Monday, April 11, 2016

The temples of Angkor War

After sunset at Angkor Wat, we began our following day at sunrise. The big thing is to get to Angkor Wat and sit around the pools facing the main temple. People scramble all over the banks. Vendors come by and will sell you full breakfasts, served at your spot, with instant coffee. We opted to forego picnic breakfast and get a sit down breakfast at one of the few restaurants later on. Instead, in the grass, by the water, with the early morning hum we waited for the sun. As it rises in the sky it casts the reflection of the temples into the pools.

Many say it's equally, if not more, remarkable to go to other nearby temples at this time that are less crowded. I'd believe it, but I have to say, there's no experience that's not worthwhile. Plus, the crowds are sort of fun. You almost feel like you're waiting for a pre-dawn Bowie show.

When the sky was light we headed to Blue Pumpkin, one of the few nearby restaurants. Blue Pumpkin feels like a park restaurant. The prices are way high for Cambodia but not so high in general. We were able to get much better coffee and good meals as we fueled up for the day ahead.

On the road to Angkor Thom. This bridge is surrounded by statues pulling the naga serpents. 

Some opt to see the temples in group tours. This can be a great way to get history and context. There are many options here but some involve riding in an air conditioned bus between the temples. Some of the temples are pretty far from one another so this isn't a bad idea!

Smaller tours can be arranged chauffeured in cars. What we opted for, and many do, is a chauffeured tour in a tuk tuk. This meant that our tuk tuk took us on a route that managed the crowds so we weren't always going to the most popular temples at once but we also didn't miss out. When we finished at one temple site we got back in our tuk tuk and moved on. The tuk tuks are open air so it's a lovely way to feel the breeze and take in the sites. The drivers also keep cool water for you. On long days they take you to a restaurant somewhere on the grounds. In exchange for bringing you to the restaurant, they receive a free meal from the restaurant. Weirdly, some tourists feel scammed by this. Sure, you could ask your tuk tuk driver to take you to some further afield restaurant that won't give them a meal but do you want to be that person? Think long and hard about poverty rates in Cambodia before getting high and mighty. Your tuk tuk driver knows what's up. Let it happen! These guys work hard. Tip them!

The last option for visiting the temples is to ride a bike. The land is very flat but the roads are not so well labelled. Also, you're weaving in and out of aggressive tuk tuks, motorbikes, cars, and vans. I would like to ride a bike with more time but I can see it intimidating some!

For small stretches, you'll see elephants off to the side with the invitation to tourists to ride them. DO NOT DO IT. These elephants are treated very badly. This is a bad deal for all involved. Don't support this industry by engaging. There are some great elephant sanctuaries where animals are given the space and freedom to live their lives. Support those instead!

Angkor Thom leads to Bayoun, one of the most striking temples. Huge faces peer in every direction. Surrounding the temple proper there are several other worship areas with Buddhist monks. You'll find this throughout the temples of Angkor Wat. If you make an offering to the fire the monk will give you blessings. Be sure to watch locals to understand appropriate behavior. Usually, it's expected that you shed your shoes when approaching an icon.

All of the temples also have a bit of a carnival feeling as they are surrounded by a few shop stalls set up under tarps. Families sell tee-shirts and coconuts while the kids run around under foot. Every now and then there's a park bathroom. If you ask your guide or driver, they'll direct you appropriately.

The Royal Palace includes this pool where kings used to swim and now local kids sometimes do. This is also where we did our "we're in a very public place" test. Kevin put some coins in his pockets that he wouldn't mind losing. Sure enough, he'd been cleaned out. It's a good test to remind you that in crowds folks know what they're doing. We kept passports locked up in the safe at the hotel and only a little bit of money stashed pretty well on us! No major losses.

Chao Say Tevoda is devoted to Shiva. It was beautiful to move between spaces intended for Hindu and Buddhist devotion. Same same.

Takeo had many images of Nandi, Shiva's bull. This also gave some perspective on how high up you can climb in these temples. 

Again, we shot for perspective. The weathered steps are very narrow and can be slippery as they're so smooth. Keen sandals were great as they provide ventilation, some shelter from the sun, and good traction. Going up the steps wasn't as bad-- climbing up never is, right? Coming down felt fairly treacherous. We took it nice and slow.

