Live With Verve: A Conversation With The Magical Dr. Aidan

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If you have been around me long enough, you have probably heard me mention my magical witch doctor, the AMAZING Dr. Aidan. She helps me connect to my intuitive and subtle energetic nature, creates space and ease in my body, and is my personal cheerleader and dropper of deep wisdom. She practices a unique stye of chiropractic that's focused on helping you notice and sustainably change physical patterns in your body and your relationship with these patterns in your life. This style of chiropractic work is called Network Spinal Analysis and Reorganizational Healing and it's pure magic and really, REALLY hard to describe. I have such subtle and yet profound experiences with Dr. Aidan and then have a really hard time telling people about them and just end up saying, "She's magic. You just have to go and see for yourself." I recently sat down with Dr. Aidan and asked her how she would start to describe Network Care and this is what she said:


The Magical Dr. Aidan: Network care is an intersection between nervous system health and physiology, consciousness, physics, and personal growth. People usually come in because there is some problem they want to get rid of, some pain... and we describe pain as any uncomfortable experience that interrupts your life... so that isn't always physical. Sometimes it's emotional or some area of your life that is challenging.

So people usually come in to try to get rid of their pain and as they become more connected and resourceful they start to learn how to manage their pain and realize that it's about their life, it's always about their life. And so they go from trying to get rid of their pain to being able to manage their pain more effectively to learning how to participate more FULLY in their life.

Pain is always a messenger! The whole purpose of pain is to tell you to STOP. Take inventory. Do something different. And so it's never my intention to get rid of someone's pain. It's my intention for them to have more energy and resources to make the changes their systems are asking them to make.

Meredith: When you talk about it like that, it reminds me of these books I've been reading by Michael Stone who talks a lot about vitality and connecting to an energy and resources to be more AWAKE in the world.

Dr. Aidan: Totally. I mean it's all a function of the available energy we have. And whether we are talking about healing or business or relationships, it doesn't matter. Everything is operating the best it can with the amount of energy it has available. And all disease and all symptoms and all breakdowns in our lives, in our body, in our work, or in relationships means that there is not enough energy. And so the only solution is energy efficiency.

There's not much in life we can control, but we can control where we focus our attention and we can control what we make something mean, which first requires an ability to recognize what you are automatically making it mean in some subconscious way and then choosing something different there... and we can choose what and how much energy we bring to whatever it is in that moment- these things are clearly under our control and yet we spend so much energy trying to change the circumstances instead of shifting our state, our energetic state. 

And things like yoga and meditation and network care that are focused on having someone be more present, more consciously aware and mindful, help people operate more efficiently in their bodies and in their lives, which ripples beyond the physical, shifting emotional and cognitive states. This efficiency allows for more creativity. It allows us to be more grateful. It allows us to access higher states of consciousness that are available to us as human beings. And if we go into a stress response, that's not available.

Meredith: And so the work you do with the gateways.. like what exactly is a gateway? Is it the channel that allows energy to enter and move through?

Dr. Aidan:  Gateways are the places where we make our contacts on the spine. And what's really different about where and how we make contact on the spine is that most chiropractors and most health care practitioners look to interact and engage in the part of the body where the problem is. And the place we make contact is actually where the nervous system and body is most aware and connected and resourceful. Kinda like the eye of a storm. And so if someone comes in with neck pain, there is usually this gateway that is this little oasis in the center of tension.

Meredith: And you can feel it?

Dr. Aidan: Yes and when you get to a gateway, the whole body relaxes. People will immediately start breathing and moving. We release tension through movement, breath, sound, and heat, which is part of why yoga is so powerful for de-stressing. And this is all innate but by the time we are adults we are so condition to hold still, to not move, to not express emotion, and to certainly not make any sound about it for fear of looking weird. 


But Seriously... do you ever catch your self holding back? Staying quiet? Being still? Moving or speaking in a way that is socially or culturally accepted or expected?

And how good does it feel to just dance, run, sing, yell, or speak your mind?

I think this is why my work and practice with the feminine and intuitive movement has been SO powerful, nourishing, and inspiring for me- the movement is free and easy, the movement releases tension and cultivates clarity, the movement energizes. Intuitive movement, yoga, meditation, eating whole foods and plants, and network care are all ways I stay connected to my vitality, my spirit, my VERVE.

How do you stay well and energized?

If any of Dr. Aidan's words piqued your interest, I would highly, HIGHLY recommend seeing her! You can learn more at her website or call her amazing assistant Marisol at 415-695-4440. 


The Conversation Continues: Eating Whole-Foods and Plants

I called my sister Madeline to see how her newly adopted plant-based diet was going. If you remember, Madeline inspired and encouraged me and my entire family to explore whole-foods and plants while eliminating meat, dairy, sugary and processed foods. We checked in yesterday and you'll never believe what she had to say!

Enjoy and comment below with any questions or thoughts! 

Light and Love,

Meredith


Meredith: Hey, so it's been two months since we started this diet. How is going for you?

Madeline: Good. It's been really fun to learn more about plants- I had no idea there were so many varieties and tastes.

Meredith: I know, right? It's been fun for me too- going to the market and choosing the most colorful, vibrant, and enticing vegetables. I've also haven't ever really been into cooking so I've been enjoying my extra time in the kitchen. Have you noticed any changes in your life?

Madeline: Hmmm... a lot of people have been asking me if I've noticed any changes in my energy levels. To be honest, I'm young and I think I had pretty stable energy levels before this change in diet. On the other hand, Mom and Dad have noticed a lot more sustained energy throughout the day. The main, and pretty significant, difference in my life is how fast I can run now!

Meredith: What do you mean? How fast can you run? 

Madeline: Well, you know I run a lot and go on two 10 mile runs each week. I used to average 9:25 minute miles. But now... I average 8:10 minute miles. That is over one minute faster for each mile! I've shaved 10 minutes off my long runs.

Meredith: What?! That is insane. Do you contribute your increase in speed to the diet?

Madeline: I certainly think it has helped. I have made a few other changes in my life and in my training routine that I think have also play a part.

