Bloom in June

Happy June! As we start a new month and prepare to kick off a new season, my mind is on beginnings. In our culture, this is often equated with starting fresh, but the German root of begin actually means "to open." From this perspective, a beginning isn't just the planting of a new seed; it's the constant opening and unfolding of the flower. In every moment, we have an opportunity to begin again...and again...by peeling back the petals of our true Selves and opening our hearts and minds wider than ever before.

On June 21st, we'll officially welcome in summer, a season when flowers reach full bloom, so now is a great time to reflect on what you are growing in your life--and your Self--and how you can allow those things to blossom in new and more expansive ways. If you'd like to celebrate the Summer Soul-stice with me in full floral fashion, click here to get the full the details.

Wishing you a bloom-filled June and a joy-filled summer! 

With love and gratitude,
Alicia

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Come What May

Happy May!

In all honesty, this month I really struggled with what I wanted to write and how much I wanted to share about where I'm at in my journey right now. The truth is that I'm in the middle of a lot of change and contemplating making some even bigger changes, one of which would mean hitting the eject button on life as I know it. Which is both terrifying and exciting.

At the moment, the future is completely unpredictable, and I'm learning how to sit in the discomfort and the uncertainty of that. I'm learning how to let go of the impulse to plan and predict and, instead, just be present with what's arising in my body, heart and spirit. I'm learning how to let go of my attachments to certain answers or outcomes and allow myself to simply be in the questions. I'm learning how to surrender to that which is Greater than me and trust the Great wisdom and guidance within me. 

My mantra, as of late, has been, "I'm open." I'm open to absolutely anything. I'm open to absolutely everything. I'm open to a whole new way of life. I'm open to a whole new way of being. 

And when I feel the shackles of fear start to close in, I take a deep breath into my chest, feel my heart and lungs expand, and remind myself to just keep opening, come what may. I invite you to do the same.

With love and gratitude,
Alicia

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Avoiding Apr-Illness

It's officially spring, which means it's un-officially cold and allergy season. In Ayurveda, spring is ruled by Kapha dosha, which is associated with the elements of earth and water. “Ka” means water, and “pha” means to flourish, so Kapha is loosely translated to mean “that which flourishes in water.” The water element nourishes the body, which is why it’s so vital for our survival. We can only live a few days without water.

Consider this:
Our body is roughly 70% water
Our blood is about 50% water
Our lungs are 83% water
Our heart and brain are 73% water
Our muscles and kidneys are 79% water
Our skin is 64% water
Even our bones are 31% water!

Water also lubricates and protects our joints and is present in all of our bodily fluids, including saliva, urine, blood, lymph, spinal fluid, sweat and mucous.

In spring, just like the snow begins to melt and the rains begin to fall, excess Kapha begins to liquify in the body (most commonly in the form of mucous), which can become a breeding ground for toxins if not properly tended. Think about what happens to stagnant water in a pond or a petri dish; it creates a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.

In order to avoid stagnation, movement is key.

As the days get longer and lighter, this is the perfect time of year to get outside and be active. Regular exercise will improve blood flow, boost your immune system (lymph is moved by the contraction and relaxation of muscles), and help clear toxins from the body through sweat. The more intense the activity, the better.

It’s also important to stimulate your mind with new thoughts and ideas. Take a class. Try something you’ve never done before. Start a conversation with a stranger. Explore a new culture. Go on an adventure. Spend some time in your imagination (daydreaming totally counts). Express your creativity in any way that feels good to you.

Now is also a powerful time to clear out any old, stagnant emotions by allowing yourself to be moved in new ways. Remember that e-motions are just energy in motion. They simply want to move through us and be felt; when we repress, suppress or hold onto them, these energies become stagnant. With nowhere else to go, they begin to loop around themselves, creating energy patterns (samskaras) in the body that, over time, can cause illness or dis-ease. So laugh. Cry. Scream. Sigh. Allow yourself to feel and express whatever arises.

Here are a few more of my favorite ways to boost immunity and balance Kapha in the body:

  1. Just like fire can be used to purify water, we can use foods and spices to both detoxify the body and help liquify any excess mucous so that it can move out of our system. Pungent foods like garlic, ginger, chiles, onions and cayenne--which have a heating effect on the body--are particularly effective, as well as warming spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander and cloves.

  2. Fresh ginger tea is one of my go-to remedies during the spring because it not only balances Kapha but also has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties. Whenever I feel a cold coming on, I drink big batches of it with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a spoonful of raw honey (honey has powerful healing effects and helps to scrape fat and toxins from the channels of the body). If I’m dealing with a fever, I add ginger tea to my bath water to help my body sweat out the toxins and break the fever. To clear a sinus infection, I add ginger tea to my Neti pot in place of water (warning: this will sting but is incredibly effective - just make sure any pieces of ginger are completely strained out). Ginger tea is also great to drink before a meal to help stoke the digestive fire or after a meal to help settle the tummy and break down food.

  3. Use a Neti pot at least a few times a week to help clear out your sinuses, especially when you are feeling congested. Make sure you use lukewarm water (not hot) and ¼ tsp neti pot salt in your Neti pot, and to keep the nose from drying out, you can rub a little bit of nasya oil or sesame oil in your nasal passages when you’re done. Make sure to thoroughly wash and dry the Neti pot between uses.

  4. Dry brushing your skin improves immunity by not only sloughing away dead skin cells but also stimulating the lymphatic system to clear metabolic waste from the body. It also boosts circulation and has been shown to reduce cellulite. All it takes is a few minutes before you hop in the shower or tub.

  5. Sweat your heart out at the spa. Literally. I’m currently obsessed with infrared saunas because they penetrate much deeper into the tissues and organs, heating the body from the inside out and eliminating about 7 times more toxins than a standard sauna. Did I mention that you can burn about 600 calories in a single session? If you don’t have access to an infrared sauna, a dry sauna is another great option.

If you want to dive deeper, I'll be leading an Ayurvedic cleanse the week of April 15th at Soul Hum Studios in Sherman Oaks. I’m also really excited to announce what I’ve been pouring my heart (and most of my time) into over the past few months. On April 10th, we'll be launching the Soul Hum Signature Program, a six week deep dive into well-being in every area of your life, which I co-created and will be co-facilitating with the brilliant Wendi Cohen who is an Integrative Coach, NLP Practitioner, meditation teacher and former Program Manager at the Chopra Center for Well-Being.

I can’t even describe how excited I am to bring all my passions together into one program. Here are just a few of the topics we’ll be covering: meditation, Ayurveda, food (and herbs) as medicine, mindful movement, awakening your 6 senses (including your intuition), conscious communication, finding emotional freedom, cultivating creativity and developing daily practices. If you think this would benefit you or someone you know, you can learn more by clicking here.

Wishing you a happy and healthy Spring!

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Making Peace with Perfection

“New year, new you.” That’s a phrase we hear every January 1st, as we make plans to polish and perfect anything that didn’t go quite “right” the year before. We set intentions and resolutions to do things “better.” We expect that, this year, our life will be more perfect than the last. Our work will be more perfect. Our relationships will be more perfect. We will be more perfect.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to attain this new level of perfection and inevitably feel let down when something goes awry or we fall back into an old habit or pattern. Maybe you started this year with high hopes and high expectations of yourself, and maybe now, two months into 2018, you’re already judging yourself for not measuring up to them. Enter tonight’s Full Moon in Virgo. The sign of the Perfectionist.

My moon sign is Virgo, and one of my big life lessons (and challenges) has been making peace with my own perfectionism and recognizing all the ways that it was limiting me and stopping me from doing the things that I truly wanted to do. I came to realize that this never-ending need to be perfect put me in a very black and white view of the world: either things were perfect or they weren’t. Either I was perfect or I wasn’t.

All those things that I really wanted to try that I wasn’t sure I could do perfectly? I would avoid doing them completely, because if the options were perfect or nothing, my best option was nothing. And since I wasn’t perfect, I was “nothing” too. 

In my eyes, nothing I did was good enough. I was never good enough. It wasn't a healthy way to live. It wasn't a fulfilling way to live. And it certainly wasn't a joyful way to live.

In our quest to be Perfect, we often reject or disown the parts of ourselves that we’re afraid or ashamed of. We scrub and bleach and polish into perfection anything that we think is “bad” or “ugly” or “unlovable.” We forget that these “flaws” are actually key qualities of our being that are natural and essential to us in some way. Unique attributes of who we ARE.

The truth is that you already are perfection itself at your core. Seriously. Take a moment to breathe that in.

There is nothing to perfect. There is only the infinite perfection which wants to be personified through you. Through our unique personality. Your unique voice. Your unique vision.