Some are truly ambitious and want to see as many temples as possible. We were interested in moving a bit more slowly so we called it a day and returned to the temples the following morning. Hence, the week long pass! At Pre Rup temples were devoted to both Shiva and Vishnu.

Shiva's lion, Narasimha.

As we loaded back in the tuk tuk, our driver warned us that heading to Banteay Srei was a long drive. We settled in and wound through the Cambodian country-side for about 45 minutes. We passed houses on stilts, long, low fields, museums to land mines, orphanages for survivors, local projects in arts and folk history, town centers, and open space. When we arrived to Banteay Srei proper we saw that the temples have been set up as their own individual park with organic land management on the periphery of the property. These pigs were chowing down in the green rice paddies.

The dusty red temples at Banteay Srei were some of my favorite. So beautiful and under such hot sun.

Another formidable tuk tuk ride took us to East Mebon, where we encountered these friendly guys watching out from every corner of the temple site.

Neak Pean is one of the more unique temple sites. While many temples have moats, there is a huge body of water surrounding Neak Pean. The water is filled with lilies, lotuses, and darting fish. You walk down a long pier as land mine survivors play beautiful Cambodian folk music. 

The temple proper is an island within more water. The site is dedicated to Lokesvara, the Buddha of compassion.

Ta prohm is sort of a crowd favorite. These are the temples shown in Lara Croft. The Angkor Wat temples have always been known by local worshippers, but like most good things, Europeans "discovered" them after the fact. When French explorers encountered the temples most looked like this-- half absorbed back into the landscape. Most temples have been carefully extricated and staff work to preserve them. Ta prohm has been purposefully left in the found state so visitors get a sense of the interaction between the temples and land. It's dramatic and beautiful.

The savannah surrounding the temples reminded me of Zambia-- arid, shrubby, and beautiful. The land and the temples feel magical. A friend asked me if my photos had a special filter or if it was "magic Cambodian light." Some photos are filtered to better show the details but honestly, the filters try to capture what was honestly there-- magic Cambodia.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Just Be: Jivamukti Retreat to Belize Feb 18-25, 2017

Just Be: Jivamukti Yogawood Retreat to Belize

Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island, floating in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Join Jivamukti Yoga Teacher, Maiga Milbourne, assisted by Kevin Price, for a week of barefoot peace. We’ll be staying at Ak’bol Eco Resort, Belize’s oldest yoga retreat designed to be very low impact on this precious environment. Practice yoga twice daily on a pier to the sound of lapping waves. Dine on locally-sourced, healthy, and vegan meals three times a day on the beach. Between yoga and meditation practices experience as little or as much as you’re called towards. The more adventurous might snorkel in the second largest Barrier Reef in the world, only a quarter mile away, or visit the neighboring fishing village of San Pedro. Or maybe the sand and the sun is enough and you let yourself just be. Enroll here.

February 18-25, 2017
Ak’bol Eco Resort
Ambergris Caye, Belize

Tuition includes chosen accommodations, three meals a day (except for one evening free), and all yoga practices. All prices are person. If electing for a shared rate the student is responsible for finding their own roommate. Maiga is happy to make suggestions but we cannot offer a shared rate if the room is not shared.

Deposit: To hold your space pay a $500 deposit. This will be deducted from your total tuition. All tuition is due no later than Nov 1, 2016.

Not included: Flights to Belize, transport to Ak’bol (details below), alcoholic beverages, one night dinner on your own, tips (we suggest $50 per person for the week), and optional excursions.

Cancellation Policy: We realize that things happen. Until Oct 1, 2016 if you have to cancel we will refund your payment except $100 to cover administrative fees. After Oct 1, 2016 there are no refunds.

Seafront Cabanas (3) shared rate $1,775, private rate $2,375 if paid in full by August 1, 2016. After August 1, the rates are increased by $150 per person.

Each of these thatched roof cabanas has a sea view, a queen-sized bed as well as a loft with two twin beds. Windows are plantation shuttered, the private shower is open air, offering a truly unique and authentic experience. Daily housekeeping will change towels every other day to conserve water and energy.

Garden View Cabanas (4) shared rate $1,675, private rate $2,225 if paid in full by August 1, 2016. After August 1, the rates are increased by $150 per person.

