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I’m back from India and Thailand, ya’ll. What an amazing, life-changing trip! I hope to find the words and just-right pictures to share with you very soon.

In the meantime, if you’re in New York City on Sunday, September 21, come share some autumn optimizing yoga with Dave and I:

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Spring’s Finally Here, I’ve been waiting for it forever…Why I am I So Miserable?

???????????????????????????????Yep, more than one person has asked me that, in so many words, in just the past few days since we officially shifted into spring.

Careers are in flux. Old relationship issues are surfacing. Buried stuff in general is emerging. Folks we haven’t seen or heard from for months are coming out the woodwork, for better or worse. It’s TAX season in the U.S., for heaven’s sake. Need I say more?

Clearly, I feel it too, ya’ll.

And that’s perfectly okay. Normal.

For myself and quite a few people I know, this winter that just passed at times felt especially long and dark. There were some pretty scary patches in there. So of course, because darkness and light feed each other, we automatically think the light and growth of spring fixes everything.

Well, sort of. It’s not quite as easy as “Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead…”

But let’s take a breath and slow down for a sec…

SAMSUNGGrowth, by its very nature, is unsettling. And spring, the ultimate season of growth, can indeed feel at times both amazing and unsettling. Like a brand new relationship, or a new job, or a new family member…We’re so excited for the changes, but also at times uncertain, and frankly at times feeling all sorts of mixed up.

Sound familiar? Keep those deep breathes going…

In fact, that’s all a perfectly natural, normal part of the process of awakening.

Think about it…the earthy, cool, quiet darkness of winter fuels the lighter, brighter, exuberant energy of spring. All of that blossoming takes strength, determination, and WORK. As in the seasons in nature, so in the seasons of our lives.

So what can we do to navigate the ongoing, constant shifting of energies? Some ideas:

1. Meditate and breathe conciously…as a way to connect and face energies we are feeling, rather than as an escape from them. Even five minute, or fewer, can make a huge difference.

Sally Kempton explains this all very simply and compassionately here. 

We had some of this Middle Eastern influenced lentil stew for dinner Sat night.

We had some of this Middle Eastern influenced lentil stew for dinner Sat night.

2. Spring Cleaning: In some ways, this is the most empowering move of all, I think. Shift stagnant energies by de-cluttering and energetically clearing your space. Even re-organizing a closet or one set of files can have profound effects. This sort of work, done mindfully, is incredibly liberating and clears energy in your space, and in you, for abundance and positive energy flow in ALL areas of your life. Sometimes, all I have time for is to mindfully set an intention as a light a stick of incense or a candle as a way to clean and re-set the energy of my space. And you know what? Even those tiny moves make a difference.

A fabulous book on this topic, presented through the lens of Feng Shui?  “Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life” by Karen Rauch Carter.

3. Enjoy grounding foods, more cooked, less raw, at least for now. Raw food are very activating and can be unsettling for some of us at certain times of year. Study up a bit on Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, and re-balance your diet (gently!) according to what’s best for your individual constitution. Prepare your own simple meals when you can. This is very centering and empowering. This lentil based, vitamin packed soup, for example, is a simple one-pot start.

4. Pace yourself. Yes, we all want to get out there and just go, go, go. Hiking, paintball, running a million errands, seeing every person we know. Ugh, exhausts me just writing that all out, but I do it too. Ha!

How about we ease into increased activity instead, so that we merge smoothly onto the highway of spring, rather than unevenly? Three errands instead of 6 in a day? One social outing a weekend rather than 3? Your mileage may vary, but you get the idea.

Yoga in the kitchen at a past retreat. What a bunch of posers we are ;-)

Yoga in the kitchen at a past retreat. What a bunch of posers we are ;-)

5. Calming, grounding yoga practices: Inverting and backbending? Yes, but within reason, and make sure to incorporate at least a couple of re-balancing twists and soothing forward folds into any yoga session. And melt into savasana, rather than rushing out onto your next task.

6. Embrace creativity, fun, and loved ones: The warmer temperatures bring out that playful side. Go with it. Try something new, spend quality time with those who are special to you, and connect with your inner joy.

So a spring re-set day might look like this for me:

Wake up, and meditate for a few minutes to set an easeful tone.

Enjoy a hot beverage while preparing for the rest of the day.

Go for a walk outside or to a yoga class. Bonus if I can see a loved one while doing this. No time for a long movement session? A few simple moves will do.