Meredith: What else are you doing differently?

Madeline: Well, I'm more consistent with my training. I created a more difficult and strategic training plan this summer and have stuck with it. I also started practicing yoga three times a week, which I think helps with sustainability and recovery. 

Meredith: Interesting- you know I'm not that into running, but I would be curious to see the plan you followed. Maybe you can send it to me?

Madeline: Yeah, sure. I also changed my post-run shake to align with my diet, which I think has played a huge role in recovery time. I noticed that I'm never sore!

Meredith: What is in your post-run shake?

Madeline: almond milk, Vega Sport Protein Powder, a handful of greens, one banana, frozen or fresh fruit, 1/2 teaspoon of chlorella powder, 1/2 teaspoon of Maca Powder, a heaping teaspoon of flax seeds, ice, and a drizzle of blue agave or honey for sweetness.

                Madeline's morning post-run shake

                Madeline's morning post-run shake

Meredith: What is chlorella and maca?

Madeline: Chlorella is an algae that contains 19 amino acids, making it a complete protein. It has the highest content of chlorophyl of all known plants, which acts to detox and oxygenate the body. I think chlorella has played a huge role in my speedy recoveries. And maca is a root that helps balance hormones and relieve stress. I think maca has helped me sustain my energy and intensity during long runs.

Meredith: Interesting, I'll have to look more into this. I wonder how you would modify this for someone who isn't as active as you are.

Madeline: I use Vega Sport Protein powder, but there is also a Vega One option that already has chlorella, maca, and flax among lots of other good things! I would recommend Vega One for anyone eating whole-foods and plants and the Vega Sport for anyone extra active, like me. I use the Vega Protein for extra muscle strength to support my running. In general, these smoothies are an easy way to make sure you are getting the proper spectrum and amounts of plant protein and amino acids. 

Meredith: Yes, it does seem like a quick and efficient way to get all the good things into your body. I've been doing a lot of cooking and do spend quite a bit more time in the kitchen than I did before. Ease and convenience seem to be major concerns for people who are interested, but hesitant to explore the plant-based diet. I know you and the rest of the family recently spent some time in the Florida Keys. Was it hard to travel on this diet?

Madeline: Surprisingly, not as difficult as I thought it was going to be. We didn't plan ahead and pack meals for the drive down, but we still managed to find protein-rich items at fast food restaurants likes Chipotle and even Wendy's! And when we ate out in the keys, the chefs were all very accommodating. 

Meredith: So you have managed to stay very active and travel on the whole-foods and plant-based diet. What would you recommend for someone who is curious, but overwhelmed by the idea of giving up meat and dairy?

Madeline: I would recommend learning all you can! Knowledge about animal protein vs. plant protein and their effects on the body was more than enough motivation for me to go all in. Like I mentioned before, Forks Over Knives is a great starting point and source of inspiration. 

Meredith: And I think curiosity is what made this approachable for me. I went in thinking this was an exploration, not a permanent change. I don't think I'll ever go back to eating meat as my main source of protein, but I could see myself eating locally caught fish or even pizza everyone once in a while. I feel energized, clean, and AWAKE when eating whole-foods and plants and that is what keeps me going. 

Madeline: Yes, this diet seems to support the the active and full lifestyle that I want to live. 

Meredith: You have been home for the summer, but are about to go back to college. I wonder how your school environment will effect this diet. Let's reconnect in a few weeks. 

Madeline: Yes, me too. Even though my school has good and healthy options, I do think I will blend my own smoothies and cook more in the communal kitchen. I'll feel it out and update you when I know more. Thanks for taking the time to listen, explore, and share my journey.

Meredith: Likewise- love you, sis! I'm very proud of and inspired by you and your commitment to your own well-being. 


Oil Pulling With Pure and Essential Oils

Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic technique for cleaning and eliminating toxins in the mouth. The oil introduced attracts or pulls bad bacteria and plaque from gums, teeth, and other oral surfaces, inspiring fresher breath and a long, healthy life. We know it's important to floss and brush teeth and rinse with a mouthwash in order to prevent gum disease, which has been linked to heart complications. Oil pulling is a natural, more gentle, and sustainable mouthwash option. Many brands such as Listerine and Scope contain alcohol and other harsh ingredients that cause a burning sensation and kills many of the good bacteria needed for dental and overall health.

Sesame oil is the traditional oil of choice; however, I prefer the nuttier and more aromatic coconut oil. I think it is a bit more approachable and much more pleasant. Either way, it is important to use a high-quality and organic oil. My shoutout goes to Dr. Bronner's certified fair trade, organic virgin coconut oil, which can be purchased online or at your local health foods store. 

The process is simple: place a small spoonful of oil in your mouth and gently hold and then swish it around for 10-20 minutes. If newer to this practice, start small! 1-2 teaspoons for just a few minutes is plenty and as you get more comfortable, you can increase your time and work your way up to about a tablespoon. I recommend oil pulling in the morning, before you eat breakfast or drink tea or coffee.

If you follow my stories on Instagram, you probably saw that I have been exploring the many uses of essential oils. I started putting one drop of peppermint oil in my spoonful of coconut oil and am LOVING it! The added peppermint invigorates the experience, leaving me feeling much more awake and ready for the day. Alternatively, you could add one drop of lemon, clove, or orange essential oil. The essential oils are quite potent so I wouldn't use more than ONE drop. I would also highly, highly recommend you use a good-quality and dependable oil source such as dōTERRA

After you are finished pulling, spit the oil in a compost or trash bin. Avoid sinks if possible because the oil could accumulate in and clog your pipes.

Follow the oil pulling with your normal tongue scraping, flossing, and brushing routine. 

Try it, let me know how it goes, and reach out with any questions! 

