All posts by Lissa Coffey

About Lissa Coffey

Lissa Coffey is a Relationship Expert and Lifestyle Designer who serves up an inspiring blend of ancient wisdom and modern style on her website CoffeyTalk.com. Lissa’s newest book is "The Perfect Balance Diet: 4 Weeks to a Lighter Body, Mind, Spirit & Space." Her bestselling, “What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love” does for Ayurveda what Linda Goodman’s Love Signs has done for astrology. A sought-after guest expert, Lissa Coffey appears frequently on television (including The Today Show) and radio and contributes to many national publications with her insightful and compassionate approach to modern-day issues. Her “Wisdom News,” “Coffeytalk,” and “What’s Your Dosha,” e-mail newsletters are enjoyed around the world by a steadily growing subscriber base. Deepak Chopra says of Lissa: “Your heart will thank you for Lissa’s helpful and heartful vision.”

The Survivors of Suicide

NaseknanThis week is National Suicide Prevention Week. It is heartbreaking to think that suicide is that pervasive of a problem in our society to warrant such a week. And yet it is. Suicide takes the lives of over 30,000 Americans every year. There are twice as many deaths from suicide as there are from HIV/AIDS. It is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year old Americans. And there are more than 800,000 attempted suicides every year.

Those are the statistics.

And then there are the stories.

Perhaps the worst thing about suicide is the pain it causes to those left behind. These people are known as the survivors. And telling our stories can help us to heal from the trauma of this experience.

When Gia Allemand, the reality television star, took her own life last month, the topic of suicide became a part of a national discussion. Gia’s distraught mother spoke with Dr. Phil about her feelings, which echo those of many survivors.

Sometimes there are warning signs. And then sometimes the incident seems to come from out of nowhere. That’s how it was when I found out that my friend Ophir had died. I remember getting a phone call from our mutual friend Curt. He was in a state of disbelief as he had just gotten the news. It took a few phone calls to figure out exactly what had happened. Ophir had committed suicide.

I knew Ophir as an extremely talented and creative composer. We worked together on several music projects. We had a close friendship and a great respect for each other. Ophir helped me bring my songs to life. When Ophir had a hernia operation, I had him stay at my home while he recovered.

I was aware that Ophir used drugs. I spoke with him about it many times, offering him alternatives, and suggestions for a more healthy way of life. But he did not want to hear it. He did not want to talk about it. He always functioned perfectly well when we were working, and he assured me that he did not have a problem. When I heard that Ophir had died, I assumed it was an accidental overdose. But there was no accident about Ophir’s death. He planned it. He put a rifle in his mouth and shot himself.

Like most people do in this situation, I started asking myself all kinds of questions. What could I have done to prevent this? Why didn’t I see this was coming? What was so terrible that he had to do this? I felt awful, not only for myself, but for his family, everyone who loved him. Suicide is such a violent act. It is terribly hurtful to everyone left behind with so many unanswerable questions. I don’t know what brought Ophir to his decision. I do know and recognize that although our relationship has changed, he is still very much a part of my life. I have the songs we wrote together on my websites. He taught me so much about music and the creative process. When certain songs come on the radio I am reminded of him, and his amazing energy, sweet smile, and sly sense of humor. His words still influence me. His music still moves me.

I know the agreement Ophir and I had was complete even before his death. There was no unfinished business between us. We learned from each other, both creatively and personally. At his funeral I met many others who felt the same way.

This was the second time that I had been affected by suicide. When I was around eleven years old, shortly after my parents’ divorce, my mother’s brother took his own life. He was a Vietnam veteran, and he became hooked on drugs while he was in the war. When he got home, he couldn’t handle normal life after seeing everything he saw in combat. His drug problem got worse, he would have hallucinations, and he overdosed to escape the pain.

I saw how this shattered my mother and grandmother. He also left behind a wife and baby daughter. It was tragic. As a child I could sense how awful this was for everyone. And now as an adult I can see how my uncle’s life mattered. Even in the short time he was with us, he brought joy to his mother and love to his family. He struggled with life, and he chose to die. But while he was here he lived, and he had the opportunities and experiences that allowed him to learn and grow. He may not have made the best choices, but they were his choices. In situations like this you have to get past the blame, and the guilt, and know that there is nothing you could have done to change the outcome. For whatever reason, this person took his own life. It is not rational, or logical, or right. But it is irreversible. And we learned by going through all of this together as a family.

Chaim Nissel, PsyD is the Director of Yeshiva University’s Counseling Center in New York City, and an expert with the American Association of Suicidology. He has this to say about coping with the loss of a loved one from suicide:

The death of a loved one by suicide has all the trappings of conventional grief plus a host of other intense, difficult, and confusing emotions. These include feelings of guilt and responsibility, anger and blame and often a disconnect with the individual who killed himself. When we lose a loved one to cancer or AIDS, we accept the reality, feel the loss, grieve, yet we don’t blame ourselves. Following a suicide, it is hard to accept the reality that the individual chose death. We feel responsible and wonder “if I had only…..” he’d be alive today. We would rather blame ourselves because it is difficult to place the responsibility where it belongs, on the individual who killed himself.

One who experiences the death of a loved one to suicide is fittingly called a “survivor.” They must now learn to cope and survive their loss. Most survivors experience anger, guilt and emotional turmoil. There is often anger at the deceased for taking their own life, it is seen as selfish, because their pain ends, but the survivor’s pain begins. Guilt over what they could have and should have done to prevent it (although if the loved one wanted to die, they would have despite your interventions). We like to think that we can control events, but when another person is in such emotional pain that they want to die, the choice to kill themselves remains their choice, despite everything that you can and did offer them.