Each of these thatched roof cabanas has a sea view, a queen-sized bed as well as a loft with two twin beds. Windows are plantation shuttered, the private shower is open air, offering a truly unique and authentic experience. Daily housekeeping will change towels every other day to conserve water and energy.

Village Rooms shared rate $1,300, private rate $1,425 if paid in full by August 1, 2016. After August 1, the rates are increased by $150 per person.

Have you ever wanted to go to summer camp in the Tropics? Now is your chance. Simple island rooms with twin beds for those sharing or a queen beds for couples as well as communal spaces overlooking the lagoon. There are two shared bathrooms with plenty of showers, toilets, and sinks for all, as well as island details like mahogany sinks and conch shell faucets. This is sweet simplicity on the lagoon. Have fun with it!

Note on preserving the local environment

Ak’bol is an eco-conscious space. Please bring a reusable water bottle and enjoy the complimentary safe drinking water. Please conserve!

Ak’bol staff will change bedding and towels every other day and appreciates guests drying out their towels in between. This is to cut down on water and energy usage.

Islands have sensitive septic systems. Whenever possible, please put used toilet paper in provided garbage cans. These are ways of island living to soften our impact.

A healthy ecosystem has bugs. The gentle ocean breezes help keep a lot of critters away from Ak’bol but there will be bugs! This is the reality of a healthy environment.

Your yoga teacher

Passionate about healthy bodies, relationships, and communities. Maiga Milbourne is an E-RYT vinyasa yoga teacher, and she loves nothing more than offering amazing hands-on assists in yoga practice. As of March 2015 she is also an accredited Jivamukti teacher, after completing her training at Radhanath Swami’s EcoVillage outside of Mumbai, India, under the tutelage of Sharon Gannon, David Life, Jules Febre, Ruth Laurer-Manenti, and Yogeswari. She teaches yoga, officiates ceremonies, and makes people's travel dreams come true. Learn more at

After years of dedicated meditation practice, attendance on many yoga and silent retreats, and lots of study with senior yoga teachers in the Jivamukti lineage, Kevin Price, embarked on his own yoga teacher training. In April 2016 he completed 200 hours of rigorous yoga study at Yogawood under the direction of Beth Filla and Maiga Milbourne. In addition to his own practice and his practice of sharing these methodologies, Kevin runs a sustainable landscaping business. He implements environmentally-friendly measures on his own property, such as multiple composting systems and greywater. Kevin is also a musician, playing guitar, offering vocals, and many song compositions for the band, All the Forgotten. More than anything, Kevin loves a good adventure. In Belize, he’s your go-to guy when you want to get into it!

Sample Itinerary subject to change

Saturday February 18
Arrivals throughout the day - check in is 12 noon
6:30 pm Welcome Dinner and Orientation

Sunday February 19-Friday February 24
7-9 am light breakfast buffet served at the beach bar
9:30-11 am Jivamukti Yoga
12-1 pm lunch on the private palapa

Optional activities can be organized by Ak’bol, such as scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, kite boarding, kayaking, visiting Mayan ruins, cave tubing, zip-lining, getting body work from a local practitioner, swim in the pool etc. There are also daily guided snorkel trips from 1-3:30 pm.

5-6 pm Yin or gentle yoga
6-6:30 pm seaside Meditation practice
6:30 pm dinner on the private palapa
8 pm some nights optional satsang including chanting or conversation

Saturday February 25
7-9 am farewell breakfast
Check out 12 noon

Getting there and Away: Fly into Belize City or airport code BZE. If flying from the US East Coast you may want to search flights out of Newark (EWR) or JFK for cheaper and more direct flights. We suggest purchasing travel insurance with international flights.

Ambergris Caye is an island off of Belize’s mainland. You are responsible for getting from the Belize City Airport to Ambergris Caye. To get to Ambergris Caye you have the following options:

Tropic Air: This is the quickest, simplest way to get to Ambergris Caye. This is a small flight (affectionately known as “puddle jumpers”) that get you to the town of San Pedro in 15-20 minutes. These flights run 40 minutes after the hour with the last flight daily departing at 5:40 pm. You can book this flight through or directly through Ak’bol by emailing and paying upon arrival. Upon arrival in San Pedro you will take a taxi to Ak’bol for about $17.

