On Mindful Creativity

 collage by Chelsea Owens, MFT and ATR

collage by Chelsea Owens, MFT and ATR

Lately, as a way of engaging in this life, I’ve been shifting my attention as I wander around San Francisco, with the intention to creatively engage by paying attention to my surroundings. I’ve been trying to pay less attention to my phone and actually look up at the sky, clouds, at more trees, noticing their differences in shape and form and how differently they all dance when it’s windy. I’ve noticed short vignettes on my commute that make my heart swell up and remind me that I'm alive: catching a glimpse of a surly, tattooed, and mustachioed delivery driver head-banging to and blasting Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at 8am, or a small child’s innocent glee at the sight of his classmate, subsequent embrace and exchange of excitement for the day ahead of them. My intention is to write down ten new things I notice each day as a way to creatively engage in the world. It usually ends up being more like two, but a work in practice. Mindful creative engagement with the world could be play or it could be serious. It could be an afternoon adventure, sitting in a forest, chopping vegetables for a meal, or painting- all are our own response to the natural world.   

Creative expression and art can be utilized as a modality to explore feelings, ease emotional conflicts, and foster self-awareness.

Art making and creativity has a potential to fulfill psychological and spiritual needs through personalizing spaces, expressing or reframing a narrative of one's identity, drawing attention to the immediacy of the present moment in one's body, or practicing as a concrete tool of grounding and self-soothing. Creative expression, when shared or cultivated in a community, can foster a sense of belonging and witnessing. Through exposing your vulnerable self, and opening to the fear or possibility of criticism, there is immense healing power through communion with others in understanding how completely brave it is to share parts of yourself in service of the hope of receiving acceptance and love, as well as understanding how completely we all feel and desire the same thing- to belong. The therapeutic application of mindfulness, or focusing one's attention and opening up awareness, can reduce anxiety and stress, and increase our ability to open to oneself and the world by shifting one's perspective of the world. Psychologist Ellen Langer states that mindfulness, or the noticing of new things, leads to more awareness of how things change depending on the context and perspective from which they are viewed- mindfulness then requires that we give up the fixed ways in which we’ve learned to look at the world.

Naturally then, the marriage of art making and mindfulness would be assumed to increase the possibility of healing parts of your wounded self, communicating thoughts and feelings, and noticing the ways you are or are not paying attention to yourself or the world. Creativity is not something that some people have and others don't- anyone can be creative. Our creative nature is a part of our daily lives, Langer says, from the way we speak to how we express our culture, and even in the seemingly mundane activities. However, often people’s self-imposed judgments show up as obstacles to expressing their creativity, such as what the end product “should” be, how things “should” look, or playing a script of fixed ways of looking at the world. In art therapy, we often address this- it’s not about the end product it’s about the process. Langer said we distinguish the product from the experience of creating it, and for most of us it is a terrifying prospect to imagine being judged in this way. If only we could put aside our concern for others’ judgment, creative engagement could transform our lives through whatever creative endeavors we choose. We often do things we know with certainty we will be good at. We often avoid things we know, usually without certainty, that we will not be good at. Who put that criteria there? Where did the good and bad come from and how could you challenge dichotomous thinking?

Ellen Langer says the more mindful, the less self-conscious we are; the more we know what we’re going to do before we do it, the more opportunity there is to be self-conscious and to process mindlessly- art can make us more mindful, and being more mindful may increase our ability to do and appreciate art. 

 

“I am an artist…I am here to live out loud.”

— Émile Zola

Contemplation:

How can you let your creativity and expression play, explore and be open to the world around you?

How do you want to expand?


*for further reading: Ellen Langer’s book On Becoming an Artist is a great resource on this topic, as well as her book Mindfuless.

 collage by Chelsea Owens, MFT and ATR

collage by Chelsea Owens, MFT and ATR


 

JUST BEYOND YOURSELF

Just beyond

Yourself.

 

It’s where

you need

to be.

 

Half a step

into

self-forgetting

and the rest

restored

by what

you’ll meet.

 

There is a road

always beckoning.

 

When you see

the two sides

of it

closing together

at that far horizon

and deep in the foundations

of your own

heart

at exactly

the same

time,

that’s how

you know

it’s the road

you

have

to follow.

 

That’s how

you know

it’s where

you

have

to go.

 

That’s

how you know

you have to.

 

That's how you know.

 

Just beyond

yourself,

it’s

where you

need to be.

 

-David Whyte


  Chelsea Owens is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified art therapist committed to restoring balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Based in San Francisco, CA, Chelsea uses creativity, reflection, and expression with her clients to help illuminate communication from the inside out. Through joyful, light energy and her passion to empower retreat participants to access their true potential, Chelsea looks forward to help creativity flow at the  Wise and Wild Women’s retreat . For more information, please visit Chelsea at  www.chelseaowenstherapy.com

Chelsea Owens is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified art therapist committed to restoring balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Based in San Francisco, CA, Chelsea uses creativity, reflection, and expression with her clients to help illuminate communication from the inside out. Through joyful, light energy and her passion to empower retreat participants to access their true potential, Chelsea looks forward to help creativity flow at the Wise and Wild Women’s retreat. For more information, please visit Chelsea at www.chelseaowenstherapy.com


Sit With: A Wise and Wild Women's Meditation

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There is a soft and yet FIERCE compassion to the feminine.
— Meredith

Welcome to another episode of Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast. Today's episode has been designed for women, though anyone is invited and encouraged to practice. It's a sneak peak to what will be offered and explored in this year's Wise and Wild Women's Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. This meditation invites you to connect to and nourish the source of the feminine, the creative, and the intuitive. It's an offering of breathing sweetly, moving freely, and expressing powerfully. We spend some time connecting heart to womb and then rocking the pelvic bowl forward and back and around in circles, churning and stirring the feminine pot. This is a practice of awakening and owning the power of creativity and intuition, and expressing fiercely through dance, painting, writing, speech, or simply being present.

