A few weeks ago, as I was walking on the beach during a much needed break and observing to myself how much we take Nature for granted, I noticed a couple of scenes that got me thinking about how each one of us tends to react to life.
First I noticed two women in their early 30’s emerging from a home by the beach and walking towards the water. One of the women kept a brisk and sure-footed pace, quickly got in the water and kept wading farther in. The second woman moved at a much slower and tentative pace; she seemed to be waiting for the other woman to go in first. When she reached the edge of the water, she called out from the beach: “Is it cold? Is it really cold?” The other woman, who was already waist deep in the water, answered, “Sure, but you get used to it.” The last thing I noticed as I continued my walk was that the slower woman was still hesitating, standing at the edge of the water and barely allowing her toes to get wet.
I smiled to myself, trying to remember the last time I had been brave enough to swim in the ocean, in spite of the chilly water temperature… Then I thought about what I had just observed and considered how we often oscillate between these two approaches: fear and hesitancy, as opposed to confidence and daring. Which choice usually allows us to make the best out of opportunities in life?
The woman-in-the-water’s reply (“Sure, but you get used to it”) also reminded me of how powerful the simple act of shifting our perspective and mindset can be. Many years ago, when my former business partner and I owned a graphic design and publishing business, we used to make some of our magazine deliveries as an opportunity to network and maintain our connections with advertisers and supporters. These deliveries would usually take a few hours; so I always brought a water bottle with me, which I left in the car in between deliveries. For the better part of the year here in Orlando, FL, it doesn’t take too long for the water to get very hot in the car. I remember that I often whined about the water being too hot, although I could have chosen to do something about it (such as getting an insulated water bottle, bringing a cooler or adding some ice cubes to my water bottle before leaving the house). One day, my former business partner (who was probably tired of all the whining), told me in a facetious way: “Pretend it’s tea.” Her comment actually inspired an ah-ha moment. I took her advice to heart and started pretending that a nice bottle of hot tea was waiting for me in the car after each delivery, instead of hot drinking water; and from that moment on I happily drank and thoroughly enjoyed that hot water. Sometimes I would add lemon juice in my water bottle, so that I could pretend I was having lemon tea. In the end, it’s all about the perspective…
Next, I passed by a woman in her mid- to late 40’s who was spending a day on the beach completely on her own. She was very focused and engaged in the process of building a rudimentary sand castle with a moat around it. I thoroughly enjoyed watching that lady looking so at ease, as she allowed herself to relish in her fun playtime on the beach (with no need to have children around to justify it). How often do we feel that we need someone else around or something more to be able to fully enjoy life, even when what we may need the most is to enjoy a few moments with ourselves?
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 05/31/21
Photo by Anca Gabriela on Unsplash
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Have you tasted some of the amazing vegan products that are available at your grocery store lately? If not, you’ve been missing out…
As awareness about the health benefits of plant-based diets expands, the demand for good quality, minimum-ingredient and incredibly good-tasting meat, dairy and wheat substitutes has also been increasing rapidly. Many specialty food companies have been rising to the challenge and coming up with delicious alternatives! The best thing is that you don’t have to be vegan to give them a try. Although my husband and I are pescaterians, we use many plant-based food products. Here are some of the vegan food and beverage items that, in my opinion, are definitely worth a taste:
- Banza Chickpea Pasta: A delicious gluten-free alternative to wheat- and rice-based pastas, it also has high fiber and protein content! Banza offers many different kinds of past, in addition to pizza and rice substitutes.
Where to find Banza Foods: You can use the Find Banza Near You store locator on their website (under References). In my area, Banza products are available at Publix, Target, Walmart, Sprouts, etc.
- Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger: If you believe that you can’t fake meat, think again! These plant-based burgers cook, smell and taste like the real thing. Both brands offer other plant-based items such as sausages, meatballs, ground beef and more.
