Meditative Travels

What if you could close your eyes and be transported to the most beautiful place you have been to – completely visualize every shade of green in the trees, hear the sounds of wind in the leaves, feel the early morning freshness of the place in your skin – as if you were right there!

I just came back from a trip to japan and have been thinking a lot about conscious traveling. How to not only make memories but take them along. How to completely BE in the place, amongst all the crowds and tourist checklists and selfies!

Take a breath, slow down, close your eyes and take the place in

Tip 1: Take a breath, slow down the pace, sit down if you need to, as you reach your destination. Let go of the crowd anxieties and tourists checklists.
Take in the scene, enough to paint a picture worth a thousand words with your eyes closed. Notice the movements, the smells, the colors and how they shine in the light. Meditate for a couple of minutes or write it down.
Send postcards to friends, reminisce and detail memories.

Here to learn. Not checkout tourlist lists

Tip 2: Look out for what you will take back from the place? Every moment, every person, every place has something to teach.
Japanese gardens or even Japanese streets are a treat to walk around with their immaculately manicured trees and plants. They see god in nature and can create beautiful sights just out of simple stones. Going to Japanese temples is as much about zenning out on the natural beauty in the verandas outside as much as it is about the idol within. Looking at nature is uplifting, but walking around beautiful gardens is like falling in love

Japanese restaurants and trains maintain such silence that we often caught ourselves ‘shouting’. It seems like everyone is in a constant state of meditation. Talking soft and slowly brings purpose to their conversations

Japanese food is creative, flavorful, balanced and rich in ‘umami’ with separate sections for rice, pickled vegetables, fermented foods, soups, teas coming together in bento boxes. Creatively arranged food brings a smile on the face every time a new box is opened.

Tip 3: Come back and remember the place. In your meditation. Or Write postcards to friends. Describe the place. Very often we come back and feel like we have totally forgotten the vacation and are in dire need of a new vacation. Its a viscious loop.

Cheers!

Who has time for yoga in a corporate lifestyle? 4 reasons it is indispensable

You think you are focused, till you close your eyes

Last month I attended a 28-day, 200 hrs intensive yoga teachers training course. On day 1, I had the biggest aha moment.

Sitting down to meditate, devoid of any significant work or personal troubles, in a beautiful ashram surrounded by a lakes and mountains, when I closed my eyes to ‘meditate’, I couldn’t tame my thoughts for even a couple of minutes! The mind kept jumping from thoughts irrelevant to thoughts unexpected. I thought I was calm and very much in the moment, but in reality the inner machinations of my mind were constantly dealing with a billion things – from making sense of past memories to deciding responses to future problems, from worrying about the mosquito that is hovering close to my ear to the imperceptible inner working of the cells. Most troubling was the fact that I had little control over any of it. 

Which led me to think, with so many friction points to concentrating, are we really being effective at what we are doing? What if we could reduce the friction and channel our mind, like a prism, on one point, one project, one objective? How incredibly powerful would that be!

As I contemplated and learnt more over for the next 4 weeks, challenging a lot of my own assumptions, I synthesized 4 learnings to take back to the corporate world.

1. Multitasking is NOT possible: We think we can multitask, i.e., doing two or more things at the same time. But the truth is that our mind CAN NOT process two things at the same time. It’s akin to saying, the new iphone screen has a smooth display because we don’t see any pixelated squares. When encountered with two things, our mind divides it into small tasks and processes them linearly, unless encountered with unconscious / subconscious / reflex activities. When we give it too many things to deal with it keeps jumping around like a drunken monkey and gets tired. To be more productive, to be creative, or to really solve a problem, we need to go deep and concentrate on one task at a time.

Experiment: Check your phone at 15min – 30min intervals. In the meantime focus on the task at hand. See your productivity rise. We think the world ends in 30min but it doesn’t 😉

2. Learn how to breathe and use it to your advantage: Breathing is the most powerful activity we do all day. It keeps us alive. However, ‘feeling’ alive requires breathing in the right way, allowing for more oxygen than carbon dioxide in the lungs, brain and all the billion cells to effectively do their functions. Insufficient breaths put incredible stress on the body, reducing brain activity and prematurely deteriorating it.