There is still tremendous stigma and shame associated with suicide and when the fact that one died by suicide is hidden or denied, it becomes so much more difficult to come to terms with it. When we try to “cover” or pretend the death was accidental, it takes its toll on the survivors and will impact them the rest of their lives.

To help us find closure, Dr. Nissel has this advice:

  • Talk about it! Find supportive people in your life who you can share your feelings with.
  • Focus on the person’s life, and the good memories you have of the person. Know that you will never truly know why he killed himself.
  • Recognize that the person’s pain is over, now it’s time to start healing your own pain.
  • Have answers prepared for when people ask questions. This will help reduce your anxiety and emotional reactions. You can say “He took his own life” or “died by suicide” or even “he suffered a long illness.” If someone is persistent, blaming or insensitive, you can say “it is too difficult to talk about right now” and end the conversation.
  • Know that you are not responsible for your loved one’s death, in any way. Only the individual who killed himself is responsible.
  • Know that the likelihood is that the person was in such pain, for so long and now the suffering is over. 90% of those who die by suicide suffered from some form of mental illness, most commonly an affective disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Seek resources such as professional counseling, support groups, and books.
  • Being exposed to a suicide makes you somewhat more susceptible to suicidal thinking. If you are having thoughts of killing yourself, get help immediately by contacting a local psychologist or psychiatrist. If you feel you may act on these suicidal impulses, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) helps survivors of suicide. Actress Michelle Ray Smith, who played “Ava” on the daytime drama “Guiding Light,” talked about her father’s suicide in an interview with Soap Opera Digest magazine a few years back. She said that participating in AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness” event, an overnight 20 mile walk, helped her connect with people who had been through the same thing. “For the first time since he died – it’s been three years in September – I feel at peace.”

Talking with people, sharing our stories, is one way that we can help each other to heal.

For more information about how to find closure go to http://www.closurebook.com

Why Ayurveda Could Change Your Life

Jumping

Imagine you’re outside, by a beautiful lake, enjoying the perfection of your surroundings. You feel comfortable, relaxed, as if you are an important part of it all. You are so in tune that it is as if you can hear nature speaking to you.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan is thinking to itself: “How wonderful it is to be a swan. I can take my time; life is serene. I am graceful and lovely. All is right with the world.”

And then you notice an eagle flying high overhead, and the eagle is thinking: “Ah, what a joy it is to be an eagle. I am strong, and free. This is the life!”

A hummingbird flits past, and you can hear the hummingbird is thinking: “I’m having so much fun on this glorious day. There’s so much to see and do. I’m so glad I’m a hummingbird and can move easily to all the things I love.”

Everything in nature has a purpose. We’re all connected. Sitting amongst the trees and looking at the clear blue sky you know that you are an important part of this connection. You breathe deeply and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace.

Now, imagine you’re in that same place, same time. When you hear nature speaking to you things are a bit different.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan thinks to itself: “Oh, my. Why am I stuck being a swan? I would so much rather be like that little hummingbird. I want to flit around like that! I feel so dumpy just floating here on this silly lake.”

Then the eagle flies overhead, and you read its thoughts: “Wow. Look at that swan down there. He’s got the good life. Why can’t I just hang out on the lake? Instead I’m up here working so hard. This isn’t fair. I’d rather be a swan.”

Then the hummingbird flits by and thinks: “Really? That eagle is so lucky. She’s way up there with a great vantage point. She can go so far without even flapping her wings. I’m down here pumping away a million beats a minute! Man, I want to be an eagle.”

Somehow, this second scenario just doesn’t make sense, does it? Because this is not how nature operates! And yet, this is exactly what we do as human beings all the time. We fight our own nature. We compare ourselves to one another. We think we need to always be thinner, more beautiful, more successful, more something, anything! When the truth is that we are inherently perfect. If we are carrying around excess weight, or stress, or feeling bad about ourselves it is because we are out of balance, our lives are out of balance in one way or another. We can find that perfect state of balance, and regain our strength and confidence and energy to be the best that we can be.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves, to be our healthiest and happiest, body, mind, and spirit, is to know who we are. Some of us are swans, some of us are eagles, and some of us are hummingbirds. Each being is valid, each being has value, and each being brings his or her unique gifts to the world. When we know ourselves, and our own nature, we allow the best of ourselves to shine through. Nature operates through us. So why are we fighting it?

Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old “Science of Life” from India. It explains the nature of everything in the universe. It teaches us how to live in harmony with nature, knowing the connections that we share. Ayurveda is all about balance, and this is something we are in dire need of today.

There are a lot of things that take us away from our state of balance. We are overstressed and overworked. We overeat and are overweight. We over exert ourselves and overspend so that we end up tired, hungry, in debt and living in a mess. Look at all the extra “stuff” we carry around with us. We need to lighten up! We need to shed the stress, the pounds, the debt, and the distractions and focus on what is good for us, what serves us. Food is a huge part of all this. We use food to soothe our emotions, to fill up our tummies when we feel a lack in some part of our lives. We fall into habits, with food and otherwise, that we think are easy, and they become mindless and robotic so that we don’t see any other possibilities or potential for ourselves.

It’s time to get back to nature, to get back to basics, to get back into balance. And what better way than by turning to a practice that has been tried and true for all these centuries? Ayurveda is a “sister science” with yoga and meditation. As we experience the benefits of these practices in our lives we naturally want to learn more – and that’s where Ayurveda is positioned right now.