 

May this practice nourish, heal, and inspire ourselves, families, communities, and societies. 

 

OM NAMASTE


Wise and Wild Women's Meditation Practice

  • place hand over heart and breathe
  • gently touch in and slide hand down to womb and breathe
  • tilt pelvic bowl forward, reach your sitting bones back and allow belly to fall forward
  • rock pelvic bowl back, reach your sitting bones forward and allow belly to fall back
  • breathe sweetly and continue to rock forward back for a few minutes, inviting a softness and suppleness through low back
  • start to churn in circles, stirring the feminine for another few minutes
  • pause and notice what you feel

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It's Time: Reclaiming the Wise and Wild Woman

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It's not that she isn't there- in fact, she is right here and always has been. However, she may be buried deep, silenced, or asleep due to the patriarchal society telling us to be small, polite, and quiet. Don't move too much, don't speak too loudly, and don't make a scene.

Well... NO!

She has had enough- we have had enough- and it's time to AWAKEN the WISE and WILD Woman. You know who she is. Maybe you remember her freedom and imagination from childhood or maybe you catch glimpses of her in moments of creativity or on the dance floor. You probably hear her whispering in your bones and in your soul- to move freely, express fiercely, and create beautifully.

Now is the time. It's time to listen, trust, and unleash the Wise and Wild Woman within and it's time to gather and do it together!

The wise and "wild" woman is not some crazed, irrational, or over-emotional being. Rather, she is our natural, raw, and true state. Our wildness is our intuition, our emotions, our sexuality, and our creativity. Our wildness is our knowing and our connection to living our most honest and fulfilled lives. Our wildness is our birthright.

On October 27th, 2018 we will gather for a week in the nourishing land of Sayulita, Mexico to explore, heal, and inspire the feminine. Energetically, the feminine is the "Maha" or Great Creator. It is She that has the power to bring new life in the world- whether this be in the form children, art, or relationships. She has the graceful ability to influence families, communities, and societies in her own subtle and yet fiery way-  through words or dance or painting AND by her strong and loving presence.

The Wise and Wild Women's retreat will be an intentional gathering of women of all ages and abilities. Together, we will dialogue around and support each other through some of the most powerful cycles that are entry points to the creative- the menstrual cycle, sexuality, pregnancy and birth, and menopause. Together, we will build a strong community to be seen for the wise women we are and together we will lift each other up.

There will be individual and collective space to contemplate emotionally, express intuitively, and move, breathe, and create freely. This exploration, remembering, and owning of the feminine will not only heal and empower ourselves but also contribute to the well-being of all life on Earth.

Introducing Chelsea Owens, MFT and Co-Host of Wise and Wild Women's Retreat

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I'm over the moon excited to announce that dear friend and magical art therapist, Chelsea Owens will be co-leading this year's Wise and Wild Women's Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. Chelsea is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified art therapist committed to restoring balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Based in San Francisco, CA, Chelsea uses creativity, reflection, and expression with her clients to help illuminate communication from the inside out. Through joyful, light energy and her passion to empower retreat participants to access their true potential, Chelsea is the perfect co-host to inspire creative flow at the Wise and Wild Women's retreat. I have no doubt that, with her guidance, there will be powerful moments of healing, self-discovery, and expression.

Art can illuminate your inner world.
— Chelsea Owens

The feminine energy is all about creativity, intuition, and fierce compassion. It's about discerning and trusting a strong wisdom within to own the way we move and interact in our communities and through the world. I am thrilled to offer my skills to explore the feminine through movement and meditation, and know Chelsea's creative art teachings and guidance will add more color, texture, and beauty to our intimate gathering.

Along with twice daily yoga and mediation sessions, there will be afternoon Wise and Wild Workshops. We will use this time to gather, explore, and dialogue around topics such as menstruation, sexuality, labour and birth, and menopause and how these female cycles are powerful sources of wisdom and creativity. Chelsea will then open the space for creative discovery and expression, guiding us along the way. She will also be available for optional, one-on-one art therapy sessions throughout the week.

So please, welcome Chelsea, learn more at www.chelseaowenstherapy.com, and join us this fall for our Wise and Wild Women's retreat!


Typical Retreat Day:

- Morning yoga and meditation

- Light breakfast

- Wise and Wild/Creative Art Workshops: exploring and dialoguing around topics such as menstruation, sexuality, labour and birth, menopause and how these female cycles are powerful sources of wisdom and creativity.

- Lunch

- Optional art studio time, adventuring, or resting

- Evening yoga and meditation

- Dinner

 

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Sit With Meditation: On The Abundance In Each Moment

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Breathe in and experience the fullness of the lungs, the expansion of the body, and the abundance that exists in each moment. May we think, speak, and act from this place of enough-ness and offer the practice up to the wellness and freedom for all beings.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu


Empower: A Strong Vinyasa Flow

Dearest Friends,

I have had this practice filmed and ready to go since November and yet have been putting it off. In an act of kindness to myself, I gently observed this hesitancy with a curiosity and patience. Why wouldn't I publish this video? It's a beautiful and powerful practice and one that I am really, truly proud of. I hired my good friend Kitty to do what she does best and the quality and production is absolutely amazing. So why? Why the hesitation?

I've come to realize that this video captured me during a vulnerable period in my life. I intentionally share that I made the decision to end a long-term relationship and therefore, move out and into a new home, with a new roommate. This conscious shift created space for me to see and engage with new friends, work, activities, and the most unexpected... a new partner. I share the grace and ease of the transition in this Spirit Wellness Journal piece that I wrote back in December. The unfolding of the transition was smoother than I could have planned and yet STILL, I am realizing now that there was (and is) simply a lot to awaken to.

