wished we could change about each other.

For example, I can be EXTREMELY stubborn. Early in our relationship this would often lead to arguments because Ryan would have a really awesome idea, but I just wouldn’t be open to hearing it at first.

Eventually though, I’d come around and stop resisting. He figured this out and now he’ll share a really good idea, I initially say “no,” and then he says okay rather than arguing. Then he waits a few days, and most of the time I’ll come back to him and say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about your idea…” and am open to talking more about it.

He know he’s not going to change my mind by arguing with me, in fact, most times that makes me dig my heals in even harder. So, he let’s go. He doesn’t try to force it.

That can be one of the hardest things to do when you KNOW in your heart that your partner is being ridiculous, but whoa, is letting go good for your relationship.

Not forcing it and allowing your partner to be who he is, learn his lessons, and make his own choices is not only what allows him to become the best version of himself, but also allows you to disconnect your own happiness from what he’s up to.

Your happiness doesn’t rest in him changing something you think he needs to change. In other words, you can choose to be happy even if he doesn’t do what you want him to. Just let go and focus on the only thing that you CAN control—your choices and your reaction to him.

3. Communicate with more than your words.

Communication comes in more forms that just words. Like we’ve all heard, we need to voice our concerns, tell our partner what we’re thinking, and be open and honest.

Can I tell you how many times THIS has happened:

Viers #1: Hey, will you grab that thing and bring it over here. I need it real quick.
Viers #2: Silence….
Viers #1: Hey, can you grab that…
Viers #2: Hang on a sec! Let me finish what I’m doing and then I’ll bring it over. {cranky huff voice}

Now… a little verbal communication might have been helpful here, on the part of Viers #2. How was Viers #1 supposed to know what you were thinking?

Sound familiar?

But beyond this, we also communicate with our actions.

Do you want more shoulder massages? How often do you give shoulder massages?

Do you want more affection and romance? How often do you show affection and make an effort to be romantic?

Do you want your partner to tell you how hot you look? How often do you make an effort to feel hot?

It’s subtle, but it’s important. Communicate what you want by offering the signals of what you want. It’s not just about “giving to receive” it’s about the signals you are sending him.

If you’re sending the “I don’t get enough shoulder massages” signal, then nine times out of ten your resentment is not gonna get you a shoulder massage because overall you’re in a very contracted emotional state.

BUT if you offer some shoulder massages here and there from a place of love and support, then there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get some in return.

4. Don’t take it personally.

This is probably our biggest relationship nugget to offer. I know, it’s easier said than done but we all have our days. We all get snippy sometimes, and the better you get at not taking it personally, the:

  • Faster it will blow over.
  • Happier you will be.

What to do instead:

Let him be. Give him some space. Go do something else that gets your mind off of his crankiness and after a little while, I betcha he’ll work it out on his own and will come find you in a much better mood.

Make a funny. The best medicine really is laughter. When I am moody and Ryan knows it and does something silly, 90% of the time, I can’t help but laugh. It’s tough to remember what you were cranky about after a good giggle, isn’t it?

Refuse to see less than the best in him. We’re taught that we should try to be compassionate for other people, but I say different.

I don’t practice sympathy. My clients will tell you this. While on the surface, you might say this is tough love, I don’t see it that way. When people are down on themselves, upset, mad, sad, frustrated, depressed, etc… you feeling sorry for them or putting yourself in their shoes doesn’t help. It just plays into their victim mentality. It just feeds their negative feelings.

The most powerful thing you can do for your partner when he is in this kind of mental state is to (gently) remind him that he is more than this. Stand in your knowing of his strength, character, and all of the good things he has going for him.

He may not seem to appreciate this point of view at first (because when you’re sad or mad, all you want is for people to agree with you and tell you that you’re right), but that’s okay. In the long-run, he’ll thank you.

5. Never EVER sacrifice.

Everybody says a good marriage is about compromise, and it is, but here’s the thing. Don’t EVER do something for your partner out of sacrifice. If you are going to do something for him that isn’t what you’d have chosen had you not been in a relationship, you HAVE to make the decision out of love.

In other words, it makes you so happy to do this for him, because you love him that much, that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. Instead, it feels like fun.

Anytime we ever do something for someone else out of sacrifice it only leads to one thing: resentment. And you know as well as I do that a good marriage is not built on that.

When you choose to do something that your partner wants… because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to… it feels totally different.

I have tons of examples for this, but let’s keep it simple. If you’re choosing between two movies to watch or what restaurant to go to for dinner, what makes for a better night:

When you sacrifice and do what your partner wants to do, which normally leads to you grumping about the movie being painfully terrible or not finding one single thing on the menu that you liked?

OR

Letting your partner choose and being happy about the excitement in his eye and treating it like adventure, having fun spending time together?

The answer seems pretty clear, but sometimes we get so stuck in our “what’s in it for me” mentality that it’s hard to choose our own happiness in the moment over proving a point.

Don’t worry about “getting yours,” you’ll get your payback, both in the long run, of getting to do things you want to do too, and in the short run, by choosing to have a fun night.

