My Journey to Enlightenment

That’s pretty much all there is to enlightenment. No need to search any further.

Now on to the topic I really mean to be blogging about: meditation.

For the past year, the analogy has gone like this: Meditation is to me as Exercise is to most Americans.  I was the meditation couch potato eating a big bowl of potato chips thinking about how great it would be if I got up and went on a mediation. I kept creating this awesome plan where I was going to get really meditated and start meditating everyday and be awesome.

Trouble was, I just didn’t start. I did a guided meditation here, a few breathing exercises there, but I just reverted back to my non-meditating-proverbial-potato-eating-couch-sitting-tv-watching counterpart.

Until my good friend Ashley:

Ashley

Ashley

introduced me to a meditation community.

The practice is called Sahaj Marg. It sets out a meditation regimen to follow on your own (hour long morning meditation, 20 minute afternoon cleaning, and 10 minute night time prayer – which I don’t do) and then there are 3 hour long group meditations a week and a one-on-one session every other week. If it sounds like a lot, it is, but not as much as it sounds.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Morning meditation – 20-30 minutes where I focus on my heart center, or the “divine light” in my heart and try to let go of other thoughts

Afternoon cleaning – 15-20 minutes where I let the ‘impressions’ of the day melt away and leave my body through my back while a feeling of peace or the “divine light” enters my body through the front

Prayer – Nope. It’s too weird.

Group meditation – I’m trying to go once a week. I missed this week.

Sittings – So far I’ve done one and I’ll likely continue when they’re offered.

What I like:

Meditation is very relaxing and it has lots of benefits. The community is very welcoming, they make delicious food (Indian food), and it feels nice to be there. There’s something to be said for the formality of it all- it really has gotten me to stick to a practice. I feel like the community members really care about how I’m progressing with meditation.

What I shove-to-the-corner-of-my-plate-and-pretend-it-doesn’t-exist:

There’s  an interesting bit about a “master” in India (that everyone apparently loves) and this prayer that you say and the whole “spirituality” inner-devineness that just doesn’t quite click with me. So at this point I’m able to just sort of turn a blind eye and keep it moving. Hopefully it will stay that way.

All in all, this has been my personal trainer of sorts to kick my butt into meditation. And it’s probably the most different thing that I’ve done as of late. So life is good. (And peaceful)

What’s your experience with mediation?

Tried anything new lately?

 

Change

Isn’t it funny how sometimes change can just sneaks up on you?

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Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times when one follows all the steps, making a clear, conscience decision to make a change: (1) This is the change I want in myself (2) This is what I have to do (3) This is what I’m doing.

But most of the time it’s more sneaky. Like you’re going about your life thinking you’re doing everything the same and then you look back and think: “Man, how often did I used to eat out?” or “What did I used to have against smoothies?” or “Wow, I really used to be a to-the-T calorie-counter” or “How could there have possible been a time when I was worried about eating too many nuts/too much nut butter?” (HA!)

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I think the brain has some sort of bias for the belief that we are always the same. Though this makes sense because how else would we integrate everything? ANYWAYS! enough with the philosophical introspective stuff. Basically I just want to talk about what has changed in my life since I fell off the face of the Earth  started interning.

Basically, I’ve aged 10 years.

Ok, maybe I haven’t aged 10 years, but I seriously am so much more buckled down. I have a system for living. This includes a formula for meal planning, food preparation, exercise, free time activities, and clothing selection during the work week. It takes many day-to-day choices out of life, which in my book is MARVELOUS.

Take away tips:

1. Take 15 minutes on Sunday and pick your outfits for the week. Seriously. Especially if you’re like me and pack your outfit with you to the gym in the morning so that you can get ready there before heading to work. Those 15 minutes will unload 15 pounds from your shoulders in accumulated stress throughout the work week.

2. Take the guesswork out of meal planning – create your own formula for the week in meals. Mine looks like this:

Thursday/Friday: Meal planning online whilst at work (it’s OK to multitask, right?)