If it’s a workday, work. Mindfully and with a positive attitude. Strive to interact pleasantly with at least one other human being for no other reason than the fact that it feels NICE.

In any case, once back at home…

Put a pot of soup on, and as it bubbles away, ease into a household or life task related to spring cleaning. Even 15 minutes towards something of this nature can be incredibly empowering.

Maybe a social outing at night, or a chill night in with a book, either solo or with loved one/s, and the cats.

A calming, soothing bath or shower, with beautiful smells that I like, such as lavender and coconut.

As early to bed as possible. Sweet dreams and happy spring!

So I head to India soon, possibly by the time many of you read this. I’ll be doing my best to adapt my daily life to the season, the location, and the present moment. I invite you all to do the same, with love, compassion, openness, and joy.

With love and light,

Bria

 

 

New Beginnings

Happy Persian New Year, aka Nowruz, aka the Spring Equinox!

Happy Persian New Year, aka Nowruz, aka the Spring Equinox!

Today, the first day of  spring,  is in many ways the ultimate day of new beginnings.

It’s also a reminder that every day is a new beginning, especially if we embrace that reality…

The paradox? Each new beginning involves a loss of some kind. A death, either literal or metaphoric, or both.

Night and sleep relinquish their seductive pull to allow light and wakefulness in.

Winter’s earthy darkness surrenders its nourishing heaviness to the bright, expansive growth of spring.

What we eat, whether plant or animal, dies in some way in order to give us all continuing life.  Our feelings and relationships and life situations shifts, grow, expand, contract, and constantly change. Change is the fire, the fuel, of growth. We die to our old selves in order to embody our higher selves.

One of the big questions, then:

Do we ever really lose those we love, particularly those who touch our lives in a positive, life-affirming, beautiful way?

One month ago today, I lost someone very close to me.

She was like a mother to me, and perhaps because we didn’t have the burden of biology and expectations connecting us, we were able to love each other more freely and openly than some mothers and daughters can.

That love and kindness gave us both so much healing. It continues to heal me to this day.

We chose to love each other, when we really didn’t “have” to.  This empowered us both.

Morning glories embrace the light...and the night .

Morning glories embrace the light…and the night .

Zeinab was essentially my mother-in-law, but really, she felt like another mom to me. A mom who is like a loving sister, a respected elder, a quirky aunt, a funny friend, a beloved little niece you dote on and spoil, and just another woman. Simply and complexly…just another human being. We two felt oddly free to be ourselves with one another.

If I’m being completely honest, we lost one another  in this earthly life three times…

First, years back, when I left Syria after being there with her for several months. I always imagined, and hoped, we’d see one another again in the physical realm. We never did.

Secondly, when her son and I broke up.

Finally, when she passed away, just a month shy of spring. And of Mother’s Day in her country. And, a month shy of her son’s birthday.

But again, I asked myself, and you: do we ever really lose those we love, and those who touch our lives in a positive, life-affirming, beautiful way?

This question has been on my mind a lot in the last month, and I have to say, “Only if we chose to.”

And even then, that “loss” is highly debatable.

In my case, debatable because Zeinab absolutely lives on in me in the lessons she taught me, the lessons I was in some cases more open to receiving from her than from anyone else. And in other unique lessons as well. We communicated with very few words. (Language barriers can be quite useful sometimes. Words often get away of shared energy, intuition, and connections).

Last spring...arm balancing in NYC. Dragonfly pose, they call this one.

Last spring…arm balancing in NYC. Dragonfly pose, they call this one.

As full of love and life as she was, she was no saint. She never pretended otherwise. She was just real. Real and present and so open to happiness. So honest about her pain, both emotional and physical, and still, so giving of her heart, despite, perhaps because of, her pain.

I can still hear her voice and her hearty, unapologetic laugh.

She loved to laugh and a dirty joke as much, if not more, than I do. She would get ticked off sometimes and fuss at me, (and I at her!), but we would laugh, sometimes cry it out. Or both!

She also had a quiet, yet deeply connected, spiritual life.

That made her all that more angelic to me…to know and see that somebody could be real and human in this world and still have a spiritual side, a real connection with the divine. That resonates.

That I could screw up and still feel loved…that’s an ongoing lesson for me. One she really helped me start to grasp.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the outward form, we disconnect from the inner truth. After eight kids and numerous grandchildren, you could say Zeinab had the motherhood and wifehood thing down. Instead of acting and living from a place of what a woman “should” be, she mostly just lived, honestly, wisely, and unapologetically.