BONUS Good Marriage Trick

Okay, so in closing I have one final lesson, or trick, that always helps me when it feels like we’re in a rut.

I make a list of 5 things I appreciate about Ryan in my journal. It’s like magic! Anger or frustration turns to love.

Try it, and THEN try to be angry at your partner. It’s impossible!

When you get on a roll with a list of appreciation… all the things you love most about him, even if you have to start with something really small… your heart will be full of love and there won’t be any room for anger.

So those are my lessons. Now I want to hear yours. What have you learned about how to have a good marriage? SHARE in the comment section below!

And be sure to hit LIKE and SHARE this post with a friend who might appreciate these lessons!

 

Sheila Viers is an Emotional Eating Expert, Holistic Life Coach and co-founder of Live Well 360.

Experience Life Magazine

SUMMER STRESS DETOX! Rethink and Remove, Step 1: Start with Your Mind

This blog is part of our “SUMMER STRESS DETOX!” Series

Time to clear your slate—and start the summer season refreshed and revitalized. To that end, Experience Life has partnered with meQuilibrium, the first-ever online stress management system, to bring you this 8-part series on detoxing mind, body, and spirit. You’ll discover strategies for everything from rethinking your diet to clearing clutter and shifting your stress response so that you can feel lighter, cleaner, and healthier than ever. (Learn more about the 28-day summer stress detox challenge!

WEEK 1: RETHINK & REMOVE 

Step 1: Start with Your Mind

So you’re ready to clean house and start the summer on a lighter, brighter note. But you feel: Stressed, exhausted, blocked. Detoxing is not just about sucking down green juices (though that can be great, too). It’s about targeting the source of your stress—the greatest toxic force on your life.

Stress is not where you think it is. It’s not “out there.” It’s not your job, your relationship, your bank account. Your stress response may be triggered by an external circumstance, but the actual stress level is governed by your response to what happens. Not the other way around.

Young woman trying to block out a noise with her hands

Why Your Thoughts Are a Problem

Our research has shown us that the way you think about and perceive the world around you has far more to do with how resilient you are to stress—over and above childhood experiences, financial issues, you name it. Your brain is designed to keep churning out thoughts—and they’re not always your friends.

At meQ, we have a name for what keeps us stuck in stressful patterns: Thinking Traps. Until you can identify the trap you will remain snagged in it, making it harder for you to perceive situations clearly. When you can identify your own go-to method for processing information, you can free yourself from stress-inducing thought patterns.

Ask yourself the following questions to get a sense of how your thoughts are affecting your stress.

  • What do I keep obsessing over?
  • What do I feel optimistic about?
  • What do I feel pessimistic about and why?

Recognize any of these?

If only I were more organized life would be easier. 
I wish I were 20 pounds lighter. 
If I had more money, things would be different. 
Why can’t I eat better? 
What’s wrong with me? 

Your thoughts are quite often the enemy. They get in your way, they talk you down, they blame and shame and denigrate you. They make you frantic and tired and worried and restless. In short, they’re the reason you’re more stressed than you need to be.

The first step to detoxifying yourself of negative thoughts is to identify what trap you’re in, and see it for what it is.

Here are just a few examples of thinking traps you could be experiencing:

THINKING TRAPWE CALL THISWHAT IT IS
“It’s probably my fault. I’m such an idiot.” PersonalizingThe tendency to blame yourself when things go wrong.
“I know it’s her fault. She’s always messing things up for me.” ExternalizingThe tendency to blame others or circumstances when something goes wrong.
“I missed his birthday. I’m a bad friend.” OvergeneralizingJumping on thoughts about character flaws in yourself or others without the evidence to support it.
“This will ruin my career.” PessimismExaggerating the negative impact of an event

(Read more about how you’re thinking has you stressed.)

You can only stop something when you’re aware of it. So catch yourself the next time you hear yourself entertaining a thought that’s negative, counterproductive, and above all, untrue. Visualize yourself stepping out of that trap, and taking one step closer to a calmer, more centered you.

In the next few weeks, we’re going to help you explore and detoxify all areas of your life, to help you function better, think more clearly, and support your body inside and out. Let’s get started!

How Stressed Are You, Anyway?

It helps to have an idea of how stressed you are as you begin this process. At meQuilibrium, we have a comprehensive and free assessment you can take that charts your stress response across 28 factors and the four domains where stress occurs. It’s a great way to get a handle on where you need the most help, and you can also find out how meQ can shift your stress response.

Want to make an even more dramatic change? Take the 28-day summer stress detox challenge!

Step 2: Remove and Declutter. 

Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.

 

Experience Life Magazine

Is Too Much Fruit Bad?

For years the authorities have told us that we should be consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables.  While eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is better than one consisting of processed, refined and fast foods, as fruits are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, there are a number of potential health hazards associated with too much fruit consumption.  Instead, we should be eating a lot of vegetables and a moderate fruit intake.