I have found myself more social than I have ever been, having more work than I have ever had, and exploring my wildest adventures yet. I've gone camping more in the last few months than I have been since the six years I've lived in the Bay Area and just bought my first surfboard! I feel confident in who I am and how I'm choosing to engage in the world AND I feel tired some days. I live in Berkeley and drive in and out of San Francisco every day and sometimes twice a day. So while I've been experiencing abundance socially, professionally, and romantically, I also feel full at the end of the day- sometimes exhausted.

Hence, the lack of content and activity on social platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook.

I am realizing that vulnerability is one entry point to the present moment. My openness to share my story in real-time and with my close community has given me the opportunity to make deeper and more meaningful connections. My vulnerability has challenged me to have honest conversations with people, places, and myself, which has added a vibrant color and satisfying texture to my life. My vulnerability has fueled a drive to be active in the moment- it has been life-giving and fulfilling and it is my intention to continue being vulnerable and awake in the world.

It's now March and my circumstances have stabilized a bit. I've settled into a routine and so have a bit more energy to create and publish content here and on some other platforms. However, I have really enjoyed being present and letting the days unfold without the attachment to technology and so I'm wanting to find a balance that I feel good about. I love writing for the Spirit Wellness Journal and sharing bits and pieces of the yoga practice that I have found meaningful in my own life. I want to continue to offer in this way and to use technology and social media to connect authentically and to support and inspire the community that we have built.

And so... without further ado, I am happy and proud to share Empower: A Strong Vinyasa Flow. It is steeped in the Earth AND initiates the fire within. There are some core elements and an invitation to play with forearm stand! It is my hope that you find this practice as grounding and empowering as I do.

OM NAMASTE

Meredith

Do You Neti? A Visit To The Baraka Ceramic Studio

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It's been about a decade since I first heard about using a neti pot to clean and rinse the nasal passage. One of my first yoga teachers recommended the practice when I was dealing with a gnarly cold. I remember googling "neti pot" back in 2007 and quickly dismissing the treatment. No way was I going to pour warm, salty water through my nose. Sounded uncomfortable and probably unhygienic. 

Ten years later, when I was dealing with yet another wild cold, I mustered enough courage to give it a try. I was home in Florida at the time, visiting family for the holidays and went to the local health foods store in search for a neti pot. I unknowingly picked up a hand-crafted ceramic Baraka pot. It's beautiful design and grounded-ness made the idea of nasal rinsing a bit more inviting. I also bought the Baraka Infused Mineral Salts because I figured if I was going to pour salty water through each nostril, the salts might as well have some lovely essential oils. It's all about self-love and rituals, my friend.

This time around, I approached the neti pot with a bit more knowledge, openness, and context. Nasal irrigation has been around for thousands of years, as old as Ayurveda medicine itself. One of the core principles in the Ayurvedic philosophy is that we digest and experience the world around us through our five senses; thus, the Ayurvedic tradition teaches one to keep these sense organs clean to support healthy digestion (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and inspire clear perception and intentional engagement with the self and surrounding world. I'd already been practicing oil pulling, tongue scraping, and self-oil massage (abhyanga) and felt ready to give the neti pot a try. I carefully mixed a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the pot and gave it a go. After a few adjustments in the angle (you need to tilt your head down and to the side so the water doesn't go down your throat) the water came pouring out! It was instant relief and I was truly amazed at how less congested I was after the treatment. Not only that, but my cold was gone within a few days.

I don't have allergies and really don't get sick very often; however, I still use my neti pot about once a week. For me, it's a nourishing and cleansing ritual that supports clear perception. I want to awaken my senses and engage fully with the world around me and the Ayurvedic rituals, like the neti pot, support this intention.

If you are at all curious about nasal irrigation, I highly recommend the Baraka products. I recently visited the ceramics studio and was struck by their holistic, green, and mindful approach to design and production. They source clay and herbal ingredients as close to home as possible and are careful in their manufacturing and packaging practices. They are committed to the happiness of the their employees, customers, and planet and are striving to support others in living their best lives.

Om Namaste

Meredith

 

 

Cultivate a Home Practice: Make It a Life Practice

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Tune in. Turn out.
Feet on the ground, heart in the sky
Fold in, remember, and unfold back out into the world.

For me, this is the practice. Yoga is a way of BEING in the world. It's union, community, and unity. It's a practice of showing up and returning HOME, to the essence or soul wisdom within so that we can more clearly and authentically offer out and engage in the world. It's about aligning thoughts, words, and actions to a deep intention, knowing that every action has an effect and will ripple out through space and time. It's a practice of cultivating kindness, compassion, and fiery passion to be more awake in the world. It's about living your best life, holding each moment honestly, and feeling good about the way you choose to move and relate to the people, life, and land around you.

The world needs more heart, spirit, and love and yoga is one way to contribute to the wellness, harmony, and freedom for all beings everywhere.  

So, come!

If any of this piques your interest, I'd love, love, LOVE to have you join the exploration. Sadhana: Awaken and Energize Your Home Practice is designed to be an year-long investigation and our second gathering is March 17th from 1:30-4:30 pm.

Yoga Garden SF

If possible, bring a copy of Michael Stone's Yoga For a World Out of Balance: Teachings on Ethics and Social Action and pre-read chapters 4 ,5, and 6. 

Please email with any questions and hope to see you there!

Much Love,
Meredith

Sadhana: Awaken and Energize Your Home Practice

Hi and Happy New Year!

I'm very excited to whole-heartedly invite you to my first offering of the year, Sadhana: Awaken and Energize Your Home Practice. This workshop will be offered four times in 2018 and is designed to be a year-long investigation of YOGA as a living and practical practice.

Together, we will explore and cultivate a home practice that feels alive, nourishing, and sustainable for YOU. This will include movement, breath work, and meditation. All of this will be steeped in the teachings of the Yoga-Sutra and there will be a special interest in the yamas and niyamas, the first two limbs of the 8-limbed path described by Pantanjali. We will use the yamas and niyamas as launching points for contemplation, awakening, and integration. They will be our inspiration to fold into our essence or spirit wisdom IN ORDER TO unfold back out into the world with more clarity, attention, and intention.

