Debbie from San Diego did an awesome trip last month, and she borrowed our camera for their Helicopter flight. Check these out!
In light of the fact that today is Father’s Day, giving Duke a little nod is appropriate. Duke Kahanamoku is generally recognized as the Father of Modern Surfing, but his history is much more interesting and complex than just that. He grew up near the beaches of Waikiki and worked as a “beach boy” to help visitors with their ocean-visiting needs. Spending so much time near the ocean, he was an amazing swimmer, and was in fact so fast that his times weren’t believed by contest organizers or athletic associations. He qualified to represent the United States in the 1912 Olympics, winning 2 medals that year, and won 3 additional medals in the next two Olympics. Yes, we have Michael Phelps now, but if you think about the fact that in 1912, there were a total of 7 medal events in Men’s swimming, winning 2 of them is a huge percentage. (FYI, there were 17 mens swimming medals awarded in the 2008 Olympics).
Aside from his swimming skills, Duke could also be seen surfing his 16 foot koa board in the waves of Waikiki. He introduced many visitors and celebrities to the sport, and traveled around the world (also with his 16 foot board!) to display his surfing skills. Duke brought the sport of surfing to California and to Australia, two places where surfing is a fundamental part of their culture. Duke also spent time in Hollywood, and in his spare time saved fishermen offshore.
Later, he returned to Honolulu and served as Sheriff for almost 30 years. He was known as a humble, unassuming man, always quick to share his love of the ocean and to spread aloha to locals and visitors alike. He’s the embodiment of what makes Hawaii so special. Aloha nui loa, Duke!
If you’re wondering why I’m in a great mood, it’s because it is King Kamehameha Day, so I got free parking AND I didn’t have to go to work! Most mainlanders probably don’t know about this holiday, and a lot of locals don’t really bother to remember junior high civics, so I thought I’d provide a little background information.
King Kamehameha was the first king of the Hawaiian islands, and unified the islands under singular rule by either conquering them or “persuading” them to fall under his command. He instituted laws that governed all of the islands, and was known to be kind of a bad ass. During his time, contact with the Westerners was established and alliances were made, and foreigners learned about valuable goods found here in Hawaii such as sandalwood.
June 11 is the annual celebration of Kamehameha and his contributions to the creation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and is marked by parades, a ho’olaule’a (festival), hula performances, and more. So if you ever visit Hawaii in June, make sure to keep Kamehameha Day open to take part in the fun!
The other day I thought it would be fun to go for a paddle around Waikiki, so I went down to the beach and rented an SUP for a little while. My original thought would be that it would be nice to work out the paddling muscles, as well as do some core strengthening, all while getting a bit of sun and enjoying the water. By the time I got down to the water, the clouds were rolling in, and the wind was intense. I stuck to my plan, though, but I started regretting it almost immediately. It was so windy and choppy that it just wasn’t relaxing, and I couldn’t get much speed up. And then it started raining. Part of me wanted to turn back to shore and just call it a day, but I decided to stick it out, and I’m really glad I did. I ended up having a great time, and I really learned a few lessons about life that day, so I thought I’d share them with you. Sorry if you thought this was actually about how to stand-up paddle.
Lesson #1: Be open. I am guilty of being a fair weather surfer/beach bum. I hate wind, and I hate clouds. I was about to let the weather ruin my experience, but I opted to stay out on the water and see what happened. I ended up catching some fun waves and having a great time. I am a novice paddler, so it was such a learning experience and really exciting to do something different.
Lesson #2: Laugh at yourself, and let others laugh at you. One of the things I really enjoy is being in the water with other people who aren’t taking themselves too seriously. I got to chat with some tourists from Seattle who were on SUPs for the first time, and they were so good-natured about it. They really didn’t have any clue what they were doing (one of them asked me if it possible to catch waves on a SUP), but they had fun and laughed at themselves the whole time. It totally changed the energy and made the vibe really friendly and relaxed, so everyone just enjoyed being there together.
And Lesson #3: The sun always comes back out. I was having so much fun that I totally forgot about the weather, and before I knew it, the sun was shining again. Bonus! (This lesson can be literal, but obviously its meant to be metaphorical. All suffering is impermanent.)
I was really humbled by these realizations and grateful for the opportunity to have this day; it makes me wonder how many other opportunities I might have missed due to my own habits or mindset, and it encourages me to stay in the moment and to practice awareness of how I respond to the outside world. Its easy to resent, blame, and complain, but it doesn’t make anything better. Instead, we can embrace the current situation, and we might just have a lot of fun doing it.
Happy paddling and namaste!
