Feb 24, 2014

Seeking the Shadow

Seeking the Shadow

I saw my shadow this weekend. At first it looked... pathetic.

My shadow took the form of an overworked business man—hunched shoulders, large circles under his eyes, weak with pale skin and a somber expression. He wore a frumpy business suit and looked exhausted. He was isolated in a white room, staring at me blankely, expressionless. 

I was told to move closer to my shadow, and so I tried. Yet, the instant I intended to move closer, my shadow, suddenly and explosively, turned into a monster. Figureless, all-encompassing and multicolored, the shadow screamed and my visualization went completely black.

I could not move closer. It was impossible.

Now, let’s back up. Before this weekend, I never explored a “shadow,” and moreover had no clue there was a crazy one living somewhere deep within myself. I identify as a practical, grounded and incredibly resilliant person!

As joyful and strong as I am, I’m aware of a curious weakness I have: bringing heartfelt, vulnerable insights to my teaching.

I’m fantastic at being attentive, physically present and empowering, but going deep into the physical asana practice, for whatever reason, numbs my ability to articulate emotions and creativity in the moment. 

Feedback from my collegues is always: I want to see more of YOU in your teaching; I know you teach for a reason deeper than the exercise, so what is it?

So, this weekend I spent some time with soulful, mystical Sianna Sherman and her Psychotherapist partner, Theo Kyriakos to dig a little deeper and reflect.

The introduction to the shadow, led by Theo, exposed the tip of an iceberg for me. You see, a shadow is just fear tucked away within. We react to it every day, yet it is hidden from our view. It is unconcious and inaccessible through practical, cognitive thinking because we are unaware that it exists!

A shadow might manifest as a mental block, inability to connect with others, frequent anger and frustration, depression, withdrawal, stress or other issues.

So, how do we make the invisible, visible?

Theo uses active imagination (visualizations), guided meditation, grounding through the body and creative expression to access the shadow. We can use metaphor, stories, symbols, colors, sounds, physical movement and poetry to bring light that which we cannot articulate, but can certainly feel.

Theo challenged me to remember that, regardless of what my shadow did to me in my visualization, I was safe. He encouraged me to bravely do what I fear the most with that shadow. If I am afraid of being eaten alive by the screaming monster, I should walk straight into its mouth, because then I will know it has no power over me. I am safe, and I am free.

This is just the beginning of much deeper work. 

I have quite a long road ahead of me to find peace with my shadow. I know now that fear, guilt, shame, and anger live deep within all of us—even if we can’t see it—and until we understand what it looks like, feels like and its origins, we cannot heal, or facilitate healing objectively in others. 

It is not resilient or strong to remain emotionless, detached yet highly functional, and seemingly fine. When I confront and embrace my pain and fear, I can truly flourish with unobscured, heartfelt intention.

THIS is the path to connect with others in an emotional way: I must first connect profoundly to myself.


Feb 15, 2014

Healing Roots: Yam & Carrot with Ginger

Healing Roots: Yam & Carrot with Ginger

As winter rages across the great plains, it’s actually quite moderate here in the Pacific Northwest. Some days feel like spring; others are drenched with Seattle gloom, fog and rain. I certainly don’t miss the dark, blustery winters of Chicago, but I do miss sitting down for dinner with my old roommate, Jessica.

When garnet yams—also called sweet potatos—were in season, Jess would roast them with garlic, ginger, olive oil and fresh rosemary. We’d connect in our fragrant brownstone apartment, snow and ice hugging the windows, and warm up with steaming food, red wine, purring cats and life talk. 

When I tasted this yam juice by juicebox, my mind was flooded with memories of Chicago and Jess, our playful cats, and our mutual love for spicy-sweet comforting winter food.

Not much can replace the healthy side-effects of loving friends, silly felines and good conversation, but this yam juice comes pretty close. With a velvety texture and gentle warming bite, the root vegetables create a delicious healing elixir that can restore your body and aide your digestive system. 

The garnet yam is an orange-fleshed sweet potato that likes to masquerade as a yam. Interestingly, a sweet potato is not a potato at all! It’s a completely different species, rich in vitamin A & C, with a unique storage protein (sporamins) that heal the plant if it’s wounded! The vitamins and sporamins collaborate to rejuvenate our cells and protect us from oxidative stress.

Ginger is an ancient eastern herbal remedy with potent anti-inflammatory properties. It’s used a palate cleanser at sushi restaurants, and it is plentiful in Thai cuisine. More recent research demonstrates that ginger is an effective medicine for settling the stomach and bolstering the immune system.

Carrots are an antioxidant, immune system power house. The potent phytonutrient beta-carotene in carrots supports a healthy reproductive system, builds healthy skin, reduces inflammation and even slow the aging process by preventing degeneration of tissue.

Ready for the recipe? Go to juicebox, where chef Kari Brunson shares the secret to making this delicious juice on the juiceblog.


Dec 10, 2013

Warming Winter Granola

Warming Winter Granola

It’s 6:00am but feels like midnight. It’s freezing and dark, and my body is very resistant this morning. I want something starchy and nourishing to fuel teaching to an incredibly fierce 7:00am Flybarre crew.

Enter my favorite morning treat: warming winter granola.

I enjoy two servings of this homemade hug-in-a-bowl over plain keifer. The rolled oat and keifer combination provide 20ish grams of whole-food protein, a necessary nutrient to build and restore muscles after the demands of high intensity exercise. Also, this a full serving a protein for my body size! Woot!

Oats are a mineral and fiber dense grain known for lowering blood cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar. The pecans and dried cranberries offer rich antioxidants for immune support, and the coconut oil and fiber leave me satisfied long after class. Moreover, this granola is just so frikkin’ good!

Warming Winter Granola

3 cups rolled oats

2 cups pecans, roughly chopped

2 cups shredded coconut

1 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup solid coconut oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine cranberries and chopped pecans in a smaller bowl, set aside. Place oats in a medium sized baking pan. Melt coconut oil and maple syrup in a small pot over low heat and fold the mixture into the oats until they are coated entirely. If oats appear dry, add more oil and/or syrup. 

Baking the Granola
When the oven is ready, place the baking pan with oats in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, then fold in the cranberries and pecans. Bake again for 10 minutes, then fold in coconut flakes. Bake for a final 5-10 minutes until coconut is golden brown. Serve warm and store in an air tight container or jar.

Makes: 6 half-cup servings, Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 45 minutes


Sep 12, 2013

That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality—your soul, if you will—is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. [...] Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

George Saunders