A simple, relaxing meditation

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This is a very simple meditation I have been practicing lately that I absolutely love! I have read about it and heard about it in many books and meditation apps, but I just started practicing it lately. It’s a present moment awareness meditation similar to the ‘noting’ meditations, but this time just focusing on positive thoughts and sensations, and then labelling them. Our brains have a negative bias, which means we usually spend more time and energy focusing on negative experiences than on positive. Sometimes this can be useful, and it can be part of our defense system; however, sometimes it is nice to just pause for a few minutes each day and focus only on the positives. Doing so can be a very relaxing experience.

Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Next, begin to note any positive sensations or thoughts that arise at the moment. Describe them to yourself in simple, positive one-word labels like ‘calm’, ‘bliss’, ‘relaxed’, ‘quiet’, ‘softness’… whatever it may be that you notice in the moment, that is positive. There is no wrong answer here. When you notice negative thoughts arising, or that your mind has wandered off to the past or future, simply and gently tell yourslef ‘let it go’, or ‘release’, or ‘hey, don’t go anywhere’ (the latter is my personal favorite, and it is from a relaxation meditation from Emma Mills). Then, just come back to your postive words. Do this for as long as you’d like. When you are done, simply stop noting the words, take a few deep breaths, and then open your eyes.

“No more words. In the name of this place we drink in with our breathing, stay quiet like a flower.
So the nightbirds will start singing. “

-Rumi

DIY Nourishing, brightening face mask

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I was in need of a face mask yesterday to help my stressed out, hot skin! I remembered of a recipe I learned a while ago, from an old spa book I had from years ago. (The book is ‘Spa Living’ by Sunamita Lim)

The recipe is for an Ayurvedic Fragrant Nutritive Mask:

2 tbs colloidal oatmeal (I didn’t have colloidal oatmeal, but I ground organic oats in my blender till they turned into a superfine powder) – oatmeal is anti-inflammatory

2 tsp goat milk powder (I used my organic whole cow milk powder instead)- milk is brightening and softening due to its lactic acid

1/2 tsp white kaolin clay – detoxifying and softening

1 tsp rose petal powder (I just ground dry rose petals) – rich in vitamin C

1 tsp sandalwood powder ( I order mine on amazon…I LOVE sandalwood powder!!! It has the most beautiful fragrance!) – cools the skin and balances all skin types, relieves skin rashes and allergies, it is anti-bacterial, cooling and soothing.

2 drops rose attar (essential rose oil from India infused in a sandalwood base- I didn’t have this either, but improvised- I just added 2 drops of my all-time favorite ila spa glowing radiance face oil, which has the highest quality of rosa damascena oil as well as sandalwood, it is completely natural and smells absolutely divine💗💗💗)

Mix all DRY ingredients in a jar, then take half of the powder, add a bit of water to reach the desired mask consistency, and then add the 2 drops of rose/sandalwood oil (in my case Ila oil). Leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes and rinse off with warm water. It feels a bit exfoliating when you remove it.

I followed with my jasmine white tea mist (I make my own just by making a really strong cup of really good quality white jasmine tea, let it cool, put it in a spray bottle and store it in the fridge- I will make its own blog post one of these days and go over the details, because tea mists are really simple to make and the polyphenols in tea are very beneficial for the skin).

I moisturized with my ila oil at the end. My skin (which is combination, lots of freckles in the summer and has a lot of heat) felt cool, really soft, smooth and brighter.â˜ș

Please note: If you are pregnant or have a medical condition, consult with your doctor first before trying this mask. If your skin is very reactive or sensitive, I recommend doing a test patch first. Everyone is different, so please be mindful when trying somthing new.

 

Don’t just count on your sunscreen

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I really wish everyone read the article in this link:
http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/imperfect-protection/

Since where I live feels like summer is in full swing, I wanted to share some great information on sunscreen. When I used to work as an esthetician, I got this question a lot: What is the best? Chemical? Physical? What SPF number? I think the problem is that the public is not really educated on sunscreens. Media and companies try to sell you their products, but they don’t fully educate their customers on how to use it properly. I actually find it very misleading.