So this evening...this month...this year...I encourage you to free yourself from the black and white prison of perfection and step, instead, into the full-color, full-spectrum, bright, bold, beautiful world of self-acceptance. 

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Happy TRUE Year!

Before the start of each new year, I meditate on the overall themes and lessons that I need to explore in the year ahead. One of the big themes that came forward for 2018 is to EXPAND - on all levels of being and in all areas of my life. To push myself past the confines of my comfort zone and break free of any boxes that my fears and false beliefs have kept me in. To be bigger, bolder, and braver. To shine brighter, speak louder and open my heart wider than ever before.
      Science has proven that the universe is constantly expanding, and it’s our nature to as well, since we are made of the same stardust. This is both a scary and exciting challenge for someone who spent most of her life doing the opposite.
      When I was in kindergarten, two boys chased me home from school one day and threatened to stuff me in a trash bag. I raced in the front door, nearly hyperventilating, and straight up to my room, where I hid myself in the deepest, darkest corner of my closet. I figured if they couldn’t see me, they couldn’t hurt me. And long after I’d come out of that closet and long after the boys had apologized, I continued to carry that mentality out into the world: if they couldn’t see me, they couldn’t hurt me. It was an unconscious mantra that I carried with me everywhere. Into relationships, where I kept my walls up at all times and ran at the first sign of emotional intimacy. Into jobs, where I’d get anxious at the very thought of speaking up and giving my opinion. And into unfamiliar or uncomfortable social situations, where I would try to make myself as small and invisible as possible.
      Over time, I got so good at shrinking, at keeping myself small, that I actually started to believe that I was small. Too small, too weak, too insignificant to do the things that I dreamed. My spirit got used to living in a tiny, cramped cage. My voice got used to its lockbox. I told myself it was enough. After all, I was safe here, hidden from the world. Except that it wasn’t enough. I was suffocating.
      It wasn’t until I began to practice yoga and meditation and got to know myself in a deeper, truer way that I discovered that I wasn’t small at all. Just like the universe, I was infinite. And capable of infinitely more than I’d imagined. For years, I’d been stopping myself from using my voice, following my passions and opening myself up to love because I thought I wasn’t good enough, big enough, brave enough or worthy enough. Yet, now I realized that the problem wasn’t me. It was my thinking. This idea that I was small was just a story I’d been telling myself—a carefully crafted identity that I’d perfected over years and years of practice—and one that I’d gotten really good at believing. (In yoga, we call an old energy pattern a samskara, which translates to “something done well.” The more we repeat a habit or belief or thought, the “better” we get at it, but that doesn’t mean it’s in our best interest.)
       According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something (for more on this, check out his book, Outliers). That breaks down to about 417 days. Just over a year. Now think about how many years—or decades—you’ve been telling yourself the same false stories and thinking the same limiting thoughts. In my case, I had almost 30 years of mastery!
       So how do we begin to shift these literally limiting thoughts and patterns that we’ve spent so long perfecting? The first step is to recognize them. When Dorothy pulled back the curtain in The Wizard of Oz and discovered who “Oz” really was, he no longer seemed Great and Powerful. The same is true for our fears and false beliefs; by recognizing them for what they truly are, we strip them of their power. This is mastery in another context: instead of letting our fears and false beliefs run the show, we become the masters and commanders of our own lives. The captains of our own ships, free to steer by our bright inner starlight.
      Below is a written meditation to help you identify your own limiting stories and false beliefs so that you can shed or transform them. It is my hope that, by asking these questions and listening to the answers of your own deep inner wisdom, you will let go of the idea that you need to become a “new you” in the new year, and instead embrace the TRUE you in the new year.

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       As you do this exercise, it’s important that you put your pen to paper and just write, stream-of-conscious, without censoring yourself or judging what you’re writing. You’ll need at least a half an hour of uninterrupted time, so block out your schedule and find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Set a timer for at least 5 minutes for each of the following prompts (or if you want to focus on only one of the prompts, set a timer for 15-20 minutes), and don’t stop moving your pen until the timer goes off. No matter what happens during that time, keep writing. If you don’t know what to write, simply write “I don’t know what to write” until something else comes. Just keep your hand moving and don’t think about what you are writing, so that your intuition has a chance to take the lead and express itself.
 
Write out your answer to each of the following questions:

  • What negative thought patterns and false beliefs have I mastered? Which have mastered me?
  • What stories about myself have I become an expert at telling? Are these stories true?
  • What parts of myself have I hidden or ignored because of these false stories and beliefs? How can I express them now?
  • In what ways are my self-limiting beliefs keeping me from being my true, authentic Self and living my truest, most authentic life?
  • How can I push myself past these self-imposed limitations and expand myself on all levels this year?

Wishing you a big, bold, bright and EXPANSIVE new year!!
 
With love,
 
Alicia

HOLIDAY THRIVE GUIDE! Day Six: Healthy Holiday Eating & Drama-Free Dining

When it comes to eating healthy during the holidays, the focus tends to be on which foods are the lowest in calories or pack the biggest nutritional punch. Yet, if we want our body to efficiently digest and utilize all those nutrients, how we eat is just as important as what we eat.

Remember that where your focus goes, your energy flows. If you want your body to properly break down and assimilate the food that you’re feeding it, it helps to focus on what you’re eating. That way, your brain can put all its efforts into sending the appropriate signals to your digestive organs, instead of redirecting energy to other processes like speaking or walking. If you’re still shuttling items from the kitchen to the table, wait until you’re fully settled to start eating. If someone asks you a question mid-bite, wait until you’ve swallowed to answer; then, wait to take another bite until you’ve finished speaking.  If you find yourself in the middle of a deep conversation, this might be a good time to pause between courses.

Since your sensory organs send information to your brain, paying attention to your physical senses is a great way to focus your mind and energy. Notice the colors and visual presentation of whatever is on your plate. Savor the aromas and flavors of each bite. Chew your food thoroughly and thoughtfully, noticing the feel and texture of the food in your mouth.

Keep in mind that your emotional state can also affect your digestion. If you’re upset or angry, your stomach may start to feel upset or heated too, as your acid levels rise and your body constricts. It’s, therefore, best to eat when you are in a calm and steady emotional state, but let’s be honest: that isn’t always possible, especially during the holidays when a lot of differing personalities and opinions gather around the table. If you get into a heated debate or political standoff with a relative during dinner, pause and take a few deep breaths into your belly, to relax your stomach and your nervous system, before continuing on with your meal. If that’s not enough, excuse yourself for a bathroom break, so that you can take longer to clear your mind and energy. You might try a calming breathing exercise, like Nadi Shodana or Equal Breathing, or do a quick grounding meditation.

Since our emotions have such a powerful impact on how we experience what we eat, choose foods that bring you comfort and joy. It’s okay to indulge in a piece of your favorite pie or that cozy casserole that was made with lots of cheese (and lots more love), but if you’re worrying about how it’s going to affect your waistline or beating yourself up for breaking your diet, you’re missing out on all the benefits. Allow yourself to enjoy what you’re eating and to savor the positive feelings that it evokes. Filling up on love and joy will do wonders for both your body and your spirit. Far more than a plate full of kale (and trust me, I love kale).

Fill your mug with  LOVE  and  JOY  this holiday season!  (It's okay to add some marshmallows on top)

Fill your mug with LOVE and JOY this holiday season!  (It's okay to add some marshmallows on top)

Here a few more quick tips to help you make the most of those holiday meals:

  • Don’t drink too much with your meal…and I’m not just talking about alcohol. Too much of any liquid will dilute your digestive enzymes and weaken your digestive fire, which in Ayurveda, we call agni. Try to limit your intake to one glass at the most, and take small sips.
  • If you are looking for spirits to make your holiday bright, I suggest sipping on a glass of red wine during dinner, because it has been proven to aid digestion through the release of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes the wall of the stomach.
  • If you’ve been having digestive issues or food hasn’t been settling well lately, sip some ginger tea or chew a small handful of toasted fennel seeds before you eat. This will help stoke your digestive fire. On the other hand, if you feel heavy, sluggish or overstuffed after eating, sip some ginger tea or chew some fennel seeds after your meal.
  • Take small bites, and make sure you chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. Digestion starts in the mouth.
  • Eat slowly, and pause regularly to check in with your body to see if it’s still hungry and if it really wants or needs more of a particular food. You may find that you only need a bite or two of those mashed potatoes, but your body is craving a second helping of that steak…or vice versa.
  • In Ayurveda, winter is Vata season. Vata is linked to the elements of air and ether and is, therefore, very dry in nature. You can balance this dryness by adding healthy fats and oils to your food. Vata is also balanced by foods that are warm, cooked and grounding (think root vegetables and hearty grains).
  • Garnish your food with lots of fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and basil, which not only add nutritional value but also have unique healing properties. Warming spices like cumin, coriander, cinnamon or nutmeg, which are known as carminatives, also help aid digestion and prevent gas.