Friday/Saturday: Grocery shopping/farmers’ marketing (always 2 fruits x7 servings for the week, yogurt, and what I need for snacks and the meals planned)

Saturday/Sunday food prep: 3 voluminous-oatmeals-in-a-jar, 1 Salad Conglomerate (serves 5 lunches for the week), 1 Other food creation (Mexican Spaghetti Squash Casserole, Veggie Chili, Curry-roasted veggies + tofu, etc.) that serves 4-6 dinners

Wednesday: 2 voluminous-oatmeals-in-a-jar

Optional: 1 more meals Wednesday/Thursday

3. If it’s vegan you can probably eat something past the “4 day fridge life expectancy”

Hence why I’ve been making two meals that last all week for the past month or so. I’ve pretty much switched to vegan for the majority of my home meal preparation. Soy milk in my oatmeal and delicious replacements for cheese – Nacho cheeze sauce makes an excellent topping for enchilada casserole by-the-by. Actually, the only animal products I buy (at the moment) are yogurt and the honey that’s laced into my Kashi Go Lean cereal.

4. Create a workout routine that’s a no brainer.

For me that means take exercise classes every weekday and leave the “What workout should I do today?” for the weekend. I’m fortunate enough to be able to create a well-balanced, continuously challenging workout from the classes offered at my gym

(My Plan: M- Cycle, Tu- Cardio Strength, W- Cycle, Th- Yoga, Fr- Boot Camp, Sa/Su- mix strength & cardio or rest)

5. Strive to only spend time on the things you want to be doing.

That means planning fun activities for the weekend ahead of time, making plans to see your good friends, and deciding what you want to use your free time to do during the week.

6. But at the same time try not to worry so much if things aren’t exactly how you want them to be. 

I would be a dirty liar if I said that I’ve mastered this. Sometimes it’s easy to let myself get bogged down with feeling like I wish things were different than they are right now- especially when I was interning and had no time. But in the end, it just makes things worse to dwell on it, so I continuously strive to try not to focus on what how I wish things would be unless I have the capability of making them that way right now.

Well…

That pretty much sums up my changes and learnings.

How have you changed lately?

What have you learned?

Things to look forward to on eatmybeets:
– Hot sauce creation “sriracha”-style
– Sprouts!
– Fermentation? <–that’s a maybe

My goal in life

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Here it is. Pretty simple: to get to be an old, healthy, happy woman.

Here’s a little something-something that I got from a mailing list I’m on featuring…

 7 Ways to Become Healthier Today

By Valerie Frankel, Health.com

Health.com

Easy lifestyle alterations

Think it’s time to make some healthy lifestyle adjustments? Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, is right behind you. Buettner is crossing Iowa in a bus, attempting to change American towns into healthier places. “More than 40% of Americans smoked in the ’60s, and only 20% do now,” he points out. “We can turn around our diet and lifestyle, too.”   

One thing we Americans have going for us:  We are always up for a challenge. So try these healthful ideas inspired by healthy women around the world. 

Take 20% Off

Blue zones—like areas in Italy, Japan, Greece, California, and Costa Rica where the people have traditionally stayed active to age 100 or older—are some of the healthiest in the world. “In every Blue Zone, they eat less than we do, by at least 20%,” Buettner says.   

One trick for slashing portions: “Instead of putting big platters of food at the center of the table, fill each plate at the counter,” Buettner says.   

Pile on the plants

Not only are plant-based diets rich in antioxidants and other good-for-you nutrients, they’re also better for your waistline. “A plate of food in Okinawa has one-fifth the calorie density of a typical American meal,” Buettner says. “You can chow down for a fraction of the calories.”  

Buettner suggests thinking of meat as a condiment rather than the main event, and subbing in more beans, legumes, and nuts.  

Love the foods that love you back

A diet of berries and elk or tofu and sea vegetables might seem utterly foreign—but taste buds can be retrained. “Americans love fat, salt, and sugar because that’s what we’re used to,” says David L. Katz, MD, founding director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. “But studies show that if you eat more wholesome foods, you can learn to prefer them.” 