So many of us are alive, but how true are we to ourselves. Do we ever really LIVE?

I know I haven’t always. At times in my past, I have barely existed. Held on by a thread to life. Didn’t even care if the thread got severed. Prayed for that, in fact, more than once.

A little oasis in the middle of NYC.

A little oasis in the middle of NYC. We all have a peaceful realm within ourselves, too.

Yet, through my own numerous struggles and losses, and through standing, sometimes falling and crumpling,  with loved ones in their hours of darkness and light, I’ve gained a new respect and reverence for life.

And you know, if we lose somebody in this realm, which we all inevitably WILL, just as we, someday, will  be lost to many in this realm…

We can choose to have them live on in us. We can absolutely invite their light and love and positive energy to resonate with us and through us. That way we all continue to give to the universe through ourselves. We unite together. We embody new beginnings. We transcend.

Our grief and broken-heartedness can be an opening to our higher selves, and a poignant reminder of the humanity of one another. Instead of hiding in the shadows and depth of the pain and darkness, let these energies pave a transformative pathway to your light.

Yes, we mourn and grieve. Deeply, reverently so. Out of love and respect for the departed, we honor them yes, through grief. Yet we  also honor them by allowing what they taught us in life to nourish and inform us. We honor them by continuing to grow. We honor them by staying present and by intensely living.

I love you Zeinab. Thank you for all your love and kindness, and for all you gave to and taught me. Even in the pain of losing you in this realm, you’ve given so many insights to my soul and to so many others. I promise to do my best while I’m still here. I pray for your beautiful soul often, now, and into infinity.

Love and light to all,

B

flower on stone“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom and light!” — Hafiz

What a perfect quote to embody New Year. Persian New Year, that is, aka  Nowruz!

To me, it just feels right and natural to have a new year start with the promise, rebirth, and blossoming of spring.

Spring is a reminder of the inner light within each and every one of us. That’s worth celebrating!

Persian Card_New_YearsScroll down below for a roundup of highly celebratory (and symbolic) recipes from fellow Persian food bloggers. 

Thanks to the fabulous Sanam, of My Persian Kitchen, for putting this together!

Oh, technically the big day of the Persian New Year is always the spring equinox, which falls on Thursday, March 20, this year. Now’s as good a time as any to spread the happiness and to prepare for a fresh new season.

At the moment, I’m in a bit of Spring Cleaning Mode. (Oooof, those closets needed every ounce of attention I gave them last weekend. Ha!) I’m also prepping to host another yoga retreat, in upstate New York/in the Hudson Valley area.  March 14-16—perfect timing to get us ready for spring.

Looks like 2014 is a year of new beginnings for me in many ways. I’m headed to India at the end of the month. This trip has been a dream of mine for many years. At just the right time,  the stars aligned, the Universe and those I love are shining their support and approval on me, and I’m flying off on the night of the new moon. It’s happening!

As for Spring Cooking:

This is a classic clip for my (somewhat limited) TV archives. Here I am cooking kuku sabzi on live TV for Nowruz. This was on Good Day New York a.k.a Fox 5 a few years back:

More blogger Persian New Year goodness:

 
Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies are fudgey, brownie and cookie-like all at once. You'd never believe they're free of many common allergens, including gluten, dairy, and can easily be made minus eggs and tree nuts.

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies are fudgey, brownie and cookie-like all at once. You’d never believe they’re free of many common allergens, including gluten, dairy, and can easily be made free of eggs and tree nuts. Cookie photos by Kristen Joerger of tiny-gourmet.com  .

This Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe post has literally been years in the making.  A couple of years ago, I ran across a cookie recipe I really liked, and tinkered with it.  Soon, I was baking these babies up, and taking them to house parties, to weekends away, on hikes, and on road trips. People LOVE these cookies. I’ve heard people go so far as to call them “The best cookies I’ve ever had in my life.”

cookiesI’d bet money they’ve gotten me invited back a few places ;-)

They were a huge hit at my most recent yoga retreat.

People always request this recipe, yet I always got sidetracked.

You’d never guess these cookies are free of many common allergens. My goal was to make them taste chocolately and decadent, not diet. These cookies have no:

  • gluten
  • dairy
  • egg (if you choose to veganize them, that is)
  • or tree nuts (if you choose the tree nut free option, that is)

Here are some of us at my most recent yoga retreat in upstate New York:

fall retreat group shot 2013 upstate

This magic batter traveled with me to my most recent yoga retreat, and the cookies were a huge hit when we packed them into the bagged picnic lunches we took with us to the apple orchard.

