Cultivating Calm Amidst Chaos

 

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“I’m too busy”, “I don’t have the time”, “I’ve got to get this done”, “I wish I could just slow down and relax, but I can’t”, “I don’t know whether I’m coming or going”, “I’m up to my eyeballs in work/study/family commitments”.

 

These are all things I hear uttered frequently, from people I know well, from snippets of conversation snatched from strangers, and from my own lips more often than I’d like. It’s a shame that these words are more common in our daily dialogues than, for example, “I feel wonderfully calm,” or “I’m content with what I’m doing  right now,” or “I’m happy I took the time to relax, I feel so much better”. However, the point of this post is to draw our attention to common habits which may have a negative impact on our sense of wellbeing, and turn that attention into something positive.

A basic principle of mindfulness meditation is: Pay Attention. By pausing and resting our attention on what is happening right now, we can start to cultivate a stronger sense of how we think and act throughout the day, how thoughts and actions impact our behaviour, and make small but potent changes where needed. In a nutshell, we can cultivate a little bit of our very own calm amidst the constant buzz of life.

 

Here is a simple practice for you to try absolutely anywhere…

– at home, at work, in a shop, at a bus stop, in your car (perhaps not while driving!). It could take you 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 50 minutes. It’s up to  you. No excuses – do it right now, after you’re read the following suggestions:

 

Identify how you feel physically. 

Adopt a comfortable position wherever you are – sitting, standing or lying down. Closing your eyes helps to limit visual distractions. Become aware of your posture and how you are holding yourself. Identify how you feel physically. Use these questions as prompts:

  • What parts of your body are in contact with the ground/chair/bed?
  • Where do you feel you are, physically, in relation to the space around you?
  • Do you feel open or closed in?
  • Do you feel light or heavy?
  • Do you feel connected or disconnected?
  • Is there any tension anywhere in your body? Where?
  • Do you feel physically good or not.

 

Don’t try to analyse the answers to these questions, just state the answers simply in your mind until you feel more physically aware of you body, then move on to the next step.

 

  Become aware of your emotional state.

  • Do you feel energised? Tired? Wired? Settled? Jittery? Anxious? Excited? Indifferent? Content? Wanting? Angry? Envious? Admiration? Love? Hopeful? Unsure?
  • Bring to mind the names of emotions that you can identify with in this moment.

 

Again, don’t get too wrapped up in your emotions; observe them as if you were an outsider, noting down any feelings you are experiencing at this moment, just as a record.

 

Breathe.

This is all you need to do now. Give your full attention to the process of breathing in and breathing out. Inhale, exhale, repeat. Feel the air travel in through your nose, down your windpipe, to the base of your belly and back again.

If you find your mind wandering off in all directions (as it inevitably does), don’t worry about it. As the old saying goes, Mind is like Monkey. It’s nature is to jump all over the place. It needs constant training and a single focus to be tamed. This will take time.

For now, bring it back to the task at hand – the breath – by counting. You can even form the breath and the counting into a silent statement if it helps: “I’m breathing in 1, I’m breathing out 1, I’m breathing in 2, I’m breathing out 2…” Counting up, there is no limit. Continue until a sense of calm starts to develop and grow from within you.

 

 

By incorporating this practice into your day, you are giving yourself the time you need to reconnect with who you are and what is going on at any given moment. By cultivating an awareness of the present moment, you are creating space within your life for the only thing we really have: now.

 

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Further reading:

  • ECKHART TOLLE, The Power of Now
  • JON KABAT-ZINN, Wherever You Go, There You Are
  • ELAIN FOREMAN & CLAIRE POLLARD, Introducing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): A Practical Guide

 

Homemade Nut Milk (your mother will be proud of you)

Whatever the reason, you’ve decided against consuming cow’s milk. So now where do you go? The long-life milk aisle of your local supermarket may offer an array of dairy-free alternatives, but take a closer look at the ingredients and you may start to feel a little…cheated. Most shop-bought ‘nut milks’ only contain around 5% nut content. The rest is water and a whole host of other additives that are not altogether necessary.