With Light and Love,

Meredith


 

Intuitive Recipe: Golden Beet Hummus

I'm calling this an "intuitive recipe." If you follow my stories on Instagram, you probably saw that I discovered and made this Golden Beet Hummus recipe from 101 Cookbooks. It was DELICIOUS and filling and I knew this would be a regular snack item in my house. However, I didn't want to feel like I was tied to the exact recipe so this is my version, from what I can remember, tasting along the way, and from what my intuition told me to put together. The recipe is purposefully vague so you can play around with amounts and ingredients and make something that is satisfying and nourishing for you. It is beautiful, tasty, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, and full of protein and antioxidants.

Here is what I used: a can of chickpeas, one golden beet, one large Meyer lemon, a few garlic cloves, two spoonfuls of tahini, some turmeric, and a bit of salt. 

If you have a food processor, this recipe couldn't be easier- you basically just put, one by one, each ingredient in the food processor until everything is blended together. I wanted my hummus extra smooth so I took the skins off of the chickpeas, though this is entirely unnecessary. I also decided to use a raw beet so I simply skinned my beet and cut it into cubes. If you are going to use a blender, I would recommend steaming your beet for about 15 minutes or until it's soft. After I put the chickpeas and beet in my food processor, my mixture got a bit dry so I added the lemon juice and a bit of ice cold water. You want the hummus to look pasty and then smooth. Once the main ingredients are blended, you can play around with what else you want or have in the kitchen- I added garlic, tahini, turmeric and salt but can imagine this working with a variety of spices and flavors!

I sprinkled hemp seeds on top the first time I made this, but today I used the green onion I had left over in the fridge. You could also try topping it with pomegranate seeds, sesame oil, rosemary, or whatever! Practice cooking from a place of intuition, and let me know how it goes. Cooking in this way has honed my sense of intuition and it leaves me feeling creative, energized, and free.

Enjoy the hummus with raw veggies or seeded crackers.

From my light to yours,

Meredith


 

Yoga Therapy Magic

I recently met up with my good friend Elaine Oyang, a yoga therapist and whole foods nutrition consult here in San Francisco. I have been hearing a lot about "yoga therapy" and wanted to know what separated it from my understanding of yoga.

You may already know that the yoga teacher to student relationship was once, and still is in some places, an intentional commitment. The student would formally ask the teacher to guide him or her through the practices of yoga and the teacher would formally agree or disagree to take on that student. It was through this purposeful and steadfast one-on-one relationship that one learned the powerful practices and explored the union of body, mind, and spirit. 

Elaine told me that yoga therapy is similar in that her students or clients ask for her guidance. During the initial consultation they commit to a healing and integrative health care plan. Yoga therapists use a variety of techniques including yoga, meditation, and breath work in order to guide their client's unique body and mind to it's natural state of vitality, balance, and ease. Yoga therapy can be energizing and nourishing for anyone and is ideal for someone living with chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, or depression. 

During our time together, Elaine guided me through a deep sacral release sequence. This was my first experience with yoga therapy and I didn't really know what to expect. The whole session took place with me lying on my back with my legs up on a chair. After a few opening assists, Elaine talked me through a simple practice of grounding my femur bones deep into my hip sockets so that the surrounding muscles could soften. Her calming and compassionate nature made it easy for me to relax my body and connect to my breath. I felt immediate release around my sacrum, low back, and hip joints, as well as a sweet peace throughout my whole being. From beginning to end, I felt held and nourished by Elaine's presence- something not so readily available in a public class. 

If you or someone you know is currently living with some health challenge, consider yoga therapy! If you are in the bay area, I would highly recommend Elaine. You can learn more about her and her work here

Also, the sequence below is easily done with or without a yoga therapist. All you need is a soft surface to lie down on and a chair to rest your calves and ankles on. Try it out and let me know how it feels!

Whole-Food, Plant-Based Backpacking Meals

Desolation Wilderness, California

Desolation Wilderness, California

Can you stay nourished, energized, and satisfied on this diet while backpacking through the wilderness? YES! I recently gave it a go during a 3-day, 2-night, trip and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was. In fact, I planned the food for six people and everyone was thankful for the hearty and tasty meals I provided. Here is what we ate:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, dried fruit, and almond butter

Oatmeal is a whole-grain, making it the ideal breakfast food for a good amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fiber, along with traces of vitamins and minerals such as manganese, zine, and iron!

The nutritional value of dried fruit depends on what variety you choose. I found a good list with information here. We brought a variety of dried raisins to put in our morning oatmeal, giving a calorie, protein, and fiber boost to our day.

Nut butters are a good source of protein, fiber, and good fats.

 

Lunch: Hummus, carrots, green peppers, whole-wheat tortillas, apples, and almond butter

Although hummus is low in calories, it is high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. It also has traces of vitamin k, vitamin c, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

I love the satisfying crunch of carrots and green peppers and used them to dip in the hummus. I also find green peppers refreshing and hydrating. You can play around with what vegetables to bring- carrots and green peppers are pretty sturdy and pack well.

We actually brought whole-wheat tortillas AND pita bread, but I prefer tortillas and use them to make a hummus and veggie wrap.

Apples are also very refreshing and easy to pack. DELICIOUS with almond butter. We managed to bring 6-8 apples (everyone carried at least one) and I think we had an extra to cut up and put in our oatmeal on the third morning :)

 

Snack Attack- nuts and seeds, dried fruit, chocolate- also more veggies, hummus, apples, and nut butter

We brought a variety of nuts and seeds, including almonds, cashews, peanuts, and macadamia nuts along with dried cranberries and cherries and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. They all contain a good amount of calories, healthy fats and carbohydrates, and different vitamins and minerals. Here is more information about nuts and seeds.

We also had a trail mix with chocolate. WARNING: chocolate might melt and turn your trail mix into a gooey, but still delicious snack! 

 

Dinner Meal #1- Green lentils, millet, onion, spices (turmeric, coriander, paprika, ground cumin, and salt)

Green Lentils are packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber! The are also a good source of iron, zinc, potassium and folate.

I had never cooked millet before, but I heard it was very good for you. It took a bit longer to cook than I would have liked, but this could have been because the pot we were using wasn't cooking evenly. However, millet has a TON of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, copper, and phosphorous. Couscous or quinoa would be two other good options to add here.

