ayurveda, Learning, nutrition, wellness

My Stay at the Raj (Part 4): Food/Yoga/Lectures

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If you know me in the real world, you know I don’t enjoy cooking. That statement is actually an oversimplification. I do enjoy cooking, sometimes. I think part of the turn-off for me is that it needs to happen so frequently and consistently. I prefer my creative outlets to be more spontaneous-as-the-mood-hits-me, than this-is-required-for-your-and-your-family’s-survival. So another thing I was greatly looking forward to with this trip was not having to meal-plan, shop, prepare, or clean-up for five days!

The food at the Raj is amazing. It’s aryuvedic and vegetarian. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, as that is when your agni (digestive fire) is at it’s peak. Meals begin with a shot of ginger or fennel juice as dictated by your aryuvedic consultation. Followed by chutney–often a pairing of a cilantro and an apple–and tea, again according to your dosha. Next we are served a cup of dahl (soup) often prepared with mung beans or lentils, always yummy. The main dish varied, but included: dark green leafy vegetables, other types of vegetables, rice or quinoa, crepe or chapata all seasoned with Indian spices. For dessert there were puddings, crisps, and even pie–made with fruit and coconut sugar. At the end of the meal we were given lassi (a yogurt drink) to aid in digestion. Lunch and dinner are served in a room with a long group table that all of the guests at the Raj are welcome at. There is also private seating around the perimeter, if you prefer to eat alone or in a smaller group. There were so many interesting, friendly guests we mostly chose to eat with the group. Breakfast was served in a different area, buffet style with hot drinks, hot cereal, and stewed fruit. We also were able to attend two cooking classes with the head chef. The first was a discussion format about the importance of food. The second was a demo of a chutney and a crepe. Both were extremely helpful in showing me some ways to implement ayurvedic cooking at home.

Yoga is offered twice a day, making it possible for us to find a class that was outside of our treatment and meditation times each day. The class was quite gentle as the instructor understood we were detoxing and didn’t want to tax our systems. It consisted of sun salutations, self-massage, and asanas. I enjoyed them very much.

In the evening different lecturers come in to talk about a variety of topics. Our first night the topic was “Panchakarma”. This is the name of the detox we were undergoing. (Well, my mom and I opted for the PK Lite, but very similar.) The second night the topic was “The Importance of Silence in Sports”, though we opted out. The third night the topic was “Your Physical and Emotional Heart”. A compelling lecture by Helen Toomey. And the fourth night the topic was “Vedic Architecture”. Like our bodies, Maharishi felt it was important for buildings to be designed in harmony with nature.

The flow of our days felt very balanced, and I greatly appreciated the attention to detail from the fresh flowers and Indian music radio station in our suite, to the opportunities for physical/mental and social/solitary outlets outside of treatment times. The Raj staff were warm and accommodating throughout our stay. It was the perfect setting to learn transcendental meditation and aryuvedic practices.

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Learning, transcendental meditation, wellness

My Stay at the Raj (Part 2): Transcendental Meditation

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Lawrence Sheaff painting at The Raj

The impetus for finding the Raj was a google search of “transcendental meditation retreats”. I have not meditated regularly in the past; however I have felt a strong pull towards it. Last spring I read The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. This was an excellent parenting book, and in it they talked about transcendental meditation (TM) and how beneficial and life changing it was for them. Google search (yep, I’m a google girl!) led to all kinds of amazing information about this well-researched form of meditation.

During our time at the Raj, my mom and I worked with dear TM instructor, Amy Ruff. She carefully selected our mantras, helped us learn to use them, explained the process the brain undergoes during TM, explained the role thoughts play in meditation, uplifted, encouraged, and laughed with us. My main goal in learning meditation was to relieve anxiety. My first day home, one daughter commented I looked thinner, the other said I had a much calmer energy. I replied “Thank you” to the first, and “Oh my gosh, really?!” to the second.

I am still at the very beginning of my journey, but I am anticipating my practice becoming richer and more positive as I proceed. I highly recommend TM for everyone! To find out more information and find a meditation center near you, go to: https://www.tm-women.org

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ayurveda, Learning, wellness

My Stay at the Raj (Part 1): Ayurveda

The Raj
Download your own introduction to Ayurveda at: http://www.theraj.com/ayurveda/index.php

I am turning 50 next month. Wow, that feels really weird to type. However, it’s true. And as it seemed somewhat monumental, I uncharacteristically asked my beloved for a BIG present… a trip to The Raj. The Raj is an aryuvedic health spa in Fairfield, IA (of all the unlikely places). I went on this adventure with my dear maman, who has been wanting to go there for many a moon.

Ayurveda translates as “knowledge of life”.

On our first full-day we each met with aryuvedic health expert, Mark Toomey. The appointment begins with an aryuvedic pulse assessment. Aryuveda utilizes many pulses to determine an individual’s doshas (vata, pitta, kapha), sub-doshas, and to determine any imbalances.

The vata dosha governs bodily functions to do with movement. Pitta’s main activity is to control the chemical transformation processes. Kapha is mainly concerned with bodily structure. Once an aryuvedic health expert has done the pulse assessment, they are then able to make individualized dietary, lifestyle, and treatment recommendations for strengthening the body’s healing abilities and promote balance.