An easy way to start:  Search for stealth sugar, which Dr. Katz says is found in many packaged foods. “Once you get rid of that hidden sugar, you’ll start to prefer less-sweet foods,” he notes.  

Sit down—and slow down

It might be too much to cook every meal. But we can sit at a table to eat our takeout instead of scarfing it down in the car. Savor each bite as the French do; stretch your meals out for 20 whole minutes. You’ll end up eating less and enjoying more.  

“The longest-living people don’t think of exercise as a chore,” Buettner says. Instead, little bits of movement are a constant part of their everyday lives. Make like a French woman and take a short walk after dinner.  

Shovel your own snow instead of paying the kid next door; make extra trips carrying laundry up and down the stairs.   

Get out

Every Blue Zone is known for its strong social and family bonds. Besides spending quality time at home with family, surround yourself with healthy-living friends—good health habits are contagious, research shows.  

Be sure to get involved in your community, too, whether it’s at church, a gardening group, or a volunteer organization. These connections can add years to your life, Buettner says.  

Take it easy

Even the world’s healthiest people get stressed out sometimes. What they all have, Buettner says, are daily strategies to shed stress. Meditate, go for a run, make a dinner date with your best friend—and don’t worry about your inability to be a French woman or a Greek farmer. 

It’s OK to enjoy the occasional cheeseburger. What matters is a cumulative lifestyle pattern of enjoying healthful food, staying connected to others, and keeping yourself moving.]

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What I’m working on:

1. Slow down. Sometimes I really scarf down my food. I’m going to make a concerted effort to really enjoy my food.

2. Get out – OK, so I already do this. But I definitely want to continue it- I know that spending quality time with friends and family makes my life happier.

3. Take it easy – Definitely trying to ease up on stress and live in such a way as to build in relaxation time. (i.e., going home for lunch, reading before bed)

What are you working on to make your life happier and healthier?

Just Do It

So guys, I’ve made a decision: from this day forward my new slogan in life will be….you guessed it, “Just Do It.” (OK, so I decided this a while ago but what is time, really, in the grand scheme of the universe?) The more that I think about the infamous Nike slogan, the more that I really identify with what it’s saying. It’s quite applicable to activities of daily life; for instance….

Scenario #1: (We’ll start with an easy one first) Let’s say you’re sitting at home, in your running gear, with a tense right back/shoulder area, thinking, “Hmm, should I go on a run today? I mean, of course I want to go, right, but this shoulder thing, I mean, it hurts and is bothering me, and I don’t want it to bother  me on my run and I worked out yesterday, and if I wanted I could work out later and..” STOP!

JUST DO IT!

Scenario #2: You’re sitting at home “trying” to motivate yourself to write that paper or study for that test. All of a sudden, you become very interested in de-cluttering your desk, cleaning your room, organizing your sock drawer, determining whether or not its time for a snack, walking back and forth to the fridge, writing a blog entry…. STOP!

JUST DO IT!

Scenario #3: You’ve done your laundry but now it’s sitting piled-high in your basket, untouched for days because, well you’ve got schoolwork to do, you work full time, you need to cook dinner, you have to catch up with your long-lost-friend, you’re just too tired from your busy schedule, you have to run out the door, you have to go to bed soon…. STOP!

JUST DO IT!

Scenario #4: You’ve been falling behind on your blog entries. You know that you enjoy it and it’s fun but there’s just so many other things to do: grocery shopping, cooking, working, school work, friends, boyfriend, exercising, vegging on the couch. There’s so many things to do, why not just let it fall to the wayside… STOP!

JUST DO IT!

The moral of the story (blog entry): Nothing’s as bad as your putting-it-off-self makes it out to be. As Tina would say: you never regret a workout. Likewise, you’ll (read: I’ll) feel so much better once that paper’s finished, that laundry’s put away, and that blog is de-neglected.

cue Inspirational Video:

What have you been putting off? 

What inspires you?

Frown Fixing 101

You ever have one of those days?