May this practice be an offering to all beings everywhere. May our thoughts, words, and actions contribute to the well-being and freedom from suffering for all.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Suggested Reading:
Yoga For a World Out of Balance by Michael Stone

Schedule & Structure:
This training will be offered four times in 2018 (1/14, 3/17, 8/12, 12/9). Students can either attend a single session OR commit to a year-long investigation in philosophy and life practice.*

*Meredith’s Tues/Thurs morning classes FOLLOWING the session are included in this program.

This course provides 3 Elective Contact Hours for YGSF’s 300 Hour Program [3 Yoga Alliance® CEUs].

Tuition is $75, or $55 if you enroll by 12/31.

YGSF Members receive 10% off the regular price of this workshop. Alumni receive 15% off the regular price of this workshop.

Sit With Meditation: Sankalpa, the Heart's Longing

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Welcome to another episode of Sit With, A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast. In this practice, we start by calling Ganesh, the Remover of obstacles and the Lord of new beginnings. We come through 108 rounds of the mantra and deep seeded vibration, "OM GAM GANAPATAYE NAMAHA." From this initiation, we remember sankalpa. In yoga sankalpa is the heart's longing of how we want to feel and BE in this life.

Let an emotion, a word, or maybe a phrase arise in the body, around the heart, and in the mind and from this remembrance welcome a devotion. It's from this place that we have the opportunity to align our thoughts, words, and actions to this sankalpa, or heart-filled intention.

Yoga, NOW, is an offering to the well-being, the freedom, and the sweet joy for all beings everywhere. Yoga, NOW, is a living and practical practice to be awake, compassionate, and loving in the world. Yoga, NOW, is a way of being in this new year and in each moment.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhanvantu

OM NAMASTE

Sit With Meditation: From the End, It Simply Starts Again

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If you need a reminder of the magical land and life we live in and all the nourishment she provides, head to Big Sur, California, stand on the Earth, listen to the waves, and watch the sun rise and set. It will inspire, energize, and connect you to all the good feels and may even help clarify some matters of the mind. 

I recently made a big life decision that has had some significant and moving effects. After a year of wishy-washy thoughts, wobbling back and forth trying to make it work, I finally got clear and brave enough to end a relationship that deep down I knew wasn't right for either us. Within a week of that decision, I found a new place to call home and moved in with a sweet friend from college. The timing was incredible. The day before the break up, my friend emailed me asking if she knew of any apartment openings. She got a job in Oakland and was moving back to the Bay Area. I didn't know of any off the top of my head but I threw out the idea of us potentially finding a place together. A quick Craigslist search led me to a fully furnished and recently remodeled flat with a beautiful backyard and yoga deck (pictures and practice videos to come!)! Things were in movement and I met with the owners who were lovely and kind and passionate about life. They were looking for someone to take good care of their home while they took some time off to travel the world.

Done and done. We got the place, signed the lease, and moved in the next week. My friend had already had her flight booked from Korea to SFO, landing on November 20th. The apartment happened to be available November 19th. The process moved swiftly and effortlessly, and I seriously couldn't have crafted a better plan or executed it more efficiently.

But that's how life is sometimes, especially when you make a decision based on some solid intuition. I'm certainly still digesting and processing all that has happened and all that is still evolving but one thing is for sure- the universe is full of energy. There are flows, tides, and rhythms that are strong and fierce and awe-inspiring. As humans we are a PART of nature and have the potential to be swept up by the flow. I made a choice that I knew was going to put me in a period of transition; however, the experience has been nothing but gentle and graceful and that is something I am utterly thankful for. I felt like I was in a strong current getting pulled tenderly through the vast and mysterious ocean, all wide-eyed and curious as to what the present moment had to offer. 

Which brings me to this week's mediation and contemplation...

In this mediation I guide you to the bottom of the exhale and encourage you to linger in the emptiness, only to observe and experience the new and life-giving inhale. The teachings of yoga suggest a life-death-life again cycle and the breath teaches us that everything exists in one breath. It's from the bottom or the death of the exhale that we begin again and feel into the fullness and richness of this life. Yoga teaches us that everything arises, unfolds, and then passes away. This body, our work, and our relationships are all impermanent and ever-changing and evolving. It's when we live in the illusion of permanence that we tend to get stuck or experience suffering in some way. It's when we cling or grip too tightly to an idea that we often lose sight of what is actually happening in this moment. In yoga, this is avidya, or the inability to see things or be with things as they are. It arises from the notion of wanting this moment to be different in some way. We think if only this relationship was like... or if only I had that job... or if only I had more experience... THEN I would be more satisfied, happier, or more content. This is a dangerous illusion and only causes dukkha, or suffering, pain, or dissatisfaction. 

Yoga is a way of being and meditation is a practice of returning, over and over again, to the present moment. Everything exists in this moment. All the love, magic, and life we long for exists in THIS moment because all we really have is the present. Even when the shit hits the fan and we lose a job, end a relationship, or watch a loved one pass away, we still have this moment and this life. And even though we can't control very much, we can control where and how we place our attention. Meditation is the art of attention, a gathering back to and a remembrance of all that we do have in this moment. This moment is the home of great potential, serendipitous interactions, and beautiful relationships with the world. 

So whether you are going through your own transition or you simply want to hone your sense of attention, this practice is for you. I hope you find it as rich and life-giving as I do.

Lots of Love,

M

Episode 1 of Sit With: Breathe and Be AWAKE in the World

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HELLO!