Experiment: Inhale, abdomen out, expand your chest, expand your shoulder to bring air fully to the bottom of the lungs. Exhale, abdomen in, chest relaxed, shoulder relaxed and let all the air out from the lungs. Just like a baby! Whenever possible, take a counted breath and exhale with twice the counts of inhales. Notice a slight calmness when you exhale and attentiveness when you inhale.

3. Digestion is more important than eating: Do you know that digestion takes up over 50% of the energy we get from the food we eat? Do you know that carbohydrates and proteins take 12 – 16 hrs to fully digest in our bodies? Do you know that feeling hungry can be a craving of the mind and not the need of our body? Constantly eating heavy meals can make us tired and counterintuitively reduce the amount of nutrient absorption in the body. We lose productivity of food and productivity at work!

Experiment: Find your favorite snack. Start with a glass of water, a cup of herbal tea, 3-5 dates, handful of nuts, a fruit bowl, or a yogurt cup and still if nothing works than you are really hungry for food! 

4. Exercise to focus on internal systems as much as external appearances: We have got to keep all the billion cells, 72K+ nerve centers, 650+ muscles, 206 bones and the 78 organs functioning well to be the most productive version of ourselves.This might sound overwhelming because who has so much time to take care of the body?! Just listening to it should be a blow to our lifestyles. Exercise to build bone strength, exercise to increase blood circulation, exercise to stretch the muscles and exercise to massage the internal organs. Yoga is an answer to all or a great supplement!

Experiment: The neck muscles are most susceptible to getting tired as they channel all the nerves through a critical, but narrow highway – from the spine to the brain. Do some neck exercises and you will suddenly feel fresh.

Take care, breathe, and build for sustainable success 🙂

Chia Seed Pudding

Is it a breakfast or is it a dessert? You would still be debating as you scrape that last tiny chia seed from the bottom of your cup! Its the best dessert for breakfast! Its Chia seed pudding

Chia seeds are a staple of South America. It is said that the tribe of Tarahumara Indians, famously known for running hundreds of miles in Mexico’s deep deadly copper canyons, would have chia seeds soaked in lime juice as their energy drink! (Do read more about them and the Race of a lifetime in the book “Born to Run”)

Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, omega 3, fiber, iron, calcium, phosphorous – loading you with energy, good cholesterol and nutrients that are not found in everyday vegetarian diet. 

So, add chia seeds into your weekly routine with this extremely simple make ahead eye pleasing breakfast (or even dessert) recipe!

Recipe

Prep Time: 5min | Makes 1 portion

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unflavored yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • A handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, cherries) – roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup colorful fruits – Banana, Spiced apple, Strawberries
  • 4-5 Mint leaves

Instructions

  • In one big cup, pour in unflavored yogurt. Add honey and chia seeds. Mix well so that the chia seeds are broadly distributed and not forming lumps. Its not a problem if they do, just that eating soaked isolated chia seeds are better than lumps!
  • Cover and let this sit overnight
  • In the morning, start your layering craft.
  • My Option 1: Start with a row of walnuts and cherries, then sliced bananas, then sliced strawberries then mint on top
  • My Option 2: Start with a row of toasted almonds, then add Spiced Apples!

Notes

  • This is an absolute free style recipe. Choose your own mix of fruits and nuts, play around with layering, mix as many colors you like!
  • Use transparent cup / glass / masor jar so that you can see the action!

Banana Oat Pancakes!

Make these delicious Banana Oats pancake mountain to crush those long To Do list filled mornings!

You know its going to be one of those long days, the day would start and before uyou know it you have skipped lunch. There is an unending to Do list. On those exact days, I am asking you to take out 15min – 5min to cook and 10min to eat these extremely nourishing, filling (will not cause bloating) and will keep you going!

However for those who have already started rolling there eyes on oats, I am going to be honest here. Oats are a healthy grain option – they are whole, full of fibers, vitamins and minerals, keeping you full and satisfied for a long time. But after several experiments in kitchen I have concluded and agree that it is very hard to make them taste good. 

I have experimented and tried to incorporate oats in my every day diet, but unfortunately with little success till now. They are gooey and ‘taste of health’, which people who do not lean towards healthy food know what I mean.