May you enjoy the festivities and feasting! 

HOLIDAY THRIVE GUIDE! Day Five: Find Calm in Crowds

This morning, my family and I went to the grocery store to stock up on food for the holidays, and the line to check out stretched from literally one end of the store to the other. As I listened to the people around me complain about the wait, my mind wanted to chime right in. After all, I had a LOT of other things I needed to get done, including writing this blog, and this unexpected (and ridiculously long) line was going to cost me precious time. Yet, I knew that if I let my mind run the show, I would spin into a haze of unnecessary holiday stress and drama, so I decided to use this opportunity to practice mindfulness instead.

In case you’ve got gifts or groceries of your own to buy today, here are a few of my favorite ways to stay calm in crowds and lines:

  • Focus on your breath. There are a lot of different breathing techniques that will not only calm your mind but also relax your nervous system, taking you out of fight-or-flight mode and making you less likely to lose your cool when the item that you need is out of stock. One of my favorites is Sama Vritti, also known as Equal Breathing, in which we balance the breath in order to balance the mind and body. This technique is great because it doesn’t require you to make any strange sounds or sit in a certain position. You can practice it absolutely anywhere, without anyone even knowing. Simply inhale through your nose for a count of four, and then exhale through your nose for a count of four. If a count of four feels too fast, you can practice lengthening your breath to a count of six or eight. All that matters is that your inhale and exhale stay the same length.
  • Recite a mantra. This can be any affirmation that brings you peace of mind and spirit. It could even be a line from your favorite holiday song, like "All is Calm. All is Bright," or a quote from your favorite holiday movie, like Susan Walker's mantra in Miracle on 34th Street: "I believe. I believe. I believe." Or take a page from Tiny Tim’s book: “God bless us, everyone.”
  • Connect with someone. Having a genuine conversation with a stranger in line or checkout clerk will remind you that you’re not alone and that the items in your cart are not that important, in the grand scheme of things. The holidays aren’t about things, after all. The holidays are about coming together in the spirit of love, joy, peace and kindness.

If you’re energy sensitive or identify as an empath (someone who feels what other people are feeling), then being out in crowds, in general, can feel overwhelming…especially when a lot of the people in those crowds are feeling frazzled or frantic. It’s really important that you take a few moments to ground and shield your energy, so that you’re not taking on other people’s holiday stress as your own. It’s best if you do this before you leave your house, but if you’re already out in public, you can always lock yourself in an empty dressing room or bathroom stall and do it there. Here’s a quick and easy meditation to ground yourself and shield your energy:

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. With each exhale, let go of any stress or tension that you’ve been holding, any stagnant energy or emotions that need to be released. Feel your feet on the earth. Feel the rise and fall of your chest with each breath. Feel the beat of your own heart and take a moment to check in with how you're feeling. Now, bring your awareness to the base of your spine, the location of your root chakra (your energetic center of security, stability, grounding). Imagine dropping a cord out of your tailbone and down into the earth. In your mind's eye, watch as this cord drops down, down, down, through layers of dirt and rock and sediment, until it reaches the golden core of the earth, where it anchors itself. With each inhale, imagine drawing this golden energy up from the core of the earth and into your body, filling yourself up completely with this golden, healing light. With each exhale, feel yourself soften, relax, and settle onto the earth.

Now, imagine this golden light flowing up from the core of the earth, up through that grounding cord, into your tailbone, and all the way up your spine, until it shoots out of the crown of your head in a fountain of liquid gold. As this golden healing light streams down around you, it cleanses your energetic field of any emotional or psychic debris. You feel all of your energy returning to your body--any energy that's been taken or given away--and a feeling of peace and wholeness washes over you. When your field is totally clear, this golden light begins to form a shield around you, sealing in your personal power and protecting you from any thoughts, emotions or energy that is not your own. Take a few more deep breaths, sending golden light up through your body and out into this shield and feeling its energy expand out with each breath. When you feel ready, slowly bring your awareness back into your body. Notice the sensation of the air on your skin, the sounds around you, the taste in your mouth. Wiggle your fingers and your toes, and gently turn your head from side to side before opening your eyes.

Another simple way to help clear and recharge your energy, before you head home or face holiday traffic, is to take a lap around the parking lot to get some fresh air before you get in your car. Then, as you reach for your door handle, set an intention to leave any stress, negativity or energy that isn’t yours behind; there’s no need to take it home with you. I also like to keep a stash of essential oil in my cars and breathe in a boost of chamomile or peppermint before I turn my keys in the ignition. (It's also great to have on hand when you find yourself in bumper to bumper traffic and need a dose of calm. Aura Cacia even sells an essential oil diffuser that you can plug into the cigarette lighter in your car.)

Whether you're shopping, driving, sitting at home or doing something else entirely, I wish you a calm and happy day of being.

HOLIDAY THRIVE GUIDE! Day Four: The Last Minute Gift Guide

There are only three days left until Christmas, which may evoke feelings of panic if you still haven’t finished your shopping or found that perfect gift yet. If long lines, crowded stores, and busy parking lots give you anxiety, fear not. I’ve got your ultimate guide to last minute gift shopping, and you don’t even need to leave home or worry about shipping fees.

In my experience, the best gifts don’t come from the store; they come from the heart. In order to find a gift that is truly meaningful to the person you’re giving it to, take a moment to check in with your heart and ask yourself what he or she really needs to feel loved and appreciated by you this holiday season.

Love doesn't always fit in a box...

Love doesn't always fit in a box...

According to the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, each of us gives and receives love differently. As you may have guessed from the title, he breaks these down into five basic love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts and Physical Touch.

We each have one or two primary love languages, and as you can see, Receiving Gifts is only one of those five options. For many people, physical presents don’t make them feel as loved as spending quality time with someone or receiving a thoughtful gesture, like soup when they’re sick or help on a project. For others, they feel most appreciated when someone tells them how they feel about them or expresses it through physical affection.

So maybe the best gift for that special someone you’re still shopping for can’t be bought at a mall or wrapped in a bow. Here are some suggestions for meaningful, personalized gifts that speak to the other love languages. (If you’re not sure what your loved one’s primary love language is, I’ve also included a quiz at the bottom of this entry, to point you in the right direction).

Acts of Service – Grab a few blank sheets of paper and some brightly colored markers and make a personalized gift certificate for a free car wash, foot rub, homemade dinner, or batch of your loved one’s favorite cookies. If you want to get fancy, you can print these up on the computer or make a whole booklet of certificates they can redeem with you.

Quality Time – Plan an experience that you and your loved one can have together. This can be as simple as dinner and a movie or more elaborate, like taking a big trip or going on a mini-adventure, like zip-lining, together.

Words of Affirmation – Write your loved one a heartfelt letter, poem or story. My parents still tell me that their favorite gift from me was when I gave them each a jar of 365 of some of my happiest memories with them, so that they could pull one for each day of the year. If 365 feels overwhelming, just write out 52, and your loved one can still pull one for every week of the year. Or instead of writing down your favorite memories together, write down all the qualities that you love about that person.

Physical Touch –  Treat your loved one to day of pampering or a massage at their favorite spa—or better yet, give them one yourself. For your romantic partner, plan an intimate evening together that will awaken all their senses, including touch. Cook a meal together, savoring the aromas, flavors, and feeling of working with your hands as you chop vegetables and knead dough. Take a luxurious bath with fresh rose petals or essential oils like orange and bergamot, which boost the second chakra (the energy center related to sensuality—our connection to our physical senses—as well as creativity and sexuality). Create something together: take a pottery class, a woodworking lesson, or buy some body paint and a blank canvas and get to work.

And for those of you who already know the perfect present to purchase and do need to brave the mall (or maybe even work there), come back tomorrow, when I’ll be sharing some tips for how to thrive in those long lines and crowded parking lots.