Where to find Beyond Burger: Many restaurants and fast-food chains serve them, but you can also buy them at Publix, Sprouts, Target, Walmart, etc.
Where to find Impossible Burger: Many restaurants and fast-food chains also serve them, but you can use the Impossible Foods store locator under References to find them in your area. Some of the places in my area are Publix, Walmart, some Starbucks locations, etc.
- Califia Toasted Coconut Almond Milk and Chobani Oat Milk: Delicious, creamy and tasty milk substitutes! Both brands offer different milk and coffee creamer flavors, either sweetened or unsweetened.
Where to find Califia Milk and Coffee Creamers: You can use the Find Your Plant Base locator on their website (under References). In my area: Publix, Sprouts, Chamberlin’s Whole Foods, etc. Their products are also available on Amazon.
Where to find Chobani Milk and Creamers: You can use the Where to Buy Base locator on their website (under References). In my area: Publix, Walmart, Walgreens, etc. Their products are also available on Amazon.
- Daiya New York Cheezecake: Best plant-based cheesecake ever! Try it with blueberry sauce or others favorite toppings. Additional flavors: Chocolate, Strawberry and Key Lime. Daiya offers many additional plant-based products, including cheese alternative shreds, slices, sticks and blocks; salad dressing (try the Creamy Caesar or Blue Cheeze); pizza; burritos; dessert bars and more.
Where to find: You can go to the Daiya Foods Product Locator website page (under References). In my area, I can find their products at Public, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.
- Miyoko’s Creamery European Style Organic Cultured Vegan Butter: This brand deserves an honorable mention for offering several vegan products that are among the best I’ve ever tasted! As someone who likes to eat butter with bread, rather than bread with butter, not being able to do that anymore was the hardest part of giving up dairy. I always found butter substitutes very dissatisfying, until I recently tasted Miyoko’s vegan butter. If you don’t tell your family or friends that they’re having vegan butter, they won’t be able to tell the difference. This vegan butter is perfect for cooking, too!
Miyoko’s Creamery offers many other delicious items, including Vegan Cashew Milk Mozzarella (original or smoked) and Fish-free Lox Cream Cheese. All their products are organic.
Where to find: You can use their Store Finder link (under References). In my area, I find these products at Publix, Target, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.
- So Delicious Dairy Free Plain Yogurt: The So Delicious brand has been around long enough that it could be considered an old vegan classic. In addition to their above-par coconut milk- and oat milk-based yogurts (in different flavors, either sweetened or unsweetened), they’re famous for their very tasty coconut milk, cashew milk or almond milk frozen desserts, as well as milk, creamer and cheese alternatives.
Where to find: You can go to the So Delicious Dairy Free Where to Buy - Find Our Deliciousness page (under References). In my area, these products are found at Publix, Target, Walmart, WinnDixie, BJs Wholesale Club, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.
- Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil Pesto: In my opinion, their delicious plant-based version of this classic sauce is better than the real thing!
Where to find: Trader Joe’s stores (please see their store locator under References).
- VioLife Just Like Cream Cheese - Original: After trying many different fair to good-tasting brands of cream cheese, this brand has become my favorite, by far.
Where to find: You can use the Where We Are Locator on their website (under References). In my area, I find it at Publix.
Although vegan foods have become much more affordable due to their increasing popularity and demand, some of these products are still considered a bit pricey, if compared to their non-plant-based counterparts. But not if you take into consideration that this is an important investment in your health; not to mention the health of other living beings and our planet. Try them out!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/2721
Photo by Raul Vargas
Find Banza Near You - Store Locator
Beyond Meat - Where to Find
Impossible Products Store Locator:
Califia Farms - Find Your Plant Base
Chobani - Where to Buy
Daiya Foods - Product Locator
Miyoko’s Creamery Store Finder
So Delicious Dairy Free Where to Buy - Find Our Deliciousness
Trader Joe’s Store Locator
VioLife Where We Are Locator
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THIS IS TOO MUCH!!! About Highly Sensitive People
Beyond Age: The Middle Is The New Beginning
I’ve been busier than usual lately, and the cleanliness level of my house was beginning to reflect that fact. We care for 12 animals; although 5 of them live in outdoor shelters, we have enough animals in the house and porch to make keeping up with housework a must. I occasionally have some help for hard cleaning days; but being the control freak that I am, I usually like to do the rest myself.