I am so excited to share the very first episode of Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast. In this week's episode, I take some time guiding you to a comfortable and sustainable seat. It certainly takes some effort to sit nice and tall but the key is finding the EASE within the effort or the SOFTNESS within the structure. This is true for the yoga practice and the life practice, as well- right? If you need a visual or some extra support in finding a seat, please watch this beautiful video . I share some different sitting options as well as some general meditation tips. Once we are settled, I guide you through a 4-part breathing technique used to lengthen the breath, strengthen the lungs, and activate prana or life-force in the body.

The parts are:

  1. The Inhalation
  2. A Moment of Retention
  3. The Exhalation
  4. Another Moment of Retention (with breath held out)

I follow up with a simple, focal point meditation. In today's practice, the focal point is the tip of nose and specifically feeling each breath come in and through the nostrils. If you are newer to this practice, the mind will wander almost immediately. I talk a bit about the habits of the mind and where it tends to go. The important thing to remember is that meditation is a PRACTICE and mindfulness is knowing where the attention is. It might be a while until you even notice that the mind has wandered, but when you do... AHA! This is the moment to PRACTICE letting go of whatever has arisen and to practice shifting the attention back to the focal point. The cycle of drifting and returning will happen again and again so be patient, kind, and gentle with yourself. Over time, you will be able to rest the attention on the focal point longer- experiencing space, calm, and clarity.

For me, this is the HEART of yoga. This practice of sitting and noticing where my mind, attention, and energy is has been life-changing and life-giving. It has given me the ability to know when thoughts, emotions, and sensations arise and it has given me the tools to pause, connect to my wisdom and THEN respond and engage in life. You might notice yourself reacting less and responding with more intention and direction. This is a powerful, empowering, and really gentle and kind practice and I hope you find it as energizing as I do. 

As always, please comment or email me with any questions, experiences, or insights. I love hearing from you!

Lots of Love,

Meredith

 

3 Ways to Sit During Meditation

Hi All!

In preparation for the launch of my meditation podcast Sit With, I'm taking this week to share three sitting options. Whenever I teach meditation I always recommend finding a seat that is comfortable and sustainable; however, I know this is not always easy! In this video I share three seats that I have found helpful and supportive during my practices. Try them out and let me know how they feel or if you have any questions.

And remember to subscribe and tune in next Monday, November 13th for the very first episode of Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast. This podcast will be a weekly invitation to start your week with clarity, calm, and intention and I hope it gives you the tools and skills to be more awake and energized in the world.

Lots of Love,

Meredith

Introducing Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast

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I am so excited to share my newest project, Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation podcast! This will be a weekly invitation to start your week with clarity, calm, and intention. I will be sharing simple and accessible meditation practices that I have found life-changing and life-giving. I love yoga and the movement practice but for me, meditation is the HEART of yoga. It is through this practice that I have learned to know where my attention is and to more consciously and kindly CHOOSE where and how to place it. Meditation has given me the tools and skills to be awake in the world. It is through this practice of sitting that I am more able to walk through my days and life with rich energy, vitality, and passion. 

So mark your calendars, subscribe below, and join me Monday, November 13th for our very first episode!

Lots of Love,

Meredith


Plant Power: A Visit To Botnia's Garden and Laboratory

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Plant-based skincare?

Yes, please!

Botnia is an organic and science-driven skincare company powered by wise and wild plants. Last week, I had the privilege of visiting the Botnia headquarters where I met up with founder Justine Kahn and manufacturer specialist Sara Waitt. Together we walked the lovely garden, talked all about their key ingredients, and even made one of their signature products! I was already in love with Botnia, but after hearing Justine's story and vision, and seeing how locally, intentionally, and handmade everything is, I am totally convinced and committed.

Botnia is the best!

Justine was an esthetician in spas for eight years before she realized that, with the products she had available, she was unable to help her clients the way she wanted to and believed in. Most skincare products are manufactured for the masses and have alcohols that dry and synthetic fragrances that irritate and inflame the skin, along with harmful and toxic chemicals that are used to preserve the products. Frustrated, yet hopeful and passionate, Justine went on to study cosmetic chemistry and learned that the most powerful and healing ingredients are simple, fresh, and natural.

With a mission to provide individualized and healthy skincare treatments, Justine opened Skin Remedy in San Francisco, California where she started crafting and using her own raw and highly effective formulas. Justine started seeing real results and wanted to offer more, so she teamed up with friend and Stanford-trained plant biologist Clayton Coker. Together they created a full line of plant-powered products that are rooted in science. They use a few select and potent ingredients such as Jojoba, Geranium, Lavender, Goldenseal, Rose, Squalane, Witch-hazel, Hyaluronic Acid, and Arnica. You can learn about each plant's unique and magical profile here and learn more about their face washes, face creams, serums, toners, and masks here. Whether you have dry, oily, acne-prone, or sensitive skin- they have something carefully crafted for you!

I was gifted the Rose Water Toner a few months ago and it has become the star of my morning and evening rituals. I feel like a goddess every time I use it and when the alarm goes off at 4:30 am, I'm actually motivated to get up and out of bed to spritz my face with the cooling, hydrating, and completely nourishing rose water. I've also seen incredibly balancing results and people have even commented on my "glowing" skin recently.

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Just this morning I was reading one of my favorite Irish authors, John O'Donohue. His book Anam Cara is about the inner and outer soul friendships that so delicately and intimately awaken us to the presence of life. He talks about how the senses are one way to step into the present moment and he says, "Our skin is alive and breathing, always active and ever present." It's through the skin that we experience a belonging, a connection, and a homecoming to the light and love within and around us.

Botnia's organic skincare is the perfect compliment to the skin because it is also alive, colorful, and vibrant much like the organic food that we know energizes and nourishes the body so well. This living aspect is what sets Botnia apart and makes their products so potent. It just makes good sense and it literally FEELS so good to apply these natural, powerful, and plant-based products to your skin. After all, the skin is the largest organ in your body and one of it's main functions is to protect you from microbes, bacteria, and disease. Honor and take care of the skin by offering it rich, kind, and powerful plant-based products.