Twenty years ago or so here in the west Feng Shui was a foreign concept – but now it’s a part of our every day vernacular. If you haven’t heard of Ayurveda yet – now you have! And if you haven’t lived the Ayurveda lifestyle yet, I encourage you to try it now. Lots more info in my new book, The Perfect Balance Diet: 4 Weeks to a Lighter Body, Mind, Spirit & Space and on my new website: perfectbalancediet.com

5 Ways to Look and Feel Better Than You Did in High School!

Spa Treatment at Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort - MauritiusIt’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. When we’re in our teens we can get away with bad habits because we have that natural, youthful energy anyway. As we get older, we find that energy is a commodity that we prize and need to be more diligent in our self-care so that we have plenty of it!

Luckily for us, Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old “Science of Life,” has some easy guidelines we can follow to look and feel healthier, sexier, and more energetic than we did in high school!

Here are 5 tips from Ayurveda on how to look and feel better:

1. Know your body type.

THEN: In high school you probably coveted the body types of the women in Charlie’s Angels, or wanted to look like Cheryl Tiegs. Now we know better! YOU are the best you, don’t try to be someone else.

NOW: Know your body type – Are you Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. This way you know what “normal” is for you. That way you don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Every dosha is beautiful! Be your best self.

2. Eat for energy.

THEN: In high school you probably lived on pizza and leftovers, and ran through the drive-through after school.

NOW: Eat energizing foods. Fresh vegetables should constitute 40% of the meal. Green, leafy vegetables are especially high in minerals and fiber, so should be eaten often. Raisins are among the best of fruits because they enhance purity, pacify the mind and heart and increase the coordination between them. They are also a rich source of iron and vitamin B6, and provide magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium. Raisins aid digestion and elimination when they are soaked in water overnight. One handful per person is a good amount.

A date-milk energy shake is a nourishing way to end the day because it promotes sleep and calms both Pitta and Vata sleep imbalances.

Date-Milk Energy Shake

  • 4-5 whole dates
  • 1 cup whole organic milk (may substitute soy or rice or almond milk)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Boil the milk until it creates a foam. Turn off the heat and cool until the temperature is comfortable for drinking. Combine the milk with the other ingredients and blend until the dates are ground up. Drink it warm in winter and at room temperature in summer.

By the way, the warm frothy milk can also be used as a face mask – wonderfully hydrating and leaves the skin super soft!

Herbs and spices are your friends! Cumin helps digestion, freshly crushed black pepper helps you assimilate food better, cilantro cools and nutmeg soothes. There are spice blends, or CHURNAS, specifically to pacify each dosha – you can buy them ready made or make them at home.

Also, avoid energy-draining foods. Any fast foods, canned, frozen, packaged, leftover, or old foods, or foods with preservatives, chemicals and additives, are difficult to digest and contain little nutritional content. They actually drain the body of energy. If you do have some of these foods and feel heavy afterwards, drink half a glass of warm water with ¼ of a lime squeezed into it.

3. Keep skincare simple.

THEN: In high school, you probably spent a ton of money on grooming products, soaps, perfumes, lotions, hairspray.

NOW: Keep it simple. Nourish the body with natural oils. Abhyanga is a daily self massage which is good for keeping all the doshas in balance. It helps moisturize the skin, helps to release toxins, helps to tone the muscles, and it soothes the nerves. Sesame oil is usually recommended in general and is very good for Vatas specifically. Almond oil is also good for Vata. Coconut and sunflower both work well for Pitta. Corn and olive oils are beneficial for balancing Kapha.

The massage can be done in the morning before your shower, or in the evening before bed. Start by warming the oil to skin temperature, and drizzle a small amount of oil into the palms of your hands. Massage the top of your scalp (on days when you wash your hair), pay particular attention to the circumference of your ears, and the soles of your feet. Massage with long strokes on your limbs, and round strokes on your joints. It’s best to leave the oil on the body for 20 minutes before washing it off in a warm shower or bath. This 20 minutes is a good time to do your morning meditation!

4. Maintain a regular routine.

THEN: In high school, you probably kept late nights studying and partying with friends, up early for school, activities – on the go all the time.

NOW: Regular routine can help prevent stress. Ayurveda says there are 3 types of fatigue. Mental fatigue is a Vata imbalance, emotional fatigue is a Pitta imbalance, and physical fatigue is a Kapha imbalance. For all three:

  • Meditation – Twice daily
  • Good sleep habits.
  • Regular meal times.
  • Regular exercise, morning walk in the sun, yoga.
  • Dosha balancing routines – and teas.

5. Support fertility naturally.

THEN: In high school, energy probably came easily. You were always ready for a date!

NOW: Some grains, such as quinoa, enhance estrogenic activity and support the hormonal activity of both men and women. Cook it with a little ghee, salt, and spices such as cumin. Fruits such as papaya and pineapple are also helpful in strengthening the ovum. Turmeric helps enhance the binding of estrogen and progesterone.

Take the Dosha Quiz to determine your Dosha and learn more about Ayurveda with my free 6 week e-course here.

 

Originally published April 2012

Love is All There Is

love is in the air, love is everywereValentine’s Day has us all thinking about love. We can’t escape the ads, the decorations in the stores, the promises of chocolates and roses at every point of purchase. We get caught up in the celebration and romance of this holiday. And yet, we know that there is much more to love than cards and candy.

Love is all there is.

Really. There’s nothing else. It’s what we’re made of. It’s what we live for. It’s who we are.

Love is at the source of all creation. It’s something we all strive to understand, and that we all have in common. It’s what connects us.

Love is our greatest teacher. It is so big, so all-encompassing, that individually we could study it throughout our entire lifetime, and as a society we have studied it throughout the ages. We can learn about love, we can learn from love, we can learn to love.