Onions are easy to pack and add a delicious flavor to any meal! 

I pre-mixed a variety of spices and put them in a ziplock bag. This is totally optional, but definitely added a lot of good flavor to our meals.

 

Dinner Meal #2- barley, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, and green pepper

Barley is whole grain that is very filling and delicious. It contains many good vitamins and minerals and is easy to cook. We added our last onion and green pepper to add some fresh flavor.

Sun-dried tomatoes will add a PUNCH of good flavor along with a good amount of calories, protein, and fiber. 

 

Success! We ate so well and felt great the entire trip.

What is your experience? What meals would you or have you packed on overnight hiking trips? Please share you own ideas! Let's support each other in living long and healthy lives!

#spiritwellness #yoga #meditation #mindfulness #wellness #eatmoreplants #domoreyoga 

A Conversation With My Sister: On A Whole Foods and Plant Based Diet

Farro bowl with fresh peas and pea shoots, radishes, and golden baby beets, all tossed with a spirited dressing

Farro bowl with fresh peas and pea shoots, radishes, and golden baby beets, all tossed with a spirited dressing


I recently sat down with my sister to discuss her recent decision to adopt a whole foods and plant based diet. I was initially skeptical, but after our conversation, I committed to giving it a try! In fact, my whole family is eating this way for the next two months.


Meredith: Break this down for me. I know a bit about veganism and vegetarianism, but this seems like something more. How would you start to describe a whole foods and plant based diet and what makes it different?

Madeline: This diet is essentially "vegan" in that it doesn't include any foods that derive from animals- no meat, no dairy, no eggs. However, it is not so much concerned with what you DON'T eat as much as it is interested in what you DO eat. There is a focus on eating nourishing foods derived from the ground- plants, legumes, grains, etc. It would technically be ok for vegetarians or vegans to eat sugary, processed, or fried foods but this is not true with the whole foods and plant based diet. 

Meredith: Ah, so no french fries?

Madeline: Exactly and I find that I don't even want "junk" food now that I have knowledge of how healing and nourishing plants are. I want to live a long and healthy life, which motivates me to eat this way. 

Meredith: Interesting. So would you agree this is a "selfish" diet? 

Madeline: That is one way of putting it. I know a lot of vegetarians and/or vegans choose to eat the way they do to save animals and the environment. My motivation certainly comes from a more "selfish" point in that I want to live a long and healthy life; however, my choice in diet also positively effects the animals and environment. 

Meredith: So it is a win-win sort of situation.

Madeline: Yes, and I think it is also a situation of taking responsibility for my body- for my health and for the health of the many generations to come after I am gone.

Meredith: Do you think our culture is not taking responsibility for their health? 

Madeline: I think people want to be healthy, but food is so accessible and life is so busy that it is really easy to make beef tacos or order pizza after a long day. I also think there are some myths about the importance of animal protein. The documentary Forks Over Knives is actually what inspired me to adopt this diet and they show how unnecessary and actually harming animal protein is!

Meredith: Yes, I've been wanting to talk about that documentary. Tell me about it- what inspired you so?

Madeline: There was so much DATA! Nearly 20 years of research on the effects of animal protein- leading to heart disease, cancers, high blood pressure and cholesterol, weight gain, early menstruation and menopause, and general grogginess. It highlighted cultures that eat very little meat- only bits for condiments and flavor and after seeing the numbers, the experiments, the data, I couldn't not see anymore. The research made it very clear to me: meat and dairy, in the way most americans consume it, is very unhealthy. Please watch it. It is available on Netflix right now.

Meredith: Haha, ok, I will. One last question because I know you run a lot- you log something like 40 miles a week. You find that this plant based diet gives you enough energy and protein to keep up?

Madeline: YES- absolutely. Legumes and grains like farro and quinoa are packed with protein! I haven't had any issue. Watch the documentary and you'll see.

Meredith: Ok, ok- it's on my list. Thank you for sitting down with me and telling me a bit more about this diet. I have to say, I am curious and look forward to watching Forks Over Knives.

Madeline and Meredith

Madeline and Meredith


It's been nearly three weeks since this conversation and since I also started eating a whole foods and plant based diet. I have to say, I LOVE it! I feel so fresh, light, and energized and the food is so delicious and filling. I'm not sure if I'll ever meat like I did before.

Herbed chickpeas for savory snack!

Herbed chickpeas for savory snack!


Connect and Move From Your Intuition

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Wise and Wild Women

A Retreat, A Remembrance, A Call to RISE 

Intuition is that beyond reason.

It's a jump from nothing to something. It's knowledge gathered from a feeling rather than conscious reasoning. Energetically, it is the FEMININE- the creator, the healer, Mother Earth, and the Moon. It is that which moves and flows in rhythm with something larger than our individual selves. 

June 24th, 2017 is a new moon, the start of a new cycle. The moon is dark, reminding us to take time to be still, empty, and receptive. It is a time full of potential and the initiation of new beginnings, making it an ideal time to set BIG and MAGICAL intentions.

Gathering during the new moon is an ancient and powerful ritual to inspire healing, creativity, comfort, and understanding. It is a sacred and nourishing time for women, a gift we so rarely accept.

So I invite you to join me!

Together we will connect to the intuition, remember our natural and WILD state of being, and pause in the moment before it begins again.

Love,
Meredith

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Connect

 

Open to all who identify as a woman


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Gather

Yoga Garden SF

June 24th

7:00 pm


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Inspire

Move from your intuition and set BIG intentions

 

 

 

 


Mindful May Campaign

Join the Mindful May Campaign and experience more peace, clarity, and authentic connection.

This is the heartbeat of yoga and the initiation of an awakened LIFE. It is through the practice of SITTING that we cultivate a relationship with the mind and begin to hear and feel the noise and busyness, as well as the pockets of quiet stillness and harmony. Meditation invites us to rest the attention on the breath (or another focal point), to notice when thoughts arise, and to choose the present moment over and over and over again. Each breath offers a rich and vibrant life that can only be experienced in the present and each inhale gives us an opportunity to engage carefully with the world.