So check them out! Either visit Skin Remedy and treat yourself to an individualized facial or browse their products in their online shop. Currently, the Rose Water Toner and the Replenishing Facial Oil are my go-to, in LOVE with, products.

Lots of Love,

Meredith


Rest and Be Nourished: Why I Took a Morning Off

Last Wednesday I took the morning off and slept in!

I woke up gently, slowly enjoyed my cup of coffee in bed, read David Whyte's book The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship, wrote a for while, sat in meditation, moved really gently, and ate lots of nourishing foods. By mid-afternoon I was feeling completely held, intuitive, and Queen of my own little moon world. 

I was indeed "on the moon" as I learned from the wisest Christiane Northrup. If you a woman, her book Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing is a MUST HAVE. It was from this book that I first learned that many cultures have viewed the menstrual cycle a sacred source of insight and renewal! A woman's inner moon cycle is very much governed by the outer moon phases. Women tend to bleed during the New Moon and ovulate during the Full Moon- which now makes so much sense to me. The New Moon, when it is dark, is a natural invitation to go inward, contemplate, and be still. It's a monthly homecoming to our inner knowing and our wise and wild selves. This is why I often lead my Wise and Wild Women's workshops during the New Moon, as it's reflective energy often inspires our feminine soul voice. 

I had, until 2015, thought of menstruation as a time of pain, inconvenience, and burden. If I had any sort of cramps or discomfort, I would just take ibuprofen and get on with my day. I would push through the world, even when I felt tired, achy, and anti-social. This dishonoring of my natural ebb is what I believe to have caused a lot of my premenstrual symptoms, or PMS. Ever since I started being kind and gentle to myself during my moontime, I've noticed significantly less headaches and cramps and now I very much look forward to my period! 

For me, it's a time to reset and start again. I often have creative ideas and strong insights during my moontime which I then take into the rest of my month. The time from menstruation to ovulation is an outward burst of creation and manifestation. I get most of my creative work done during this waxing time, as the new moon grows into the full moon. Mid-cycle, or what I like to think of as the full moon time, is usually the peak of vitality, sexual desire, and enthusiasm. It's a natural time to "give birth" to a child, relationship, or creative project. As the inner moon then wanes, I tend to enter a more reflective and quiet mindset. I start to see more clearly what is working and what needs to change in and around me. I don't usually get a ton of great creative ideas during this time, but I do clean, tidy, and get some more routine things done.

Tracking my menstrual cycle and being aware of the phases of the moon has entirely changed the way I experience and live my life. Ebb and flow, rise and fall, joy and sorrow, open and close- these are all parts of this world and we, and especially women, are deeply connected to these natural rhythms. Honoring my own ebb and taking good care of my body during menstruation gives me greater access to my spirit and wild magic- allowing me to be more energized, AWAKE, and resourceful in the world.

Resting is certainly a practice that our culture doesn't always value, but I can tell you that taking a moment, a morning, or even a full day off, is a more efficient and sustainable way to live. At least, it works for me! I'd be curious to hear your story and experience with resting and retreating for a a bit each month.

Will you try it and let me know how it goes?

And while you are at it, try this gentle movement practice. It's perfect if you are feeling fatigued, anxious, or low in energy. There are some grounding elements coupled with some more fluid and rhythmic movements designed to calm, energize, and inspire the body, mind, and soul.

May you find this practice as nourishing and spirited as I do.

Love,

Meredith


The Queen Of All Tomatoes: Early Girls from Live Earth Farm

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Earlier this month I discovered Early Girl tomatoes. I was shopping at Monterey Market in Berkeley, California when a huge box of the most amazingly vibrant tomatoes caught my eye. A worker was unloading them and I simply asked, "What are those?" Before he could even respond, the lady next to him said, "The most delicious tomatoes you'll ever eat. Just get a whole bag full." The worker went on to tell me that they were Early Girls, a dry-farmed tomato variety. He told me that the tomatoes are just watered a few times right when they are planted, and are then left to do their plant magic! The result is a smaller, yet more flavorful tomato. I was sold, did what the lady recommended, and brought a whole bag home.

The lady was right! They were the most delicious tomatoes I ever tasted and couldn't help but eat three whole, raw tomatoes when I got home. Like literally, I just ate them like you would an apple. After I took a moment to pause and gain some composure, I decided to make gazpacho! You might remember that we had a few 100° plus days earlier this month so I needed some thing cooling and refreshing. You can check out that recipe and the Gazpacho Goodness post here. It was simply divine and perfectly delicious.

The thing is, once you get a taste for Early Girls, you won't want anything else.

The tomatoes whispered and reminded me that it’s OK to be vulnerable and that there is actually great authenticity and desirability in being delicate and fully seen.

I have come to realize, over and over again, that as much as you look for something, something also finds you. Through a series of choices and a commitment to following your heart, you arrive at something that you have no choice but to accept: to learn more, work for, live with, or live for. It becomes a part of you and you become a part of it. You become a dedicated Spirit committed to the path, the direction, the life that has found you. Teaching yoga and meditation is that for me AND I'm starting to discover and get pulled by plants and the land as well. Vegetables, herbs, and aromatherapy keep walking into my life and I feel like I have no choice but to walk with them. I am particularly drawn to specific plants such as frankincense, calendula, eggplant, olives, and now dry-farmed tomatoes.  

After I ate my first Early Girl, I had this urgent need to know where these perfect little tomatoes came from and after a bit of online researching, I found Live Earth Farm in Watsonville, CA. They are committed to growing exceptional food with care and respect for the land. They grow all the amazing things: apples, strawberries, kale, lettuce, carrots, peppers, beets, summer squash and what I now call the Queen, Early Girls, dry-farmed tomatoes. 

