Monday, 22 May 2017

What to do with an egg whisk when you are a vegan

Egg whisks are such wonderful tools in the vegan kitchen, and having followed a vegan diet for 26 years I was surprised to find that I didn’t know just how useful, essential actually, they are for the vegan chef. It was my husband who showed me the completely valuable role they perform, hours of time has been saved and a much better result has been achieved in preparing foods now that I know the real reason egg whisks were invented.

On the vegan dinner table it is quite common to find legumes, beans, rice and quinoa and if the pulses are correctly prepared you’ll find they are soft, easily digested and not the catalyst for flatulence that many people assume them to be. There are two procedures you need to undertake in order to get the best out of pulses in the kitchen. The first is that you soak them, all pulses (beans and legumes) need to be soaked and the soaking time differs from one pulse to the next. More on that later. The second being that all pulses, rice and quinoa need to be rinsed and rinsed well. This is where the egg whisk comes into play.

You’ll find it too easy to eat more beans and legumes in your diet because soaked and washing them is very easy and takes very little time. All you need to do is to put the quantity of pulses you wish to cook into a bowl and cover them with about five centimetres of water. When the required soaking time is finished give them a good rinse and they are ready to be cooked. Rinsing pulses, rice and quinoa is essential for them to cook nicely and be easily digested, using an egg whisk in the rinsing/washing procedure will save you water and time.
All lots of water into your bowl of soaked pulses or into the rice you wish to cook and use the whisk to wash them. Agitate the rice or pulses in the water, using the whisk and the water give them a good scrub. Drain and repeat twice more, the rinse water may not run too clear and this is alright.  Now drain and cook them.

Soaking mung beans

A little bit about soaking and rinsing pulses (beans and legumes that is) before you cook them, it’s a very important step in preparing your legumes for healthy eating. Soaking pulses reduces cooking time and renders them more digestible, reducing their causing flatulence. In fact, if you are getting flatulence after eating legumes it is a sign you are not preparing them correctly. Split red lentils, moong dal, urad dal and other broken legumes soak for perhaps half an hour. The only dal you will need to soak longer is chana dal and this is because it is made of broken chickpeas and chickpeas have a long cooking time. Green lentils, puy lentils (French lentils), whole red lentils and mung beans are best soaked for at least an hour or more. Much longer soak times are required for chickpeas, kidney beans and black beans. Being much larger they require more time to soak up water so it makes sense. Putting chickpeas and red kidney beans on to soak before you go to bed and using them the next day is a good idea.

Chickpeas, kidney beans and black beans have a long cooking time, using a pressure cooker will greatly reduce their cooking time and is a truly valuable addition to the kitchen. Soaked, rinsed and home cooked pulses are vastly healthier and environmentally friendly, they are also cheaper than their tinned cousins. Canned foods are not alive and cause a sludge in the system. I avoid them. Red lentils and red kidney beans are high in iron and are good for the blood so be sure to eat them a few times a week.

One of my favourites, chana dal which is tomato based and made with chickpeas

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Middle aged spread - the good part

I rang my little brother for his 39th birthday the other day. We both agreed that 39 is a great age and we also agreed that we’d not want to be ‘young’ again. Many of us were told when we were in primary school that these years were the best years of our life. We see billboards of young, shiny people barely out of their teens and they look in their prime. They haven’t hit middle age spread yet (or it hasn’t hit them), they are probably going to work like hell to make sure nothing spreads. But there is something we need to know, to remember and this is that along with the middle age spread of the body comes middle age spread of the mind and the heart also. Simply put, the older we get the more we spread, life actually becomes easier and here is why.

I had my daughter when I was 40, 18 months later my body is still not back to its original toned shape. I’m not sure how long ago my mind started to spread, it was a while ago and it also is not back to its original toned shape and I can honestly say the same for my heart. It’s all spreading, relaxing, loosening up… I’ve expanded in a good way.

When we look at our middle aged spread, of the body, it often likely triggers some unpleasant feelings in us and I think that has to do with some sort of fear of aging, but it doesn’t have to. What we can do is to see the middle aged spread in our lives and instead of seeing it as a sign of our aging and our lives moving past the middle mark… look beyond that to the middle aged spread of the mind and heart too. This is what I do.

Life becomes easier once the middle aged spread hits us because we have a much, much better sense of who we are and we more deeply identify with the inner reality rather than the outer. That is what causes us stress, when we are younger. The constant looking without to validate what we feel within. As we age, as we spread we no longer do this. Life becomes easier and we spread, we loosen a little more each day and each year that goes by.

When you feel stressed, when you feel overwhelmed by life connect to the gentle expansion of your body, heart and mind. Why grieve the changes of your body when in fact they are a reflection of a wiser, suppler mind and heart. Salute your middle aged spread, and exhale.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

An important key in defining a positive you

Being a more positive person, presenting a more positive outlook, thinking positive thoughts and being a positive influence on others is something, I think, everyone wants to be more of, have more of. The other day I remembered something I heard someone say in an interview on the radio. I’m not sure who it was, it was so long ago but it really stuck with me. It was this… rather than define yourself by what you don’t like, believe… define yourself in the positive light of what you do like, believe. Svadhyaya (self-study) is integral part of following a yogic life and defining yourself by what you do believe and like is a great exercise in self-study.

When I focussed upon how I defined what I believed and thought I found that very often I did not do so in a positive light. I began to watch what I shared on social media, how I reacted to what I heard on the radio and what I said to others in conversation. There was no mistaking the fact that quite often I was not defining myself positively by what I did believe in and was in fact defining myself by what I didn’t like or what was wrong rather than right.