Here’s a dish that came to mind while I was roaming the aisles of my local health food store; I’d been thinking of a mushroom pasta after having a really delicious agnolotti dish at my local spot that contained ali’i mushrooms. I honestly don’t even know what ali’i mushrooms are, and I don’t care because they are so damn good. (OK, I lied, I do care, they are also known as king oyster mushrooms.) I don’t think I have ever seen ali’i mushrooms for sale in a grocery store here, but I went in hoping for the best. It turns out they didn’t have any, but instead they had some gorgeous fresh shitakes. Did you know gorgeous fresh shitakes cost $16.99 a pound? That killed my plan to make a dish loaded with mushrooms, so instead, I walked away with about 5-6 of them, weighing in at a third of a pound. I picked up some organic baby spinach, a sweet onion, and then found an interesting spinach and garlic pasta in the bulk section. I have to say, there are so many options for pasta now that it is amazing; any dietary restriction can be satisfied. While I was in the bulk section, I also noticed some raw hulled pumpkin seeds. My plan had been to toast walnuts and add it to the pasta, but something about those green seeds called to me. I loaded up a bag with a good handful and a half, which only cost 53 cents.
- Garlic (I used 5 or 6 cloves, but we are a garlic-loving house. A normal recipe would say 2 or 3.)
- 1/2 Onion (This house also loves onion, so you can eyeball it to your preference. )
- Butter and/or Olive Oil (Start with 2 tbsp and increase by 1 tbsp at a time as needed)
- Thyme and Oregano (dried or fresh)
- 1/3 pound of mushrooms (It depends on what you have available at your store, but something a bit of color to it like baby bellas or shitakes. Even the plain old white ones would work.)
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds- hulled (You can substitute any other seeds you like, but the pumpkin looks nice and holds up well)
- Baby spinach (This stuff disappears as it heats up, so more than you think. I bought a 5 oz clamshell and used half of it.)
- Pasta (half a pound or so)
- 3/4 cup whole walnuts (optional)
- Optional if not vegan: chicken broth or bouillon (can substitute vegetable broth if desired), heavy cream (2-3 tablespoons)
Here’s what to do:
- Start boiling the water for your pasta. (Depending on what type of pasta you use and how long it takes to cook, you might want to wait a little on this step.)
- Mince up the garlic
- Chop the onion (I did large dice mixed with a few larger slices, because I like a little bit of visual texture.)
- Slice mushrooms in half inch slices (I remove the stems from mine so its only caps)
- If you are using the walnuts, preheat the oven to 350 or so and spread the walnuts on a baking sheet. I pop them in the oven immediately. *Nuts burn fast once they are hot, so be vigilant. Your nose will tell you when they are about to singe.*
- In a large saute pan, heat the butter and/or olive oil on medium heat.
- Add the garlic and onion, cook for around 2 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
- Add the mushrooms in, and stir to coat with the butter/oil. If needed, add more oil or butter at this stage to make sure there is a little liquid pulling all the flavors together.
- Sprinkle with thyme and oregano (I eyeball it, but I use more thyme than oregano in this dish). I do just a little salt here to get it into the mushrooms.
- Let everything cook and meld, til the mushrooms are soft and shiny. Add the pumpkin seeds here. Turn the heat down to medium low, and wait until your pasta is al dente.
- When pasta is ready, drain it, but reserve a little of the pasta liquid (1/2 cup) in the pot or in a separate container.
- Pour pasta and reserved liquid into the saute pan. If it doesn’t fit, dump the saute pan into your pasta pot.
- If you like, you can add chicken bouillon here to the liquid. (If you’re using broth, omit the 1/2 cup liquid.) (You don’t need any, but it adds flavor)
- Add your spinach to the pan and let it wilt in the liquid.
- Turn the heat up a little bit so you get a simmer going and give all the flavors a chance to mix and the pasta to get coated. Stir all the ingredients together.
- If you like, you can add a little heavy cream or cheese (dairy or vegan) right near the end to bring everything together and thicken up the sauce, though its not needed.
- Season with salt and fresh black pepper as you like.
Hopefully, you didn’t burn your walnuts and you can just toss them over top of your dish. They add a nice texture and flavor.
It took me only 25-30 minutes to make this dish, including prepwork, and its honestly really simple and delicious. The picture at the top is the only one I could manage, because I was starving and just wanted to start eating! Happy Eating!
In our modern busy lives, we’re faced with a lot of choices of how to spend our time. Given the fact that we each only have 24 hours (technically slightly less than that) a day, and the fact that- as we get older- the months and years start to whiz by, how we choose to spend our time and energy is actually really important. For me, these are pretty much the most significant decisions I make, and frankly, it stresses me out a little sometimes. I spend a lot of time indoors against my will (I have to pay the bills somehow), and so I really want to enjoy myself and pursue my interests when I can.
