Monday, November 29, 2010

Give a little love

On November 19th I attended a Dharma and Meditation workshop hosted by Wade Gotwals at Nature Yoga Sanctuary.  The evening was led by Buddhist monk Kelsang Dorje. "His humorous approach to challenging life subjects will truly give you the tools to change your perception and change your life".

The evening started with some light pranayama (breathing) and yoga to prepare our bodies to sit, led by Wade and then Kelsang Dorje spoke on life. Our life is based on our perceptions, we all are intertwined, and how to live in love. Our worlds are based on our own experiences and perceptions. If you see the world through rose colored glasses it will be a rose colored world. Knowing this it is easy to change the way you choose to see and experience the world. Kelsang Dorje compares it to a hot coal. If someone were to throw a hot coal to you and you catch it, you would choose to drop it immediately because it burns. And the next time someone threw a hot coal at you, you wouldn't even reach to grab it. However, so many times in life we choose to carry or hold onto this hot coal as we move through life. He relates this to carrying negative thoughts, images, experience and perceptions. We need to learn the lesson and make the choice to drop the coal and not pick it up again.

He spoke on "love". That to love someone basically means to wish them happiness and an end to suffering. That there is no limit to the amount of love we have to give or receive. Therefore why not give love to everyone. Wouldn't the world be a much nicer place to move about if while passing people in the world they were sending love to you and you to them. Yes, there are different types of love and different karmic connections which allow us to relate deeper to one another but the basic feeling of love is the same. When you look at it from this point to love someone doesn't mean you have to agree with them, approve of their actions, or want them to become your best friend or lover. It just means that you wish them happiness. Seems easy enough, right? Easy to do when you are in the community that is supporting that common good, much harder to do in the busy city when someone has just cut you off. There is the challenge. When that person cuts you off, can you take a deep breath and wish them happiness and an end to their suffering. Choosing to see that maybe they really do need to get somewhere before you. Or at least not let it be the hot coal that you carry around for the rest of your day passing along to others. Instead of tossing or carrying the coal, the challenge is to carry or pass the love.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Kelsang Dorje and hearing his teachings. I am trying to meditate more throughout my week and move through the world with love in my heart. 

If you would like to experience Kelsang Dorje and his teachings. Here are a few of his upcoming workshops and website. For more info and upcoming events visit

Believing Karma: The Power to Change our life
Oak Park
Vajrayana Kadampa Buddhist Center
13 Harison St, Oak Park 60304
Mondays, 7-8:30pm
November 1 - December 13

Center on Halsted
3656 N. Halsted St Room #202
Chicago, IL 60313
Tuesdays, 7-8:30pm
November 2 - December 14

Feel free to drop into any class. Everyone is welcome. $10/class

The Blessing Empowerment of Enlightened Mother Arya Tara
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Cost: $65 (includes light vegetarian lunch)
Vajrayana Kadampa Buddhist Center
13 Harrision Street
Oak Park, IL 60304
To register for this special event email or call 708.763.0132

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving and all the holidays can be challenging for a Vegetarian. I thought I would take the opportunity to share some great recipes that I have found and am planning to use this Thanksgiving.

Vegan Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip
This is one of my favorite appetizer recipes. I translated the original recipe to Vegan last year and couldn't even taste the difference. Have had lots of compliments on this at parties by both Vegan, Vegetarian, and meat eating friends and family.

  • 16oz canned Artichoke hearts in water, drained
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 cup Vegenaise
  • 1/2 cup grated soy Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup of Tofutti "Better than sour cream"
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 8oz Tofutti "better than cream cheese", softened
  • paprika

  • Preheat Oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor until well mixed.
  • Pour into larger baking/casserole dish. 
  • Bake until heated through. About 30-60 mins depending on oven and depth of casserole dish.
  • Serve with pita chips, crackers, baguette slices, or vegetables.



Thanksgiving Seasonal Salad
A fresh, crisp and tangy salad. The combo of dried cranberries,goat cheese, and nuts is decadent tasting. It encompasses all the tastes of the holiday season.

  • Fresh Baby Spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup of dried Cranberries
  • 1 pear julienned with skin
  • 4oz goat cheese
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette of choice
  • 1/2 cup candied or plain pecans or walnut diced
  • Toss clean spinach in bowl with desired amount of balsamic dressing (*Can skip this step and leave dressing on the side if you prefer)
  • Layer the rest of ingredients into bowl and toss until mixed well.
  • Serve cold.


Gardein Pot Pie
Ellen's chef Roberto Martin's Vegan Pot Pie looks absolutely fabulous. This is what I am bringing as my main course this year.