Bhakti Yoga is the Path of Love. Bhakti Yoga teaches us to love everything, and everyone, because all of it is divine. Each small thing is a part of the greater whole, and that whole is divine. So when we practice Bhakti we experience the feeling of love in the recognition of divinity, with everything we come across.

We experience love the most profoundly through our relationships. Although there is only one love, love is expressed in many different ways. There have been sonnets and songs written about love throughout the ages, yet it is still difficult for us to define because it is so vast. The Indian sages have come up with terms to help us understand some of the many aspects of love.

Santa: Santa is peaceful, calm, and slow. This is a love we might feel for ourselves. It is gentle, steady, and natural.

Dasya: Dasya is the love that we might feel towards a teacher, a mentor, someone we respect and want to serve.

Sakhya: Sakhya is the love we feel for a dear friend. In friendship there is a kind of equality, a give and take, an exchange of feelings, a sharing of our selves.

Vatsalya: Vatsalya is the love that a parent feels for a child. A baby is so innocent and we can’t help but to want to give love to that child, without demands or expectations for anything in return. Children are pure, and completely lovable. We recognize this without hesitation.

Madhura: Madhura is the love of our beloved. This is the “in love” feeling when we are swept off our feet, blissful, devoted, and intense.

Bhakti Yoga continually reminds us to “Love the Highest.” When we find ourselves infatuated with our jobs, our cars, any material thing, Bhakti tells us that we are misguided. When all of our human desire for what is new, fun, novel or beautiful is instead directed towards love, we then experience the greatest delight.

In our human experience, love is not all hearts and flowers. Sometimes it’s messy, it can be complicated, and it can hurt. Love itself is pure, simple, and perfect – but we tend to muddy it up with our humanity. We question, we expect, we desire, we need. And in our attempts to understand we come up with definitions, we analyze, we discuss and then we filter all of this through our past experiences to come up with what we think love should be, would be, could be. And every one of us is doing the same thing, with oftentimes very different results. Jealousy, temptation, broken hearts and bitter break-ups are the inspiration for many songs and screenplays.

But the basic truth is that love is. It just is. Love is beyond definition, beyond space and time, beyond any relationship. Love is a true constant in this world. It does not need to be created, it is always here, it has always been here, and it always will be here. We have only to know this to notice it. Eyes open, mind open, heart open, love is available to us in all of its myriad forms, essential simplicity and spectacular glory.

“Namaste” is a Sanskrit greeting that means: “The Divine in me recognizes and honors the Divine in you.” That recognition of the Divine is Bhakti, or love. On Valentine’s Day, and every day, let’s try to practice Bhakti a little more often. Not just with our Valentines, but also with everyone we meet. Let’s love the highest, starting with our selves. This is where we start. This is where the seed is planted, where love can grow, and thrive, and blossom within each one of us into a delightful bounty that can be shared. We can feed our souls on this banquet of love. No one need go hungry.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Namaste!

A Different Kind of Diet – the Media Fast!

unplug-when-not-in-useAs someone who has been called a “media maven” and who participates in and contributes to practically every form of print and broadcast media out there – this is probably the last thing you expect to hear from me: Turn it all off. Unplug. Seriously. We, and yes, I am speaking for just about anyone who is plugged in at the moment, are desperately in big-time need of a media fast. I wouldn’t say this if I were not experiencing it myself.

How many times do we need to come across the photo of a celebrity’s mug shot? Are we really sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to learn the most popular baby names of 2012? Do we really care that a 40 something newscaster covets a 20 something model’s dyed blonde hair? How many times do we need to hear about getting in shape for swimsuit season? And yet, these are the kinds of topics that permeate the airwaves on any given media outlet, at any given time.

Social media serves an important purpose in highlighting and encouraging the connection between us all. And yet, is also a place for idleness, a distraction, where the trivial meets the banal. Then when our social media “friends” post their political viewpoints, respect and courtesy often fly out the window. This forum creates as much tension and controversy as any other.

There are literally hundreds of television networks. And there are thousands of radio stations to choose from, probably even more if we count all the new online stations. There are millions of websites to peruse. We hear the same thing over and over again – in different ways at different times, through different mouths. Tweets are pre-programmed, pitches are automated, and shows are rerun ad infinitum. There is never a moment when we aren’t presented with some sort of tap dance from some form of media. Even as I’m writing this I’m feeling overwhelmed, knowing that I’m just adding more to the mix. We are on information overload! It’s time for a re-boot.

Silence. Do you remember what that sounds like? Silence is the anti-dote to all the noise we are bombarded with every minute of every day. We’ve gotten so used to the cacophony that we don’t even hear it anymore. I know many people can’t even get to sleep without the TV or radio on. When was the last time you drove in a car without the stereo blaring? We need to de-tox the brain, to get some space in between the billboards so that we can think clearly, and remember what is really important in life.

Imagine what it would be like if we had to read sentences with no spaces between words. Wewoulddefinitelystruggletomakesenseofthings! There are so many media outlets literally fighting for our attention that we don’t know where to look or listen first. No wonder we’re so stressed out.

Instead, let’s start with silence. Let’s end the day with silence. Let’s spend some time in nature listening to the birds, the rain, and the wind as it moves through the trees. This is where all the wisdom of the world lives. Tap into that. When we sit quietly, check in with ourselves, we regain that sense of calm and balance that gets out of what when our attention is placed outside of ourselves for so long.

This is why traveling is so healthy and restorative. When we travel, especially if we travel to a foreign county, we’re away from media. We don’t watch TV or read the paper because it’s in another language. We give ourselves that luxury of time to rest, and to just be. There’s no reason why we can’t have that same experience wherever we are, at any time. It just takes the commitment to a regular practice. We can’t let ourselves get into bad habits.