These cookies are packed with flavor and a beautiful texture.

Bria’s Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies.

  • 1 cup peanut butter (or almond butter, or, to go tree nut free, use sunflower seed butter.)
  • 1 cup UNSweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup of brown sugar (I prefer dark brown)
  • 1 egg (replace egg by combining 1 tbsp ground flax seeds + 3 tbsp warm water in a small bowl and stirring.  Allow a “jelly” to form after a few minutes and use this as your “egg”)
  • pinch teaspoon salt (leave out if your peanut butter is salted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, chunks, or half a cup of each (I used Trader Joe’s brand, as they are free of dairy)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a nice, roomy mixing bowl, cream together peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla.

3. Begin adding in cocoa powder, 1/4 cup at a time, and mix until well incorporated and moist. If the batter gets too dry, add in bit of water, leftover coffee, or milk of choice to loosen it. Then remix. If batter becomes too loose, add in more cocoa powder to tighten it up.

4. Fold in 3/4 of the chocolate chips and/or chunks. Save the rest for garnish.

5. OPTIONAL/not always necessary: Stash mix in the freezer for 10-15 minutes while you prepare  your cookies sheets. I either line mine with parchment paper, or spray them with cooking spray. One of these days I WILL get a Silpat.

6. Use a cookie scoop or a spoon to make uniform sized dough balls. (I do this by hand and spoon, and each cookie is a generous tablespoon of dough). Do NOT smash cookies down.

7. Place 3-5 chocolate chips and/or chunks on the top of the cookies. You can flip the cookie dough ball upside down and get the chips to adhere that way.

8. Bake cookies for 9-14 minutes, until ever so faint cracks appear on the surface. I know 9-12 minutes is quite a range, but I find that variations in altitude and ovens really do make a difference in bake times. In my NYC toaster oven, these cookies are perfect at 8-10 minutes of baking. In Colorado, I had to go closer to 12 minutes, sometimes beyond, in the “big” oven, to get the right texture.

9. Let cool slightly (or a lot, your choice, but I can never wait too long to try these). Enjoy!

So there you have it. An easy, creative,  recipe that is so delicious, you’d never know it’s friendly to many “restricted” diets and actually kinda healthy.

Question Time:

What’s your go-to dessert?

Back in a Flash!

 

dragonfly briaI hope spring is treating everyone well. I just got back from a 3-day roadtrip to Montreal with some friends. It was fabulous!

Bria-and-yoga-Charlie-side-by-sideI’m headed out again to host my Yoga Getaway in St. Lucia.  Charles Polanco-Ali and I have put together a fabulous Yoga themed vacation on this beautiful Balenbouche-Beach-31Caribbean island, and we’re so excited to share time and Yoga with our participants.

To my wonderful NYC crew, I’ll be resuming my regular teaching schedule on Saturday, May 25.

Stay tuned after I get back, as I have some fresh new Yoga workshop ideas in the hopper, plus Yoga and cooking videos that are being worked on right now, PLUS a recipe or two.

Have a fabulous rest of your weekend everyone!

Shanti, shanti, shanti!

 

dragonfly briaHello there, long time, no hang. I’m still around, and busy as always, prepping up for hosting a Yoga retreat St. Lucia, teaching classes, and wrapping up an ayurvedic detox/cleanse.
The cleanse has put me in the rejuvenation state of mind, body, and spirit, and inspired me to offer a very special Yoga workshop with this exact theme. Bonus: my retreat co-leader, Charlie, is co-teaching this weekend’s workshop with me.  If you’re in NYC, you should totally join us!

Join Bria and Charlie for a refreshing session of postures and breathing techniques that will cleanse, rejuvenate, and relax body and mind. Embrace a deeper connection of heart and soul, with aromatherapy delights to intensify your bliss. If you liked our recent Yoga for the Curious event, or weren’t able to make it, now’s your chance. You’ll love our latest Spring-y offering!

Bria-and-yoga-Charlie-side-by-side

Saturday, May 4, 2013
4-6 PM

At Asali Yoga Center in Harlem
Asali is located on 135th St, between 7th and 8th Avenues (closer to 8th)  C train to 135th Street

$18 pre-paid

$20 at the door

Keep pre-payment easy breezy by using this secure link:

Pay here now via PayPal

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Wishing you all a fabulous weekend :-)

Shanti,
Bria

 

 

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