Today I wanted to shine some light on this subject, and most importantly, share some great articles (based on science and extensive research) on sunscreen.

One of the big problems is that consumers don’t really know how much product you really need to use in order to get the level of SPF advertised on the bottle. When they test SPF in a lab, they apply 2mg of product per 1 square cm of skin. That is a really, really thick layer! Almost nobody applies that much! (And remember, after 80 minutes-2 hours (depending on the sunscreen), you need to reapply…unless you sweat or wipe and then you need to reapply immediately).
I love this general guideline on how much sunscreen to use: ( http://www.skinacea.com/faq/sunscreen/s04-how-much-sunscreen.html#.WVLvsmip5SA )

Face: 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen
Neck (front and back): 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen
Arms: 1/2 teaspoon of sunscreen per arm
Legs: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen per leg
Chest: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen
Back: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen

(If you are interested in the Math, here is a great link: https://www.futurederm.com/how-much-exactly-is-2-0-mgcm2-the-amount-of-sunscreen-necessary-to-achieve-the-labeled-spf-rating/ )

So if you go to the beach for a couple of hours with your family (let’s say family of four), each adult of averge size needs 5 tsp of sunscreen…and I am talking real, measuring teaspoons. Let’s say the children are younger…so let’s say about 5 tsp for both. I measured 15 tsp out of curiosity and to me it looks like about 90 ml. My Eminence sunscreen bottle is about 150 ml, so if I go to the beach with my family for a couple of hours, I should be using more than half that bottle of sunscreen. If i decide to spend the day at the beach, or we get in the water, there wouldn’t even be enough for us to reapply in order to get the level of SPF advertised on the bottle.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that most of us are not getting the SPF level that says on the bottle. And keep in mind, suncreens, no matter what the SPF, cannot fully block the sun even when applied in the ridiculously thick layer. Even if they prevent you getting burnt, the UV light that does penetrate through will still damage your skin. This is why, it is SO IMPORTANT to also seek shade, wear protective, light clothing, big sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, and try to avoid sun exposure at peak hours, when the UV rays are the strongest. Don’t just count on your SPF to protect you from sun damage, because it is never enough!

Please, read these articles on sunscreen. They are very helpful in understanding how sunscreen works and also talk about the dangers of combining chemical sunscreens. They also talk about how some sunscreens contain active ingredients that break down in the presence of UV rays which result in free radicals that actually HARM surrounding cells.

The best article on the subject is here:
http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/imperfect-protection/
And these are also great:

http://www.suncarelab.com/Blog.html
https://www.futurederm.com/true-benefit-layering-spf/
http://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/testing/spf/premium-Adapting-SPF-Testing-Methods-for-Mineral-Sunscreen-Density-211063281.html

I hope this helps! Let’s all be SunSmart!

 

DIY Soothing Sugar Scrub

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I was in a DIY – pamper myself – spa at home mood yesterday. I had a fun weekend that involved hours spent at the beach on Saturday and 2 hours of canoeing and 2 hours of hiking on Sunday, so Monday I really felt the need for some TLC. I decided to make my own body scrub. Scrubs are great to remove dead skin cells, increase product absorption, increase micro- circulation and also stimulate lymphatic drainage. The skin is softer, brighter and just glows after! Since it is summer right now where we live, I wanted something sweeter and more soothing for my skin.

Here is what I used:

– 3/4 organic powdered whole milk (contains lactic acid, which is a natural chemical exfoliant and skin brightener)
– 3/4 coconut sugar (a physical exfoliant as well as humectant-attracts moisture)- any granulated sugar would work, I just chose coconut
– 3 tbs of Manuka Honey (humectant, antibacterial, rich in vitamins and great enzymes that soften, nourish and help heal the skin)
– 5 ml vanilla essence ( I used the one I got from an Oleum Vera kit)- I love the smell of vanilla – calming and delicious at the same time
– 60 ml of almond oil (also from Oleum Vera-they use high quality, pure, organic ingredients and make some great DIY face and body kits)
– 3 g dried rose petals (again, from and Oleum Vera kit) – for their scent, for their power to heal us emotionally and also because according to Ayurveda, roses calm the pitta dosha.