  • Gardein Scallopini cut into 1/4inch pieces
  • 6 cups vegan chicken stock
  • 1 cup yellow onion diced
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3/4tsp Thyme, minced
  • 3/4tsp Sage, minced
  • 3/4tsp Sea Salt
  • 3/4tsp Fresh ground pepper
  • 1tblsp Nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1tblsp Tamari Soy sauce
  • 3-4tblsp Scanola oil
  • Puff Pastry sheet rolled out to 12x10
Roux Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup Earth balance butter

  • Pre-heat oven to 375°
  • Brown Gardein Scallopini in a sauté pan with 1tblsp scanola oil. Season with salt and pepper, remove from pan and set aside.
  • In separate pan melt Earth balance. Add flour and whisk constantly until light brown color. Cool and set aside.
  • In 5.5 qt Stock pot cook onions in scanola oil for 3 mins. Add carrots, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Continue to cook for 5 mins. Add already boiling stock and simmer for 5 mins. Whisk in yeast flakes.
  • Add the roux mixture a bit at a time and continue to cook as sauce begins to thicken. Stir in Gardein Scallopini, tamari and peas. Pour mixture into a large shallow pan to cool.
  • Once mixture is cool, pour into individual ramekins, glass pie pan, or small casserole dish. Cover mixture with puff pastry and seal edges. Cut small slits. Bake for 35 mins or until internal temperature reaches 165°
Makes 6 servings. 15 mins of prep time and 50 mins of cook time.

Hope your friends and family enjoy these recipes. A happy, healthy and environmentally friendly Thanksgiving to you and yours. BTW no animals were harmed in the making of these products. ☺

If you have a great Vegan or Vegetarian recipe for the holidays, please share it in the comment section below. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I got a new attitude

Attitude (noun): manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to person or thing; tendency or orientation, esp. of the mind: anegative attitude; group attitudes.

We all have those days when our attitude can get in our way of our experience. As a teacher I have experienced the attitude of disappointment, resistance, fear, and uncomfortableness from participants when I am subbing a class. I have also been the participant of walking into a class to find that my normal instructor is not there and feeling those same attitudes in myself. When these feelings arise from either end I try to take a deep, cleansing breath and change the direction of my disposition.

After taking a deep breath, if I am the instructor I try to break the ice a bit and acknowledge that I understand how difficult it is to have a different instructor but hope that they will remain open and exploratory through the process. If I am the student I instruct myself to stay open and remember that even if I take away one new idea, movement, or connection from this instructor that the class was a success and worth it. Changing this attitude allows the experience to change. One of my instructors stated awhile back "that if you are going to a led class, then you should allow the instructor to lead and teach you and leave your preconceptions behind". You may be surprised at your experience and what you learn if you can change your disposition and remain open to what is being presented. You might even find a new teacher that you never would have taken class from and now adore.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Barefoot and Loving it

My barefoot running adventure continues. 

I have gotten over the initial hump of really sore calf muscles and feet. Now I find the foot strike pattern right away and feel great. As I am running barefoot I am becoming more aware of how great running can feel. Before when I ran in typical running shoes, my left knee would always have soreness, my outer hips and low back were tight, and my hamstrings were overworking. Running barefoot has released my low back and outer hip soreness, now I feel activation of my inner thighs (adductors) and my transverse abdominals working to support my stride. I also feel my pelvic halves moving independently, like a locomotion arm, versus as one large, clunky unit. I do not feel any soreness in left knee at all and my hamstrings are working more efficiently with the strike at the midpoint of my foot rather than the heel. I am addicted to barefoot running!

One little glitch is the blister that I have accumulated on the bottom of my second toe on each foot (more on the left than the right). From everything that I have read this is perfectly normal and it's not preventing me from continuing to run. Let me also clarify, that I am not running perfectly barefoot, but in Vibram's Five Fingers (which is a barefoot glove-like shoe). There probably is a little friction of my toes inside the shoe as I strike the surface that is causing the blistering. I find it interesting that it is more on my left foot than right as the left is where my knee and hip pain used to be. Which proves to me that the change of foot contact is a new pattern for me (more so on the left than the right) that I was not making contact with in the past.

If you have or ever want to enjoy running again, I highly recommend trying the barefoot style. The positive patterns and efficient movement definitely outweigh the initial soreness and minor blisters.

This is Part II of my Barefoot Running journey. Click here to see Part I.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rockin' Reformer

At the 2010 PMA Conference in Long Beach, Balanced Body unveiled their prototype for a Rockin' Reformer (official name unknown). It is an accessory type piece that can be added onto the bottom of any Balanced Body Reformer that alters the stability of the entire piece of equipment and allows movement in more planes. One rocker goes on front and one on back and there are blocks that can slide under to stop the rock and bring the equipment back to stability without removing the rockers.