Fructose is a simple sugar found in fruit, and is metabolized into fat by the liver.  Diets high in fruits have been linked to metabolic and endocrine issues. Fructose has shown to increase the risks of high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and kidney disease, as well as feed cancer cells.

manyfruits

Fructose is absorbed differently by the body than other sugars like glucose.  Glucose increases insulin production, allowing the sugar in the blood to be transported into cells, providing them with energy.  Glucose also regulates appetite and fat storage by increasing leptin production, and decreases production of ghrelin, which helps regulate food intake.  Fructose, however, does not stimulate insulin or leptin production the same way and does not suppress ghrelin.

Because sugars and refined foods elevate blood sugar levels, they are linked to insulin resistance.  Even though fructose doesn’t affect blood sugar levels in the same manner and increase insulin production like glucose or sucrose, diets high in fructose are also linked to insulin resistance.  Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which, as mentioned earlier, acts as a transport mechanism allowing glucose and nutrients to be pumped into the cells.

As cells become resistant to insulin, they in a matter of speaking close the door of the cells, not allowing insulin to do its job and transport blood glucose and other nutrients into the cells.  As those cell doors close, glucose continues to flow through the blood, and because it has nowhere else to go, it’s stored as fat, leading to diabetes and obesity.  In addition, because the nutrients are blocked from entering the cells, nutritional deficiencies occur on a cellular level.

Fructose has been also linked to metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome, which has become a worldwide epidemic health problem, is characterized by obesity (especially abdominal fat), hypertension, insulin resistance and abnormal lipid profiles.  As the consumption of fructose has increased in the past 35 years, by about 500%, rates of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes have also increased.

Fructose also gets converted into triglycerides very easily, and we all know that elevated triglyceride levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

In 2010, the journal Cancer Research published a study showing the way different sugars are metabolized and the effect they have on cancer cells.  While glucose feeds cancer cells, fructose is easily metabolized by cancer cells to increase proliferation.  Cancer cells use fructose for cell division, which in turn speeds up the growth and spread of cancer.

Studies also show that fructose elevates uric acid levels in the kidneys.  High uric acid levels increase risk of gout, a form of arthritis, as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and kidney stones.  It’s important to note that normal uric acid levels are about 3.5-4mg/dl.  Uric acid levels higher than 4 are a key indicator that one might suffer from fructose toxicity.

Now, it’s important to mention that fructose in liquid form, like juices, sodas, etc. will have a much greater impact on uric acid levels, as it is a much more concentrated form than when eaten in fruit, as the fiber and other nutrients in the fruit will slow the absorption somewhat.  However, eating an abundance of fruit is still linked to elevated uric acid levels.

Also, the adult liver can only metabolize about 2-3 Tbsp. of fructose daily.  The rest is stored as fat around the liver, leading to fatty liver disease, similar to that present in alcoholics.  Fructose also gets converted into triglycerides more efficiently than glucose, which we all know, elevated triglyceride levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Magnesium and other essential vitamins and minerals are depleted from the body by fructose.  This may actually accelerate bone loss and increase symptoms of muscle cramps, chronic pain and poor sleep.  Fructose also creates internal inflammation in the body, which can partly be responsible for joint pain, as well as impede one’s recovery from exercise and decreased immune function.

The stomach is full of bacteria, both good and bad.  The good bacteria are one of the main parties responsible for immune health.  Fructose, however, feeds the bad bacteria, causing it to grow and multiply.  When stomach flora balance is off, it causes Candida to grow.  Candida is a systemic yeast infection that when not managed, can cause a myriad of health issues to occur.

Some of the symptoms of Candida are yeast infections, constant fatigue, brain fog, bad breath, abdominal pain, increased food allergies, constant sweet cravings, joint pain, fungus, rashes like eczema, and depression.

Again, there is a difference between eating fresh fruit in its whole form versus fruit drinks and other sugars like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  Fresh fruit, as mentioned earlier, is full of vitamins, minerals and flavonoids, all of which have a plethora of health benefits.  Many flavonoids are shown to have an impact on antioxidative activity, free-radical reduction, and coronary heart disease prevention as well as contain anti-cancer properties.

While moderate fruit consumption will bring a number of those health benefits to otherwise healthy individuals and athletes, there are many that should avoid fruit consumption all together.  Those who need to be careful about their fruit intake are people with high insulin levels, or those who suffer from any of the following:

  • Overweight
  • High Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Yeast Infections

Fruit juice, fructose sweetened foods and beverages and HFCS, however, should be avoided by all.  They will bring a high concentration of fructose to the blood, potentially leading to all the health hazards previously discussed.  It’s worth mentioning that juicing, though we’ve been told is incredibly healthy, is not recommended, unless the pulp and other cellular material from the fruit are contained in the juice.

Athletes who otherwise eat a very clean diet, but consume a lot of fruit may not have the immediate negative impact that the average person eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) might have, but over time, as activity decreases, that high fruit consumption may lead to those same physiological imbalances.  On the other hand, if that athlete’s main goal is body fat reduction, then limiting, or even avoiding fruit is highly encouraged.
In regards to timing one’s fruit intake, eating fruit earlier in the day or post workout would be preferential over eating it right before bed.  It would not be advisable to consume fruit alone, be sure to add, at the very least, a lean protein source with that piece of fruit, and even some healthy fats like raw nuts or nut butters, healthy oils or omega 3s, in order to help slow the absorption of fructose.