You know, one of those days when you feel…

Me too. It usually happens when I have a lot of alone time with minimal social interaction. (I am probably your textbook extrovert)

And then, when I feel this way, I start to think… “Man, I need a change of pace.” Food is less exciting (yet somehow more inviting). My home starts to repulse me. I start to actually  be bothered by the enormous clutter that I’ve collected in my room since I moved in this past week. And then I’m stumped for what to do.

So I decided to make up a little list. I searched high and low (via Google) and came up with my own mixed-tape, if you will, of the best Frown-Fixing-Blue-Banishing-Mood-Lifting advice. We’ll call it the Great Frown Fixing List.

The Great Frown Fixing List

 Frown Fixer #1: Move Your Body

Alright, so if Beyonce doesn’t happen to show up in your workplace/home/cafeteria there are other alternatives. I like a quick walk outside- it seriously turns my day around. Several studies show that exercising outdoors improves mental well-being. And a brisk, 15-minute walk “can improve your mood and increase your energy for up to two hours,” (Thayer, R.- a psychologist as quoted here)

Frown Fixer #2: Listen to the Music

The same R. Thayer (psychologist Robert Thayer of California State University) found that after exercise, music is the second-most effective way to turn around a mood.

I, personally, use this method when I’m working on something that’s really stressing me out (i.e., a paper for school, notes for work). Basically, when I’m stuck inside doing what I’m doing and the chain-chewing-gum-monster in me is rearing its ugly head, music is super-effective in improving my mood.

Frown Fixer #3: Coffee

OK, OK, so I didn’t find this on any one of my “mood booster” google searches. But coffee is for-real an awesome mood booster! (for me) I’m a regular coffee drinker, so it’s part of my daily routine at this point, but I have a particularly vivid memory from several years ago of coffee’s blue-banishing powers:

For reasons that I will not go into, I was feeling really sad one day and spending time with one of my good friends/roommate-at-the-time and we decided to get some coffee before walking over to “The Lawn” at UVA where tons of little kids were trick-or-treating in their Halloween costumes (because it was Halloween weekend). Well, once the powerful-elixir started to kick in, all of a sudden I was optimistic and hopeful about life! And that + lots-of-cute-little-children made my day.

Frown Fixer #4: Laughter

So, obviously it’s fun to laugh. And studies show that laughter not only makes you feel good emotionally but also, “after you laugh, you go into a relaxed state,” (John Morreal, here) Your heart rate/blood pressure lowers and you release endorphins. For quick laughs, The Onion is a great spot:  Tom Brady Questionable For Sunday’s Game After Waking Up Ugly
Or maybe SNL’s Digital Shorts are more up your alley.

Frown Fixer #5: Phone a Friend

Or visit a friend or make plans for a later date with a friend or whatever friend-related thing you can do. For me, this is an instant mood lifter. (Like we addressed earlier, I’m your textbook extrovert) And social support can even help you live longer.

Frown Fixer #6: Think quick!

This one’s pretty neat. Next time you’re feeling down (or need a break from school/work), do a rapid thinking exercise. This site uses these examples: quickly list all kinds of uses for a paperclip, solve a sudoku puzzle as quickly as possible. I used to take breaks from my schoolwork by playing Text Twist.

So now that you’ve boosted your mood, go and be merry! Or check out…

This Week in Workouts
Su – rest
M – Circuit Strength Training
Tu – 4.26 mile run at a 9:40 pace
W – Circuit Strength Training
Th – rest
F – Circuit Strength Training
Sa – Boot Camp

Coming up for air.

Do you ever feel like you’re so busy with work or school that when you’re able to actually enjoy the company of friends or sit and write a blog post, you feel like you’re coming up for air? Like when you were a kid and your swim coach told you to try coming up for air less often so that you could swim faster and you struggled and waited in anticipation until you reached the desired amount of strokes to take a breath? That’s how life is feeling right now. But oddly, I think I’m handling it alright. In the process of adjusting. Not terribly stressed, just feeling like I don’t have a lot of free time.

OK, enough blahness-talking. Let’s get into the cool things that happened this weekend:

I went to the farmers’ market!