Yes, it’s easy to grab a carton from the shelf and pour it straight over your muesli. But why not have a go at making your own nut milk? It’s fresh, wholesome and deliciously easy to make. And the bonus is, you know exactly what’s in it, because you made it.

 

Nutmilk

 

Ingredients

  • 200g of your favourite nuts such as hazel nuts, almonds, brazil nuts or cashews. Feeling adventurous? Why not try a mix of several different nuts?
  • 1litre of filtered water
  • Natural sweetener (optional), such as date syrup, agave syrup, honey or pitted dates.

 

5 simple steps to heavenly nut milk:

1. Soak your chosen nuts overnight in a bowl of filtered water. This softens them ready for blending, and also makes their nutrients more bioavailable to us by decreasing the amount of phytic acid they naturally contain. (Cashew nuts will need less soaking time – about 3 hours. Brazil nuts don’t need soaking.)

2. In the morning, drain and rinse the nuts, place in a blender and add 1 litre of filtered water (less if you want a thicker milk). If you want a sweetened version, add a tablespoon of date syrup, agave syrup, honey or 3 large pitted dates. Another option is to add in a tablespoon of raw cacao or  good quality cocoa powder to give it a chocolatey kick.

3. Blend for 1 minute. In the meantime, prepare your straining device. A muslin cloth, placed over a sieve, placed over a bowl works well.

4. Strain your mixture. Pour just enough mixture into the muslin cloth so that you can bring the four corners up to meet and squeeze the liquid out through the sieve (you could say it’s a bit like milking a cow…if you’ve ever milked a cow). Shake out any dry mix (the ‘nutmeal’) into a separate bowl. Do this until all the mixture is strained.

5. Et voila! You now have at least a litre of smooth, fresh nut milk, that can be stored in a glass bottle for about 5 days (although I challenge you to make it last that long!).

 

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But wait! Don’t discard the leftover nutmeal. Here are three suggestions to make your nut-milk-making-experience even more worthwhile:

  • Nutmeal makes a great porridge (soaked, funnily enough, with your home-made nut milk), topped with a sprinkling of flax, pumpkin and hemp seeds for added Omega intake, and a drizzle of date or maple syrup to sweeten.
  •  You could follow the recipe for energy balls (coming soon!), and create delicious, protein-packed snacks for on the go.
  • Alternatively, use it to make your own nut flour (as a base for baking wheat-free bread and pastries). Spread the nutmeal out on a baking tray, and place in a low-heat oven (100°C) for 2 – 3 hours. Once the mix has dried out, place in a coffee grinder until it resembles flour. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

 

 

 

Check in to Yogi Kitchen for more ideas on delicious ways to make the most out of your ingredients.

Easy EggyVeggie Breakfast Muffins

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I have the beautiful and knowledgeable Hemsley sisters to thank for this gem of a recipe (from their book, The Art of Eating Well). It is so easy and so nutritious that I just had to share it. It’s basically 50/50 egg to veg, so packed with protein, good saturated fat and a whole heap of vitamins and minerals to start your day on the right track. They are a colourful twist on a classic breakfast omelette, and made as muffins the night before, are easily transported in lunchboxes to school or work. I’m normally one for a sweeter start to the day, but when I feel like a savoury breakfast, these hit the spot and do a brilliant job of keeping me topped up until lunch. They are even builder-approved (devoured in an instant by the hardworking builders working on our house!).

Adding grated cheddar, parmesan or crumbled feta cheese adds even more flavour and fullness to these muffins. Either mix the cheese in with the vegetables, or sprinkle on top of the muffin mix before they go in the oven.

 

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins):
• 8 eggs, cracked and whisked into a bowl.
• The same amount of raw vegetables, chopped finely.

I find a mix of 1 large grated carrot, 1 large grated courgette, 1 chopped red pepper, half a diced onion, a handful of peas (fresh or defrosted) and 5 or 6 cherry tomatoes, halved, is enough. But use whatever you have available that will taste good lightly cooked.