LOVE LANGUAGE QUIZ

1.       How does your loved one express love to you and other people?

a.       Through touch

b.      By spending time with them

c.       By doing things for them

d.      By giving gifts

e.      By telling you through words or writing

 

2.       What does he or she request most from you and other loved ones?

a.       More hugs/kisses/sex

b.      Spending more time together

c.       Help with chores/errands/work

d.      Gifts

e.      Compliments or words of affirmation

 

3.       What does he or she frequently complain about in your relationship or his/her relationship with other people?

a.       That you’re not affectionate enough

b.      That you don’t spend enough time together

c.       That he/she needs more support in his/her dreams or more help around the house

d.      That you don’t buy him/her enough things or forget important occasions like birthdays and anniversaries

e.      That you don’t compliment him/her or say “I love you” enough

 

4.       How does he or she show love for himself/herself?

a.      By getting a massage, doing some form of physical activity like yoga or dance, or expressing himself/herself through art projects or crafts

b.      By taking time off to be by himself/herself and do the things that bring him/her joy

c.       By doing self-care rituals

d.      By buying himself or herself gifts or small treats

e.      By using positive affirmations or mantras or by expressing himself/herself through writing

If you answered:

Mostly A’s – consider giving a gift that involves Physical Touch

Mostly B’s – consider giving a gift that involves Quality Time

Mostly C’s – consider giving a gift that involves Acts of Service

Mostly D’s – consider buying an actual Gift that your loved one can unwrap

Mostly E’s – consider giving a gift that involves Words of Affirmation

Also, consider taking a moment to ask yourself what makes you feel most loved and appreciated: physical touch, quality time, acts of service, receiving gifts, or words of affirmation?

Happy Winter Soul-stice!

Happy Winter Soul-stice! Today, we officially welcome in Winter, a season traditionally linked to death and darkness. A season of hibernation—of going inside and of turning inward—to prepare ourselves for new life and new light in the spring.  Earlier this year, my family lost our dog, and I’m still mourning her loss. Yet, as I went outside this morning to play in the fresh snow with our new puppy, I was reminded that life is a never-ending cycle of growth, change, death and rebirth.

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When I give tarot readings, people are always afraid to get the Death card, but it’s actually my favorite card in the deck, because it doesn’t just represent loss; it also represents transformation and rebirth (you can see the rising sun in the background of the card). New life always follows death. New growth always follows decay. Just look at nature. As the sky grows dark with each setting sun, golden light fills the sky with each new sunrise. As the trees are stripped bare every winter, new blossoms burst into bloom every spring. And since our outer world is a direct reflection of our inner world, this same cycle of death and transformation is at work inside of us. Each new season and each new day is a chance to let go of whatever no longer serves our highest good and greatest growth, so that new or dormant parts of ourselves might bloom into being.

For Halloween this year—also known as the Day of the Dead in some traditions—I wanted to honor this beautiful, life-evoking energy of Death. So I dressed up in black, with an hourglass around my neck as a reminder that everything passes (joy, fear, sorrow, pain, life, even death itself), and I handed out Death Certificates to my friends so that they could look at what they needed to shed and release in their lives in order to make room for new growth.

Today, I wanted to share this exercise with you, too. May you find the courage to lean into the darkness, to embrace this energy of death, so that you may be transformed and your light may shine even brighter.

Make Your Own "Death Certificate"

Before you fill this out, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself in your heart. Then, pull out your journal or a blank sheet of paper and write out the answers to each of the prompts below without thinking or judging what you're writing; simply let the words flow, stream-of-conscious. After you've finished, you may want to burn the paper or tear it up and throw it out, as a symbolic shedding.

Date of Death: (fill in the blank)

Time of Death: The exact right moment

Cause of Death: Inner Wisdom

I am ready to release ______________

from my life, in order to make more space for ______________.

I am thankful for all of the lessons it taught me, like ______________

and the ways it transformed me, like ______________.

I let it go with love & gratitude so that it can be reborn as ______________.

 

HOLIDAY THRIVE GUIDE! Day Three: Healthy Holiday Travel

Travel can be stressful, especially around the holidays. Whether you’re arriving by plane, train or automobile, there are bound to be some detours, delays and stress-inducing dilemmas.

This morning, I woke up at 4am and battled airport traffic, a check-in line that ran the length of the entire terminal, and a plane jam packed with screaming kids, barking dogs (I sat in front of two very opinionated Chihauhuas), and coughing that sounded contagious. Luckily, I came prepared with all the tools that I’ve found keep me healthy and sane while traveling.

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Here’s what’s in my travel kit:

Hand Sanitizer - To me, airplanes are like petri dishes: the perfect, contained environment for germs to thrive in. You never know who sneezed on your seatbelt or wiped their H1N1 all over that door handle, so I always keep a natural hand sanitizer on me while traveling. My favorite brands are EO (they make a lovely, lavender-scented spray, as well as hand wipes) and The Honest Company, which makes a sanitizing spray that smells like creamsicles. Trust me, no one will complain if you spray down your tray table or seat with one of these.

Immune Enhancing Elixirs – Today, I brought a homemade Elderberry Ginger Tincture, since Elderberry is a powerful herb that boosts the immune system and can help ward off colds or flu. Oil of Oregano is my other favorite companion on trips. All it takes is a few drops to give your immune system a mega boost and kill off any germs your body is trying to fight.

Tummy-Taming Teas – I always carry a few packets of ginger or peppermint tea with me, in case I need to soothe a nervous tummy or settle a case of nausea or indigestion.

Green Superfood Supplements – I’m addicted to Amazing Grass’ powerful line of supplements, which are jam-packed with nourishing ingredients like spirulina, spinach and wheatgrass, as well as probiotics. At home, I always start my day with a scoop (my favorite is the Detox & Digest blend), which keeps my digestive system healthy and balanced, and when I’m traveling, I like to bring small packets with me that I can mix in a water bottle.

Essential Oils – I always take a bottle or two of my favorite essential oils with me. Luckily, they are small enough to make it through security. When I’m feeling stressed or in need of a dose of calm, I rub a few drops between my palms and inhale the soothing scent. The people next to me almost always ask for some too. My current obsession is the Indulge blend by Aura Cacia, which has the soothing properties of lavender and vanilla, as well as the grounding properties of bergamot and cedar. Other favorite scents to travel with include Lavender, Rose, and Peppermint. Just make sure that you don’t rub them into your eyes or ears or ingest them.

Nourishing Noshes – I always pack some healthy snacks to take on the plane, like fresh fruit, trail mix, or veggies and hummus (keep in mind that hummus is considered a liquid, so make sure to keep it under 4 ounces so you can make it through security). Since I was eating breakfast on the plane today, I also packed a healthy oatmeal cup (this one, by Vigilant Eats, contains cacao, which is loaded with antioxidants, and maca, which is an adaptogen that energizes the body and supports the nervous system). All I had to do was add hot water and stir.

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Wishing you safe and healthy travels!!

HOLIDAY THRIVE GUIDE! Day Two: It's The Season of Self-Care

“It’s the season of giving.” That’s a phrase we hear thrown around a lot this time of year. Yet, with all the gift wrapping, holiday baking, party planning (and party hopping), donating to our favorite causes, and spreading all-around good cheer, we often forget to give to ourselves. Take a moment to ask yourself honestly: how much time, attention and loving care have you given to your Self lately? 

During the holidays, self-care is more crucial than ever. With all that giving, it’s important that we take time to replenish and give our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits what they need to feel healthy, peaceful and balanced. This is especially important for people who are energy sensitive or identify as empaths.

Below are some of my favorite ways to recharge your energy, refuel your body and refresh your Spirit, whatever your mood.

If you feel anxious, scattered or ungrounded:

  • Spend some time in nature, soaking in the healing energy of mama Earth. Walk barefoot in the grass. Hug a tree. Smell some roses (or whatever flowers happen to be blooming nearby). Feel the warm rays of the sun energize your body and the cooling beams of the moon calm your soul.
  • Give yourself a massage (in Ayurveda, we call this practice abhyanga). My favorite oil to use in the winter is sesame oil, but you can use almond, coconut or jojoba as well. Simply massage it into your skin 10-20 minutes before a shower or bath, so the oil has time to soak into the skin. Don’t use soap to wash it off; just rinse with water and then pat your skin dry. A quick tip for those of you who have trouble sleeping is to rub oil onto your feet before bed (you can add a few drops of lavender oil to make it even more relaxing) and then tuck them into a cozy pair of socks; this practice really saved me a few years ago when I was suffering from a really bad bought of insomnia.
  • Pour yourself a healing cup of tea or mix up a supercharged herbal latte, using adaptogens like Ashwaghanda, Maca, Reishi, Licorice Root and Tulsi (which support the nervous system and help the body adapt to stress) and healing spices like Turmeric, Cinnamon and Cardamom. I like to drink a warm herbal latte about 20 minutes before bed, because it relaxes my body and soothes my mind, helping me fall asleep. My favorite recipe is below:

Alicia’s Nerve-Calming Nightcap

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (I make my own, but Califa Farms also makes a great one)

1 tsp Ashwaghanda Powder

1 tsp Licorice Root Powder

1 tsp Raw Honey (or more, to taste)

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Warm the almond milk on the stove, then remove from heat. Whisk in the Ashwaghanda and Licorice Root powder (I like to give mine a whir in my Nutribullet). If I’m looking for an extra immune boost, I’ll also add in 1 tsp of Reishi or Chaga mushroom powder. Stir in raw honey, to taste. Sprinkle with cinnamon and fresh grated nutmeg.