So I invite you to SIT each morning!

I recommend sitting for 6-11 minutes, which is plenty of time to notice the churning of the mind and to practice shifting the attention to the moment. If at all possible, I HIGHLY recommend sitting in the morning before taking care of family or work. You can tell me, but I have found that there is something powerful about starting the day with the vitality and clarity of the breath.

 

OM NAMASTE


Other ways to participate

Along with your home practice, you are welcome to join me Tuesday evenings at Thriveability SF, where I'll be leading a meditation series for the month of May. You can also attend my regular public Yoga and Meditation classes at Yoga Garden SF on Tues/Thurs mornings or Sunday evenings. I will also be posting Instagram LIVE meditations every Monday morning and you can tune in @meredithholtyoga 

Finally, I'd love for you to take a look and consider donating the gift of yoga and meditation to k-12 teachers! Learn more about Headstand's powerful mission and give today.

 

Bali's Embodied Wisdom

I think perhaps the photographs can share more than my words ever could, so please peruse and take time and pleasure in them. Of course, I'm still processing all I experienced and will continue to, as humans do, create my narratives and memories for all that I saw and felt as well as my expectations and dreams for what I hope to see and feel again (or not). And as my lived experience sits in this body and through this time with the other life around me, certainly a clarity, a wholeness, a wisdom begins to emanate and merge with the story bigger than myself.

Pay attention to the lush jungle, listen to the lyrical melody of the birds and insects, see the open and close and open again of the lotus flower, and it's easy to remember the richness of the Earth, this planet we are so privileged to be a part of. Observe and say, "hello," to the people who walk, engage with, and deeply honor this land and you start to remember that we are invited, welcomed, and responsible for taking good care of it.

My time in Bali has encouraged me to notice myself, and human beings collectively, as a part of the natural world. The human body is born from the Earth and it will return to it once again, and for this brief moment in time we are supported, held, and sustained by Her. We need Mother Earth and her generous resources while we are here and it is up to us to take only what we need. In yoga, this is the practice of aparigraha, or non-gripping- physically and mentally. The thoughts, words, and actions we choose will most certainly have an effect and leave an imprint for the many humans and life forms that will come after we are gone. So how much water do we really need to wash the dishes? How much food do we really need to buy or order at the restaurant? How much plastic, packaging, and waste are we wanting to produce? How will my thought loops and patterns manifest? How will my words and actions affect the lives and future lives I share this planet with? These are some of the questions Bali asked and is challenging me to explore deeper as a I re-enter my life here.

Bali tells us that we live within nature and as nature. Bali tells us to honor what is here and what is being offered. Bali tells us to be aware of the effects of our choices, to know everything is interwoven, to consume mindfully, and to be a part of the harmony and radiance of the world.

OM OM OM

Satsang: What Is It and Why Should I Go?

Image by Penabranca

Image by Penabranca

2016 left me lying face down on the ground, spread wide and vulnerable in the mud of all the ideas and expectations I was so desperately lunging after in the hope that they might bring me solace and value in this ever-dimming social, political, and environmental climate we find ourselves moving through today. However, there becomes a point where it is too dark and heavy and complicated, and something deep within tells you to wipe the mud off your face and look up. And when I cleared and opened my eyes, I saw the familiar flicker of light that always has been and always will be- the same light that I have seen and walked towards, and then forgotten and strayed from many times before. In yoga, we call this inherent and eternal direction and soul-longing of our existence, sankalpa. Sankalpa is formed in the heart and if you give yourself time and space to sit, it arrives with everything you need.

 

So how did I lose focus and wander off course yet again?

 

The senses

 

Being human means we have a body-mind vehicle and with that comes likes and dislikes, birth and death, joy and sorrow. If something feels good, we try to re-enact and re-live the past experience. If something is painful, we move away and avoid in the future. This is a human behavior deeply rooted in fear and habit, and it is the attachment to these attractions and aversions that push us off the path over and over and over again.

 

Yoga is a state of being that results from the practices offered in the ancient teachings. Yoga is the union leftover when our consciousness disconnects from the entanglement with the mind and the manifested world. Achieving yoga takes discipline and work. It requires a sustained practice known as abhyasa. Abhyasa can be developed through consistent self-analysis and satsang.

 

In sanskrit, “satsang” means a sacred gathering to sit, or simply BE, in Truth. It is an invitation to come together as a community of yoga practitioners and study the ancient teachings offered in texts such at the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads. This is a two-fold offering to first, go inward deeply through the teachings and sitting and afterwards, to re-enter our outward lives and reflect and discuss how we are experiencing and applying the wisdom that has been so beautifully and graciously passed down the lineage.

 

The teachings are oh so clear, and yet this path takes devotion and hard work. It is certainly easier to press the snooze button and go back to and remain asleep. However, if your year was anything as emotional and draining and confusing as mine, you might want to wake up. You might hear a whisper to open your eyes and a calling to return to or stay the path. This is it! The time is NOW. We need to muster all our strength and support each other to the best of our abilities. We need to continue to show up, not only for ourselves, but for our community, for our sweet and nourishing and life giving Mother Earth, and for humanity. So please join us! We will gather at Yoga Garden SF every Wednesday night at 8:00 pm.

 

May this satsang bring more clarity, compassion, and perseverance to ourselves and the world. May we collectively uplift our community, our society, and our species. May this gathering bring more health, happiness, and freedom from suffering to all beings everywhere. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

 

OM

 

2017- The Year of DEVOTION

Austin Weaver Photography                                                                                  Ormond Beach, FL 

Austin Weaver Photography                                                                                  Ormond Beach, FL 

I gave myself a lot of time and space to reflect and sit quietly as I approached and entered the new year, and what I discovered was this very gentle yearning that is being brought slowly to a rolling boil.

For me, this year is about DEVOTION: 

1. To the practice of yoga and to the clear teaching to show up over and over and OVER again.

2. To the teachers- to all those that came before us, who have walked this path, and who have so graciously passed the wisdom down the lineage.