Water Taxi: From the Belize Airport you need to get a taxi to the water taxi port in Belize City, which will be roughly 25 minutes and $25. Catch a water taxi to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, which will take about an hour and a half and cost $15. At the San Pedro port you can catch a second water taxi directly to Ak’bol or catch a land taxi, which is easier. The water taxis to Ak’Bol run periodically for about $5 or you can charter one for about $20. You can visit or for more information.


A current passport.

Two color photo copies of your passport.

Many in Belize accept US Dollars though Belizean currency is the Belize Dollar. There are ATMs in San Pedro-- remind your bank that you will be in Belize! You can also run a tab at Ak’bol and pay by credit card when checking out.

Your own reusable water bottle.

Medications with their prescription.

Your yoga mat if you’re attached-- there are mats to use at Ak’bol if you’d rather not travel with your own mat.

Small towels for sweaty practice.

Clothing for twice daily yoga practice. There are places in San Pedro to get your clothes laundered, if you’d like. You’ll want to allot two days to receive your clean clothes.

Clothes for day time adventures-- if you plan to wear anything other than your swim suit! Ambergris Caye is VERY CASUAL!

Some layers for cooler evenings, like a pair of yoga pants, sweat shirt, and long sleeve shirt.

Flip flops.

If you plan to be adventurous, a good sports sandal like keens or chacos. You may want sneakers if you plan to go to the Mayan ruins.

Swim suits.

Beach towels.

Beach gear-- sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, hat, etc.

Books and music.

There are no hairdryers at Ak’bol but remember they try to conserve energy and that we think you look beautiful as you are.

Reading lamp, flashlight or headlamp. For some reason, flashlights and headlamps are amazingly helpful when traveling.

If you have snorkel gear, bring it! If not, you can use Ak’bol’s.

$40 for the exit fee to leave Belize. You pay at the airport with either US cash or credit card.

Communicating with family back home

If you have a good international cell phone plan, great! Know signals are often dodge-y in remote places like tropical islands. Consider turning off your cellular data once you fly out to Belize. Once you have wifi, you can use the connection to Facetime with friends and family.

In the event of an emergency, your family can reach you by calling Ak’bol: 011 (501) 226.2073


Ak’bol can exchange USD into Belizean dollars. You likely won’t need much money.

There is free internet in the on-site wisdom garden but it is not always consistent. There are a few internet cafes in San Pedro.

No need for adapters as outlets are the same as in the US.

You can read the CDC’s recommendations for traveling to Belize here: Please consult your doctor to take the appropriate precautions for your health.

Angkor Wat

The temples drew us to Cambodia. Years ago when I first began researching travel in Southeast Asia I remember thinking that it seemed like at a glance Thailand offers the most beautiful beaches, Cambodia the most accessible history, and Vietnam a bit of a blend with the addition of world-class cuisine (not that either Thai or Cambodian food is bad-- it's not!).

Cambodia delivers on culture and history. There are temples EVERYWHERE but of course the big draw are the temples in and around Angkor Wat. This city of temples helped me better understand the intricate blend of Buddhist, Hindu, and Animist influences shaping local consciousness and spirituality. There is iconography from each tradition, interweavings that help us understand various thinking and story telling from different eras, and air that hangs weighty with memory from the students, scholars, and now visitors who have passed through these halls.

Before going to the temples, many folks in Siem Reap or at the hotels will advise women to dress modestly. Specifically, cover the knees and shoulders. When you go to the temples you will see plenty of women wearing strappy shirts and short skirts. Not everyone hears nor heeds this advice.

I get that a lot of women feel like these type of instructions given only to women and not to men are insulting and sexist. I don't know enough about Cambodian society, culture, and history to feel sufficiently informed to be outraged. I do know that it was pretty easy for me to wear light weight yoga pants that covered my knees and tee-shirts that covered my shoulders. I also brought a light scarf to cover my head in particularly holy sites. This demonstrated to locals, especially monks who are worshipping at many of the temples, that I meant no offense and am grateful to be given access. Well, that's what I hoped to communicate.

Dress in holy sites is often contentious and it's policed differently around the world. From what I could tell, no one would say anything about skin-baring dress in and around Angkor Wat but it did seem to be noticed. In general, my vote is to try to respect local custom as much as possible. If you wind up moving to the region and then feel sufficiently informed to challenge the norm, by all means go ahead. But be sure to be open to a foreigner challenging your norms at home too.