Below is a list of the healthier fruits one should consume:

  • Coconut – antiviral, antibacterial, normalize body lipids, healthy fat
  • Berries – antioxidant protection, excellent source of vitamin C, carotenes, zinc, calcium, magnesium, high in fiber, low in sugar
  • Papaya – rich in antioxidants like carotenes and flavonoids, high in vitamins B and E, folate and fiber, great source of potassium and magnesium, rich in papain (enzyme that helps with digestion), immune system support, anti-inflammatory properties
  • Avocado – excellent source of raw monounsaturated fat which is easily burned for energy, high in potassium (twice that found in a banana), great source of folate, vitamins C and E, riboflavin and B6
  • Mango – rich in carotenoids and vitamins B and C, calcium, iron, potassium, selenium, folate and zinc
  • Pineapple – contains bromelain (enzyme which aids in digestion, reduces inflammation and anti-cancer), rich in antioxidants, provides immune support, great source of manganese, thiamin and riboflavin (all of which are important for energy production)

In energy for improved natural health, fat loss & fitness,

Natural Metabolic Recovery & Conditioning Specialists

Creators of the e3 Energy Evolved™ System | www.e3EnergyEvolved.com

Experience Life Magazine

The Role of Vows

Lyon_sun

I am spending a lot of time at the moment studying and meditating on the role of vows in our lives, meaning I am in the midst of making much more intentional vows (or intimate declarations) towards making our world a brighter, more awakened place.

This has a lot to do with my recent trip/retreat back home to Northern California and the inspiration to deepen my commitment to Zen Buddhist practice that occurred rather wonderfully and organically while I was there. It also has a great deal to do with where I am in my personal life as devoted mama and wife, friend and confidante, student and practitioner, writer and guide, and so on.

Yes, recently I have been truly consumed with not only the impulse but with the more profound long-term question of how I can in earnest aspire to and become a greater light.

How might I ripple and radiate out from the closest most interior circles to the nether regions of the universe as an ever more welcoming, beaming, and loving presence?

I believe this is an essential question that all us sacred creatures share and contemplate with varying degrees of consciousness over the course of our lifetimes, as it is fundamentally about unearthing, then thriving from our inherently sweet, warm, and generous natures.

I mean, don’t you think this is sort of THE life question when it comes down to it? How we can ultimately support, soothe, inspire, and ignite more love and kindness here in ourselves, there in others, and everywhere in and around us all?

Sounds grand and utterly lofty, doesn’t it? Yet there is some serious, subtle, and soft inside work to be done in making the big outside wow stuff happen!

I am convinced that accessing and living in alignment with our unique and meaningful vows is a huge part of it. 

Feeling stymied by this project? Here is a sequence of hints at how you might discover and live with your own positive declarations:

  1. GET QUIET. Sit down and touch the stillness inside you. Open yourself to receive how in your heart of hearts you would like to live.
  2. COMMIT. Take note of the phrases that you intuit to be your life commitments and privately declare them to yourself. They may me about being better to you, or being a more compassionate companion, parent, coworker, etc. What really matters is that the vows come from your truest center.
  3. START SMALL. Let each dedicated vow arise in the simplest of acts, in how you speak to your kids or loved ones, how you cook your meals, mail a letter, walk the dog, or anything and everything else super mundane and everyday.
  4. EXPECT NOTHING. Don’t assume or look to gain a thing from living in accordance with and abiding by your vows. Just be present and allow them to steer your every move, no strings attached.
  5. RIDE THE WAVE. Experience the crests and falls of your life with your vows in place and observe how you feel.
  6. DEEPEN. In other words, go back to go. Lovingly reaffirm and recommit to your vows often, and keep on surfing it all…

My teacher Norman Fischer writes in his fantastic new book, Training in Compassion: “We would all like to serve others, to feel for others, to love others with everything we’ve got. We would all like to be a light for the world.”

Vows are at the crux of and provide the blissful foundation for making this possible. They literally illuminate the way. You game?

In light and loving kindness,

Maggie

 

Maggie Lyon is a writer on wellness and spirituality, a motivational speaker, and a holistic lifestyle consultant. 

Experience Life Magazine

3 Big Myths About Finding Your Calling

The pay was good. The job was interesting. My colleagues were lovely people.

I worked with a great team of bright women, worked for the good cause of helping organizations that helped those in need. I kept a busy schedule full of meetings, fundraisers and writing “important” documents.

In other words, I didn’t hate it there. I did good work and earned great marks for it.

But over time, life got a little gray, a little tiresome, and I found myself asking, “Is this all there is?”

I started looking for, listening for, my callings – the work, the artistic pursuits, the life I felt truly called to live.

Out of the pain and boredom with the status quo, I became a little more willing to listen to callings that had been whispering to me for a long time – callings that seemed unrealistic, frivolous, impossible.

Fast-forward several years later. I live a life much more guided by my callings, and my new career looks very different than my old one. I’m always endeavoring to become a woman centered enough, calm enough, trusting enough – to hear and lean into what is calling. Part of my work has become speaking, writing and teaching about how we can discover our callings, helping thousands of people to discover their own. I’ve become a kind of evangelist for listening to, trusting and following your callings. I believe there is work in this often dark and broken place that we are each meant to do.