It didn’t take Mark long to ask me if I had kids–he said I had the pulse of a “harassed mum”. Um yes, and yes! My predominant dosha is kapha, with vata/pitta not far behind. My dosha imbalances are in vata & kapha. With this information Mark was able to create a personalized treatment plan for my stay (treatment details coming in part three of this series). To learn more about aryuveda and take a quiz to find your dosha(s), check out: http://www.mapi.com/

I mentioned The Raj is in Iowa. It is a lovely destination–a hidden gem nestled among the corn fields. Funny story: as we were driving there our GPS kept taking us on “Level B Roads”. Here are some pictures from the last harrowing leg of our journey, completed with our gas needle pointing at ‘E’ and lots of laughter!

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Fair warning–should have heeded.
Not going well
Not the Mini Cooper’s usual terrain!
Abandon ship
When our car bumped into the “Bridge Closed” sign that had toppled over (you can see base lower center), we abandoned ship, reassessed, and turned around. 😉
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Learning, magic, nature, wellness

Awakened, Playful, Kind Woman

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Just listened to one of my favorite podcasts (www.awakenedwomanselfcare.com ) as I weeded my garden. Their guest, Asia Suler (www.onewillowapothecaries.com ), was talking about the capability we all have of connecting to plants on a healing level. I have not explored this intimate level of relationship with my plants, but I am open to the idea.  They are, after all, living things. And I certainly feel a consistent sense of calm and peace when I am among them that is hard to replicate in less natural settings.

Asia also highlighted the importance of playfulness. A sense of fun, doing silly things, thinking funny thoughts, smiling, laughing all are an important part of who I am, and how I need to relate with the world to feel happy and balanced. I live with two teenage daughters. If you don’t have teen girls, they’re a pretty serious group, at least ours are. My epic jokes and clever witticisms are usually met with groans and eye rolls. I remember being their age. I was not very playful (at least with adults), but I am grateful I am now.

Another important idea Asia discussed was the concept of “nice girl” vs. “kind woman”. This was intriguing to me. A perennial “nice girl” myself, I know the trap of people-pleasing and dis-empowerment enveloped in that characterization. Asia offered an alternative of being a “kind woman”. It’s a subtle shift, maintaining the integrity of the essence of “niceness” (kindness) without allowing others to take advantage of you. And of course, the acknowledgement that a person is an adult is respectful and empowering.

Thank you Christine, Emma, & Asia for sharing your conversation with us. If you have not checked out this podcast yet… I invite you to do so. No need to listen in chronological order. They vary greatly, so if one guest is not holding your attention, I urge you to try another. Here is a list of my favorite episodes to date:

Living in Alignment With the Magic of Earth

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Creative Boundaries and Balance

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Nurturing Kindred Spirits as Self Care

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The Magic in Creative Self Care

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Mastering the Art of Dreamboarding

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How Pain and Grief are a Portal to Purpose

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How to Work in a Holistic Vibration

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Sacred Exploration of Female Sexuality

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Tapping into Self Care
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Learning, parenting, wellness

Motherhood

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Mother’s Day and my youngest daughter, Lara, turning thirTEEN this month have me reflecting on my parenting journey.

I am lucky enough to have an extraordinary woman as my own mother. Like all of us, her mothering story has not been without turbulence (some created by her, some by me and my sister). I think what smooths out all the bumps in the road is I always knew she loved me.

Like her, I am fiercely devoted to my daughters. They honor, humble, teach, delight, and (I won’t lie) horrify me daily. During a study of world religions in elementary school, my oldest daughter, Sage, came home and said, “I know what religion you are, Mom.” (Though a spiritual person, we do not attend church, so I was curious to hear her thoughts on the matter.) “You believe in love and mothering,” she decreed. I was grateful she knew that truth.

If you know me in person, you know I am a very involved parent. I fear the girls’ teachers groan inwardly when they see me approaching. I know the girls groan when I ask my tenth question of the day! And recently my sweet Lara, gently suggested I stop being quite so hovering in my parenting. I asked her what I was to do with all my extra love and energy. “Love yourself,” she wisely advised.

Was she the first person to ever tell me this? Of course not. Is it super powerful to have your child, whom you’ve been pouring your love and attention on tell you this? It was for me.

I am thoroughly enjoying the taking-care-of-myself phase I am entering. After decades of nurturing others, I must say, I am quite the accomplished nurturer. And after decades of ignoring my own wants/needs it feels quenching to have those depleted parts of me tended to.

Reminding myself there is value in pointing out my inevitable mistakes and the steps I am taking to remedy them; I apologized to the girls for setting such a poor example of self-care. I urged them not to follow in my footsteps, but to maintain their own well-being even when there are important people in their lives that they want to show care to.

Like me and my lovely mother before me, my kind-hearted girls are not going to be the mythical “perfect mother”. They might not even chose to be mothers. However, I think that if love flows through their intentions in their relationships with others, I will have imparted the philosophy of love that is so important to me.

Happy Mother’s Day and LOVE

to all the mamas and care-givers

past, present, and future!

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