Oats Upma and oats Poha never turn out good; Oats Porridge loaded with nuts and peanut butter comes midway but hard to adopt for those you don’t like the taste of oats. But dont stop there if you have. Give this recipe a shot. These Banana Oats pancakes have been taste tested 20 times with 100% success – TASTE BETTER THAN REGULAR PANCAKES

Recipe

Prep time: 15min | Cooking time: 2 min / pancake | Makes 4 small pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oat flour (You can grind it fresh in your smoothie blender. Doesnt have to be very fine. Coarse tastes better)
  • 3/4 cup milk of your choice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (+ 3tsp for cooking)
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated taste better)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (can only grate fresh if you have a high power blender)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essense
  • Strawberries and/or chocolate chips for garnish! (optional)

Instructions

  • In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (oat flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking powder)
  • In a new (but smaller) bowl mash the Banana with forks into gooey chunks. No stress. Then carefully crack your egg, add milk, honey, coconut oil and vanilla essence. Mix it all well!
  • Pour the liquid mixture from the second bowl into the first bowl and mix well (again) till everything becomes smooth and even. Do not keep over mixing it as the baking powder will start losing its effect 😉
  • Now when you are ready to eat, In a pan add 1/4 tsp coconut oil and wait till you can feel its become hot (not too hot that oil starts burning)
  • Then pour 1/4 cup of our delicious mix, make it into a rough circle and wait till you see bubbles forming at the top and the outsides starting turning golden. Flip it over! Cook for 30sec on the other side and flip it, flying high up in the sky, straight into your pan
  • Mount two / hree of these, with fruits, nuts, honey, chocolate sauce in between! Decorate as you like
  • Eat within 10min. Best when hot

Notes:

  • Consumer within 10min. Best when hot!
  • You can pre make the mix the night before, so all you need to do on those busy days is take the mix out of teh fridge, cook for 5min (1 min to heat the pan, 2 min / pancakes *2) and 10min to eat! Give yourself that much time, esp when you know you might be skipping lunch that day 🙂
  • Banana and honey are the secret agent here!

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Make your dreams come true in this new year

For the last 8 years, I have been sleeping before the clock strikes 12 at New Year’s Eve, sticking to my everyday routine of sleeping by 10:30pm. But some years I remember purposefully getting to bed at 10am even if I wasn’t feeling sleepy just to make a point. I didn’t understand the New year craze. Every day is a fresh new day. It felt utterly pointless to stay up all night get drunk and start the new year hungover.

I never truly appreciated the magnamosity of the new year celebrations. Millions of people would squeeze together to watch the ball drop at NYC Times Square or take 30+hr trips to seethe fireworks in Australia, or plan all year the new year parties at their houses!

But now having travelled across the world, I have realized it is that one moment that’s celebrated across the globe at each of the tiny regions of the earth as it rotates towards the sun.  New year is a ray of hope. While every day is a fresh new day, new year brings a fresh 365 days – if you are lucky sometimes a fresh decade or fresh centenary like in 2000! There is something special about knowing you have a fresh start enough to achieve your dreams. Enough to become a new you, like starting a new venture or shaving off those 20 kgs! It’s a fantastical amount of time to draw an action map for our dreams.

But they why do only 1% people really stick to their resolutions? Why do things start falling off the very next day!?

Because while we all like a ray of hope, we all like that tingling of a new year, we all love to celebrate and sign up for new things.. We don’t create the right environment for change. We want to change a part of us, but we don’t make space for it, we are unwilling to change our routines!. For a change to work, esp if you are looking for a visible change, you need to Allow for the change. e.g., If you want to really start working out, you need to adjust your schedule and take something off of it, you need to be accountable to someone or a diary, you need to listen how your body feels every day and tell yourself you want to feel it again the very next day before you go to sleep.

So, don’t waste your chance. Dream something big in this new year and make it happen!

Just recently I finished reading the book ‘Gut’ recently (its a brilliantly written book on the intricate mechanisms of our digestive system, in a humorous layman language) and it talked about how our body tells us so much about our inner health with the the obvious (aches, sneeze) and the unobvious (stools, breath). Read the book and listen more for a healthier you this new year 🙂