Calling

There are three big myths, three big misunderstandings, we hold about callings, and they get in the way of us finding and pursuing the work that will bring us joy.

Myth #1: Callings are always about career.

We can get stuck thinking our callings have to do exclusively with our professional lives. Some callings do: you might feel a calling to a particular industry, career path or job.

But you might also feel a sense of calling about doing a particular volunteer activity or reclaiming a neglected creative hobby.

Callings also show up in “micro” form – the calls we feel to do little things, hour to hour, to bring more light and love into the world: a calling to support a particular person in need in your community, to create a beautiful birthday gathering for a particular person in your life, to mentor a certain child who could use some extra support.

What defines a calling is not that it has to do with your “professional work.” Callings have to do with your deeper work bringing light and love into the world. A calling is any “assignment” you get to bring light, love or healing into the world in some particular way.

Myth #2: You’ve only got one calling.

So many of us believe the false idea that we’ve each got only one calling. That keeps us waiting for the singular, mega-huge, perfect answer to the question, “What’s my calling?” We wait and we wait, with no answer feeling comprehensive or big or long-lasting enough. Or, we find an answer and then feel like failures – like we’ve got it wrong and wasted time – when that calling fades.

The truth is, callings evolve and end. We each receive many over a lifetime – and sometimes we receive many at once. That they end doesn’t make them any less real or significant.

The question isn’t “what’s my calling?” the question is “What’s calling me right now?”

Myth #3: If you are truly pursuing your calling, it will feel amazing!

There’s some truth to this: when we pursue our callings, there are moments of joy, bliss and creative flow. But it’s also true that we resist our callings! A part of each of us wants to run the other direction!

We feel like the task we are being called to is too huge, and we are sure we aren’t up for it. We dislike how callings upend our plans, and are unlikely to earn the approval of those around us.

All of this is important to know. Otherwise, it’s easy to mistake resistance, fear and discomfort as signals that whatever you are working on isn’t in fact your calling.

What changes for you if you begin listening not just for career callings, but for callings in the areas of your relationships, your volunteering, philanthropy or artistic pursuits as well?

What changes for you if you open up to the idea that you’ll receive many callings, and that callings evolve and end?

What changes for you if you accept that resistance, discomfort and wanting to run the other direction are telltale signs of being on track with your calling?

Tara Sophia Mohr is an expert on women’s leadership and well-being. She is the founder of the Playing Big women’s leadership program  and author of 10 Rules for Brilliant Women   – click here to get your free copy.  

Experience Life Magazine

You Know You Really Need It When You Don’t Have Time for It

Recently one of my online students wrote a post explaining why she was signing up for my course again. She wrote:

I need this right now. Because I don’t have time. Because I’m too tired to make the effort on my own. Because I feel weak and I know it’ll hurt. These aren’t excuses not to take care of myself, these are reasons I need to.

Which is exactly how I felt about going to yoga class recently. I was in San Francisco at the time, spending a couple of days in a city I think of as my second home on my way back to New Zealand from New York.

colorful clocks

This particular afternoon for various reasons (including a lot of travel in the previous week, an unrealistic work plan for the morning, sleep deprivation and forgetting to eat breakfast) I felt overwhelmed. Despite a rising sense of panic at my lack of progress on the to-do list, I rushed into the city for a meeting.  As I left the meeting, I noticed there was a yoga class about to start right at the bottom of the building.

And because I felt sure I didn’t have time for the class, I decided to stay. I borrowed a mat and slipped into the back of the class just a few moments before the opening OM.

I knew I needed it because I didn’t have time for it.

A sure sign that I really need a walk is when I feel way too busy to go for a walk. And when I’m too busy to do yoga, well – that’s when I need it the most.

So for the next hour I forgot about my to-do list. And when I left I felt renewed, reminded why I do yoga – and why I teach it. I was also reminded that the times when we are convinced we are too busy to take care of ourselves are the times we need it the most.

I know that sometimes you really don’t have the time (or the money) to go to a yoga class.

But even then, I know you can learn to do your own simple, short but powerful yoga practices at home. Ten minutes of energizing poses in the morning. Five minutes of grounding practice in the middle of a crazy day. Fifteen minutes of relaxing yoga before bed.

My own experience has taught me, and now research is emerging to confirm that experience, that a small amount of yoga done daily will have more positive impact on your physical and mental health than a longer class or practice once a week. One UCLA study found that 12 minutes of yoga meditation per day decreased depression in participants. And I’m convinced that anyone can find 12 minutes a day for a little bit of yoga, even if it means waking up 12 minutes earlier than usual.

Since so many people don’t have time for yoga, I’ve made it my mission find an approach to yoga that would fit into their busy life. I created a course just for people who are “Too Busy To Do Yoga,” with yoga practices you can do anywhere, even practices you can do at your computer (although I do encourage leaving the computer if possible).