If you feel heavy, depressed or legarthic:

  • Get an instant dose of joy and inspiration by expressing yourself creatively. Dance, sing, write, draw, sculpt, cross-stitch, finger paint…whatever calls to your spirit. It’s important to allow yourself to just play, without censoring, judging or expecting perfection of yourself.
  • Wear or work with healing crystals. Celestite, Amethyst, and Rose Quartz are some of my favorites for bringing in positive, loving energy. Selenite, Black Tourmaline, and Smoky Quartz are my favorites for clearing stagnant or negative energy (or energy that you’ve taken on from other people).

If you feel physically fatigued or emotionally drained:

  • Take an Epsom salt bath (if you don’t have Epsom salts, any natural sea salt will do). These salts will detoxify the body and clear your energy field. For an extra healing boost, try adding some essential oils to the salts before you add them to the bath water. Some of my faves are lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint. If you don’t have a bathtub, soak your feet in a tub of salt water or simply take a shower and allow the water to wash any negative energy away.
  • Nourish your body with gentle movement (yoga, Tai Chi, walks, etc) and brightly colored fruits and vegetables, which not only give the body vital energy but also balance the chakras (energy centers of the body). 
  • Netflix and chill. Curl up on your couch and watch a feel-good holiday movie. My faves are Elf and Muppet Christmas Carol (trust me on this).

If you feel unclear, indecisive or stuck in a mode of pleasing everyone but yourself:

  • Spend some quiet time alone with your Self to tune into your own needs, wants and emotions. Meditation and journaling are particularly helpful practices for this.
  • Allow yourself to receive and let others give to you. I woke up sick this morning, and when a friend offered to bring me soup, my first inclination was to say no. But I decided to say yes instead to this thoughtful, loving gesture and ended up sharing a lovely meal and heartfelt conversation that I wouldn't have had otherwise.
  • Take some deep breaths to clear your mind. My favorite breathing practice is called Nodi Shodana, or alternate nostril breathing. This breathing techniques balances the masculine and feminine energy channels in the body. It also balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain and is very helpful for headaches. Here’s how:

Sit comfortably with a straight spine, open chest and closed eyes. Extend your right palm forward and fold down your index and middle fingers, leaving the thumb, right finger and pinky extended (Vishnu mudra). You have now made a space for your nose to fit in between your thumb and ring fingers. The ring finger can press on the left side of the nose, closing the left nostril, and the thumb can close the right side. In this practice, you will alternate back and forth, inhaling and exhaling through one nostril while covering the other, then switching sides.  Begin on the left side, by covering the right nostril with the thumb. Inhale through the left nostril, then cover the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, then cover the left nostril and exhale through the left nostril. This completes one round. Do at least 3 or 4 rounds, if not more.

HOLIDAY THRIVE GUIDE! Day One: From Presents to Presence

THE HOLIDAY THRIVE GUIDE: From juggling all the social obligations to navigating crowded shopping centers to dealing with challenging family dynamics, the holidays can be a stressful time for a lot of people. That’s why, over the next 7 days, I’ll be giving you my favorite tips, tools and tricks to not just survive—but thrive—this holiday season. My hope is that you will use them to find more peace and ease, not just in your outer world but in your inner world as well.

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Welcome to Day 1 of your Holiday Thrive Guide! I’d planned to start us off on the very important topic of self-care, but the truth is that we can’t truly care for ourselves if we don’t really know ourselves. We can’t meet our own needs if we don’t know what those needs are. So instead, we are starting off with the foundation of self-care: self-inquiry.

During the holiday season, the question we get asked the most (from friends, loved ones and the big guy in red) is, “What do you want?” So we put together wish lists and dream up all the new and shiny things that might (temporarily) bring us joy, but we rarely pause to ask ourselves what we need (and I don’t just mean of the gift variety).

Forget the presents for a moment. Let's get PRESENT with ourselves. What is our body truly hungry for? What input or information is our mind desperate to receive? What is our heart dying to express and our soul longing to experience? 

Perhaps the most powerful practice I can offer you, during this busy time of year, is to take time every day to ask yourself this important question: What do I need?  When you wake up in the morning, before you roll out of bed or reach for your phone, pause and check in with yourself on all levels. I suggest keeping a pen and journal on your nightstand so that you can write down any insights and track any patterns from day to day. 

  • First, check in with your body. How do you feel physically, and what do you need today to feel strong, healthy, and balanced? Maybe you feel exhausted and need an extra hour of sleep or hungover from last night’s party and need a big glass of water to rehydrate your system.
  • Then, check in with your thoughts. How do you feel mentally? What stories or fears are at the forefront of your mind today, and what do you need to do to release them and replace them with more positive, loving thoughts? Maybe you woke up worrying about a big presentation you have to give today and running all the worst case scenarios in your head about how you might mess up. Perhaps, you could take a few deep breaths and visualize the presentation going smoothly in your mind. Reaffirm to yourself that you’ve GOT this, and maybe even work with a mantra like, “I express myself with passion and confidence.”
  • Next, check in with your heart. How do you feel emotionally, and what do you need to give yourself and your heart today? Maybe you’re sad and need a dose of sunshine to brighten your spirit or maybe you’re feeling really inspired and need to channel that energy into a creative outlet.
  • Finally, check in with your spirit. What parts of your Self need to be recognized or expressed, in order to feel more fulfilled and purposeful in your life? How can you let those parts of you express themselves today, in even the smallest ways? Maybe your inner musician is calling you to sing, even if it’s only in the shower, or your inner entrepreneur is begging you to jot down those business ideas.

Whatever needs arise, make an effort to honor and address them in some small way today. Maybe block out time in your schedule for that walk or nap or private dance party to happen or jot that new mantra down and tuck it in your wallet as a reminder. This is a really beautiful way to start your day with intention, but if mornings feel rushed for you, you can always do this practice later in the day. Each day, as you check back in with yourself, start to notice how your needs shift and change, based on your feelings and your circumstances, and be kind and gentle with yourself as you shift your actions in accordance.

This is the essence of self-care: listening to our needs and tending to them. Tomorrow, we’ll dive deeper into some really yummy seasonal self-care practices, so light your favorite candle, pour a mug of your favorite tea, and come on back!

Mind Into Matter: The 411 on the RAS

Scientists now know that the brain receives 400 billion bits of information each second. To give you some idea of how much information that is, consider this: It would take nearly 600,000 average-size books just to print 400 billion zeros. Needless to say, that’s a heck of a lot of reality. So what do we do? We start screening. We start narrowing down. When all is said and done, we’re done to 2,000 measly bits of information. Go ahead and take a bow, because even that’s pretty impressive. We’re talking 2,000 bits of information each and every second. But here’s the problem. What we choose to take in is only one-half of one-millionth of a percent of what’s out there.”      – Pam Grout

The Recticular Activating System (RAS) is the part of the brain that filters out all the information that the brain receives in any given second and decides which of it gets through. It does this based on what it believes is relevant to us--in other words, the information that is in alignment with our priorities and expectations of the world. It’s the reason you can pick up on someone saying your name across a crowded room or find your lucky number anywhere you go. It looks for information that is in alignment with your beliefs and values; this includes what you believe to be true about yourself. Basically, your RAS is like a biased reporter who only looks for the evidence and proof that supports her version of the truth. She doesn’t even bother to interview the other witnesses or follow the other leads. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she doesn’t even begin to look for new stories. She just tells the same one over and over and over again.

This programming certainly makes our brain’s job easier, because it doesn’t have to process new information or change its belief systems and structures, but it doesn’t serve our spirit when those existing systems and structures aren’t clear reflections of who we truly are and what we are actually capable of.

Luckily for us, we have another source of (unlimited) information—our intuition—and this source can give us information that our brains and physical bodies can’t even perceive. We can “see” things that our eyes can’t see, “hear” things that our ears can’t hear, and even “feel” things that our skin can’t touch. Best of all, our intuition isn’t limited to our own self-limiting beliefs. It can see the bigger picture: not the brain’s one-sided “truths,” but the larger Truth.

So how do we get our brain and intuition working together in alignment? How do we get the RAS to serve our highest good? Think of it like Google. If you want to find the information that you’re looking for, you have to put in the right search terms. If you want to feel a certain way or have a certain experience of the world, you have to consciously plant that information into your brain so that the RAS can use it as a filter. You have to tell the brain that this new information or belief is important and relevant to you, and you have to consistently remind it of this fact.

This is where mantras can be powerful allies. By repeating a statement over and over in our mind, we give it significance and relevancy, which tells the RAS to start searching. Then, as we begin to look for (and focus on) evidence of this statement in our lives, it slowly becomes true for us, because our experiences and the feedback we receive from the world support this new belief and not our old version of reality.

