Mindful awareness

Monday, November 29, 2010

Generosity through Eating Well

This is the season for expressing generosity – many of us host gatherings and prepare gift lists more in the next month than the rest of the year. I am inviting my students this week to consider ways they can express generosity to themselves as well. Their yoga practice is one gift they are giving themselves. Eating wholesome foods can be another expression of self generosity.

But choosing to eat well is not always easy. Much of the information we receive when we make food decisions is confusing. Making sense of so many food choices can become more overwhelming when we learn conflicting information from news sources. One moment we are told to limit fat, another moment we are told to limit carbohydrates. We learn we need to take in more omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fatty fish then we are told to limit fatty fish because of the mercury levels. Considering every micronutrient in each food becomes overwhelming for anyone. Spinach has calcium and iron but should I use kale to get a little more? How do I know family members have enough vitamin E in the diet?

Rather than becoming overwhelmed by so many details, consider a simple rule of thumb: eating a variety of whole food in their natural forms will provide the nutrition you need (exceptions may exist because of health conditions – follow directions from your health practitioner). Manufacturers of processed foods often replace nutrition with simple carbohydrates and sodium. Non-fat options of many processed foods replace taste reduced by removing fat by adding sugars and sodium. Eating processed foods, even products labeled healthy, will often replace a nutrient with simple carbohydrates and sodium. For instance, low-sodium products may have relatively lower salt compared to their companion products, but still more than wholesome food. Consider canned soups and processed meats as they compare – lower sodium or not – to homemade soups and lean meats.

Choosing to eat well as an expression of self generosity perpetuates itself as a gift of a healthier and happier you to the important people in your life. Selecting wholesome, unprocessed foods makes your food choices a little easier.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Empowered by our Choices

Evidence has shown that having too many choices is not always a good thing. I think this is most noticeable in food choices we find in grocery stores. Eating a wholesome diet is easier when one shops at a farmer’s market where most offerings are real foods, but more of a challenge at a supermarket where so many of the products on the shelves are highly processed fake food.

Consider the obviously healthy breakfast option: oatmeal. This whole grain has been associated with a healthy diet for its ability to lower cholesterol and leave the diner feeling satiated after just 150 high-energy calories. But when I pick up rolled oats from the cereal aisle at the supermarket, the non-processed real thing is on the lowest shelf. Items on the shelves at eye level (known by marketing experts to be most accessible and more likely to be selected) are labeled oatmeal but they are processed, instant, and flavored products. These options have the fiber, low saturated fat and low cholesterol that make oatmeal a healthy breakfast option, but added sugars (16 g) and salt (319 mg) make it less healthy compared to unadulterated oatmeal (1g sugars, 0mg sodium). The instant option also adds approximately 28 calories (depending on the flavor).

Instant packets seem like a good breakfast choice – oatmeal is healthy after all. They are popular choices because they are convenient. However, preparing the “quick 1-minute” oats mixed with water still takes only 90 seconds in the microwave. No need to stir and cook on the stove then wash the pot. Adding fresh or dried fruit and seasonings of choice adds more flavor and nutrition than the simple carbohydrates and sodium that the packages add.

One concern I’ve heard several people voice is that eating whole foods cost more than processed foods. Sometimes that can be so. However, this assumption does not always hold true. When I priced a popular national oatmeal brand in my supermarket I learned that the container of rolled oats cost 19 cents per ounce. The brand’s box of packets of instant oatmeal cost 44 cents per ounce.

Wholesome food – natural, convenient, healthy, and even less expensive – can be a real option. Choosing wholesome food empowers me to care for my body, taking control of my health.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I find comfort in remembering that all of us are connected to each other. It just feels good to think that each of us in the world has concerns, hopes, and dreams. Each of us wants to be loved and understood. We are all – the billions of us on this planet – are so much more alike than we are different.
But I can lose sight of this when I feel resistance, frustration, and anger. Where else does this happen more than at the airport. Yes, airport travel, when all my hard work on trying to be more open, loving, and mindful flies the coop. The TSA workers push my buttons, try my patience, and offer me the greatest opportunity to practice. I’m not often successful in being cool, calm, and collected there, though.
I know my practice is “working” however, because during my last TSA nightmare I was aware of losing my cool. I was able to take a deep breath and consider the TSA worker as just another person trying to navigate this world. I became witness to my building frustration and anger and replaced those feelings with a sense of interconnectedness with this person. I imagined that she was loved by someone and loved someone in return. She was likely struggling with some concern in her own life. Like me, she woke and showered and ate breakfast this morning. She looks forward to coming home to relax at the end of the day. She just needed to do this work to pay her bills and find some comfort in life.
As difficult as it was to find connectedness with this person, my enemy at the moment, I came to benefit from my new perspective. I felt the tension melt from my shoulders and jaw. I felt less restricted in my breathing. My own knots and difficulties were leaving me as I felt a more positive knot of oneness and connectedness. I softened internally and it was probably visible externally. She may have now perceived me less as an adversary and more at one with her as well.
I’m headed to the airport again next week. Hopefully I will recall last week’s experience and keep myself from being isolated from the people that seem separate from me. It will be another opportunity for me to recognize that the basis for my own anger and frustration is feeling separate and I can replace the negative feelings by feeling one with everything.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cleanliness from the Inside

A friend recently posted on facebook that she had completed her weekly grocery shopping in 30 minutes. Several people responded with incredulous comments implying it was impossible. They began to guess how long it will take for her to return and how many more visits she will need to purchase missed items. I was curious about what I was reading. It never takes me as much as 30 minutes to complete a weekly grocery store trip for two. Then I realized that is probably because I only use four aisles and the produce section (and occasionally paper products). We eat only wholesome foods, nothing processed or packaged. Perhaps not going down every aisle for pretend foods saves me time at the store.

That exchange made me think of sauca. Showering and sweeping the practice space before practicing are actions of external cleanliness that often reflect yogis’ interpretation of sauca (cleanliness), one of the niyamas (observances) that comprises yoga practice. However, sauca also refers to internal cleanliness. Practicing yoga poses and breathing techniques is essential for internal cleansing and clarity of mind. Eating wholesome foods also helps keep the body healthy and clean from the inside.

As I interpret sauca, it is essential to eat wholesome foods. I have never performed a “detox” routine or “cleanse” diet because I choose to limit impurities I ingest rather than purge them from my system after putting them into it. It seems easiest and most efficient to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grains that are used to fuel my body and result in wastes that my digestive system is designed to remove.

So my diet is clean in observance of yoga principles and efficient. With all the time I save with short trips to the grocery store what else do I do? Pull out my mat for another yoga practice, of course!