Holiday Stress Buster

This past weekend, we had glorious weather with the temps in the mid 70’s and very low humidity, which could only mean one thing in South Florida…FALL!  You see, we don’t get to break out the sweaters and thigh high boots, (although I do give credit to those who try) for us Fall means spending more time outside at the beach or the park and not being drenched in sweat. AND it means that we decorate. Just because the leaves aren’t changing colors doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the season. 

So this weekend out came our ceramic pumpkins, Halloween decorations and left over scented candles.  I can't look at a candle without thinking of an ancient yoga technique which I realized I haven't shared with you yet.  It’s definitely something you can learn now to calm your nerves and lessen the holiday anxieties. Ya know it’s coming…

The technique is called Trataka which means “to look or to gaze.”  It’s a type of meditation which has the observer pick an object to concentrate on for some time and then that object is visualized clearly with the eyes closed, as an inner image at the center of the eyebrows.

I’ve always found that using a candle works best for me. Haven’t you ever been mesmerized by fire before?  The meditative properties the flame conjures helps this practice be one of the most effective.

Here are the five easy steps to cultivate your Trataka practice.

  1. In a dark room, light a candle and place it around 3 to 4 feet in front of you, try to have it at eye level so not to strain your neck. Maybe stack some books or set it on a low table.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position with the spine upright and the arms and shoulders relaxed. Take a few deep breathes.
  3. Gaze at the flame for as long as you can and try to focus on all of the colors, the shape of the flame, the movement or anything that stands out for you.
  4. When you're ready, close your eyes and try to picture the flame in the center of your eyebrows. Rest with that image until it fades away. 
  5. Repeat this process as many times as you like.  The more you practice, the longer you will be able to see the flame with your eyes closed.

There are many different methods of doing this meditation but I've simplified it here to ease you into it. It's a fun and easy way to start or deepen your meditation practice. 

As I mentioned before, you may want to master Trataka now so you have it down pat by the holidays. Everyone seems to have candles burning in their bathrooms during the festivities so when you need some stress relief, escape into a dark room, stare at a flame and let it melt away.

Simple Joys of the Week: Oregon

We've just come back from a whirlwind tour of Oregon. We drove over 1,100 miles starting at the top of the state in Portland, heading out east to Hood River, going south to Bend and  Crater Lake National Park and then returning to Portland via the coast.  I'm so excited to share a brief glimpse of our vacation in hopes of recruiting you all to plan your next adventure in this beautiful state.

Last year when I recapped my vacation to Utah, I paid homage to Starr Struck by doing a Simple Joys of the Week blog. Every Friday she posts her favorite moments of the week via the 5 senses: Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound and Sight. Without further ado, these are our Simple Joys of the Week: Oregon style!

SMELL - Pine Trees
On this vacation, we had the privilege of renting an SUV with the largest sunroof I've ever seen.  It was perfect for our long drives and for seeing the stars at night. The weather was beautiful and we were usually driving with the windows open. All we could smell for miles were pine trees.  It was like Christmas in September.   It's by far my husbands favorite scent ever.


TASTE: Live Nachos at Blossoming Lotus
Usually when we travel, we are hard pressed to find any vegan food but not this trip. In Portland, vegan restaurants, bakeries and stores are in abundance.  I had over 20 places I wanted to visit.  Sadly, one of the best things we ate was a chocolate toffee hazelnut bar from Back To Eden Bakery but I didn't take any photos... So, the close runner up was the Live Nachos from Blossoming Lotus.  My husband ordered these and could not stop talking about them. The live (raw) chips are topped with nacho 'cheese' sauce, pecan chorizo diced avocado, cashew sour cream, red onion, tomato, scallion and cilantro. Vegan, Raw and Delicious. 

TOUCH: Water at Crater Lake
Crater Lake National Park might not be one of the best known parks but it certainly is one of the most beautiful. The crater was once a mountain that erupted and eventually caved in creating this massive hole.  From years of rain and snow, the crater filled up to form a steely blue lake. Since there are no water sources going in or out of the lake, the water is some of the purest in the world.

After taking a 33 mile trolley tour around the rim, we decided to hike down into the lake.  The steep descent offered amazing views.  Once we got to the bottom, we saw a few people congregated on top of a rock.  Some were jumping off while others were building up the nerve.  I decided right then to do it myself.  I was all bundled up because the weather was cold and breezy that day, so I took off my top layer of clothing and jumped in. The water was freezing. Like stop your heart cold.  But I was so glad that I did it. You mostly regret the things you don't do, right ;)

SEE: Oregon Coast
To pick the best thing I saw throughout my entire vacation is asking a lot.  There were so many beautiful places but if I HAVE to pick one, I would say it was the coast.  Oregon's coast is very similar to California's with the cliff-side beaches and crystal blue waters but it has a charm all of its own.  We drove from Florence all the way up to Cannon Beach, a four hour drive but we didn't mind it at all.  We saw whales at Camp Foulweather. Beaches with black stones instead of sand. Elk at Ecola State Park. And huge rocks (monoliths) rising from the waters. I couldn't just pick one photo.

HEAR: Fans at the Portland Timbers Game
On our last day in Portland, we decided to go to a MLS Portland Timbers game.  The game was sold out and we ended up scalping tickets (first time ever!) and got the most amazing seats. My husband and I are always by the book so we felt like little rebels. Anywho, the stadium was packed and everyone was wearing the team colors of white and green.  As soon as we sat down, people were chanting and screaming.  The energy in that building was incredible.  I'm not a huge soccer fan but you couldn't help but get caught up in the magic.  It was like nothing I've ever experienced at a sports event.  Kudos to you, Timbers fans.

If Oregon hasn't been on your vacation radar, please add it.  This state is spectacular. I only gave you a small taste of what we did and what they have to offer. If you need any recommendations, feel free to ask me!  Until next time, Oregon.