I had planned to roll up my sleeves and do a thorough house cleaning last Saturday morning. Due to the fact that I have OCPD, I was already in freak out mode by Friday afternoon. As I ran the list of things I’d have to do the next morning (vacuum, mop and dust the entire house; sweep the garage; spray natural flea control in the house, including the garage; wash all pet beds and blankets; etc), I started feeling overwhelmed, which soon caused me to be overcome by a feeling of anxiety. Anxiety came laced with self-pity (“I’ve been working so hard, and now I ‘have to’ spend my whole Saturday morning cleaning…”, conveniently ignoring the fact that I didn’t really have to do it all, and by myself, at that; I chose to); that eventually led to depression, as it often does when I’m not vigilant and allow these feelings to remain unchecked and escalate. At that point, I had lost perspective of my goal, as well as how to break it down and move forward to accomplish it. I just felt confused, depressed, miserable. Then I felt bad for allowing myself to spiral down and feel that way just over house cleaning; so I added guilt and shame to the pot. End result: Total paralysis. I continued feeling like that until Saturday morning, when I was supposed to get started.
As I’m familiar with my patterns, I usually prevent things from hitting bottom; sooner or later, I manage to catch myself, stop and reverse the process. This time I had to count on higher guidance to snap out of it. As I helplessly stood in my kitchen, trying to decide what to do, how to get started and how to feel better about the whole thing, a voice popped in my head: “Forget about the list, just clean the bathrooms.” I’m used to asking for and receiving guidance, but I was surprised at the fact that they had jumped in without invitation this time, and in relation to something as mundane as house cleaning. “There’s a lesson here,” I thought; “I’m in need of a reminder.”
So I proceeded by staying in the moment as best as I could and focused only on cleaning the bathrooms. When I was done, I checked with myself and felt energized and ready for more. So I decided to proceed with the house cleaning and load the washer at the same time. I cleaned the bathrooms, the living room area, the kitchen. At that point, I checked in with myself again; I was starting to feel tired and hungry. I realized it was almost lunch time and my husband would be coming home soon, bringing groceries. So I decided that I was going to finish the second part of the cleaning (garage and flea treatment) on Monday, and start focusing on lunch.
I’m glad to confirm that I did finish the job on Monday; no further schedule adjustments were necessary. I felt satisfaction and a sense of peace and calm for what I had accomplished on both days, not to mention relief... Mostly because I had gained clarity in relation to what I needed to do, and how; my world was in order and I was in the flow again, and it had taken only one step to get things rolling.
I took this experience as a microcosmic reminder of the power of taking one small step, no matter what it is that you need to get done or how big and overwhelming the project seems to be. Although it’s tempting to try to make it more complicated than it really is, it’s actually a fairly simple process, as follows:
The Power of Taking One Step Process:
- Check in with yourself and take inspired action by choosing one small step. Sometimes it will come to you, as it happened in my case; sometimes you have to ask the question and create the space to allow your inner or higher guidance to come through by taking a quiet moment, doing breath work, meditating, praying, etc. Also, accept the fact that you might not see a clear path yet or know the next step when you take the first one. Trust and take the first step, anyway.
- Check in with yourself; take more steps. Tune in to know when to put that energy flow to good use and roll with it, to keep moving forward.
- Check in with yourself; adjust your plans as needed. While it’s important to plan a schedule that works with your circumstances (which often involve others), it’s just as important to know when to mix it up to change the routine a bit, or stop and pay attention to self-care, as well as other needs or priorities.