It would be totally amazing if we could go cold turkey and just have a media-free day once a week. And for those who can do that – go for it! For others, we might want to work in a media-free hour once a day. Set aside some time when you might normally be surfing the net or watching a TV show, or, as is probably most likely, when you would be multi-tasking with multi-media. Media free means no media: no books, computers, phones, games, movies, television – none of that! No going to the mall, either. This is time to reflect, to be still, to gain insight, to be calm. Sit outside, take a bath, or go for a hike. There are lots of options. Don’t try to distract yourself, just be with yourself. Novel concept, I know – but I think you’ll find that you are very good company.

The idea behind a media fast is to regain balance. We’ve been so inundated with media for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to just be quiet. We need that reminder that our inner world is alive and well and ready to serve us. Everything we could possibly need or want resides within each one of us. When there’s a power outage, we’re kind of forced to take a media break – unless of course you’ve got back-up systems and generators. But a media fast is pro-active. It’s purposeful, and meant to help us set our priorities straight.

Shall we start right now? Who’s in?

Give Back to Women in India

DharmaSmart has created a special bracelet to help non-profit organization Yoga Gives Back raise funds to support women in India with micro-financing and education.

Yoga is a gift from ancient India, embraced by the West. Today, however 76% of India’s population-800 million people-live below the poverty line of $2.50 a day.

Non-profit organization Yoga Gives Back has a mission to mobilize the global yoga community to empower women in India to build sustainable livelihoods.

Inspired by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Muhammad Yunus’ revolutionary micro financing breakthrough, Yoga Gives Back supports micro credit programs in India which lend small loans to women in particular, who have no access to capital. Additionally, the organization developed “Sister Aid” programs where YGB directly funds education, vocational training and micro credit programs for struggling mothers, girls and orphans. Women are the best poverty fighters-the most effective return on investment for development dollars is an investment in women. With $25 a month, mothers can start their own businesses; girls and orphans can go to school.

DharmaSmart.com is a new online store that serves the yoga community with “Purposeful Living Essentials.” The company has designed a special cuff bracelet for yoga practitioners to wear in support of the work that Yoga Gives Back is doing. The cuff retails for just $25, and $10 goes straight to Yoga Gives Back.

The cuffs will be featured at the second annual Global Day of Support “Thank You Mother India” to be held on Saturday, September 29th in Malibu, California. For more information about the event, including sponsorship opportunities, visit Yoga Gives Back.

Those who want to contribute to Yoga Gives Back through the purchase of one of these original cuffs may find them online at Dharma Smart. DharmaSmart co-founder Lissa Coffey says: “We are big fans of what Yoga Gives Back is doing to help the women of India to build their own businesses and to educate their children. It is an honor to have this opportunity to give back to a country and culture that has given us so much valuable ancient wisdom.”

photo by: Meanest Indian

Ayurveda and Weight Management

In Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old Science of Life, there’s no “one size fits all” answer to managing our weight. The solutions are as unique and individual as we are. You start by knowing your “dosha” or Ayurvedic mind/body type.

KAPHA

The most common type of weight gain is caused by having a slow metabolism. This is common for a person who is a classic Kapha type. Kapha dosha is comprised of the earth and water elements, so this type of individual will reflect those qualities. A Kapha person will be structurally bigger, with bigger bones and a more easy-going, stable, gentle personality.

For a Kapha person, being skinny is usually not a healthy goal. If you are prone to gain weight, and are always five to ten pounds overweight no matter how little you eat, it would go against your nature to ever be really thin. Rather, it would be better to balance your metabolism, increase your ability to digest sugars and carbohydrates by adopting a Kapha balancing diet and lifestyle, and allow your body to naturally find its ideal weight. You may not be skinny, you may always weigh five to ten pounds more than average, but you will feel better and look healthier, and you will lose most of your excess weight.

Diet

The main principle for balancing Kapha is to introduce some of the fire element into your food and lifestyle. This will balance the earthen and watery elements of Kapha dosha.
Flavor your vegetables and dhal soups with spices that are mildly pungent, such as black pepper, fresh ginger, and turmeric

Other tastes to balance Kapha dosha are the bitter and astringent tastes. These include green leafy vegetables, split mung dhal soup and other bean soups, and astringent vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. It’s important to cook your vegetables and eat them warm, rather than relying on raw vegetables. Raw vegetables are difficult to digest, whereas to balance Kapha dosha you want to eat warm, light, cooked foods.

Quinoa is an excellent grain for managing weight, as it has high protein and zinc content (4 mg of zinc per cup). But it should be cooked with a bit of ghee or olive oil, as otherwise it may be too drying.

Basmati rice is also a good grain for Kapha dosha, because it has a more drying quality than other types of rice, but quinoa is better because it has the intelligence of fire to support weight loss.

The fire element can even be added to the water you drink. If you boil your water for five minutes on the stove, you are adding the intelligence of fire to your drinking water. If you sip the water throughout the day, the intelligence of fire will permeate the molecules of water, and thus permeate your body. You won’t notice anything right away, but if you continue with this routine, in time you will feel less fatigue. This is because Kapha dosha tends to create a feeling of lethargy, and by introducing the fire element in the water, you’ll gradually feel more energetic.

If you are Kapha by nature, you’ll want to stay away from heavy, cold desserts such as ice cream and cheesecake, as these will only slow your metabolism and increase the cold, heavy qualities of Kapha in your body. Rich desserts, fried foods, foods made with refined sugar and refined flour, cold foods and drinks — all of these should be avoided if you want to balance Kapha and your weight.