I’m not suggesting that we ought to turn a blind eye to suffering in the world, I’m saying that it is far better to define who we are, what we believe in a positive light. Here is a simple example and it has to do with my choosing to be vegan. I could say ‘I’m vegan because I don’t like the way animals suffer’ or I could say, ‘I’m vegan because I feel healthier and I believe in compassion for all beings’. Can you feel that the later has a nice ring to it, it may even inspire the listener to think about being vegan themselves?

To but it simply, negativity is a turn off and it causes others to shut down. Why? Because it harks back to us all wanting more positivity in our lives, not more negativity. When we define ourselves in a positive light, choosing to identify with what we do believe in rather than what we don’t it actually lifts our frequency/energy because it is positive self-talk.

I’m finding it is a fun game, to watch myself and catch myself defining myself by the negative rather than the positive. It is surprising how often I do it too! I’m also noticing that I feel a more buoyant energy around me and life feels lighter and happier as I catch myself and change to a positive definition to replace the negative.

It’s easy to do. Choose to define yourself and how you see the world in a positive light with positive words, positive self-talk.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Grace, is the essential ingredient for the Divine life you want to live

I can remember, a few months ago feeling very, very frustrated… I wanted certain situations to be different to what they were. I was frustrated with (what I perceived) as life’s slow march of progress towards how I thought things ought to be. I don’t think my feelings were unfounded. Not at all. Nevertheless they were causing me to feel greatly frustrated. The frustration was eating me up, it was all consuming and I was not a peaceful person. It took a few days for the ‘cure’ to surface in me, that cure was Grace. Grace was the healing balm to be applied to the nasty bite of frustration.

Please don’t confuse Grace with Gratitude, this is the mistake I made.  I was being told by someone, ‘the problem is you are not being grateful for what you have’, this made me even more cranky and frustrated as I knew I WAS grateful and I am always so. What I was not being was Graceful, full of Grace. When I got hold of this idea and the energy of Grace, it flowed to and through me, my frustration eased bit by bit.  It is difficult to be Graceful, full of Grace. There is no instant grace switch, though we can lure it so that it builds up and becomes all encompassing. Where there is grace, frustration cannot exist.

These are three yoga asana I perform on a very regular basis that help me to allow the energy of Grace to flow through me freely. Sometimes, I do these asana several times a day… even if I am in a cue at the post office! You will need to do these asana regularly for the energy of grace to flow because these asana will relax you mind and body. Start with daily. It doesn’t need to take you more than a few minutes. They are very effective at triggering the relaxation response (that alleviates the stress response) and in turn, grace in being.

Pranamasana (Prayer Pose)
This pose is the most wonderful pose for inviting Grace into your mind-body. Close your eyes and hold your palms together in prayer position at the heart. Relax, and feel love. Do this pose as often as you can and keep feeling love as you do so.

Hasta Utthanasana (Raised Arms Pose)
I love this pose and do it as part of my Surya Namaskar (salute to the sun series) each day. You don’t need to do this pose as part of Salute to the Sun, you can do it as a stand-alone pose. Science now shows that to look up, to reach up, to lean back like this actually reduces feelings of being overwhelmed. This pose opens your heart and brings a sense of deep relaxation and release to your mind-body system.

Padahastana (hand to foot pose) 
This pose is a counter pose to the raised arms pose above, do one after the other as a flowing movement. Take your time. The raised arm pose brings the energy in and the hand to foot pose releases it. This action reduces stress in the mind – body system and as a result paves the way for Grace to flow. Do not be confused with being ungrateful with being ungraceful!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Regaining your personal head space as a full time mother

Accepting the full time job of motherhood is an act of true surrender and of courage. I have struggled with accepting this job, not doing this job. The key to peaceful motherhood where you get your own head space back is to accept the job, totally. Believe you me this is more than a difficult task at times. It takes courage and it takes faith in the process of life.

How many mothers do you know or are you a mother who works as a full time mother and feels they have lost their personal head space, the space we need to connect with Self? Our baby is now about 17 months old and I can tell you, honestly, that I have only recently accepted the full time job of mother hood. I have been working in this job for our daughter’s whole life, but it is only recently that I have accepted this job fully and I did so because I was pushed to brink of break or change. Thank goodness my higher-self chose change!

It is relentless, at times, the stress in this job. Mothers will know what I speak of and others reading this will be thinking… surely it is not that hard. At times it can be that hard. At times you have no personal space, no time alone… no head space that is just for you, and then there is the constant marching on of nappy changes, food preparation, tidying up again and again and again. All day long, all day long. So, you fight for what is left of your personal head space but that is not the way to get it back.

So, what can we do about it? Withdraw in some way? I have found that this is not the answer and that withdrawal and acceptance are two different things. To accept means to immerse without judgement, without limitation, it is to fully allow the flow. It is to let go of the sides of your raft as it rushes down the turbulent river, to hold your arms up high and to trust that you will not crash.  To sit balanced in the raft rather than trying to control it.

The water sprays up all over you and there are times when you feel you will crash, when you come so close to it… rather than withdraw, accept. This is when you need to let go even more. Scream with a sense of release on that raft, not out of frustration, but out of release. IT’s a beautiful and liberating sound. These acts are the final acts that will clear the dams and allow the water (life) to flow through at a great speed. You will not be swept away. I know, because I have not been swept away.

You will have abundant energy and you will laugh so much and you will find that suddenly you have more time and more space, you will find that things fall into place and all because you have accepted the job of full time motherhood, totally. Rather than fight for your personal head space, let go and let all of life/Divine Mother flood you! Surrender and accept and you will find an expanse of energy in your heart and mind that you did not, previously have access to!