For example, if you are struggling with your relationship with your body and constantly tell yourself that you are fat or ugly, you will look for proof of that belief in the outside world. You'll focus on the images of models in magazines and on billboards and compare yourself to those air-brushed images and often-starved bodies. Your eyes will zero in on any belly rolls or arm jiggles every time you pass by a mirror--instead of on your soulful eyes, your beautiful curves, your kickass outfit, and all of your other positive attributes--and then you'll beat yourself up and reinforce that negative mantra even more. You'll obsess about the calories in that salad you're eating, instead of the beautiful setting you're eating it in or the person sitting in front of you who is opening their heart to you in a conversation that you are only half-listening to. You'll read every book and try every beauty product or fitness fad that promises to "fix" you, instead of spending your time and money on the things that allow you to express your unique qualities and strengths and remind you that you are perfect, exactly as you are. (Trust me, all of this is said without any judgement, because I was guilty of this myself for a very long time.)

Now, let's say you begin to work with a mantra, like "I am healthy and strong" and change the filter through which you are experiencing your reality and your body.  Perhaps, instead of spending most of that 60 minute barre class comparing yourself to the skinny girl next to you, you'll focus on your own form and feel proud of how hard you're working and how much your body is able to do. With every rep and every class, you'll reaffirm to yourself that you ARE strong. And perhaps, when you pass by the mirror, instead of focusing on your arm jiggles, you'll zero in on your toned biceps (which are getting stronger every day) or on your glowing skin (thanks to all those fresh fruits and veggies) and reaffirm to yourself that you ARE healthy.

REPLACING MEAN THOUGHTS WITH MEANINGFUL MANTRAS

If you want to get clear on what sub-conscious beliefs are running the show and find an empowering mantra to work with instead, try this exercise: 

  1. Take out a piece of paper and make a list of all the things you believe to be true about yourself. Each statement should be on its own line and should begin with the words, "I am...." (Examples: I am fat. I am powerful. I am funny. I am brave. I am shy. I am kind. Etc.)
  2. Go back over your list, and read each of these statements out loud. Notice how each feels in your body as you read it. Do you feel a tightness in your chest? A sickness in your stomach? A sense of contraction or heaviness in any areas of your body? Or do you feel a sense of brightness and expansion as you read that statement? Do you feel your shoulders broaden, your posture straighten, your chest lift and your heart open? Whichever statements cause you to feel a constriction or contraction, underline those. Whichever statements cause you to feel an expansion or lightening in the body, put a star next to those.
  3. Now, go back over your list and read each of those statements out loud again. This time, notice how each feels in your heart. As you state each one, are there any specific emotions that arise? Do any evoke feelings of sadness or heaviness? Of anger or frustration? Of hopelessness or despair? If so, circle those. Also, notice which statements evoke feelings of joy, wonder, excitement, love or curiosity. Put a heart next to those.
  4. Those statements that you have circled and/or underlined are the false, limiting beliefs that need to be examined and adjusted. For each of these beliefs, see if you can recognize the opposing quality that wants to be nurtured in your Self instead and write out a mantra that affirms that quality. (Remember that you already have this quality within you; it just hasn't been recognized or integrated fully). For example, if your false belief is that you're "stupid," you could affirm your own wisdom with a mantra like, "I own and express my deep inner wisdom."
  5. Those statements that have hearts and stars next to them are the positive beliefs about yourself that need to be fed and reinforced on a regular basis. These are great statements to use as mantras on any occasion.

Find Wonder in the Full

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” For many of us, the holiday season has a heavy emphasis on the second half of that word: FULL. Packed schedules, crowded malls, crammed suitcases, and bellies stuffed with holiday treats. As we hustle and bustle our way through our lives, checking off our to-do list (and checking it twice), it’s easy to miss the WONDER. The simple joy and magic of our everyday moments and interactions. So I invite you, this holiday season, to slow down. To make time and space for your Self. To focus on being present instead of buying presents.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite ways to find wonder, peace, joy and calm amid all the jingle-jangle, but I quickly realized that it was just too much to cram in one post. So I decided to put together a comprehensive HOLIDAY THRIVE GUIDE. 

Each day, from December 18th to 24th, I’ll be posting a short video online, along with an article jam-packed with tips, tools and techniques to not just survive the various stresses of the holiday season, but thrive. Family gatherings, social events, busy airports, year-end deadlines, parking lot drama, healthy dining dilemmas…we’ll cover it all. And more. 

New Moon in Scorpio Healing Meditation

Tonight is the new moon in Scorpio, a sign which is ruled by Pluto (Greek god of the underworld) and is, therefore, associated with death, transformation and rebirth.The energy of this lunar cycle coincides perfectly with where we are in our solar cycle: smack dab in the middle of autumn, the season of shedding, of surrender, of stripping ourselves down to only that which is necessary and absolutely true for us. It is also a time for slowing down and turning inward, as we make our way into the darkness (and death) of winter. 

Scorpio is the sign of the scorpion, a creature that is known for acting on its instincts. There's an old fable about a scorpion asking a frog for a ride across the pond. At first, the frog refuses, afraid that the scorpion will sting him, but the scorpion insists that he won't. "If I sting you, we'll both drown," the scorpion argues. The frog sees the sense in this argument and agrees to ferry him across the pond. Halfway across, the scorpion does, indeed, sting him. The frog asks the scorpion why he would do such a thing, because now they are both going to die. The scorpion replies, "It's just my nature."

The new moon in Scorpio asks us to look at the parts of our own essential nature that scare us or make us uncomfortable--the parts that we've ignored or rejected or kept hidden away--because these hold the key to our transformation and our liberation. These hold the key to our power.

Below is a guided meditation to help you recognize, reclaim and reintegrate these parts of yourself. Find a quiet place to sit or lie down and begin by taking a few deep breaths, slowly turning your attention inward. Focus on each inhale and exhale, allowing the mind to follow the breath and not the thoughts that arise. Then, when you feel ready:

Imagine yourself standing on the bridge of nose. You hear a ding! and turn around to find an open set of elevator doors just between your eyebrows. You step inside this elevator and discover that there is only one button you can press. This bright green button is labeled HEART. You press it, and the elevator begins to descend downwards. Down...behind your nose. Down...behind your mouth. Down...through your throat. Down, down, down...until finally the elevator stops right in the center of your chest, at your heart chakra.

The doors ding open, and you step out into a vast desert. Soft white sand stretches out in every direction. A warm breeze blows. The sky is a rich midnight blue, and thousands of stars glow overhead, along with a beautiful silver crescent moon. It’s quiet, peaceful, STILL. There’s no one else around.

You walk forward, feeling the soft warm sand on the bottoms of your bare feet and between your toes. This sand is so soothing, so inviting, that you find a nice fluffy spot to lie down on. You allow your body to grow heavy as you sink and soften into the sand, letting yourself be fully held and supported by Mama Earth. With each breath, you feel your tension melt away and your body relax. Even your brain relaxes, like a fist unclenching itself in your mind, releasing all thought.

As you inhale, you breathe in the soothing silver light of the crescent moon above, feeling its healing energy in every cell of your being. And with each exhale, you soften a little more.

Now, imagine this silvery moonlight shining into your third eye. Feel the light of this new moon in Scorpio awakening your intuition and deepening your ability to hear its wisdom and trust its guidance.

As you lie here, soaking in the vastness of the night sky, you see a shooting star go by. Then another. Then another. You watch in awe as more and more stars streak across the sky, allowing any thoughts or worries in your mind to streak right on by as well.

And as you watch these shooting stars, you make a wish, from the deepest part of your heart. This is your greatest dream, your most sincere wish for yourself and your life. And as you release this wish out into the universe, you see it written in the stars above you. It might appear as a word, a phrase, an image – whatever it is, simply allow yourself to observe and receive it, without judgment. Maybe it’s just a feeling or a knowing.

With every breath, feel this wish growing stronger, getting brighter in the sky.

Suddenly, you hear movement and look down to see a scorpion emerging from the depths of the sand. For a moment, you feel fear, but then you realize that this scorpion is not going to harm you. This scorpion is an ally – a guide – and is here with a very important message for you.

This scorpion represents an aspect of yourself – a part of your essential nature that scares you. A part that has been ignored or forgotten or hidden. A part that holds the key to your personal power. Take a moment to ask this scorpion what it represents for you. What part of yourself is asking to be reclaimed and reintegrated?

What does this part of yourself want you to know?

What false fears and hidden beliefs are keeping this part of you buried deep down?

What actions can you take to free this part of yourself and allow it to express itself in the world?