Here’s where it gets tricky: on the one hand, I appear to be indulgent and hedonistic, as I tend to run off just to go and plop on a beach for an hour; on the other hand, I feel like I SHOULD be doing something specific like going to yoga. But the thing is, some days, I don’t want to do what I feel like I SHOULD be doing. I think everyone has this dilemma: I SHOULD go study more, I SHOULD work late on this project, I SHOULD get a real job, etc. And it doesn’t apply only to the big life stuff, but it applies to the little stuff too: Should I go into the used bookstore? Should I go to yoga or take a bubble bath?
I think that we as a society really need to redefine “should” so that it loses that normative oppressive tone. I think should should be reinterpreted to encompass what would genuinely make our lives better. I tend to think about life in terms of what my future self will regret; if I have any inclination that I will regret a certain action, I do the opposite. And I am pretty sure that my future self will prefer to err on the side of fun versus responsibility. Life is short; we have no idea how long we may be present on this earth. If this is the year the world ends, I want to have spent it doing everything I could to find happiness and experience life fully. If the present is the only reality, shouldn’t the present be fantastic?
Maybe this is all crazy talk, but I hope at least it makes you ponder the issue the next time you ask yourself what you should be doing, and that it leads you down the more fulfilling path. Happy trails!
I know, its that time of year when every commercial on TV is related to dieting, exercising, or other silly drunken promises we make to ourselves in the waning hours of December 31. But I’ve had some really funny and interesting conversations with people recently that have convinced me of one thing: you have to keep moving. We all get older; its a fact. And each year, the old body just isn’t quite the same. Joints get creakier, muscles fatigue faster, and injuries heal slower. Each of those little changes offers you one excuse to become less active, and over time, it becomes easier and easier to become sedentary, which in turn invites health issues ranging from obesity to heart failure.
I am coming to realize that how active you are during your young adulthood, adulthood, and beyond has a tremendous impact on your overall quality of life even in your senior years. Take for instance my grandma. I love my grandma. She’s always been so energetic and active. My entire life she has started her morning by going for a long walk, which in Chinese she calls “san-boo”. I loved going on these walks with her when I was young; she would always bring a little stool with her, and part way through our walk, she would stop somewhere scenic and sit down on the stool and tell me a story. My grandma is almost 90 today, and she still goes on her walk every morning. In her late 70s, she actually became a rather respected calligraphic painter, and she is currently volunteering for the upcoming elections in Taiwan. She’s slowed down a little over the years, and she’s had a few falls that would have permanently wheelchair bound some people, but she keeps on going. What’s really interesting is that she was never thin or athletic; she’s always been on the adorably plump side, and she doesn’t know how to swim or ride a bicycle. But that doesn’t matter; I am convinced that just continuing to move has kept her healthy and able to keep doing the things she enjoys.
I work with the elderly almost every day; I see a lot and I try to learn from it. I have a client who is 91, still drives, doesn’t wear glasses to read, and still works for the marathon organizers. She’s also run over 20 marathons in her life. It is easy to get lost in the anecdotes, but there is some truth behind it. Your body’s flexibility, strength, and range of motion decreases from its maximum range. If you can expand that range and maintain it, then the eventual decline will be minimized.
It may seem daunting; our lives are so busy even without thinking about physical exercise. If I may make one suggestion, it would be this: move your spine. The spine forms the central physical structure of your body; without it, your ability to move or hold yourself upright does not exist. The spine fundamentally can engage in six movements: flexion (forward bend), extension (backbend), lateral (left and right), and twists (left and right). So even in your busiest of days, try and take 2 minutes to engage in each of these 6 movements. Your future body will thank you!
(I don’t want to get all legal on you, but please exercise caution, self-discipline, and respect for your body when engaging in any physical practice. Thanks, NY Times Magazine article, for making me paranoid.)
Happy New Years, or as we say here, Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! (Actually, I haven’t heard anyone say that, its too hard.) Every year we get bombarded with the question of the New Years resolution, as evidently we are all taught to believe that something is wrong with us and we must be trying to improve upon our many faults. I’ve taken issue with this for years, as many others do as well. If there is something you want to change in your life, why wait until January 1? And why do we all have to be so self-critical?
Despite all that, I actually did decide for myself that 2012 will be my year of learning to embrace uncertainty. I was inspired by recently re-reading Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, which becomes more and more insightful with each passing year. Buddhism begins with the notion of human suffering, and that existence is defined by the innate desire to end suffering. Yet it is that very desire that causes us to mire ourselves in futile tasks, even if we think of those tasks as being noble. Traditionally, the concepts of desire and attachment seem to be very worldly, base, ugly human yearnings based on our own weak natures. But what about the desire for contentment? Or being attached to living in the present? Even these things cause us to suffer when we fail to obtain them.