There are many ways to experience Angkor Wat. I'm a big fan of making the most of your park entry passes. Most parks will give you additional time if you go before closing the day before you really mean to get in there. Angkor Wat is the same. We arranged a tuk tuk to take us to the entry to purchase our passes. You can purchase 3 day, 7 day, or monthly passes and there are different fees if you're Cambodian than tourist. Seriously hush up about that unless you want an honest conversation about the access Westerners have to Cambodia versus the access Cambodians have to the West. Pay the money, be grateful, and be respectful!

We opted for a 7 day pass so that we could be less rushed in our visits. It was around sunset so with our passes we hopped back in the tuk tuk and headed for the main temples of Angkor Wat. This is a popular time to visit for good reason, it's a pretty epic view! Kevin started analyzing where we were-- to the east, to the west? So that we could get an optimal view as the sun set. Turns out, when you cross the moat to enter Angkor Wat you are facing East. We scrambled through the courtyards and hallways through Angkor Wat to get to the otherside and thereby face West. We got there. This is what it looked like.

Pretty beautiful. Another bonus was that most crowds were elsewhere so we had a quieter moment. It's amazing how you feel like you develop a level of intimacy and familiarity with these iconic spaces. I think that's why they grab our attention.

We walked back through the temples and spied some monkeys on the temple grounds. Don't feed them! Inevitably, people do because it seems cute. You're messing with their diet and their ability to protect and care for themselves. Unless you're planning to move to Siem Reap and follow through on that care, leave them alone! Enjoy them from afar!

Throughout Angkor Wat and really throughout Cambodia you find images of the dancing apsaras. I don't remember encountering them in my reading nor study prior to this visit. They're almost angels or sprites. They tantalize and entertain. In some way they became an access point to Cambodia for me-- beautiful, considered, and very watchful.

Angkor Wat is only one of thousands of temples. As the sky grew darker we found our tuk tuk and headed home for dinner and rest. We returned to the temples in earnest the following day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Landing in Cambodia

Whenever I lead a retreat, I try to schedule a few days afterwards to let the whole experience settle in. I was so excited to be back in Vietnam for the Purnamidam retreat and not completely decided about where to head afterwards. In all our travels, Kevin and I still haven't made it to Ninh Binh, these beautiful karst cliffs up the coast closer to Halong Bay, nor the beach towns of Nha Trang nor Mui Ni. There's also the artist's mountain town of Dalat inland from Mui Ni. All of them sound great and I'm interested in getting there on future trips.

However, Cambodia had piqued my curiousity. When I was booking flights I tried many times to find good tickets that would let us arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and leave from Phnom Penh. The problem was that flights routing from Phnom Penh wanted to fly us through the Middle East. That's fine-- a layover in Dubai would be fun-- but it tacked on 9 hours of travel. When your travel is 24 hours minimum you don't want another minute in transit. I kept trying to find a way for the Phnom Penh flight home to route through East Asia. Never happened, so I wound up booking round-trip out of Ho Chi Minh City.

I knew we had to get back to Ho Chi Minh, so what could we do in the meantime?

I left it open when we landed for the retreat. A lot of times you get the best direction and advice once you've landed in the region.

I wound up being so occupied with the retreat that I didn't really have time to think about travel beyond. I tried to carve out a half hour to book a flight from Da Nang, where we were, to Siem Reap, and the connection timed out. When I returned to the task the following day all flights were booked! We wound up having to book a flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh and from there to Siem Reap.

I was hoping to land in daylight as I'd heard that you can see Angkor Wat from the plane. Alas, we landed in the dark to swaying palms and thick heat. The airport is weirdly nice. I'm so accustomed to landing with a plan and some knowledge about what to expect. As I said, this was probably the most spontaneous we've ever been. When we got in the airport folks were lining up for visas. Crap! I had done a quick google search and didn't see any visas that required prior arrangement, like Vietnam or some other destinations. Usually, this is the situation where my copious research makes me group leader with all the other travelers. Seriously, often other travelers are asking for help and insight. Instead, Kevin and I waited in multiple wrong lines until we finally figured it out. Visas are never made clear no matter where you are. The weird part here was that you waited in a huddle for the clerk to wave around your passport and call your name-- usually pronounced in a really new way! It was like waiting for bingo.