• 50g of grated cheddar, parmesan or crumbled feta cheese
• A small handful of fresh herbs, such as basil (goes well with tomatoes and feta), mint (best herb friend of peas) or oregano (lovely with cheddar or parmesan).
• 1 tsp of paprika
• Sea salt and black pepper to taste (the more cheese you use, the less salt you need).

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Method:
• Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 12-portion muffin tray with butter.
• Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
• Spoon the mix equally into the greased muffin tray. If you prefer, keep the cheese out of the mix until this point, and sprinkle on top of the muffins before putting in the oven.
• Pop in the oven for 15 minutes until the muffins are lightly browned on top and just set in the middle. Remember, egg keeps on cooking while it is hot so be careful not to dry them out.
• Take the muffins out of the tray to cool on a rack.

 

Enjoy them while they are still warm or wrap them up in parchment paper to take with you to work, school, the gym, hiking, cycling…whatever you do in the morning that requires a good EggyVeggie muffin to keep you going!

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What is health to you?

We are constantly informed by various media outlets, institutions and individuals what we should or shouldn’t be doing to stay healthy and live long, prosperous lives.

But what actually is health? More importantly, what is it to you?

Perhaps being healthy means being free of disease. That’s a good place to start. So how do you ensure you are building and maintaining a disease-free body?

By avoiding the most evident health-robbers, such as cigarettes, alcohol and processed sugar, you are setting the foundations for a health-promoting lifestyle. But how do you protect your body against those nasties that you just can’t avoid? Antioxidants are little powerhouses of nutritional defence that fight against free radical damage from environmental pollution, toxins and stress. They are found in all fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in the dark, rich coloured berries, red onions and leafy greens. So take heed with the ‘5 a Day’ message, which in the UK allows canned fruit and highly processed juices, and aim for at least five portions of fresh veg, with an extra two antioxidant-rich fruit portions. This is more in line with Australian public health guidance, and much better for your long term health.

You may feel physically fighting-fit if you play sports, lift weights or practice any form of exercise regularly. But how do you look after your mind? Mindfulness meditation advocates being present and giving your full attention to what you are experiencing right now. It is a powerful tool to enjoying and appreciating each moment, and prepares you to better deal with stressful situations that may arise.

Perhaps health to you means feeling ‘good’, as opposed to ‘not feeling 100%’. But this raises yet another question; What does 100% feel like?

So many of us adapt to the stresses and strains of modern living by accepting those niggles that prevent us from experiencing true health. A pinching tension in the shoulders; a dull ache across the forehead; feeling  ‘down’ and ‘grey’ without being able to pinpoint why; that persistent cough that just won’t go away, or a constantly runny nose that in the winter is put down to ‘a cold’, and in the summer becomes ‘allergies’.

What would it feel like to be free of all these background demons? To wake up each morning feeling refreshed and ready to face the day ahead with a huge store of mental and physical energy that doesn’t flag by mid-morning coffee time?

 

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From a naturopathic approach, ‘health’ means maintaining the delicate balance (homeostasis) of the body’s internal environment to ensure it is functioning optimally, from a cellular level all the way up to a systemic and whole body level. A naturopath would take a holistic approach when trying to bring the body back into balance after illness, or to maintain a healthy state. They would look at the whole person; their lifestyle, diet, past medical history and family health patterns. Step by step, a picture emerges that can be reworked and edited into something more vibrant and longer lasting than previous short-term attempts at health improvement.

Optimal health encompasses the best physiological functioning of the body, as well as our psychological and emotional wellbeing, from early development right the way through to natural aging.

This, my friends, is what real health should look like. It should be abundant, free-flowing and unstoppable. It should power everything you do, from personal goals, professional development and daily tasks, to kicking back and enjoying the simple things in life. Health should be our number one priority which fuels the lives we lead and the people we become. Let’s give our health some attention.

Check in with Yogiz regularly for news, recipes, videos and tips on all things healthy!