abundantlifevegan

Spiritual Musings, Creative Inspiration, and Simple Vegan Recipes


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Trail Running, Meditation and Homemade Chocolate

January has been a good month for me so far.  Along with sticking to a spending fast, I have also set a goal to return to a consistent meditation practice, as well as return to running (albeit in a different and way) than I have in the past.

Meditation is a practice that I have dabbled with for about two years now. In the past I have been consistent for a little while, then life would get busy—and I wouldn’t prioritize it any more. I know that I am a calmer, more grounded person when meditation is a regular part of my routine. I know that I am a sweeter wife and a more effective therapist when I simply start my day with deep breathing.

I have tried a few different practices, but finally two weeks ago—I found the key that makes meditation work for me.  I had the opportunity to attend a one day workshop on mindfulness, where I was introduced to the “gatha.”

In case you don’t know, gathas are short poems or verses that we can recite, regardless of where we are, to help us return to the present moment and to dwell in mindfulness. I finally found one that worked for me, and using this gatha as I meditate has helped me be consistent in my meditation for 10 days—the longest I have sustained a practice in quite some time.

The gatha I use is this:

Breathing in, I calm my body

Breathing out, I smile

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment!

 

At the training we learned to practice like this, as you breathe say the words in parentheses silently:

Inhale (in)

Exhale (calm)

Inhale (out)

Exhale (smile)

Inhale (present)

Exhale (wonderful)

There are of course many variations of this, explained in Thich Nhat Hanh’s lovely little book, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment. I have found this little volume invaluable as I learn to practice mindfulness in my daily life. I am also learning that having a seated meditation practice is key for creating mindfulness in life. The other crucial piece has been choosing to meditate first thing in the morning, (rather than playing on my phone or on the internet, my usual morning routine!) Deepak Chopra calls this the “RPM” method—rise, pee, mediate. Trust me, it works. Some days I rise, pee, mediate, mindfully drink a cup of coffee, than meditate. But I am sitting, and practicing, and I can feel the difference.

One of the unexpected ways that my mindfulness helped me, was this past Saturday when I ran a 10 mile trail race—the first race I had done in nearly 3 years. It was a very cold, windy morning and I was wondering why I even signed up when we were waiting to start. As we started running, navigating single track trails, and alone with each other and the breath, I found myself reciting the gatha. And each step that I took was wonderful. I realized I had to focus as I ran in much the same way that I do when meditating. Each step, each breath, was something new. A new root, a new rock, a fresh patch of mud met me at my every step. I finished strongly (although I am not sure of my place or time—practicing some non-attachment with that!), and most importantly felt present throughout the entire run. I am eager to sign up for another trail race and practice my new favorite form of moving meditation.

One final piece to share—on my spending fast I challenged myself to make my own chocolate instead of buying the expensive “Endangered Species” chocolate bars I usually favor. I figured I could save money and probably make it healthier too. Enter the world’s easiest and healthiest homemade chocolate!

Dark Pecan Chocolate Bars

Ingredients:

½ cup cocoa (unsweetened)

½ cup coconut oil

1/3 cup coconut nectar

1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. In a small pan, over medium heat, heat cocoa and coconut oil. Once combined, stir in coconut nectar.
  2. Once combined remove from heat and stir pecans in the mixture.
  3. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper, pour mixture into the pan, and spread with a spatula.
  4. Place entire pan in freezer, and let harden for at least one hour.
  5. Remove, slice and enjoy!

I recommend storing these in the freezer if possible, I had to store mine in the back so I wouldn’t eat them all at once. You could easily sub 1 cup of any chopped nuts you would like, or add dried fruit, coconut, etc.

Happy January friends. Enjoy deep breaths, time outside, and plenty of chocolate until we meet again!

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Month One—Spending Fast in Review + Intentions for the New Year

One month into my spending fast, and I have to admit, I am loving it. It seriously feels GOOD to be able to put a little bit more money into paying off debt. But there was a part of me that felt guilty giving people DIY gifts at Christmas, especially when they had already purchased things for me. It wasn’t that there was anything “wrong” with the gifts I had made, but it seemed “unequal” in a sense. The truth is that everyone LOVED the things I made them— and I had A LOT of fun making Christmas gifts. There was equal love, even if not equal cost. Here’s a recap of how I did it—>

I reserved a little time on the weekend, usually Sunday afternoon, to devote to gift making and I really enjoyed the process. I made peppermint sugar scrub, which was easy and worked out well. You can find the directions here: http://www.mommymusings.com/diy-peppermint-sugar-scrub/. This awesome blogger even had little printable labels! Hooray!

Next I concocted homemade granola, which was a HUGE hit. I found a recipe that called for ingredients you already have in the house, which made it very easy and affordable. The inspiration and directions are found here: http://ambertheblack.com/no-recipe-easy-homemade-granola/

Finally I made these super easy fabric bowls—> (See picture below, my word press site is not fancy enough to allow me to place a photo any old place!)

This was a delightfully easy and fun project. So easy, that even a less than adept seamstress like myself could make it. I’ll share a tutorial in a separate post.

The hardest part of the spending fast has been food and restaurants. I really love good food, and I LOVE supporting local eateries. I am trying to stick to a food budget, and had completely eliminated eating out as an option. A friend suggested that I allow myself to eat out IF it was within the budget I had already set aside for groceries. This seemed much more realistic, and so still sticking to my budget, we have eaten out (albeit at cheap places!!) twice in the month of December. Bahn’s Cuisine and Ninth Street Bakery here in Durham, NC have vegan friendly eats that cost around $5-6 dollars for a full meal. It is very hard to beat that!

A few more tips on sticking to a budget while grocery shopping.

1. Do NOT go to a “big box” store such as Target or Wal-Mart to get groceries unless you have to. You  WILL think you need other random things, like scented candles, a new ironing board, or other random plastic shit, that I PROMISE you DONT NEED. 🙂 Just go to a regular grocery store, they have everything you need, and if you aren’t afraid of generics, it will be just as cheap.

2. Keeping a grocery budget low means avoiding all pre-packaged food, including the healthy stuff like salad dressing, hummus and my beloved Lara bars. All of these things you can make at home very easily. Again, I plan to offer separate posts on the most financially friendly ways to make these items at home. Plus they are way tastier!

3. When you start cooking and creating more at home, there will be a “Start-up” cost. Buying tahini,miso, dijon and maple syrup to make my favorite salad dressing IS more expensive than grabbing a bottle. But those few ingredients will make salad dressing for the next several months. A very significant savings overall.

Finally, my intention going into 2014 is to have FUN with this spending fast. This doesn’t have to be torture, it is a choice to live more simply and see what emerges with a more mindful approach to spending. Cheers to a frugally fun New Year!

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