(Note: You can play around with the consistency. You could add more oil to make it runnier. I prefer it as a thick paste personally, because you can make it into a ball and scrub yourself with it on damp skin. The product just starts to melt into your skin, and the rose petals are all that you are left with in your hand-leaving their beautiful scent behind. )

Mix all ingredients together into a thicker paste and VoilĂ ! Take about 2 tbs of the scrub, hop in the shower and scrub your entire body – on damp skin. I like to leave it on the skin for a few minutes, and in the meantime apply hair conditioner and give myself a scalp massage. Then rinse off and you are done (don’t use soap after)

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After this scrub, I don’t feel like I need to use any moisturizer, but I like to spray on some refreshing rose water.

Finish with a cup of herbal tea and relax for a while💗

 

 

Life is a gift

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I was talking last week with my acupuncturist, and she told me she never goes to bed at night expecting to wake up the next day….I think that is such a beautiful way to live! That way, every morning you wake up, you see life for what it truly is: a gift! This perspective changes the ‘Ugh, I HAVE to wake up” into “Yes, I GET to wake up!”.

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Each morning I wake up, I get this gift…I get to hug my children one more time, I get to be with my husband one more time, I get to see my family, my friends…I get to feel the cats purring in my lap one more time, I get to smell a flower, enjoy a hot cup of tea or a warm bath…I get one more day of exploring this beautiful world…I get yet another chance at life, to experiene it fully…with all its ups and downs, laughter and sorrow….

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And when I go to bed, I am at peace and I can let it all go. There are no expectations for tomorrow. Just full gratitude for right now. You know the saying ‘Live like it was your last day’? It really should be changed to ‘Live like it is the only day’. Embrace each day with gratitude for getting one more chance at life, which is the greatest gift of all… Be fully present with those you love, do the job you love (and if you don’t, maybe it’s time to change), go places and do things that bring you joy. Tomorrow may really never come, so I am just grateful for the gift of today.

As the wonderful poet R. W. Emerson put it:

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.
-R.W. Emerson

Beauty Rituals

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Garden of Flowers

Do not go into the garden of flowers

O friend, go not there.

In your body is the garden of flowers.

Take your seat on the thousand petals of lotus

and there gaze upon the infinite beauty.

~Kabir

A few years ago, I came across an article where Denise Leicester, the founder of ila spa, mentioned a book called “Almond Eyes, Lotus Feet”. The book describes the most beautiful ancient health and beauty rituals of Indian princesses.

These rituals bonded and beautified the women of the Indian court, yes, but the deeper message of the book is how important these rituals are for “boosting the essence within and igniting our vitality and vibrancy through the ties of friendship and faith, ritual and reconnection”, as Denise described it. She explained that in Yogic scriptures, the chakra where beauty resides is the Manipura (‘shining jewel’) – the solar plexus chakra- and it is the body’s centre of radiant health and metabolism, boundaries and confidence, strength and beauty. “Manipura relates to the element of fire. It is also connected to the function of the feet (as in movement, and the desire to assume responsibility for one’s life and drive transformation) and the eyes (through the ability to see the truth of our own purpose as well as the sparkle evident in our eyes when our true beauty shines from within).”

Her description of the book made me buy it right away, and it is now a book I highly recommend to all my friends. It is wonderful! It describes, in beautiful details, these amazing rituals, from covering the hair in fresh jasmine flowers, to beautiful baths, and face masks, and body treatments and many other remedies. These rituals make you shift your awareness from the outer appearance to the inner beauty that is within each one of us. To me, these rituals are about reconnecting with your true self. They are opportunities to be still, notice, love and appreciate yourself for who you truly are.

So next time you are tempted to mindlessly slather on that blob of face cream and be done with it, followed by analyzing and criticizing every wrinkle on your face, just pause for a moment. Look beyond the wrinkles and stop the self-criticism. Be kind to yourself, and indulge. Close your eyes. Inhale the aromatic oils, feel the different textures of oils, creams, powders, whatever you may be using, and just appreciate yourself for who you are in this exact moment, with love, with kindness. Just feel how this approach can be so healing.