My beans came with a “receipt” from the owner of the stand’s daughter.

This, my friends, is Lemon Basil. I never knew that it was a thing until I found it at the market! Apparently it keeps best if you cut off the ends, and stick it in water to keep it fresher. Who knew?

FOOTBALL season is here!

Today commenced the start of an exciting season (in my opinion). I went over to a friend’s for a game and gloated over my Eagles’ victory earlier in the day. I love football season for the social gatherings – nothing brings people together quite like football.

And now since bed time is quickly approaching, I will just leave you with…

This Week In Workouts (TWIW) 9.4.11-9.10.11
Su – Circuit Strength Training
M – 20 minute HIIT on step mill
Tu – Circuit Strength Training
W – 20 minute HIIT on step mill
Th – Circuit Strength Training
F – 45 minute Cycle
Sa – 45 minute Boot Camp

I missed my yoga workout this week :-( I’ll just have to make extra-special-sure that I don’t miss it this week. And once again, have no fear, this week was sandwiched by rest days.

One of those weeks.

You ever have one of those weeks where you feel like you can’t-quite-get-a-hold-on-what-you-have-to-do / what’s-going-on and then all-of-a-sudden-it’s-the-weekend? That’s where I am this week. Switching to a job where I create my own hours is a big transition for me, but on top of that, there was a holiday at the beginning of the week and I had about half the caseload- so it left me a bit unsure of how my week should really be looking. I’m still unsure, but I’m just going to roll with it for the rest of the week and then hopefully be able to start fresh on Monday.

At this point you may be thinking: “what the heck is Megan talking about?” or “nice over-share, Megan.” But here’s a purple-green bell pepper:

crazy, right?

And here’s an old picture of an almost-empty peanut butter jar, perfect for OIAJ (oats-in-a-jar):

my motivation for eating more peanut butter.

And here’s me introducing the deliciousness that is Sunflower Seed Butter on Flourless Wheatberry Bread to my good (German) friend Xaver:

He loved it.

Alright, that’s it for now. No time to do my 5 Things Thur…Friday yet. But stay tuned, as I am planning on completing it once I complete my jobly duties.

 

FOCUS!

^^This is what I need to do. Clearly I’ve been busy since I haven’t posted since last Friday. But I’ve been thinking of posting. It’s been itching my brain. Popping up to remind me that another day has passed and I still haven’t gotten around to it. I think that my problem is that I need more order and (going back to the title) focus in my life. For instance, right now I have 6 tabs open on this window, 2 tabs open in another window, and 2 tabs open in a third (collapsed) window. I have 10 things that I want to get done in my limited free time and just can’t seem to focus on one long enough to finish it before jumping to the next.

If you recall I’ve been trying to work on meditation lately… actually I don’t know if I ever posted about it. Well, either way, I’ve drifted away from it again. (yes, in the week and a half that I’ve started again, I’ve managed to drift) I found myself falling asleep the past couple of times that I did it so it was probably no use to me anyways haha.

But I’m determined to try and get in the routine of doing it after work every day to bring the focus back into my life. Cool article on benefits of meditation for stress here. The brief article also includes a link to learn more about the practice.
This morning I finally got back to yoga. I didn’t go last week and I can really tell I was missing it. Speaking of workouts…
This Week in Workouts:
Sa – 40 minute Circuit Strength Training
Su – Off
M – 45 minute elliptical (alt. forwards/backwards every 5 min)
T – 40 minute Circuit Strength Training
W – 45 minutes cycle class
TR – 60 minute yoga
F – planning on 40 minute Circuit Strength Training
NOW to the FUN STUFF!!!
THIS WEEKEND WAS MY BIRTHDAY! :-D

Well, actually, my birthday was May 2nd. But I celebrated all weekend. Saturday I had dinner with my parents and a couple friends and later had an awesome cocktail party with friends at my apartment.
Me at my apartment (in a newly purchased dress from Target)
Dancing ensued.
And distracting kisses-while-late-night-pizza-ordering
Monday (my actual birthday) was celebrated with friends, beer, and $2 burgers (black bean for me) at Capital Ale House, a local restaurant in Richmond.
Bed time now. But here’s a hint for something exciting that I’m going to post about soon: it was a gift, it’s black, it’s rectangular. Guess away!
And tell me, what do you do to enjoy your birthday?