Lifestyle

Regular exercise is the most important change you can make to improve your metabolism. The problem is that people with excessive Kapha dosha often feel somewhat complacent or even lethargic, and they might have to push themselves a little to exercise every day. Usually Kapha types need more vigorous exercise for a longer period to have the same effect as milder exercise would have on a Vata person.

Even making a habit of breathing more deeply can help charge the metabolism with more of the fire element. When Kapha dosha is out of balance, one of the first things that happens is that the person becomes a shallow breather. Deeper breathing is healthy for all body types, but especially for Kapha dosha, because deeper breathing helps wake up the body’s metabolism. When the metabolism is lower and breathing is shallow, the body’s channels get blocked and cause even more lethargy, which becomes a vicious cycle.

The digestive fire is weaker in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before bed, so breakfast and dinner should be lighter meals. An excellent breakfast for balancing metabolism for all three body-types is a cooked apple or pear with cooked prunes and figs. This breakfast choice is light and sustains most people until noon, when they can eat their heaviest meal. A healthy supper for a Kapha person might be soup made with vegetables, grains and dhal and flavored with spices such as cumin, fresh ginger, black pepper, and turmeric. Or kitcheri, a light meal made with rice and split mung dhal, is also a light Kapha-reducing meal Kapha Churna is an excellent spice mixture for balancing Kapha dosha.

VATA

If you are Vata-predominant, you are normally thin and wiry. But that does not mean weight gain will never be a problem for you. Sometimes Vata types are thin all their lives and then suddenly put on weight because their metabolism has changed. Vata-predominant people are susceptible to mental stress because they tend to overuse or misuse their minds. When under stress they also tend to forget to eat regularly, thus disturbing their digestion, creating ama and clogging the channels. This is often the precursor to weight gain.

Diet

When Vata dosha is the underlying cause of a weight problem, it’s important to eat a balanced diet that is easy to digest but also nurturing. Take the middle path, and eat a tridoshic diet, which means one that balances all three doshas. Avoid foods that are too hot and spicy (such as food spiced with chillies, cayenne, and black mustard seed), and at the same time avoid foods that are ice cold, such as ice cream, iced drinks, and cold, heavy desserts. Stay away from foods that are too heavy (such as aged cheeses, meats, and heavy desserts) and also avoid foods that are too light and dry, such as crackers, cold cereals, and packaged snacks. In general, avoid leftovers; frozen, canned or packaged foods, and processed foods of all kinds.

Lifestyle

People with a predominance of Vata dosha need a regular routine, to balance the uneven, variable nature of Vata dosha. It’s important that they go to bed early, well before ten o’clock and rise early, before 6 a.m. A regular routine with adequate sleep is one of the best antidotes to Vata imbalance. Regular meals are essential, with three warm, cooked meals a day. It’s important to eat them at the same time every day, as Vata digestion tends to be irregular. By eating at the same time, your digestive enzymes will prepare to digest the food and digestion will be stronger. Avoid work that is stressful to the mind, and practice relaxing exercise such as yoga and pranayama. A daily oil massage, abhyanga, is especially important for Vata. The skin is one of the primary seats of Vata dosha in the body, so massaging your body every morning with warm, Vata-pacifying oil can go a long way toward soothing your entire nervous system and emotions. The more relaxed you are, and the more regular your routine, the better you will withstand day-to-day stress and the less likely you are to fall prey to weight imbalances.

Many times people with Vata disorders find themselves in a rush, always in a hurry. It’s not healthy for anyone to always be rushing around, to constantly have to hurry, and it’s especially harmful to people with Vata imbalances. If you find yourself in that situation, it’s important to cultivate a habit of taking it easy and slowing down. Learn to structure a more relaxed, royal daily routine. This is important for mental, emotional and physical health.

PITTA

You would think that since Pitta dosha is associated with the fire element, a person with high Pitta would not have any problem burning up carbohydrates and sugars. Yet if the person doesn’t take care of the digestion, that can create problems. For instance, if someone who is predominantly Pitta by nature skips breakfast or other meals, that can create ama, digestive impurities, because the digestive fire becomes too strong. In this situation, stomach acids can “burn” the food and even damage the stomach.

To understand how this happens, think of setting an empty pot on the stove. The heat is on, but there’s nothing to cook. Instead, the pot itself gets burned. In the same way, if you have a strong digestive fire but you don’t feed it regularly, then the digestive enzymes go out of balance, burn the food and create ama the next time you eat.

Many people with high Pitta dosha are overweight, precisely because they are not eating regularly and as a result ama has coated their digestive system. When ama blocks the channels of digestion and the channels that circulate nutrients throughout the body, then metabolism slows down and weight gain results.

Diet

First of all, the person with high Pitta should get into the habit of eating three meals a day, starting with breakfast. This is very important, as otherwise the stomach will continue to be burned by digestive acids. Eating a cooked apple or pears with cooked prunes or figs for breakfast is a good idea, because it will soothe the digestive fire but not overload it. Raw pears or other sweet, juicy fruits are also good for people with high Pitta.

A vegetable that is good for weight management is daikon radish. This white radish can be grated and added to dhal soups for a mildly spicy flavor. Include sweet vegetables for lunch and dinner, such as squashes that are white inside (zucchini, loki or yellow squash). Steam them well and then sauté them in ghee with mild, cooling spices such as powdered fennel, small amounts of cumin and small amounts of turmeric. Flavor foods with Pitta Churna, a delicious spice blend specifically created for balancing Pitta.