Here is how you can create your own beauty ritual at home. You will need:
For the bath:

1 cup Himalayan pink salt
1 cup Epsom salt
2 cups rose water (I get it in the ethnic food isle at the grocery store)

For the face:

Cotton pads to cover the eyes (soak them in rose water first)
your favorite face mask, or you can make your own by using this recipe from “Almond Eyes, Lotus Feet” for smooth skin :Mix about a tablespoon of Fuller’s Earth (clay-you can buy it at health-food stores) with a bit of rose water until it turns into a smooth paste. Apply all over the face and neck, avoiding the eye area. Leave it on and let it dry. Wash off gently with water.

Your favorite body cream or oil and your favorite face oil or moisturizer.

Drink:

Your favorite herbal tea. A personal favorite of mine is the Aveda tea, but there are many others I also love. I also make my own. Here is a recipe for a relaxing tea I learned from Vitruvi and I absolutely love it. You will need:

4 tbsp dried lemon balm
4 tbsp dried hops
2 tbsp dried peppermint
2 tbsp dried chamomile
2 tbsp licorice root
In an 8 oz airtight glass jar or metal tin add all the herbs and store in a cool place outside of direct sunlight.
How to steep: Fill a tea bag or small teapot with 1 tbsp of tea, and steep for 5-10 minutes. The licorice will provide a sweet taste while the peppermint is refreshing. Add 1-2 tsp. of honey to adjust sweetness as necessary.

Now that you have everything, boil some water and steep some tea, draw a hot bath, add the Epsom salt, Himalayan salt, 2 cups of rose water and a few drops of lavender oil in the tub, put on your face mask, dim the lights, put on some relaxing music, cover your eyes with the cotton pads soaked in rose water and relax in the tub for 15-20 minutes. Feel the coolness of the rose water on your eyes easing off any tension, the warmth of the water as your muscles relax, inhale the calming aroma of the lavender, and just be aware of how wonderful this feels, taking time to appreciate and nurture yourself. When you are done, rinse off your mask, massage a few drops of face oil or your favorite moisturizer, apply a few drops of body oil or cream, sit quietly and relax, sipping on your tea. Notice how you feel after spending these moments taking care of yourself.

Repeat at least once a week:)

I hope you all have a beautiful week!

125 Km

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So far this month, we hiked 125 km. (I know this, because everytime my husband and I go on hikes, with both our daughters, we run our pedometer/Fitbit.) Rain, snow, wind, sunshine, dark, light, we are out there, somewhere in nature, every day. We are fortunate to live close to the ocean and to the mountains, rivers and lakes. On the weekends we usually go in the mountains, and spend the whole days hiking and having picnics. During the week we stick to local trails, and some lead to the beach, which we also walk on quite a bit.

Everytime we go out, we pass by a gym, and I always think …HOW BORING! How boring it looks to run on that treadmill like some sort of lab rat…when there is a beach just 10 minutes away…when there are beautiful forests, steep hills, nature trails…..5-10 minutes away…and Whistler is 2 hours drive away….There is night skiing on Mt Seymour and Mt Cypress, that are just an hour drive from us. On the weekends we have bigger hikes that lead to beautiful lakes and secluded beaches, suspension bridges, waterfalls, tree-trekking… These are such beautiful moments, adventures spent together, as a family. These are times when we can be fully present with eachother. There are no distractions. We explore together, we laugh, we play, we climb, we have picnics… There is so much joy, so much freedom, so much room to breathe!

I could not even imagine spending this precious time, by myself, in a gym… to waste my precious time in an artificially neon-lit room, recirculated air, awful smelling, weird music running in the background, a million TV screens playing all sorts of things above… Earphones in…running and getting nowhere….counting calories burnt…counting squats and lunges….I can put my muscles to much better use by climbing rocks and balancing on logs, jumping through puddles with my daughters, climbing up steep mountains and carrying my 3-year old, and then resting on top of a cliff, looking down, above the clouds.