>Paper-writing-induced-hermithood

>Busy busy busy week. My week consisted of work, school, and this:

(writing a paper)
Last week I was pretty stressed out (and too busy to post! gasp). I had to turn in a paper for one of my classed two days late because of other work/class time-eating conflicts. I felt like I was going to lose my mind at times. I don’t know that I’m very skilled at managing stress very well. I usually go to the gym (like I always do), which helps, but inevitably I’ll end up doing some stress eating. Not that I’ve gained weight or anything, but I’m trying to remove emotions from eating. (unless you consider pleasure an emotion, in which case I’m trying to remove certain emotions from my eating habits) So, my question to you is: How do you manage your stressful weeks? Do you find yourself picking up any bad habits to deal with your stress? Do you have any useful strategies for coping/feeling less stressed?

 Anyways, one I finished my paper (at midnight on Friday), the weekend was wonderful and fun/relaxing. I got to spend lots of time with friends, which was long overdue!
Upon opening my fridge this past week, I was faced with this:
Lots of spinach about to go bad! And I thought Oh no! I can’t let this spinach go bad!!! So I decided to throw together Palak Daal – An indian-spiced spinach/lentil stew. I used this recipe as my base but changed a couple things and added some onion and garlic. 
Palak Daal serves 5
Ingredients
- 1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 pound baby spinach (estimated– used the above picture amount)
- 1 tbsp ginger 
- 1 tsp turmeric
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- 1 can diced no salt-tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp red chile powder
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Directions
Combine lentils and water in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and stir in the spinach, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and tomatoes. Reduce heat, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until lentils are extremely soft. After an hour and a half, stir in the salt.
When the lentils are almost done, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the cumin and red chile powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened. 
Add the onion mixture to the lentils and cook for 5 more minutes. 
Squeeze 1/2 lemon into the stew and mix in the cilantro. 
Serve it up! 
While I was eating it, I was overtaken with the strong desire to add a tablespoon of peanut flour to my bowl. What a good move! It was delicious. The flour thickened it up some and added a nutty flavor. 
I served this meal alongside some roasted green beans:
Roasted in oven w/olive oil, salt & pepper at 400˚F for 20 minutes
The next evening, I enjoyed the meal again, but I first reheated it on the stove and added 1/4 cup peanut flour to the whole batch and served it overtop of barley.
With some roasted vegetables:
This meal packed great in my lunches! It was perfectly find served cold. (Though I eat most of my leftovers that way, so maybe I’m biased/trained)
I seem to be in a crazy curry phase because I’m making another curried dish tonight! 
Today’s Workout: Circuit Strength Training
I’m happy to report that I’ve upped all of my weights! (except for chest and back, which I had already upped recently) A special thanks goes out to Annie for motivating me to up my bicep, triceps, and shoulder weights. 
Circuit 1: 3 sets 10 reps w/ 2-17.5lb dumbbells–> squats, chest flys, reverse flys
Circuit 2: 3 sets –> 10 plie squats w/50lb dumbbell, 7 arnold shoulder presses w/2-17.5lb dumbbells
Circuit 3: 3 sets –> 10 Triceps kickbacks w/17.5lbs, 10 straight-leg dead lifts w/2-25lb dumbbells, 8 Bicep curls, hammer curls, & concentration curls w/2-17.5lb dumbbells
Core: 40 sit-ups on the ball, 20 jackknives on the ball, 15 russian twists w/15lb dumbbell, 15 reverse curls w/leg lift, 30 butterfly crunches, 20 side plank raises, 45 seconds alternating arm/leg kneeling superman w/supporting foot lifted, 60 seconds plank hold w/knee taps

I’m looking forward to a much less stressful week.