Avoid eating pungent spices such as chilies, cayenne, and black mustard seed. These will only increase the acidity. A person in this situation may be drawn to heavy, cold, sweet foods to cool the acidity. But heavy, cold foods will only make the problem worse by creating more ama and blocking the channels of digestion and metabolism. It’s better to cool the digestive fire by cooking with cooling spices, eating light desserts with your meal such as fruit crisps, and by drinking light dairy drinks such as sweet lassi.

Lifestyle

People who are predominantly Pitta should go to sleep before the Pitta time of the evening (10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.). Even if you feel like you have a lot of energy then, or feel more creative, it’s not a good idea to stay awake during the Pitta time of night, because this only aggravates Pitta dosha further. And if you stay awake during the Pitta time of night, you will invariably get hungry and thirsty and may eat packaged cookies or salty snacks, or drink soft drinks or alcohol. All of these things will only disturb Pitta dosha further and contribute to weight gain.

Lissa Coffey is world renown as the authority on Ayurveda and relationships. She is the author of “What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love.” For information on Ayurvedic products to balance your dosha, including teas and churnas, visit her website: http://www.doshasmart.com

photo by: Kerala Tourism

Bliss is the New Black

If there’s anything that this downturn in the economy has taught us, it’s that our happiness does not depend on the money we make. We have learned to be creative, to downsize, to “make do” and to accomplish more with fewer resources. Like it or not, we have learned lessons from these experiences, and I venture to say that we are the better for it.

It’s even become trendy to shop in thrift stores, to re-purpose items we already have, and do partake in extreme couponing. It started out as a challenge, and it has developed into an art form. We blog about it, make TV shows about it, and have even begun to enjoy it! We have found a way to happiness through our creativity, resourcefulness, and ingenuity, and we are reaping the rewards of our efforts. We realize that there is an element of style in being frugal, a simplicity that makes us feel good. Bliss is the new black!

Abraham Lincoln, now experiencing a resurgence of popularity thanks to a new movie portraying him as a vampire hunter, said: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” This is as true today as it ever was. Tom Shadyac, the successful Hollywood director famous for blockbuster hits Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, and others, had a personal experience that caused him to question what is wrong with this world, and to turn this quest for answers into a documentary entitled “I Am.” The big eye-opener in the film is that at a certain point our society veered off from being one of cooperation to one of competition. People started feeling the need to accumulate, to hoard, to get more and do better. Instead of acting as a community out for the good of the whole, we isolated ourselves into looking out for the good of the individual, often at the expense of the whole.

And yet, this did not make us any happier. Through much research Shadyac discovers that at a certain point, we really are about as happy as we make up our minds to be. A bigger house, more cars, more conveniences, all of the peripheral “stuff” that signals our success to the outside world, does not do anything to change our base level of happiness. In fact, by isolating ourselves, separating ourselves from the community, it can even have the opposite effect, causing us to feel lonely and out of touch. As humans we crave connection. The law of relationship says we are here to help each other learn and grow. We need relationships, we need people, to allow us to do that. In his film, Shadyac explains that the Aboriginals believe that to accumulate and strive for anything more than what you need to live on is mental illness. We need to look out for each other, not just for ourselves.

In the mid-1980’s Joseph Campbell, mythologist, author and speaker, explained what it takes to be happy, and his philosophy can be summed up with the phrase: “follow your bliss.” He derived this idea from the Hindu Upanishads. He said:

Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence. Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word “Sat” means being. “Chit” means consciousness. “Ananda” means bliss or rapture. I thought, “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.” I think it worked.

And yet, also during the 1980’s, we became familiar with the mantra uttered by the character Gordon Gecko in Wall Street: “Greed is good.” Reportedly, when some of Campbell’s students took Campbell’s bliss statement to be encouraging hedonism, Campbell came back at them with: “I should have said, “Follow your blisters.”

We face the same sort of disparity in messaging today. If bliss is the new black, and our values are less on the material and more on the spiritual, than why are the Kardashians so popular? Their reality TV show flaunts an uber-luxurious lifestyle complete with private jets and international family vacations. A 16-year-old doesn’t just get a sweet-sixteen party for her birthday, she gets a blow-out catered bash at a chic hotel, her own brand new Range Rover, and the whole experience gets made into an E! Network Special. All of the opulence comes at a price. The mother is a workaholic who explains her lack of presence by saying on camera “I’m working to keep us afloat.” The father figure disappears for 3 days to make a point that he has been largely ignored and no one notices. Family members show their love by calling each other names that I can’t repeat in a G-rated publication, and adults drinking to excess and often acting like children wrestling each other to the floor. And then there’s that million-dollar wedding that resulted in a 72-day marriage. The priorities seem to be, at least to the viewers, quite skewed.

According to Vedanta, life is the co-existence of opposites. We can’t have one without the other. It’s a matter of balance. We need to keep all of this in perspective and know that the choices we make, with our purchases, and with our TV viewing habits, make a difference. Maybe that’s why it is so disturbing to us when Oprah, the queen of quality TV and the arbiter of taste at her very own television network, chooses to have the Kardashians on her TV show. And as a part of the deal, supposedly, Oprah has agreed to appear on their show as well. In the interview with Oprah, the siblings say that they are indeed very spiritual, but that this part of their life isn’t shown on camera. Maybe this is what Oprah wanted us to see, that even with what seems to be the most decadent lifestyle, there is a flip side. I respect Oprah, so I have to trust her judgment. Maybe it was a savvy move. If it gets some Kardashian fans over to OWN then good for her!