- Check in with yourself; follow up and follow through. Sometimes it’s easy to allow things to interfere with your intention to continue moving forward. Unless a course adjustment is really called for, as mentioned above, stick to your plans and continue taking action steps towards your goals.
- Check in with yourself; reach out for help and support, as needed. In my case, I received guidance at the right time and I chose to take care of business myself. However, it’s important to remember that delegating and asking to help often is the best next step.
- Repeat. This simple process can be applied to every situation in life!
FINAL THOUGHT: There’s no journey without steps…
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 03/31/21
Photo by Christian Chen on Unsplash
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Shifting Your Perspective From Pain
I’ve been dealing with sciatica pain on and off (mostly on) for many years now. For the last 3 months I’ve been negotiating a peace treaty with the latest sciatica crisis, but this one is very entrenched and doesn’t seem to be quite ready or willing to vacate its occupied territories (pretty much the right side of my body, from the mid-back down to the foot, with a strong hold around the hip, thigh and knee areas). As anyone who’s familiar with sciatica knows, there’s considerable pain involved in such a crisis. To aggravate things, the pain gets much worse when you sit (which I have to do most of the day, due to the nature of my work) and lie down (which often means very poor nights of sleep). After trying the usual strategies for several weeks (massages, chiropractic sessions, back stretches for sciatica, slow walking, heating pad, pillow under the knees, special seat cushions and back support, etc, as well as some pain medication), my level of exasperation grew to the point that all I could focus on was the pain; especially when lying in bed at night, trying to sleep through it.
As I’ve been practicing Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering mediation techniques twice a day, and also reading his book, A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (under References), it finally dawned on me that maybe I needed to approach this issue in a different way. In other words, what about paying attention to all those texts I’ve read, videos and webinars I’ve been watched, deep conversations I’ve had, etc, about not identifying so much with the mind-body (or the pain-body, as Eckhart Tolle very appropriately calls it)?
Coincidentally, as I was thinking about this, I caught a post by K.C. Miller, founder of SWIHA - Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, in her A Course In Miracles study group on Facebook (link below). The title of the post was “I Choose the Joy of the Divine Over Pain - Lesson #210,” which served as a strong confirmation of my recent line of thought.
So I decided to give it a try. That evening, when dealing with the usual pain and discomfort at bed time, I said to myself several times: “I choose joy!.” I really put my heart into it. And something amazing happened: the pain became less intense; or rather, my feeling of the pain decreased. For the first time in weeks, I fell asleep fairly quickly and had a good night of sleep. I repeated the experiment for the next two nights; same result. And since I was able to rest better, physical healing started taking place; so I’ve had less pain during the last three days, too. In addition, repeating the “I choose joy” affirmation to myself had the effect of self-hypnosis; I actually felt more joyful as I quietly fell asleep, and I’m sure that helped increase the serotonin levels in my brain, which in turn helped with the pain.
As I related my experience to my wise husband (an experienced Vipassana meditator), he suggested that I should try the same exercise throughout the day, and in relation to every challenge that life throws my way. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. So simple, right? “I choose joy.” Yes, it’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely been worth the effort…
FINAL THOUGHT: “Our lives include both pain and suffering. Pain is physical discomfort, while suffering is the story around pain. The Buddha said, ‘When touched by a feeling of pain, the ordinary uninstructed person sorrows, grieves, and laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical and mental, just as if he was shot with an arrow and, right afterward, was shot with another one, so that he felt the pain of two arrows (Being With Dying, Joan Halifax).’ “
Ironically, the harder pain is often the one caused by the mind (the second arrow)... Just remember, however: we can always choose joy!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 07/31/2019
Image by kalhh from Pixabay
Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy, by Sadhguru
Being With Dying, by Joan Halifax
I Choose The Joy Of The Divine Over Pain - Lesson # 210 (A Course In Miracles study group hosted by K.C. Miller/SWIHA - A Conscius Community)
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