So here are four ways to fit in some yoga when you really need it but don’t have any time for it:

1. Lie down and do nothing for five minutes
In yoga this is called savasana, or corpse pose and for a lot of people it’s the hardest pose of all. One of my students told me that first time she tried a five minute savasana she caught herself getting up to send an email in the middle of the pose three times in a row, and each time had to talk herself into lying back down by promising herself she’d write the email as soon as she was done. It’s not easy, but it is powerful. Give your body a five minute rest and see how much more energy you have in your day. My tip: set an alarm for five minutes so that you don’t have to check your phone every minute to see how much longer you have to go!

2. Breathe deeply
It’s the oldest stress-beating advice in the book, and it still works. Take five minutes to slow and deepen your breath. The best way to get a deeper, fuller breath is by extending your breath beyond the chest into the full diaphragm – so that you feel the breath filling your belly, and then your ribcage (back and sides as well as the front) and then your chest. Important tip: don’t force this, you don’t want to feel any strain or constriction in the breath. Deepen your breath as much as you can while still feeling soft.

3. Sun salutes
This one requires a little bit more yoga knowledge, but most people who have been to a few yoga classes will have learned this basic series of poses. The beauty of the sun salute is that it uses your whole body, strengthening, opening and releasing tension in your arms, shoulders, back and legs. Three to six sun salutes every day will make a difference to your body and your mood, guaranteed.

4. Yoga at the computer
You can do a few simple poses to relax your shoulders, wrist and neck at the computer. Add in some deep breathing and you’ll be calming your mind as well. I put together a simple ten minute yoga routine for people who spend most of their day at the computer.

When you are most convinced you don’t have time for yoga, try one of these ultra-quick yoga fixes and notice the difference it makes to your day!

Marianne Elliott  is an acclaimed author, human rights advocate and yoga teacher who writes and teaches on creating, developing and sustaining real change in personal life, work and the world. She is the creator of the popular “30 Days of Yoga“ courses and author of Zen Under Fire, a memoir about doing good and being well in war-torn Afghanistan.

Experience Life Magazine

Turkish Chopped Salad Recipe

Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. I’m burrowing out of my winter hibernation. Spring has sprung! And that means one thing for my eating habits: I’m craving fresh vegetables!

This is one of those recipes that makes everyone think you’re a genius because it tastes so good (while inside you know the real secret: lots of chopping). Think of it as a secret weapon for your next potluck. Bright and crunchy, it’s ridiculously healthy — without tasting like it’s ridiculously healthy — and it’s so friendly and eager to please. Cut the recipe in half if you don’t want leftovers or double it up to share at a potluck.

Make this recipe your own! Add other raw veggies like slivered red cabbage, fennel, or a few hot peppers. Toss in green olives instead of black, or roasted red peppers instead of raw. The only requirement? Chop everything into equal-sized dice, so no one taste dominates. And if you eat dairy, you might also want to toss in some goat’s milk feta cheese cubes… just sayin’…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turkish Chopped Salad

PREP 15 minutes (all chopping!) | SERVES 6-8

INGREDIENTS
Dressing:
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 1/4 cup)
juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon sumac (optional)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper, to taste

Salad:
2 medium cucumbers, peeled
2 medium green peppers, seeded
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 medium red onion
1 bunch radishes, tops removed
1 can (6 ounces) large black pitted olives

DIRECTIONS
Chop the parsley and place in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, and sumac. Whisk until blended, then slowly drizzle in the oil, stirring vigorously. Season with salt and pepper, taste, then adjust seasonings.

Dice all the vegetables into roughly the same size — a 1/4-inch dice is nice — and place in a large mixing bowl. Slice the olives and add to the bowl.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss with two wooden spoons until the vegetables are coated. Taste and adjust seasonings.


Melissa Joulwan blogs at The Clothes Make The Girl  and is author of Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat.

Experience Life Magazine

“Runnas”

Editor’s Note: Randy Jacobus, 48, is a hedge-fund manager from Eden Prairie, Minn., and a long-time member of Life Time Fitness. A runner since high school, he completed three marathons before qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2011. He had planned to run the world-famous course in 2012, but deferred to 2013 due to the heat (“Little did I know,” he says). The 2013 Boston Marathon was meant to be his “bucket list” race — the last one. Given the chain of events that played out just minutes after he crossed the finish line, however, Jacobus is hoping to run it again in 2014 or 2015 to show his support of Boston and its phenomenal tradition. Here, Jacobus shares his first-hand account of his experience.

The van is late. Short, nervous chitchats. Another drink of water. Nibble on a banana.  Are we going to make it in time? Finally, the van arrives and in we squeeze. On the road, our driver demands introductions, a tradition of his.  “North Carolina, Quebec, New York, Minnesota, Tennessee …” We are from all parts, some making second trips, others their first. We’re all anxious.