In my slap-dash prep, I did have the forethought to look around for the most recommended hotel. I'd heard from multiple trusted sources that the Siem Reap Hostel was one of the best in the world. If I fly in at night, I always book a room and an airport pick-up. It's safer and way easier.

After the long visa wait our luggage was blessedly ready for us. We searched for an ATM as we hadn't landed with Cambodian currency (again, I always land with some currency of my destination! All of this was out of character!). Unable to find a functioning ATM we at least found our oh-so-patient pick-up from the Hostel. I was scared he'd have left but, as I've always encountered, the rides never do. Airport pick-up folks know the drill and they're patient.

Our ride promised to get his chariot and come back for us. When he did, he was riding a motorcycle with a tuk tuk attached. Our eyebrows raised quizzically at the thought of packing our luggage-- pretty intense given all the yoga props we'd had on retreat in Vietnam. Unconcerned, our ride made it happen and even took us to a well-lit ATM on the way to the hostel.

Our first impression of Cambodia was how different it was from Vietnam. It felt a little hotter and a lot wilder. There were sex workers positioned on street corners, loud weddings happening under tents (well, that's like Vietnam!), church revivals, monks wandering the streets in orange robes, packs of revelers, dates hopping onto motorbikes, and so much life happening after dark. It felt more like New Orleans or Las Vegas, some place sort of close to the edge of sin and redemption.

The hostel was a great one, but typical. Swimming pool, gross and ample breakfast, clean, and every service you could hope for. The airport pick-up was included in our inexpensive private room fee as was laundry service! Score! It was a great place to land.

By morning, we decided that we wanted to stay somewhere with a bit more charm and less dorm ambience but it was well worth that first night's landing.

We wandered into the streets of Siem Reap, finding coffee (not as good as Vietnam's, for sure), and the early morning hustle of a waking town. We stumbled upon the Old Market, an area of deep alleyways still filled with lines of sunshine. We loved it, it felt right. We found a small budget hotel that was well reviewed in Lonely Planet and on Trip Advisor. It was less than our hostel and they had an open room. (The location was better than the hostel so I think the cost was less due to this hotel not having a pool.) We booked all our nights there and scheduled our first trip up to Angkor Wat. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Finally figuring out how to feed myself

I'm a bit surprised by myself, but I'm going to write about cooking.

See, if you know me in the real world, you now I will go on at LENGTH about eating or even growing food. Both processes give me great pleasure, though in all honesty, I lean hard on the eating end of the spectrum.

Cooking, however, is a part of the process that I shun. In my house, Kevin tends to cook more. Right now, he's in the bowels of landscaping. He's working long, hard hours and needs me to help with this area of our shared domestic life.


A bit of background: I don't come from a cooking tradition. Both sets of my grandparents are Southern. Folks always say Southerners know how to cook, right? SOME Southerners. I love my grandparents but none of them could cook. The best it got was sweet rolls, those sticky buns in a can, that my grandfather made before church on Sunday. My paternal grandmother was great for rolls, white rice from a box, and that's about it. I don't think they really learned to cook either.

My parents both built really interesting and dynamic careers. There have to be choices made about where you'll place energy and I think they made some good decisions but it meant that there was no food culture in our home. When I think of food culture, I think of people cooking together, teaching each other, and spending time in the kitchen. We didn't really do that. We did plenty together, but we were bigger on take-out. I think of my Mom going back to school when I was young and embarking on a career that means a lot to her. It taught me a lot-- that I should pursue what inspires me and that life is long, so stay engaged in it. Her example and the examples of my grandparents made big impressions on me. However, I think I filed cooking away as something to scorn. Or, I somehow decided that cooking was the antithesis to having a career and passions. (I know that's not true, but my developing mind wasn't always logical.)

I've always had a penchant for folk art and the stories it tells. As an adult, I started to find that so much story telling happens through food preparation and in the kitchen. Most intact cultures have really strong culinary traditions. I started to understand that cooking and life in the kitchen transmit culture. This has become increasingly important to me as an adult where I found lack of culture creating a void that consumerism and fear could fill. I think of this specifically with much of white America, where mass consumption and fear of the "Other" (the young hooded Black man, the Muslim, etc) creates brutality. I'm increasingly interested in the way that reviving food, cooking, family, and culture can create a sense of belonging that inoculates against the alienation that troubles us nationally.