3. To the community- to our neighbors and their neighbors and their neighbors, and so it goes.

4. To Mother Earth and to her nourishing, healing, and inspiring offerings.

5. To the Self- to the Atman, the inherent light and love that is our inheritance.

May this devotion lead to more peace, clarity, and equanimity in the collective consciousness.

OM NAMASTE

Meredith

Show Up and Seek the Beloved Community

Hello Hello Hello,

I am here, after having been there for quite some time... I know... and so much has happened to me individually and for us collectively. The results of the election and the madness at Standing Rock are creeping into the holiday season and I certainly feel it. I feel the fear, the anxiety, the desire to separate and divide, the not enough resources or time to get it all done.

Right now I want to suggest, and strongly encourage you to continue to SHOW UP to your practice- to yoga or meditation class, to art, to music, to dance, to run club, to church, to coffee dates, or to that which brings you clarity and into the present moment. Do this for yourself, for your family, for your friends, and for the larger community. Now more than ever we need to connect intimately, we need to listen deeply, and we need to see clearly. We need to stay the course and stay committed to the practice of simply showing up with open minds and hearts that are ready to act with a fierce love and compassionate courage. The world has seen many triumphs and defeats before, many rights and wrongs, many whites and blacks, and the world has seen the rise, the fall, and the space and time in between it all. There is so much intense energy and so many high emotions and so many passionate perspectives right now that it all has the potential to shift and evolve our nation and our world to something more whole and representative of our UNIverse- and perhaps we can move a bit closer to the Beloved Community that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about. This Beloved Community is one where poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated. It is one where racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice are replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.

But we need to practice. We need to feel the fear and choose love again and again and again. We need to see the light within ourselves and within those that walk with us and all around us.

We need to continue to SHOW UP.

With Deep Love and Gratitude,

Meredith

 

Thoughts on Children, School and Education

What you do with what you know is the important thing. To know is not enough.
— John Rice

Education and life are deeply intertwined. Most of us are “schooled” for eight, twelve, fifteen years or more! We gain knowledge and collect experiences of all sorts and kinds... and then what? As educator at the liberal Black Mountain College said, “What you do with what you know is the important thing. To know is not enough.”

But of course, knowing must come first. We must know our family and our culture. We must know the mind and the body. Above all, we must know the Self. I believe knowledge is power and that it can set you free, but who exactly is the “you” that is being referred to and what is it freeing you from? Are “you” the collection of letters that make up your name? Are you John’s daughter or Andrew’s wife? Are you 5’5 or a dancer? An educator or engineer? And what if these identities were to change? Would it affect who “you” are?

It is through the knowledge of the mind and the body that we can begin to know ourselves- our consciousness, spirit, chi, prana or whatever label fits in this moment. We begin to be aware of the mind and understand that we are what sees thoughts pass by, and what feels emotions, and what experiences sense objects. We begin to understand that our essence of consciousness is NOT our thoughts, emotions, or body- it is what observes these things. And as we begin to be more aware of our Self, we are set free from the clinging on to these fleeting others that our conscious observes. With this awareness and understanding of Self, we are can embrace the freedom in being citizens that fully participate in a democratic society and deeply and authentically practice compassion, integrity, courage, and love.

I believe art and nature are the center of education as they cultivate close observation, physical engagement, service, and play. It is through both the healing and creative arts that give rise to a rich sense of self and community, and it is through nature we connect to the natural rhythms of life. Art and nature also naturally presents itself with opportunities to innovate, ask questions, and solve problems.

With this awareness and understanding of Self, we are can embrace the freedom in being citizens that fully participate in a democratic society and deeply and authentically practice compassion, integrity, courage, and love.
— Meredith Holt
DSCF0892.JPG

I believe the school day should give children experiences and opportunities to construct, create, and actively inquire. The center of gravity needs to be INSIDE the child, where children have a motive to demand information. A child is already full of activities and ideas, and it is the teacher’s role to mold and give direction to the child’s energized social, constructive, expressive and inquiry activities and instincts. May we begin with the child’s ideas, impulses and interests. May we meet each child where she is, given where her family is and what her family has experienced and passed along the lineage. May we meet each child with compassion and fierce advocacy.

And thus I believe in a light-hearted and project-based curriculum with play, art and the children at the center. I believe in a compassionate approach, meeting each individual child were she is, while fiercely advocating for her growth, intellect, well-being, and passion to deeply understand herself and serve the world with a free heart and mind. 


Honoring the Practice, My Teacher Janet Stone, and this LIFE

This is why I love spring. It is full of hope.
— someone in Cliff's Variety

Two weeks ago I overheard someone in San Francisco's Cliff's Variety store say, "This is why I love spring. It's full of hope." I was shopping for a few kitchen items for my new cosy home before heading to yoga class at Yoga Tree Castro. I paused briefly to put the statement in my back pocket before quickly finishing my errands and heading to the studio.

On my mat, next to one hundred other mats, I heard my teacher Janet Stone talk with clarity and insight. She has a way of not saying much while speaking to the depths of my soul. That night she spoke of our internal rhythms- the in breath and the out breath, the expansion and the contraction, the rise and the fall- and how it matches the universal rhythms of night and day, light and dark, heaven and earth, life and death. She has that secret way of making you feel like you are actually a part of this world.

She then had us connect to the space in-between- the movement, time, and space in-between the inhale and exhale. Although she has spoken of this before and I have practiced and taught this idea many times over, this night it felt real in a way I had never understood it before. 

I realized that spring is full of hope because it is that time in-between... in-between winter and summer. It is a season where we celebrate the magic and the potential that exists in the in-between moments. AHA! EACH moment is an in-between moment! Each moment has the magic and potential for growth, healing, joy, and love.

Despite the epiphany that night, the polarities continue to show up in my life. I teach kindergarten at an all girls school and there is conversation about girl and boy, masculine and feminine. I heard the inspiring Bryan Stevenson, lawyer and social activist, publicly talk about black and white, justice and injustice, hope and despair. And all around me I catch myself labeling people, situations, and things as good or bad, right or wrong.