The traffic looks to be backed up for miles. Narrow roads and only one way to go — how are we going to make it? Proud local cops tersely deny access and turn cars away. Our driver rolls down his window, and in his think Boston accent says, “Runnas, I’ve got Runnas.” A secret code. The officer smiles, moves the barricade and ushers us to a clear lane straight to Athlete’s Village and the starting line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

I’m shivering in the breeze, not sure if it’s the temperature or nerves, lost amongst the runners and not sure where to go. They’re tall, short; some are sitting, some standing; most with a predetermined plan, a ritual. They have done this many times: first the socks, then the shoes, tying them just right. Sunscreen, energy gels, sunglasses, time goals written on their arms. They speak in many languages: French, Spanish, Japanese. Some are old acquaintances reuniting; some are with bigger groups; others alone. All with strong calves and legs.

Trying to fit in, I removed my sweatshirt, stretched my tight hamstring, and rocked my calves back and forth against the curb, taking in all the sights and wishing I had my cell phone to take a few pictures. I had never seen so many yellow buses.  Surely this middle school never intended to have 27,000 runners stretching and napping on every inch of its grounds. I handed my bag to the volunteer. “It will be there,” she said, “just pick it up at the finish line.” She then pointed me in the direction of the starting line, and I began the slow jog to the starting area, nervous about what lay ahead.

Small houses lined the narrow street to the corrals. One with a sign that read “Free Wares” received the most attention: Free bib pins, band-aids, hair clips — you name it, you could find it at this house, and it was free. The porta potties were on the left side of the road in a parking lot, hundreds of them. The far ones had the least activity, so that is where I headed one last time before the start.

I could see corral No. 9 just down the hill, where runners were waiting nervously for the gun to sound and the official start of Wave 1. There were nine corrals, each holding 1,000 runners. Security carefully monitored the bib colors and who they let down to the starting area.  At 10 am, the gun sounded and the first wave was off. Wave two next, and security checked the bibs, turning the blue bibs away harshly, “Only red and white!” I headed for corral number one.

We stood idly, a little more nervous chitchat and some stretching. Then the gun sounded and we were off. Winding down we went, the Hopkington roads narrow and hilly. I was always watching my step: We were shoulder to shoulder; there was no room for error. Sharply down and faster, keeping a 7-minute pace felt easy. Then a sharp upturn and the pace slowed. Back and forth this went as we wound thru Ashland, local support waving their traditional signs and playing their motivational music. It was mostly older, traditional, and family support along these parts — they were proud to be our host.

The first 10k came and went, and I was running a little faster than my targeted pace. The conversations around me started to percolate as the flatter terrain encouraged a rhythm. Some runners reunited, others meeting for the first time. Two girls from Wisconsin connect over their similarities: both getting married in June, both with fiancés who did not run, both high school sweethearts.  “Go Alaska!” “Go Canada!” “Go Russia!”  I was surrounded by an international melting pot. Running side by side, I found a partner that I could stride with and forget about the miles ahead.

We ran uphill into Natick and then downhill into Wellesley, passed the halfway point. A glance at the watch and I was a little behind schedule, but not much. Hundreds of college girls lined the street, begging for kisses from all the sweaty men. “Kiss me, I am a chemistry major!” “I run better naked!”  These are the Wellesley Girls and they seem to go on forever. A good distraction, no doubt, but soon there’s another sharp downhill turn and mile 16 was in sight. My quads ached and I feared more down hills. Runners started passing me.

My legs felt heavy, but there were only 10 miles to go.  Uphill we ran toward Brookline. Another hill and more runners went around me like Billy goats. Was my pace slowing that much? Into Newton we ran, where the Boston College fraternity boys are loud. “Colorado, pick it up, you can do it,” they scream. This is Heart Break Hill, the final and toughest climb at mile 21. I counted my footsteps to take my mind off the endless climb, and I didn’t look up for fear of giving up. “You can do it Colorado!” I made it to the top, but my pace … Why were they passing me?

Five miles to go and it’s all downhill. We entered Brookline and Boston proper; more college kids lined the street and the crowds seemed to be growing. This should have been the easy part, with a gradual downhill all the way to the finish, but it felt like a knife was piercing my right side. I couldn’t stand tall and I couldn’t lift my right leg. I slowly moved to the side — the side without the jeering students: “Come on Colorado, you are almost there!” I walked next to the T-line where security guards lined the street, protecting the runners from veering onto the tracks and keeping spectators from getting too close. I wanted to run but couldn’t and a few others joined me on my walk. But they walked a lot faster.

Mile 23 came and went, and yet I was still pain. “Colorado, Colorado, Colorado …” they chanted and I tried to get going again. My goal at this point was to finish. One foot in front of another, I counted my strides, just get to mile 24, and though more people passed, I was still moving. The streets were lined with supportive crowds who encourage and pushed.

Mile 25: one more mile, an eternity. More crowds, more support.  Turning the corner onto Boylston Street, I saw the finish line and could hear the crowd’s support. Other runners in similar situations, plodded next to me, and we crossed the rubber marking the finish. We stopped our watches — 3 hours and 54 minutes later.

I was disappointed with my time, but relieved it was over. My legs were sore and numb, and my energy was sapped, but there were smiling faces all around. Amidst hugs and congratulations, we moved slowly through the finishing corral to gather water, refreshments, snacks, medals and, most importantly, a blanket to warm us from the chilly breeze that blew in our face. I wanted to get off my feet. I was too tired to find my bag and moved quickly to the right, through the crowded family greeting area, to the first bus heading back to Hopkington. The buses were warm, and I was cold and tired. A few other runners had similar ideas.