How is this part of you essential to making your deepest dream, which you saw written in the stars, come true? How can it help you on your path?

You can ask this scorpion any other questions that you have for it and simply listen for its answers without forcing or judging. Again, these answers might appear as images, as a gentle voice in your mind, as a feeling or sensation in your body or as a sudden knowing. If an answer doesn't appear right away, trust that your question has been heard and that an answer will present itself in some other way in your life.

As you thank the scorpion for its wisdom, it stings you - not with poison but healing medicine. Golden light flows through your veins and you feel warmth spread through your body as the part of you that this scorpion represents is reawakened and reintegrated into your being...as you reclaim your own power and wholeness. Relax and allow this transformation to take place.

When this healing process feels complete, your whole body is filled with this glowing golden light, and you shine just as brightly as the moon and stars in the sky above you. As your light expands further and further beyond your body and out into the galaxy, you feel your connection to everything and everyone. You feel the entire Universe--every grain of sand and every twinkling star--alive inside of you. You remember your own vastness and infinite potential. You remember your own power and worth.

From this space, ask your heart what intention you want to set for this next lunar cycle. What new habits or actions do you want to cultivate for the next 30 days? What new way of living in your body or in the world will help support this newly reintegrated part of yourself?

You feel a sensation in your hand and bring your attention back to the desert, to your soft cushion of sand. You look down and notice a small seed in your palm. This is the seed of your intention. You plant this seed into the ground and allow it to be nourished by the moonlight and the bright golden light of your own being. You commit to honoring and practicing your intention each day, so that you can see it grow.

As you feel ready, slowly begin to bring your awareness back into your physical body. Deepen your inhales and exhales, wiggle your fingers and your toes, gently turn your head from side to side, and slowly begin to notice any sensations in the room: the sound of the air on your skin, the taste in your mouth, the sounds in the room. As you open your eyes and move back out into the world, try to maintain this feeling of relaxation and expansion. Keep your intention in your heart and in your daily actions, especially over the next couple of weeks. As the Scorpio new moon grows full, the energy of your intention will grow with it. 

Fuel Your Growth This Fall

Even though we have officially transitioned into Fall (which, as I mentioned in my last post, is Vata season), the blazing heat of summer is still burning off, and I don’t just mean temperature-wise. We can observe this process happening in nature: as the heat works its way up and out of the trees, the leaves change color, turning fiery shades of red, orange and gold before falling to the ground.

According to Ayurveda, summer is Pitta season, and Pitta corresponds to the element of fire. Pitta’s nature is intense. Just like fire, it burns hot, wild, and aggressive when not kept in check. It can cause complete destruction, but it can also serve as the catalyst for transformation and the fuel for new growth. For example, those dying leaves on the trees make way for new blossoms in the spring, and the ashy remains of a wildfire are what nourish the soil so that new plants and trees can grow.

Since we are a part of nature too and our outer world reflects our inner world, we are each undergoing a similar transition right now…which can be quite transformative if we let it. A good place to start is to ask yourself the following questions (I suggest free-writing the answers in your journal and just allowing the words to flow, without judging or censoring them):

  • What do I need to release and let go of in my life right now? What responsibilities, relationships, commitments and agreements are no longer serving me? Where do I feel like I’m wasting my time and energy?
  • What patterns, behaviors and self-limiting beliefs do I need to shed in order to live more in alignment with my highest truth and to be my most authentic Self?
  • What are my passions? What am I most excited and LIT UP about right now? How can I make those things more of a priority in my life and my schedule?
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When in balance, the inner qualities of Pitta can fuel us with a burning passion and drive, but in excess, they can lead to complete burnout. As the last heat of summer burns off in both our physical and subtle (mental, emotional and energetic) bodies, a lot of us are experiencing this burnout right now--this feeling of not just exhaustion but total depletion. Like we have nothing left to give. Like our well has run completely dry. Like we have been stripped bare.

Just like those shedding trees, we are being emptied out to make way for something new, so now is a good time to reflect on what you want to fill that space with. What do you want to create in your outer world? What do you want to feel in your inner world?

On a more physical level, I’m seeing a lot of clients and friends right now who are experiencing adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, low thyroid function, nervous system exhaustion, stress-related hormone imbalances and/or frequent colds & flu due to decreased immune function. If you have any of the above or are just feel burnt out in general, the first place to start is to get a lot of rest. And remember that rest isn’t the same as sleep; you may sleep 8-10 hours a night and still feel exhausted, so it’s important to find the practices and rituals that feel restorative to you—that replenish your spirits and energy levels. This may require a little experimentation. Some of my favorite practices are: taking a gentle yoga class, going for a walk in nature, soaking in an Epsom salt bath with some soothing essential oils added, getting a massage, and cozying up with a good book and a cup of herbal tea. 

One of my favorite teas for fall is Tulsi, otherwise known as Holy Basil. Tulsi is not only delicious but also very soothing, because it’s an adaptogen, a type of herb that balances the nervous system and helps the body adapt to stress. You can find the brand Organic India at nearly any grocery or health food store, and they have tons of different flavor options. I prefer straight up, plain Tulsi, but you can experiment for yourself. :)

On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’re not feeling burnt out; maybe you feel like you’re burning up or overheating in some area of your life or body. Maybe you’ve been experiencing intense amounts of anger (a very fiery emotion) that are coming out in uncontrolled bursts of rage and frustration at others, or maybe you’ve suppressed that anger so much that it’s become directed at yourself and you’ve been beating yourself up in new and exotic ways. In either case, that anger needs a healthy outlet, whether it’s journaling or taking a boxing class or screaming into a pillow or having an angry cry. You can also use cooling essential oils, like lavender, rose and peppermint, to relax the body, ease the mind and calm the nervous system.

If you’re experiencing physical symptoms of aggravated heat in the body, such as rashes, acne, hot flashes, ulcers, heartburn or hyperacidity, excess sweating or bad body odor, canker sores, bloodshot eyes, and inflammation, you can calm and balance this heat with more cooling foods and herbs, like apples, pears, zucchini, leafy green vegetables, mint and cilantro. My favorite cooling food is fennel, which has a lot of uses in the kitchen. You can juice the fennel stalks for a belly-soothing boost to any blend. You can slice the bulb and add it to soups, sautes or any other dish you can imagine (my favorite way to eat it is to roast it in the oven, along with other veggies like carrots, parsnips, beets and zucchini). You can cook with dried fennel seeds, eat a small handful of roasted fennel seeds after a meal to help your food settle (you often see this at Indian restaurants), or make a tea out of them by adding 1 teaspoon of the seeds to 1 cup of hot water (for a stonger tea, you can use up to 1 tablespoon per cup). This tea is particularly helpful for upset stomachs or smelly gas.

I’ve listed one of my favorite fennel-heavy recipes below. This soup is quick, easy to make and only requires a handful of ingredients. It has the warm, nourishing aspects that balance Vata (since fall is Vata season), along with the cooling qualities of fennel and dill, which balance any lingering Pitta. To make it an even more Vata-grounding and hearty meal, serve it with a side of brown rice or quinoa.

Fresh Fennel and Dill Soup

(From the Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook)

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 Fennel bulb

1 tsp olive or avocado oil

2 large Kale or Swiss Chard leaves

3 cups water

1 tsp salt

½ c cooked garbanzo or white beans

1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill (or 1 tsp dried dill)

Chop the fennel bulb into thin slices, as you would an onion. In a medium saucepan, saute the slices in oil for about 5 minutes. Cut the kale or chard leaves into thin strips and stir in. Add the water, salt and beans. If you are using dried dill, add it now. Simmer for 20 minutes covered. Remove from heat and stir in fresh dill.

Enjoy!

Feel Good This Fall

Happy September!!

I can’t tell you how happy I am that we’re right on the cusp of my favorite time of year: Fall! Even though we’re still in the middle of the high heat of summer, I’ve already started to feel the shift in my bones and have started to adjust my diet and self-care practices accordingly.

In Ayurveda, fall is Vata season. Vata corresponds to the elements of Air and Space, so think of it like the wind: its qualities are dry, rough, light, cold, and mobile. Vata comes from the Sanskrit word vaayu, which means “that which moves things.” Vata governs all movement in the mind and body and is, therefore, responsible for all our biological processes, like respiration, digestion, circulation, elimination, speech, physical activity and regulation of the nervous system.

As Vata increases, in both our outer and inner worlds, we may start to notice aggravated symptoms of dryness, roughness, lightness, coldness and agitation in the body, such as dry skin, constipation, gassiness or bloating, stiffness in the joints, insomnia, anxiety, and trouble concentrating.

We balance Vata with its opposing qualities. Here are some examples:

Warm – Eat more warm, cooked foods (as opposed to the raw salads, fruit and juices that the body thrives on in the heat of summer). Make sure you stay warm as it starts to get cold outside.