Then I remember that this is the practice! When I do have the awareness of my own binary thinking, I practice coming back to the teaching of the space in-between. I practice being fully awake to what is and simply being present for the magical spectrum of this life.

I practice being fully awake to what is and simply being present for the magical spectrum of this life.
Water and Light by Holly Anderson

Water and Light by Holly Anderson

As my teacher travels here, there and everywhere (maybe she is in Singapore or Bali, I can't quite keep track), may she know that her teachings continue to evolve and be understood in deeper ways. May we all take a moment to honor our own teachers. May we take a moment to honor our teacher's teacher and their teacher's teacher. May we take a moment to honor the lineage of this practice of yoga and may we honor this thing we call life.

To learn more about Janet Stone, visit her website.

OM NAMASTE,

Meredith

On My Shelf

1. Sit Like A Buddha: A Pocket Guide To Meditation by Lodro Rinzler 

This book was given to me by a friend and I found it simple and accessible for those who are just starting a meditation practice. I recommend this light read if you are curious about the practice and want some clear guidelines. 

 

2. Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book will help you create more space, clarity and joy in your life!

As most of you know, I am moving to Berkeley in a few short weeks. I have moved quite a bit in the last few years and have simplified my life by decreasing the volume of stuff I own. However, this book is about more than simplifying. It is about cultivating more JOY in your life and in your home through the art of tidying. She encourages you to hold onto only that which sparks joy.

3. How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends With Your Mind by Pema Chodron

This book is more comprehensive than the one by Rinzler and is a good addition if you want a more complete understanding of the practice. Chodron also weaves in her ideals of grace and compassion, which I resonate deeply with. 

 

4. Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron

And while we are on the topic of compassion... this is my go to book. I've shared this once with you all already, but it is still on my shelf and I find myself referencing it quite often. Chodron has some really clear practices to cultivate compassionate for yourself and others.
 

5. The Way To Start A Day by Byrd Baylor

Byrd Baylor is one of my favorite children's authors because she can beautifully expresses mindful and spiritual ideas. This book in particular is about welcoming and celebrating the day- through dance, song, beats, flowers, etc. The illustrator Parnall adds texture and emotion through his whimsical swirling shapes and vibrant hues of southwestern sunrises.


Yoga and Meditation: What It Is All About and How It Can Upgrade Your Life

For the past few months I have been teaching a 6:15 am Yoga and Meditation class at Yoga Garden SF and I am finding that it has a tender spot in my heart. I believe the class honors the practice of yoga and the teachers who have passed the dharma, or teachings, along the lineage. It also represents the way I personally practice and feels vulnerable and meaningful to share bits and pieces of that with you.

The physical practice, or asana, was created to strengthen, cleanse, and open the body to prepare for meditation- a practice of cultivating more awareness of the movement of the mind and of training the mind to be one-pointed.

This class is a morning ritual- a practice of vinyasa, breath work, and meditation to leave you feeling more awake, present, and productive. We first energize and open the body through movement and breath to then prepare for the seated practice of stilling the mind. Together we are creating a sangha, a community, of awareness and compassionate hearts and it's open to EVERYONE!

This class is authentic and genuine and you will feel fiercely supported by the community we have, and continue to build. And yet there is MORE! As more people study mindfulness and meditation, we are seeing that a morning practice has wonderful benefits that will certainly upgrade your life!


Five (of many) Benefits of Morning Yoga and Meditation

  1. Energy

    Practicing yoga stimulates the mind and body, giving you more energy to take into your day. You may even ditch the coffee... though maybe not... and that's ok too. I personally love the taste of coffee and drink a cup most days.

  2. Productivity

    Meditation trains the mind to be one-pointed. As you begin to notice the movement of the mind, you can choose to let go of thoughts, worries, and expectations, and focus fully on what is in front of you in each moment. People who meditate tend to focus easier and get more done.

  3. Clarity

    Meditation builds awareness of all the storylines or narratives we have created and are pulled into. The practice is noticing the drama, dropping it, and observing what is true and real in each moment. As we begin to drop the thoughts, we can think and see more clearly. We can also be more open to all that is being offered right now.

  4. Peace

    As we allow ourselves to slow down and connect to the breath, we are reminded of the essence of who we are. We are light and love, and we know that this is not dependent on what we have done or might do. People who meditate have a stronger sense of self, belonging, contentment and equanimity of mind.

  5. Flexibility

    We begin to let go of the grip that we have on life. We learn to let go of what we have experienced in the past and how it might be holding us back, and we learn to let go of what we THINK might or should happen. With the practice of meditation, we are more flexible in the way we think and experience each day. There is more magic, creativity, and joy!

If this sparks your curiosity, please join us on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:15 am. No experience is necessary and we would LOVE to welcome you.

Love,
M


What the Sangha is saying...

Practicing yoga and meditation has impacted my life for the better. It’s a simple practice but a very challenging one. To be able to control the thoughts that are constantly moving in my mind is hard. I never was able to turn it down. Before practicing yoga and meditation, my mind would start racing the minute I woke up in the morning. It was a terrible feeling and I couldn’t even enjoy the present moment. I was so caught up on the past and future and was missing out on what’s real. I’ve been taking Meredith’s class for almost two months and I can already see the huge impact it has had on me. I enjoy taking the morning classes because I feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the day. I live each day like it’s my last. I have to thank my instructor Meredith for that because she focuses on the moment and training our minds to let go of all the narratives we’ve created. She’s very inspiring and has really helped me deal with anxiety. I’m in a better place due to this amazing practice. I recommend this class to anybody who wants to take a moment and quiet the mind. It’s extremely important and will only better you in the long run. Thank you to the amazing yoga instructors who embrace every moment! Namaste.
— Alissa N.
Practicing in the morning is probably the best way to start the day. As long as you make sure you get a good night’s rest, waking up just before 6 to make Meditation and Yoga is worth your while to find some serious focus first thing. Undeniably, some mornings my alarm goes off and I curse at it, but an hour later I feel more awake and aware than if I mainlined two cups of coffee. Plus, once you make it a regular part of your schedule, it becomes routine!
— Meghan A.