Shelby, farmer, holder of the land, and spirited human being, greeted me with kindness and open arms. She showed me to the tomato fields and set me free! It felt like she was saying, "My farm is your farm," and the land was saying, "This is yours and you are mine." There was a harmony, a peace, and wildness to the time I spent wandering and being in the fields. The tomatoes whispered and reminded me that it's OK to be vulnerable and that there is actually great authenticity and desirability in being delicate and fully seen. 

I know this is a start of a life-long relationship and I'm excited to learn more and experiment with different recipes. If you are near Watsonville, I highly, HIGHLY recommend a visit. They have lots of u-pick weekends and a few yearly events. Right now you can pick strawberries and tomatoes and soon you will be able to pick apples! And on Saturday, October 21st Earth Live Farm is hosting a Harvest Festival with apple cider pressing, pumpkin decorating, tractor rides, live music, and lots of goodies. Check it all out here. 

And now I'll leave you with a contemplation:

What does the land offer?

What do we offer to the land?

How do our actions affect the land?

How can we, human beings, be more mindful, respectful, and compassionate to the life and nourishment all around us?

Peace Out,

M


Being Well On-The-Go

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Being well on-the-go is learning to be kind to yourself.
— Sydney Leto

If you travel for work or have a case of wanderlust, you may be able to relate to the challenge of feeling well, aligned, and nourished on-the-go.

I'm writing this from a real-time perspective, as I am currently in Greensville, South Carolina where I have been for the past few days leading a Wise and Wild Women's retreat at Furman University. Directly before that, I was visiting family in Florida while also being visited BY Hurricane Irma. The past two weeks have been unpredictable, a little unstable, and awe-inspiring to say the least... and I loved every minute of it.

Outside of my regular teaching schedule, I'm not one to follow a daily routine. Over the years and through a LOT of trial and error, I have realized that I actually thrive in the more organic, go-with-the-flow sort of moments. For a long a time, I felt guilty, shameful, and reckless when I would make little and life decisions more spontaneously; however, now I KNOW that it's actually energizing and life-fulfilling for me to be present and to move through life from a place of intuition. Schedules and routines are draining and make me feel stuck. Travel and fluidity feed my fire, fill my soul, and allow me to engage more FULLY with the people, animals, and land around me.

However, I know this isn't true for everyone and I recently sat down with my good friend and most wonderful teacher and human being Sydney Leto who travels and leads outdoor adventures for a living. Below she talks about her perspective on wellness and shares all her tricks, tools, and wisdom for staying grounded, energized, and nourished while living on-the-go.


Meredith: How do you describe your work?

Sydney: I am an active travel guide for a company called Backroads. The company started in Oakland nearly forty years ago and now offers mostly six day hiking and cycling tours all around the world. While a major part of the job is being active outdoors and exploring new places, an even bigger part is supporting and caring for our guests. I am everything from a hiking guide to a caterer, a bike mechanic to a DJ, an expert to a driver.

Meredith: What do you love about your work?

Sydney: I love the people I get to collaborate with each day. The Backroads community is an incredible coming-together of open minded, beauty seeking adventurers who are always looking to be a little bit better.

At first communal living was a challenge for me me, and at times it still is, but now I love walking into the house and knowing that one of my coworkers/roommates will probably offer some seed of inspiration - either through picking up an instrument or asking an interesting question.

Meredith: What are some of the challenges you face in this “on the go” lifestyle?

Sydney: It is next to impossible to know when you will have space, or create a solid routine. Most mornings I wake up in a new bed, in a shared room, with likely two other people. The greatest challenge is establishing simple rituals that help me feel grounded when everything around me is constantly changing.

Meredith: How do you start to describe what it means to be “well?”

Sydney: Being well on-the-go is learning to be kind to yourself. This was my greatest challenge as a new leader.

The moment I gave up the comfort of my everyday routine in San Francisco was the same moment I began forcing control in other parts of my life. What I learned is that when you're constantly in motion though, the best lesson is to have a sense of self while maintaining a flexible mind. In this lifestyle, most days will not go as imagined - a hike might get rained out, a guest might need special attention, your five minutes of morning quiet might be interrupted, you might eat something you normally wouldn't - but through being kind to yourself, rather than critical and spiraling out of control for days, you can bounce back and be even better the next time you encounter a challenging situation. Through this lifestyle I've learned that being well is flowing with the stream rather than grasping and working against it. It is living in a way that is lovely - with yourself and the world around you.

Meredith: What are some tips/tools you have to stay well?

Sydney: Creating a self-care toolbox is essential, for any type of lifestyle. For me, it is hard to find physical space for practice, so instead I try to find space in my mind first. Each morning, before I lift my head off the pillow, I simply observe where I am, how I feel, and notice the qualities. By this I mean that if I am feeling foggy, I simply observe that state, without spinning a story about it. If I'm feeling rested, I observe that state just the same. Then, I take a moment to set my intention for the day. I ask myself, “how do I want to feel today?” And then I determine what I need to do to feel that way. It isn't a particularly long time that I lay in bed thinking, maybe two minutes. Then, I get up.

Another ritual that helps me feel grounded on the go is simply preparing a thermos for the day with hot water and lemon. I also need coffee, so I have a smaller thermos for that. Breakfast - even eating something - is essential. It's the one meal I seem to have the most control over, so I do my best to have something juicy and filling, like fresh fruit and some nuts or oatmeal.

I've also heard that hugging someone first thing in the morning will help you live longer. Just saying.

Meredith: You were mostly recently in ALASKA! Tell us about that.

Sydney: When I was first sent to Alaska, I had no idea what to expect. I was totally ignorant - I didn't even realize that Alaska had mountains! But, this place is perfect. Alaska is water. It's green, it's blue, it's gray and it's dramatic. I didn't realize how distracted I was living in a city until I found myself in vast Alaska. This place makes you crave something simple, it tempts you to pursue peace and quiet. It's totally creative.