This piece of equipment drew a lot of attention at the booth. I had the privilege of receiving a mini-lesson on this Rockin' Reformer from Balanced Body's Elizabeth Larkham. She challenged me with exercises like Bridge and Semi-Circle adding in rotation of the reformer and spine. A cat like/knee stretch combo with rotation, a Control Front variation, and Snake.

Single Leg Circles
on Rockin' Reformer
At first mounting the equipment itself feels awkward and insecure as it is not stable. But the body becomes accustomed quickly. I was concerned, as I suffer from extreme motion sickness, that I would feel like I was on a boat in the ocean waves. However, the movement of the rocker was much more subtle and thankfully I felt no motion sickness. Instead I felt a huge amount of freedom of my spine and hips, more stabilization of my shoulders, and a smile on my face as I explored these Classical Pilates exercises with a twist (literally). It was a ton of fun, challenging, and an exploration of where Pilates can go. I truly enjoyed this new prototype and look forward to seeing it in studios in the near future. 

Note: The name of the piece, cost, and availability date are unknown as of now. I have contacted Balanced Body and as soon as I hear back with this info I will post it for you. It is not in their existing catalog or website as of yet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pilates Method Alliance Conference 2010

I just returned from the 10th Annual Pilates Method Alliance Conference in Long Beach, CA. I am exhausted, motivated, inspired and overwhelmed. It was 3 days of great networking, friendship building, learning, shopping, and trying out new up and coming things in the Pilates industry.

Some of my highlights were Julian Littleford's The Magic of the Mat to the Chair, Rachel Taylor Segel's Joe's "Extra Muscles" Accessing the Internal Shower Through the Equipment, and Jillian Hessel's Mat Class.

I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with Twitter friends for a Tweet & Meet at District Wine Bar in Long Beach. Such a fabulous community of instructors  that are knowledgeable, supportive, and have become wonderful friends.

Balanced Body's Orbit
In addition to the workshops and classes I was able to try out some really cool equipment. Balanced Body has been working hard and has some great new additions coming out. (Stay tuned for a future blog on a really cool piece of equipment from them that I just adored). Their Orbits, Core Align, and Arcs were a big hit. Their new Rocker drew quite the crowd as well (more to come on that). Balanced Body has also teamed up with The Pilates Center of Boulder (TPC) to make a specific line for them and their classical style. Their prototype is 99% done. I had the chance to view and explore a little and was not disappointed. A lot of great changes were made to suit TPC and I am sure that it is going to be a win/win relationship for both parties. ActivCore's booth was rocking demonstrating the Red Cords equipment and workouts. I bought a RedCord Mini Plus and am so excited for it to arrive so I can start playing. The ToeSox booth was jamming. Attendees couldn't get enough of these wonderful sticky, toe separating socks in colorful patterns. These were spotted all over the Convention center. Green Apple Clothing was another big hit. With their eco friendly, cute, and affordable clothing line. I would be surprised if they had any stock left at the end of the Conference.

All in all it was a great conference and I look forward to sharing with you my insights and thoughts over the next few blogs. If you attended the conference, please comment below on what some of your favorite things were.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My favorite Vegan Chili Recipe

This Vegan chili recipe came from Chef Roberto Martin and was featured on the Ellen Show. Ellen and her wife Portia decided to go Vegan a little over a year ago and were looking for Vegan recipes for a Superbowl Party.  This was intended for Nachos with a vegan cheese recipe as well. I eat it as a chili. It is super easy to make once you have all the ingredients on hand.


  • 1 Large Onion chopped (white or red onion)
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander
  • 1 Teaspoon Dry Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 3 Minced Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Large Diced Tomatoes
  • 8 oz Sliced Mushrooms
  • 2 (4oz) canned green chilies
  • 1 bag smart ground (Mexican seasoned)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 can black or pinto beans (rinsed)
  • Salt as needed
*I omit green chilies and add corn kernels for a more southwest style chili.
  • Chopped Green Onion (on side)
  • Tofutti sour cream to top 
  • Daiya or Follow Your Heart Vegan Cheese.

Mushrooms should be rough chopped. Sauté onions until light brown. Add mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and all seasonings and sauté 4 minutes more. Add remaining ingredients and stir until hot and the right consistency. Season with s and p as needed. Top with a dollop of Tofutti, chopped green onions, and a sprinkle of Daiya Cheddar cheese.