I’ve had a lot of interesting things happen in the past year; 2011 was really a year of change for me, with new jobs, a life-changing personal injury, and the opportunity to fall in love with teaching yoga. Throughout it, I really had been trying to maintain myself in the present and feel gratitude in each moment, and I really feel like I succeeded for the most part. But at the same time, in my mind I was thinking that things would slow down and become easier. It was sort of like riding a rollercoaster and getting a kick out of it, but still wanting the ride to be over. However, I came to realize that pursuing, or even believing in, certainty and stability (those hallmarks of productive adulthood that society tells us are desirable and indicative of success) would guarantee that I would remain perpetually dissatisfied, always reaching, always striving. Life is fundamentally about change, and accepting that its always going to shift underneath your feet. There is no path, and there is no destination. All we have is impermanence. So in the spirit of New Years resolutions, this year is about embracing all the beautiful chaos, madness, disquiet and ambiguity of life and rolling with it.
I hope your own insights make your 2012 the most fulfilling ever! Namaste!
Yoga parlance is full of fun and descriptive phrases (“shine your heart forward”, “let your buttocks blossom to the sky”, and others), but one of my favorites is “calm your monkey mind”, because you immediately understand what it means. And, if you’re like me, you wind up with a cute image of your inner self as a monkey that is running around willy-nilly. Its a humorous and gentle description that draws attention to the fact that your brain might have been very far away from your mat. We all have those moments where we are running through mental to-do lists or remembering an argument with a friend, and so often we don’t even know that its happening unless an outside voice is there to remind you.
Recently, I was reading a book about meditation that encourages lovingly recognizing when your mind has strayed into the world of thought, as opposed to thinking you’ve failed in your practice. I am especially fond of Pema Chodron’s description of imagining an arising thought as a bubble, and tapping that bubble with a feather while acknowledging it, letting the bubble pop and disappear, and then returning to your practice. If the idea of bubbles and feathers is too distracting in and of itself, Chodron also recommends just acknowledging “thinking”, and then returning back to your breath.
Whether you practice in a studio, at home, or just while sitting on the bus, check in with yourself from time to time. If you find your mind wandering, gently allow your focus to come back to your breath and let the mind fall quiet. We will probably need to do this more than we wish we did, but it is the awareness of the noise that is more important than the noise itself. Each breath taken with that fuller consciousness is the reward.
Happy practicing! Namaste.
One of the biggest challenges of the practice of yoga is maintaining one’s focus. This is especially true in the context of a live class, where there are sounds, movements, smells (unfortunately), and countless other little distractions trying to draw your attention away from yourself. There are days when I can put on the blinders and turn my focus inwards, where I am only vaguely aware of the person next to me. And then there are the days where I can’t stop looking around, responding to external stimuli like an ADD-addled fruitfly, noticing haircuts or an interesting tattoo on my fellow yogis and yoginis. Worst are the days where the mind wants to judge, either myself or others.
In a very full class today at my local studio, I became very distracted by the yogi who plopped his mat down right next to mine at the last minute. I’ll have to talk about my mat placement etiquette rules some other day, but suffice it to say that I wasn’t exactly thrilled. My mind began to churn with negative thoughts, and I realized very quickly that I was on the verge of ruining my own practice by wasting all my energy and focus on someone I’d never seen before. I recalled a recent piece of advice given by another instructor, which is to keep your visual focus close to you. To provide a bit of context, this was during a Bikram class– the floor series, specifically– where there are brief savasanas in the prone position (on your stomach) with the head turned either to the left or the right. My natural tendency, which I hadn’t even realized, was to stare towards the far end of the room and often at some person in particular. The instructor suggested that the gaze remain on the fibers of your own towel, or at your own shoulder, and to let the gaze soften and fall out of focus. To do so allows greater relaxation and preserves your energy for the next posture. I noticed an immediate difference; rather than reaching out visually, I was turning inward and holding my prana in to myself.
Whether you are a Bikram practitioner or not, you can explore this concept any time you are on the mat. If your attention is drifting, or you find yourself sneaking peeks at your classmates during a posture, find a soft spot to look on the edge or center of your mat (depending on the asana), and let the eyes soften. You can also bring this practice off the mat, so that when outside forces are causing unwanted distractions, you choose to withhold your attention from them. Nothing can bother you, or control you, if you don’t allow it to. In this way, the things we learn through yoga can really impact our lives. Happy practicing, and Namaste!