Meredith: And where are you off to next? 

Sydney: Next up I am heading out east to Nantucket, Vermont and Maine. After living in San Francisco for three years, where it's always mild, I am so excited to experience a full fall season again. There is something so comforting about the fall, it always feels like a homecoming.

 

Keep up with Sydney, her travels, and her committment to staying well by following @sydleto on Instagram. 

Intuitive Recipe: Cold Lentil Salad

 Cold Lentil salad

Cold Lentil salad

Living and growing up in Florida trained me to manage the hot and humid weather and so while most everyone around me was complaining and saying "I am hot," this past weekend, I happily embraced the rare muggy and intense heat. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that Saturday was my FIRST beach day in California, where I actually wore a bathing suit and went INTO the ocean.

I never, never thought that day would come but it did and it was a much needed and enlightening homecoming. It inspired me to think about my life in California and how long I'll really be able to live here. I am a beach and warm weather girl and know I will one day find my way back to a more tropical location to call HOME. There are lots of things I appreciate about California, like the most delicious and accessible produce, wild landscapes, and open and curious people, but I know in my heart California is not HOME for me. My body and mind and overall wellness thrive in warmer and wetter climates.

But for now I'm here in Berkeley and know there is work, good work, to be done.

So when the 100 degrees hit us last week I noticed one, and I realize it's a big one, difference between 100 degrees in Florida and 100 degrees in Berkeley. There is NO air conditioning here, or at least not in my modest cottage. So while the indoors, pools, and beaches are a respite in Florida, it's a little more difficult to cool off here in California. We bought fans and went to the beach, and ate cooling foods and drinks. 

I already shared my delicious dry farmed tomato gazpacho recipe and plan to add it to our "go-to" recipe list. Seriously, if you have never tried a dry farmed tomato, please go out and find one. They only water the tomatoes when they are planted, which results in a smaller and more flavorful tomato. Srsly, tho... it means business. 

Here is another fabulous cooling meal with LOTS of protein. The original recipe with exact amounts is here, but I used it mostly to gather key ingredients. If you've been reading my Intuitive Recipe posts, you'll know I am practicing my intuition by cooking from a place of "feeling" and with LOTS of taste tests.

It turned out perfect and much more filling than the gazpacho recipe. Did you know there are 18 grams of protein in one cup of boiled lentils? So if you are looking for a refreshing and protein-rich meal, this is your gal!

As always, please comment below with any questions or thoughts and if you find this recipe tasty, share with friends and family.

Light and Love,

Meredith


Cold Lentil Salad Recipe

Remember, this is a guideline and it's purposefully vague. Practice your intuition, be playful, and do lots of taste tests! 

Ingredients:

Green lentils, two bay leaves, some garlic, olive oil, salt, whole grain mustard, sherry vinegar, cucumbers, mint, tomatoes, pitted olives, and avocado.

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Process:

Place lentils, garlic cloves, and bay leaves in a pot and pour water until it's covered by two inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat until it's a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender. Drain and chill in the refrigerator until cold. 

While the lentils are chilling, whisk together mustard, vinegar, salt and olive oil.

Chop up the cucumbers, mint, tomatoes, olives, and avocado.

When the lentils are cold, stir in the vegetables and dressing and there you have it! A deliciously cooling and filling meal for your hottest of days. 


Intuitive Recipe: Gazpacho Goodness

 Gazpacho 

Gazpacho 

So it's 101 degrees as I write this in Berkeley, which is pretty INSANE. In the five years I've lived in the  SF Bay Area, I have never felt sooooo hot. It reminds me of Florida, which I appreciate but in Florida you usually have a pool or refreshing ocean to jump into. It would be a trek to go to Ocean Beach and to be honest, it just isn't an appealing beach to me. Try and change my mind?

But anyways, it's HOT so when I was thinking of about what I wanted for lunch all I could think about was Gazpacho, a cold tomato soup. All the traditional style recipes use bread and they recommended using day old country bread which... come on... who has that?

So I kept looking and found this recipe posted in the NY Times of all places. I made sure I had all the main ingredients and just kinda went for it! If you read my Golden Beet Hummus recipe post, you'll remember that I'm new to cooking and am trying to cook intuitively so I'm not so attached to one certain recipe or one certain way of doing something. 

The Gazpacho turned out light, refreshing, and tasty and I highly recommend it for an appetizer or lunch on a hot day. I ate it with a bunch of seeded crackers and felt perfectly satisfied, though you would need something more for a dinner meal. I plan on pairing it with a cold green lentil salad later tonight and will post that recipe later this weekend.

Until then.. eat well and be well, my friends!


Gazpacho Recipe

Remember, this is a guideline and it's purposefully vague. Practice your intuition, be playful, and do lots of taste tests! 

Here's What You'll Need:

A Blender or Food Processor and I have this one. If you don't have a food processor and you can afford it, it's a life changer. I use it regularly to make hummus and all sorts of dressings, soups, and nut butters and bars. It's a must have. 

Ingredients:

Lots of tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, sherry vinegar (or some vinegar), a bit of olive oil, paprika and salt for the soup.

Finely chopped onion, tomatoes, and cucumbers, basil, and hemp seeds for garnish.

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All you need to do is put the tomatoes, two slices of onion, a few garlic cloves, a couple tablespoons of vinegar, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, paprika and salt in food processor until mixed.

Then, transfer soup to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until nice and cold.

While you are doing that, mix the chopped onion (about a half a cup), cucumber (another half cup), and tomatoes in a bowl- add salt and pepper to taste.

Voila! 

When you are ready to eat and serve, spoon the cold soup in a bowl and top with the garnish: onion, tomatoes, cucumber, basil and hemp seeds. 

Comment below! I love hearing your thoughts and questions and knowing I'm not the only one reading this :)

Light and Love,

Meredith