The first blast startled us all. “What was that?” we all muttered simultaneously. As we sat, the second blast hit and shook the bus. The driver was alarmed. “What the …?” he asks. We sat quietly, wondering, hoping the sounds were not what we thought they were. The driver’s radio crackled and what we all knew was confirmed: two bomb blasts one block away, the hotel blocking our view and sheltering us from the chaos. Spectators ran by our bus, one with blood on his back: “Get to Mass General, follow me, I am not a crazy! Two bombs, hundreds are bleeding. We need to get to Mass General to give blood. PLEASE, follow me!” And people did.

Our bus was full of anxious runners. Concerned about additional bomb blasts, some asked the driver to depart. He snapped back patriotically, “We are staying put in case they need us to transport the injured. Sit down!” A few minutes later, the radio crackled again and the driver slammed the door shut. “Sit down!” and we lurched forward. Word from his supervisor to get us out of the area, and quickly, had come.

It was solemn; not much talking, though lots of whispers. The thoughts of bombs and injuries drowned the feelings of accomplishment; months of training and sacrifice stolen by cowards hiding in the shadows. There was no talk of the day’s feat: Only concerns for those still on the course or for friends still missing.

As we headed out of the city, cell service resumed and phones started buzzing. Tearful runners spoke to their loved ones: “Yes, we are OK.”  “I have not heard. Call me if you hear from her.” Mark from Fort Worth sat next to me and offered me his phone to call my wife. “Yes, I am OK. I’m on the bus back to Hopkington, and will call when I get back to hotel. Love you.”

Mark offered to drive me back to Milford and to my hotel. I turned and watched the runners exit the bus as he looked for his keys: Some limped, some shuffled, some avoided the stairs. One thing was for sure — they would be back next year. This was the Boston Marathon and these were “Runnas.”

 

Experience Life Magazine

Teas Me

Tea is cool again. Walk into any modern teashop (many are cropping up around the country) and you’ll likely find an elegantly-lined wall of beautiful earth-toned tea leaves, all waiting to be steeped and savored. The image of well-to-dos sitting upright, pinkie finger curled, is a thing of the past (at least for most of us), and these hip hangouts are here to stay.

Tea

The Bud or the Bean?

When it comes to variety, these walls of tea put many a coffee shop to shame. But it’s not just the assortment of flavors and choices that is drawing many coffee lovers to experiment with “the other hot drink.” With the health benefits of tea broadcast far and wide in the recent years, it’s difficult to have missed all of the fuss it has garnered. Because of these benefits, many people have turned to tea as a nourishing alternative to coffee. Whether you’re reducing caffeine intake, or still need your morning buzz, tea is a delicious and refreshing change of routine.

Tea is grown and processed on large plantations throughout China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. According to tea expert Sebastian Beckwith, “All tea comes from one plant, Camellia sinensis. The differences in the many teas we have––whites, greens, oolongs, blacks, and pu-erhs––is in the specific varietal that was used, the local environment the tea was grown in, and the way it was processed.”

People have been drinking tea for as long as they’ve known how to heat water and recent scientific studies are proving what ancient cultures have known since before recorded history––drinking tea is really good for you. The benefits are quite remarkable:

  • Enhances immune function
  • Lowers LDL cholesterol levels
  • Increases HDL cholesterol levels
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Thins the blood, reducing the risk of a heart attack
  • Lowers the risk of stroke
  • Reduces the risk of cancer
  • Boosts longevity
  • Aids digestion
  • Prevents dental cavities and gingivitis

Of the four types listed above, green tea has attracted the brightest spotlight due to having the richest polyphenol content, the antioxidant compounds that tackle free radicals and keep degenerative disease at bay. What many folks don’t realize is that while they’re getting this mighty dose of antioxidants (also found in other teas), what they’re drinking is also providing them with a healthy host of vitamins and minerals. Tea contains carotene, vitamin C, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, panothenic acid, folic acid, manganese, and potassium.

Herb Friendly

Although herbal “teas,” such as mint, chamomile, lemon verbena, and jasmine often look like tea, are packaged like tea, and are steeped like tea, they are actually herbal infusions, or tisanes. These caffeine-free versions are made from other plants and flowers and derive their health-giving benefits not from the antioxidant-rich polyphenol compounds found in true tea, but in properties indigenous to the plant or flower, such as calming and relaxing effects. One newcomer to the spotlight is rooibos (roy-boss) “tea.” Rooibos means “red bush” in Afrikaans and originates from a shrub native to South Africa. Unlike herbal tea, rooibos contains antioxidants and has been shown to treat insomnia, headaches, allergies, and hypertension.

So forget Lipton; there is a whole world of teas (and “teas”) out there for you to get lost in. With more varieties than you can shake a stick at, you owe it to yourself to quiz your local teashop expert on what they have to offer.

 Jill Grunewald is a Holistic Nutrition Coach and founder of Healthful Elements.

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