Cultivating A Morning Ritual

Mornings have always been a magical time for me- the peace and quiet that is available is unlike anything I can find amongst the busy day. I have found, for me, it is the perfect time to nourish and cleanse the body, mind and spirit, and to clearly set the path for an open and energized day. Below are my recommendations for a morning ritual. Start with one or try them all! Try it for TWO weeks and see if it makes a difference in your life.

1. Wake before the sunrise- I have found that there is a deep and calming energy to be felt right before the sun rises. I feel rooted in the Earth and a part of the universal rhythm of day and night, rise and fall, open and close.

2. Drink a glass of hot lemon water- Simply squeeze a bit of lemon juice in a hot glass of water. This will hydrate the body and cleanse toxins from the day before. I DO still drink coffee because what can I say... I LOVE the smell and taste. But I usually have my coffee after a few hours of waking and moving.

3. Wash your face- Abhyanga is a form of ayurvedic medicine that involves massaging the WHOLE body with warm coconut oil. Traditionally it is done before the day starts, before you shower and practice yoga. During the week, I tend to simply wash my face with COLD water and apply coconut oil on after. It leave my skin feeling hydrated and smooth. I usually hold the full Abhyanga practice for the weekend mornings. 

4. Practice pranayama- I say this in my class ALL the time but the word, "yama" means the creation or the maintance of breath and "prana" is life force or energy. By moving the breath, we can begin to shift the energy in the body. There are all types of breathwork in the practice of yoga but I particularly like to practice KAPALBHATI breath in the winter season. It is short exhales through the nose with a contraction of the belly in toward the spine. It acts as a furnace, heating the body, and is also very energizing and cleansing. A set is 20, 50, or a 100 exhales. Come through two or three sets.

5. Move- Come through nine simple sun salutations- any variation that will leave you feeling good and energized. Move SLOWLY- one breath, one movement, one thought at a time.

6. Meditate- Sit in meditation for 5-10 minutes. The attention can be set on the sensation of moving the breath in and out. You will notice that the mind will begin to wander- either to the past or the future- and this practice is choosing to bring the attention back to the present moment. Don't be discouraged if the mind moves A LOT! The nature of the mind is to move, so see and welcome the wandering as an opportunity to PRACTICE meditation. That is all it is- a PRACTICE.

If you want some guidance, a community or support- come practice with me at Yoga Garden SF. I teach a vinyasa class M/W/F mornings at 6 am and a yoga and meditation class T/Th mornings at 6:15 am. And as I said earlier- keep it simple and attainable in the beginning. Maybe wake 10 minutes early and try one of these practices until it becomes a habit. Then add on. Be curious, stay open and observe the difference it makes in your daily life. 

Light and Love,

M


The Rhythm of Fear and Courage

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in SPITE of my fear.
— Michael Hyatt


When I quit my job teaching first grade, nearly two years ago now, I was scared. I felt like a little girl... like my 5-year-old self on the first day of kindergarten or my 10-year-old self giving my first class presentation. I felt the very same tightness in my chest and the many tears welling in my eyes.

As I sat in the Head of School's office for what seemed like a lifetime, there were moments of physical paralysis that hid the violent movement of my mind.

"Should I quit? What would the families think? And the faculty and staff?  They will lose respect for me, and I won't be able to recover. No one will hire me after this. What will I do? How will I support myself in San Francisco?"

There was a moment when I felt like I would be forever stuck in this swirling vortex of despair. You see, the nature of the mind is to move and to wander, and it likes to attach to thoughts of the past or thoughts and expectations for the future. This is the ego, a state of suffering, and its aim is to limit and hold you back from your inherent GREATNESS.

"Meredith, Sally is ready for you."

The assistant to the Head of School lifted my trance, and I found the rise and fall of the rhythm of my breath. I was able to shift my attention to the truth of the present moment, and in THAT moment I knew I was not happy. Teaching and being in the classroom had previously brought me energy, satisfaction, and joy. But in my last months I felt drained, sad and starved. I knew something was not right- there was pain in my body and in my heart. I wasn't sleeping well, was barely eating and felt like I was in a dense fog that wouldn't clear.

I spent a lot of time in meditation and prayer before I made this decision. I dropped below the surface of my thoughts and listened to the deep inner wisdom of my body. I trusted the intuition telling me my time in that classroom was over, and I had the FAITH that my journey was taking a turn to heal myself and the world in a better way.

So despite the fear I had for the future, I courageously expressed my truth.

I cried in front of the Head of School that day. I REALLY cried as I exposed my feelings of fear, shame and sadness to the leader of the workplace. And believe it or not, she heard me and showed up with a powerful presence. She handed me tissues and spoke with a motherly knowing. She nurtured my emotions and encouraged the healing of my soul. I left that day feeling thankful, enlightened and hopeful for a new day when all leaders will engage with and honor the more fluid modes of thought and feeling, and I am filled with a profound gratitude for her soft understanding and her FIERCE guidance.

I learned that people SHOW UP with conviction when you allow yourself the freedom of vulnerability. I learned that humanity is inherently loving if we allow ourselves to open and be loved.

Life continues and the fear is still present. I feel it now in my new relationships and business ventures. My ego tells me that I am not good enough, I'm not beautiful or lovable, that I don't know enough, and that I just can't do it. But instead of screaming at me, it is just a gentle whisper. I recieve the hum of those thoughts, and practice recognizing and HONORING the emotion of fear. I let myself feel the intensity with gentleness - taking a bubble bath and/or just allowing myself to cry. The practice of yoga has taught me to feel authentically and LET GO with intention and faith. 

So if you feel afraid- BE with that feeling. Scream, shake, cry- do whatever you need to do to honor THAT part of you. And be grateful that the fear is just that... a PART of you and just ONE beat of the rhythm. Take a deep breath, look for the opportunity to be vulnerable and courageous, and express your truth with conviction.


Love,
M