Oily – Add a heathy dose of high quality fats to your food, like nuts, seeds, avocado and healthy oils like olive or coconut – this is especially important with foods or dishes that are drier in nature (like grains). Massage sesame, almond or coconut oil onto the body (I like to do this about 10 minutes before I shower so that the oil has time to soak into the body before I rinse it off, but you can also do this before bed) to combat dry skin.

Regularity – Since Vata has such a mobile, irregular nature, it’s really important to balance Vata with the rhythm of routine. Try to wake up, go to bed, and eat your meals at the same time each day.

Grounding – Since Vata is light and mobile and can cause hyperactivity in the mind and overstimulation of the nerves, it’s really easy to feel spacey, distracted, anxious, scattered, stressed out or disconnected from our bodies. On a physical level, it’s helpful to eat heavier, more grounding foods, such as root vegetables, grains, meat (if you eat it) and nuts, and to participate in more gentle, soothing physical activity like yoga or walks in nature (these kinds of activities calm the nervous system, instead of aggravating it). On a mental/spiritual level, it’s important to make time to ground yourself through meditation, breathing exercises, creative expression or other self-care rituals (I love a good Epsom salt bath and a warm herbal latte in the evening).

Just this morning, as I was heading to the coffee shop to write this newsletter, I was reminded of the importance of grounding Vata. I was so busy thinking about all the things I had to do today as I got in my car that I accidentally slammed by head into the doorframe--hard enough to need stitches. If I had been more present and aware of my surroundings—or if I had paused before I left my house this morning to take a few deep breaths and focus my energy and intention for the day—I might have avoided this extra hassle. So learn from my mistake! It’s when we’re most distracted and ungrounded that little mishaps and accidents happen.

In Ayurveda, the transition into Fall is a really significant time—both physically and energetically—so it’s traditionally accompanied with a gentle cleanse, to reset the body, mind and spirit. As such, I will be leading a guided Ayurvedic cleanse, in conjunction with the Fall Equinox on September 22. The cleanse will last a week and will include a full diet and meal plan, a personalized yoga practice to aid in detoxification (and possibly a group class, depending on everyone’s availability), daily emails with activities, prompts and inspiration to aid in the mental/emotional aspect of the detox, and an end-of-cleanse celebration/workshop where I’ll go into further detail about how to survive—and THRIVE—this Vata season.

What: FEEL GOOD THIS FALL Cleanse

When: Sept 17th – Sept 24th

Cost: $50

*For more details or to RSVP, please email me.

Finally, in honor of Fall and Vata season (I am very Vata), I’ll be offering 25% off all Nutrition & Wellness Coaching services this month.

Vegetable Vitality Soup

Last week, I came down with the nasty strain of flu that is going around. It was a great opportunity for me to practice self-care, as well as experiment with some new recipes and homemade herbal remedies. So, today, I wanted to share a recipe for my new favorite healing soup, which I basically lived on while I was sick and which helped me kick the flu much more quickly than everyone around me. It has turmeric for its anti-inflammatory benefits; coconut oil, ginger, onion, oregano and lemon for their anti-bacterial qualities; miso for a healthy dose of probiotics to boost your digestive system (since good health starts in the gut); daikon radish, fresh parsley and fresh cilantro for their detoxifying properties; shiitake mushrooms and lots of fresh greens for their immune boosting benefits; and chickpeas for a boost of fiber, protein and iron. 

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ALICIA'S VEGETABLE VITALITY SOUP

Serves 1  (I prefer to make this fresh each time I eat it, but feel free to make larger batches at once so you can easily re-heat the leftovers)

INGREDIENTS:

1 t coconut oil

1/4 t ground turmeric

1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely diced (or 1/4 tsp dry)

1/4 t fresh oregano (optional, but it has great anti-bacterial properties)

1/4 white or yellow onion, chopped

1 1/2 c vegetable stock (store-bought or homemade)

1/2 c cooked chickpeas (rinsed and drained)

1 T sweet white miso (if you are sensitive to soy, substitute with chickpea miso)

 

I like the following vegetables best, but you can substitute the following with any veggies that you like:

1/4 c daikon radish, peeled and sliced into half-moons

1/4 c carrot, sliced

1/4 c shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/4 c zucchini, sliced into half-moons 

1/2 c kale, chard, bok choy, or collard greens (or a combination), chopped into bite-size pieces

 

To garnish:

1 green onion, thinly sliced

1 T fresh cilantro, chopped

1 T fresh parsley, chopped

Fresh lemon

Salt and pepper

 

DIRECTIONS:

In a pot or sauce pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add in the turmeric, ginger, oregano (if using) and onion, and saute until the onion is soft. Next, add in the daikon, carrot, shiitake mushrooms and 1 Tablespoon vegetable stock, and saute until vegetables are soft. You can keep adding vegetable stock as needed. 

Add in the chickpeas, kale and remaining vegetable stock, and simmer over medium-high heat until the broth is hot and the kale is cooked (about 5 minutes). Remove the soup from the heat and turn off the burner. 

Strain (or spoon) a little bit of the hot vegetable broth into a bowl and add in the miso. Stir until the miso is fully dissolved in the water, then add the mixture back into the pan and stir to combine. DO NOT HEAT OR BOIL the soup once the miso has been added or you will kill off the beneficial probiotics in the miso. 

Pour desired amount of soup into a bowl (you can re-use the bowl you mixed the miso in), and garnish with scallion, parsley and cilantro. Add a fresh squeeze of lemon on top. Season to taste with salt and pepper...and a sprinkling of gratitude for the health and vitality that this food will bring to your body.

**When I'm sick, I prefer to stick with very light soups, but if you're really hungry or want a heartier meal, you can also stir in some cooked rice or quinoa, or double up on the chickpeas. If you're on a paleo diet or are sensitive to grains or legumes, throw in some cooked chicken instead.

If you're on a budget or don't have all of these ingredients on hand, simply saute up whatever vegetables you do have (or thaw some frozen veggies) and add in some veggie broth and a protein of your choice (beans or chicken). Garnish with at least one fresh (or dried) herb if possible.

 

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Setting Goals From Your Soul

Feeling overwhelmed by the massive mountain of changes you want to make in your life and in the world? The quickest (and calmest) way to the top is one step at a time. Discover how to make the best use of your time and talents through the process of Vinyasa Krama in my first article as a contributing author for Sirens & Scoundrels online magazine: Setting Goals From Your Soul.

Your Inaugural Moment

Like many of you, I watched the inauguration this morning with one ear tuned to the television, where our new President was giving his speech, and one ear tuned to the torrent of rain outside my window that was slowly turning my backyard into a lake. While everyone has a different interpretation of what was said and done and meant during the ceremony, I can’t stop thinking about the word “inauguration” itself. According to Merrium Webster, the definition of the word inaugurate is “to bring about the beginning of.” To begin, to commence, to start, to initiate.

Right now, we’re at the start of a new Presidential term and the beginning of a brand new year, both of which have been the topics of much speculation. Yet, at this exact moment in time, you are also reading a new sentence, thinking a new thought, taking a new breath, and enjoying a new moment composed of an entirely new combination of sights, sounds and circumstances.

This reminds me that, in life, whether we’re a Commander-In-Chief or a concerned citizen, we are constantly asked to begin again. And again. And again.

Every time we fall down, we must summon our strength and rise back up. Every time we have our hearts broken, we must mend ourselves and love again. Every time we have a failure or a disappointment or a setback, we must dust off our pride and keep moving in the direction of our dreams.

Each new dawn, each new breath, each new moment is an inauguration, a beginning. And, just like our President, this inauguration requires an oath; it asks us to make a solemn promise—to ourselves--as to how we’re going to live our lives, where we’re going to pledge our allegiance, our service, our love. Where we’re going to invest our time, our energy, our own humanity.

The word inaugurate comes from the Latin word “augur,” which means two things:

1. “To give promise of.” 
Trump stood up in front of the world this morning and made this promise: “I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down.”

And as we wait to see how he will interpret and enact that promise, the real question is: what do we want to fight for? What do we want to lend our voice, our breath, our very being, to? What promise are we fulfilling, both for ourselves and for the world, in every moment, with every action that we take?

2. “To predict the future.” 
While we certainly cannot predict the exact effect that our choices will have, one thing that we know for certain is that the actions that we take today will, in fact, shape our tomorrow. They will add up to the future—and the world—that we create for ourselves. So it’s imperative that we put our time and energy into actions and causes that matter to us and that create more of what we want to see in the world: kindness, fairness, love, hope, truth, equality, compassion, justice, peace.

I urge you to make this Inauguration Day, this Inaugural moment, your own.