Even my yoga studies tell me to cook! Damnit! Jivamukti co-founder Sharon Gannon described being a young waif who basically wanted to shed the body and be "enlightened" or absorbed into cosmic consciousness. Her teacher said, "you're embodied for a reason. You need to be earthy and of the earth. Cook. Eat." She was reluctant but over time developed a strong love for cooking to the degree that she recently released a vegan cookbook.

Despite my protestations, I actually prepare food pretty regularly. I primarily work from home so I'm feeding myself. I would always wait until I was hungry. angrily look in the fridge, want something quick, feel thwarted, and make the same thing again and again. Granted, I don't eat bad, but my diet wasn't always suited best to my body and constitution and sometimes lacked variety. My go-to was a big spinach salad with onion and avocado, dressed with olive oil, fresh lemon, salt and pepper. Delicious. But I was actually eating too much spinach and was often bloated.

I tried cleanses and different things. I didn't know how to keep food around that was whole, healthy, and consumable in a way that was interesting and nutritious. I waited on asking friends and the interwebs because I really didn't want people to tell me to cook. Blah.

Finally, I relented. I was flooded with recipes and advice. A really helpful piece came from my friend, Ravina. She told me that the key is to prep whole foods in advance that you can put together like various puzzles. Specifically, she and few others told me to keep various roasted vegetables on hand. Keep prepared lentils or some type of protein ready to go. Keep a variety of seasonings and flavors. Then, mix and match for each meal as you see fit. One day, the lentils could be paired with roasted parsnips and brussel sprouts and dressed with a quickly made marinade. Cook time is about 10 minutes (perfect when I'm hungry and angry) as I've prepped in advance. Another day I could put cashews, kale, and broccoli in a quinoa salad. Again, quick and freshly seasoned so the flavors keep me interested.

I feel like I've cracked the code on being an adult! I finally feel like I know what to do in order to function! It's really revelatory!

Here's my current deal: whenever I have a day off or a few hours, I prep maybe two types of beans, often black beans and lentils. I put them in pyrex containers in the fridge.

I roast whatever vegetables looked good. Recently, it's parsnips, golden beets, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.

I prepare some grains, most often these days I make a farro risotto, rice, and quinoa.

I keep quickly prepared veggies like spinach, kale, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lemon, and ginger on hand.

I keep copious amounts of veggie stock for reheating beans and the farro risotto.

I keep various spices around like tuscan spices, cumin, coriander, tumeric, and various hot sauces.

For lunch and dinner, I mix and match. This protein and that veggie. This grain, protein, and veggie combo. Switch and switch with different seasoning.

For snacks, I have bananas, berries, avocados, and nuts laying around.

I feel better. My energy is more consistent. I am less resistant to cooking because I feel like my cooking has a purpose. One burst of prep and then quickly prepared meals for days to come.

Kevin feels like he's found a new woman and he likes her. I'm alright with her too.

Friday, April 1, 2016


#YogawoodMadness was awesome. Early morning classes swelled with folks recommitting to their practice. We got upside down in a crazy amount of ways. I thought it would be a nice way to reinvigorate consistency but I have to say, I was really surprised by how much I got out of this experience! I found out I could do inversions that I'd never thought to try before. I picked up different tips and approaches from the other early morning teachers. It was a great, collaborative experience.

The students were also in it to win it! It was really great seeing folks take photos of themselves throughout their evolution and understanding both their bodies and the poses in new ways. People were psyched to get a free class and came consistently to make it happen!

Given the strength of the response, we figured to give April a little oomph too. During April, there will be a studio-wide challenge to attend the most classes. The student with the most consistent attendance will win a free private or semi-private class from a Yogawood teacher. Lauren, the artist behind Yogawood's mural, is gussying up charts where students can keep tabs on their own attendance. The charts will be by the front door at Yogawood. Write your name, date when you're in class, and be accountable! For those following on social media we're using the hashtag #AprilAccounting. Shoot, we have to pay our taxes and be responsible in those areas of our life. Might as well be accountable to the practices that bring us health and joy!