How refreshing it would be to have the option to watch a reality show about real people, doing real good in the world. It’s not about what happens with pampered housewives in gated communities, or the black tie fundraisers. There are so many rich stories about what really takes place right in our own neighborhoods. There are heroes in our midst, with heartwarming, life-affirming examples of how to follow our bliss by helping others. If bliss is the new black, don’t show us the closets crammed with designer shoes; show us the moments of human connection, the relationships, the growth that takes place. That’s the real character arc. That’s what sustains us. That is what is real. Everything else is just an illusion, a version of reality edited for the sake of ratings. When presented with options over time people will eat a balanced meal – we are compelled to nourish ourselves. It works the same way with the television, too. The media can be a real instrument for change. Then maybe we’ll see that bliss, like black, is a classic that never goes out of style.

Discover Your Spiritual Learning Style

By now you’re familiar with The Law of Relationship. It says: “We’re all connected, and we’re here to help each other learn and grow.” I wrote about this extensively in CLOSURE and the Law of Relationship, and it has resonated with so many people that I decided to explore this law further. That’s how my new book What’s Your Dharma? came to be.

I’m a certified instructor with The Chopra Center, and I’ve taken pretty much every class offered there and have learned so much over the years. When we begin meditation, Deepak taught us to ask three questions. The purpose of these questions was not necessarily to ask us to look for the answers, but to just put them out there to the universe. Those questions are:

Who Am I? What Do I Want? What is My Purpose?

Purpose is a huge concept. The Sanskrit word “dharma” has 16 different meanings to it, including lesson, teachings, and purpose. So if we apply the Law of Relationship, our purpose, or a big part of our purpose in this lifetime, is to help each other learn and grow. But just how do we do that? How can we learn and grow consciously, mindfully, and spiritually?

Vedanta, the world’s oldest religion and the religion from which all other religions have evolved, explains that there are four yogas, or “paths” that lead us to freedom. Freedom in this context could also be called transcendence, or enlightenment. I describe these paths as our spiritual learning style.

Imagine that you are traveling down a four-lane highway. The scenery all along the way is the same, no matter which lane you are in. We all have the same lessons to learn all along the way. But the journey becomes easier for us if we pick a lane, and stick to it. Our personality and temperament will help us determine which lane is best for us.

  • If you learn best by feeling, by loving, by engaging your emotions, then you are likely a Bhakta, one who is on the path of Bhakti Yoga, the path of love. To better define and visualize this path, think about the heart, the heart chakra, and the color green.
  • If you learn best by working, doing, taking action, putting yourself out there to serve, then you are likely a Karma Yogi, one who is on the path of Karma Yoga, the path of work and service. This path is associated with the color yellow, the solar plexus chakra, and the symbol of the sun, because the sun serves all indiscriminately.
  • If you learn best by studying, exploring, seeking, by thinking and discussing, then you are likely a Jnani, one who is on the path of Jnana Yoga, the path of knowledge. Jnana Yoga is represented by the color blue, which is the color for both the throat chakra and the third eye chakra, associated with truth and clarity. The symbol for Jnana Yoga is the key that unlocks the mysteries of life.
  • If you learn best by meditating, by practicing yoga, pranayama, by spending time at peace in nature, then you are likely a Raja Yogi, one who is on the path of Raja Yoga, the path of meditation. Raja Yogi is the color of purple, the color of the crown chakra. Its symbol is the lotus, the flower that shows us to look within.

Of course, we all have something in us that relates to each of these paths, but one path will call to us more strongly. Check out my Dharma Quiz to better understand your own dharma.

This week, Lissa is giving away a FREE copy of her book What’s Your Dharma? Discover the Vedic Way to Your Life’s Purpose. To enter, simply leave a comment below before June 11th answering this question: “What’s Your Dharma? and how does your dharma express in your life?”

Sages, Scientists and Sustainability – Oh, My! (video)

At the Chopra Foundation’s 2012 Sages and Scientists Symposium, brilliant minds from all over the world gathered to share their thoughts about the “Merging of a New Future.” It was a stimulating conversation, filled with revelations and sprinkled with optimism, with topics that ranged from medical research to leadership in business, and even social media. I can’t imagine any one other than Deepak who could bring together such a fascinating array of speakers and entertainers!

We heard from former President of Mexico Vincente Fox, General Wesley Clark, Chemist, Quantum Physicists, Corporate leaders, and more. Entertainers included upcoming musical groups Black Opera, Caught A Ghost, kid’s dance troupe The Miniotics, Flamenco dancers and a group of male acrobats to performed on poles!

By the way, all of the volunteers looked fabulous wearing the Jnana Yoga tee-shirts ! Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge, so this was the perfect design for the conference. Each of the speakers received the gift of a shirt as well. We got tons of compliments on them!

Here are some of the highlights that I captured on video:

Dr. Rudy “Rock Star” Tanzi accepted the Spirit of Rustum Roy Award for his contributions in Alzheimer’s Research. I was fortunate to get an interview with the late Dr. Rustim Roy during the 2010 Symposium and you can see what he had to say about the “New Science” in this video:

This year I was delighted to interview Dr. Lothar Schafer – he had so many amazing things to say that I ended up making his interview into three videos! Here’s one:

All of the attendees, including me, were impressed by what two young men are accomplishing to help solve the world water crisis. Here’s my interview with Mike Muniz from Generosity Water:

Leonard Mlodinow is Deepak Chopra’s co-author in their book , War of the Worldviews. It was great speaking with him and getting a behind-the-scenes perspective. Here’s what he had to say:

One of the most popular entertainers was poet/rapper, J. Ivy. He performed with his beautiful and talented wife. You’ll be hearing a lot from this guy:

Carlos Dominguez gave a great talk. He calls himself a “TechNOWist.” Find out exactly what that means in this interview:

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