There is just so much to see and so much to do outdoors! So much to learn! It is such a great way to bond with others… Such a great way to get more in touch with your own self. …and with nature ❀ Best gym I could ever ask for!:)

 

 

Morning pages

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In her very popular book “The Artist’s Way”, Julia Cameron talks about “Morning Pages”. These are 3 pages you are supposed to write in your journal, pretty much right after you wake up. You are supposed to just write whatever comes to you in that very moment…the stream of thoughts…things you are excited about, anxieties, worries, shopping lists, what you will make for dinner…whatever your thoughts may be in those moments, you just write them all down. There is no censorship. You don’t have to read back any of these pages and nobody else gets to read them either. You are supposed to do this every single morning.

I gave this a try, and although it may sound like such a simple thing to do, it really is quite powerful. Firstly,writing down in the journal first thing in the morning felt like downloading all these thoughts on paper, and out of my mind. My mind felt clearer. Some days, when I would be dealing with more stress, I got quite emotional by the end. It felt like venting to someone, without any interruption, any judgement. It was sort of a release of all this negative energy I was holding onto. I’d find myself crying at the end, but it wasn’t sadness, it was just a sense of relief. Again, ready for the day ahead with a sense of clarity, free of all these clouds of negativity that would have otherwise been on my mind all day.

The more you do this exercise, the more you can realize your patterns. You are not supposed to read anything back, but the more you do it, you realize the tone of your thoughts. For me, they used to be worry. Planning ahead for the worst case scenario, and most of those things never even happened. I was able to slowly shift these patterns by introducing different mindfulness practices, like appreciation, gratitude, breathing mindfully, meditation…

The more I learn about mindful practices, the more balanced I feel in body, mind and soul. There is just so much to learn and experience!

Two Wolves

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I believe there is a little bit of controversy on the actual origin of this tale, but either way, it has a beautiful message.

I have a friend who told me he was unhappy with his life. One day, he decided to write down on paper all aspects of his life that brought him joy, peace, love, faith etc. in GREEN and all that brought him fear, anger, frustration, guilt, resentment, etc. in BLACK (he colour-coded). He told me when he looked down at the piece of paper, it looked like one massive black hole.

Our attitude and our thoughts play such a big part in how we lead our lives. We may not be able to control the outcome, but we can definitely control our thoughts, attitude and actions.

Throughout your day, notice what thoughts come to your mind…what emotions…and notice how you react or respond. Notice any sensations and changes in your body, notice any behaviours. Don’t try to control at first. Just observe. Are there any behaviours and attitudes that may feed the original unpleasant feeling and create even more negativity in your life? For instance, if you feel stressed, do you reach for unhealthy snacks that will later make you feel sick which in turn may create maybe feelings of guilty and anger with yourself? And when that guilt and anger kick in, are there new negative behaviours that follow? (like talking yourself down?)  Do you beat yourself up or blame others if you didn’t get the outcome you expected? It’s easy to get trapped in this chain reaction of negative thoughts and emotions and behaviours.

If you do pay attention though, and notice your behaviours and your thoughts, your patterns, with time, you realize you have the power to change them. If you feel low after a breakup, instead of sitting at home in self-pity, you can look in the mirror and see the beautiful person you truly are, inside and out and think of all the wonderful things in your life you can be grateful for. You can choose to call a friend and surround yourself with people you love and people who inspire you. Try shifting your thoughts and your attitude so they can be nourishing for your body, mind and soul. Joy is our birthright.

We can’t control outside factors, but we can definitely control what happens inside ourselves. We can control how we respond to what happens in our lives, which will determine the quality of our experience.

It is OK to feel sad. It is OK to feel anger, grief, sorrow, fear…These are all part of the human experience. But you also need to let these feelings, these emotions go. Don’t feed them any further. Notice them as they arise, and then let them go. Replace them with nourishing thoughts and actions that create more joy and harmony in your life. Your thoughts and your attitude, your outlook, your choice of actions, will determine the quality of your life. It is your choice what colour your paper will be.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been”  – George Eliot