Hummus: Simple, Uncomplicated and Filled With Umami……Um-what?

Hummus is what? Yes, simple and uncomplicated because it’s easy to make with so few ingredients and “umami,” which means “delicious” or “yummy” in Japanese. Yet there’s a little more to umami.

Umami is the difficult-to-define “fifth taste”. In the Western world, we have only four basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. Umami, a fifth taste from Asia, is savory, complex, and yummy! It’s hard to translate, delicious in a salty savory kind of way. You know how it is when you taste something that is so filled with savory taste that you can’t wait for the next bite.

I like this definition from The Herb Farm.

In Shinto and Zen Buddhist religions, each food’s natural flavor, color, shape, and aroma are considered a gift from nature to be enjoyed and revered. This combination of qualities is a food’s umami.

• Umami can involve all the senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste.
• Umami wakens positive emotions.
• Umami can have cultural, spiritual, and even mystical aspects.
• Education, experience, and understanding elevate and refine our taste and our perception and enjoyment of umami.
• Umami contains a promise of pleasurable outcome.
• Umami conveys a sense of beauty.
• Anticipation enhances umami.

When I put together a table of appetizers I always make sure to include hummus in the mix. Maybe hummus isn’t exactly precisely what you’d term umami but it’s delicious, healthy and kids seem to really like it, too. And for me it fits the above requirements! Hummus can be a little expensive at the grocery stores, especially if it’s has roasted red pepper sauce on top. I thought it might be too complicated to make myself until I discovered a recipe this summer. It’s just too easy which puts it in the Zen Meal category.

Hummus is simplicitly at it’s best. Just 6 ingredients. Blended in minutes and all for the price of a can of garbanzo beans and a jar of tahini which is roasted sesame seeds made into a paste.

The Ingredients for Hummus

The Ingredients for Hummus

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons of tahini
1 can of garbanzo beans or chickpeas
1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/4 cup of the liquid from the can of garbanzo beans

Directions:
Put all the ingredients in the food processor. Mix until all the ingredients are smooth. You’re done. Amazing!

I put them in my new Blentec.

I put them in my new Blentec.

Delicious/Umami!

Delicious/Umami!

Dip carrots, crackers, brocoli, carrots and radishes.

I also put some roasted red peppers from a jar in the food processor with garlic, a little lemon juice and a dash of olive oil to put it on top the hummus. But only do this if you have a few extra minutes! :)

Hummus with Red Roasted Pepper sauce.

Hummus with Red Roasted Pepper sauce.

“UMAMI!” is all I can say!

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Want to Know The Secret To Better Relationships? Listen!


“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
~Epictetus

Do you know the secret to a better marriage? Do you know the best way to connect with your children? Do you know what will make your friends know that you are there for them and you really care? What is this magic solution?

It’s listening! Listening is an essential part of communication that we often take for granted.

I’m often guilty of not listening. My head is somewhere else, thinking about my shopping list, what I forgot to do on my website, preschool…

Are the rest of us good listeners? Apparently not. At Mind Tools I read that “depending on the study being quoted, we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation.” We are definitely heading in the wrong direction if this is true!

In the above picture, you see the Chinese symbol, “Ting”, representing the verb “to listen”. There are 5 elements that make up the symbol. It breaks down like this:

• Ear – We need ears to listen.

• Eye – The non-listener looks elsewhere. The listener makes eye contact.

• Heart – Effective listening involves understanding the underlying emotions in the speaker.

• Undivided Attention – Active listeners focus their attention on the person that is speaking.

• King – True listening treats the other person as someone who is important.

So, how to do you start to actively listen?

1. First of all, give your full attention. Look at the person in the eyes.

2. Ask meaningful questions. I sometimes come up with some questions before I go places since I have trouble with small talk. For instance, I like to ask where someone grew up or how a couple met each other.

3. Don’t be somewhere else in your mind while you listen. It’s obvious when someone isn’t interested in what you’re saying. So don’t plan your shopping list or think of what you’re going to say next while someone is talking.

4. Don’t answer your cell phone, especially if you’re talking to your kids. I know sometimes you have to answer. But try to put it on silent ring. I see many mothers pick up their kids and stay on the phone as they walk to their car. This is an important time to hear about your child’s day.

5. Mirror the person’s body language.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re having a great conversation, you and the speaker unconsciously mirror each others body language? This behavior tells the speaker that you’re on the same page.

6. Use encouraging words.
Say words like “Go on” and “I agree” or “How interesting!”

7. Don’t interrupt!
I’m very guilty of this as I come from a family that all talks at the same time. (My mother calls this singing in harmony.) But active listening involves not putting words into others mouths or stopping them to put in your two cents.

And then there is being a good example for your children. They will do as you do and become active listeners if you model this good behavior.

“Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf… “
~ Native American Proverb

Active listening is a skill. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Active listening requires practice and thought. Active listening is engaging and will make the people in your life much happier.

What if the person you’re talking to doesn’t want to be an active listener for you? Then follow Winnie the Pooh’s advice:

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
~Winnie the Pooh (Milne)

** Dog picture from Natural Horse Lovers and Picture credit and reference for meaning of symbol:
The 30 Inch View, Posted by Kent Hatcher.

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How A Morning Of Mindfulness Can Change Your Day

Mindfulness is an important part of life.

Mindfulness is an important part of life.

The other day I took the only day I had free and proceeded to fill it up with busyness. My list had three grocery stores, a craft store and a bunch of other errands. As I put on my shoes and got my purse, I suddenly remembered…this was the day I planned to take pictures of wildflowers and ride my bike. I was taking my least busiest day and making it as stressful as all the others!

On another day, a few weeks ago, while on auto pilot and thinking too many thoughts, I got to my destination without even paying attention to the drive. Then there was one night last week I couldn’t sleep as I made all sorts of lists in my mind of things I needed to do. My distracted mind, or Monkey Mind as Buddhists called it, had taken control! I was falling into the trap of our culture and being too busy. (Do you remember what I think of busy… read more here about the 4 Letter Word, here). I had too much going on in my head. I realized that I needed to take the time to be more mindful!

What is Mindfulness?
It’s paying attention “on purpose”. It’s being aware without judgement. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism. It’s the 7th part of the Eightfold path. Let on its own our mind wanders back into the past and forward into the future. These thoughts can include worry, anger, disappointment, fear, grief and self pity. You suffer with these thoughts because the past is gone and the future a fantasy. Letting go of these thought, paying attention without judgment. This creates a stillness and peace in the mind. When using mindfulness in your life you tend to be here now. And now is usually filled with contentment.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, brought mindfulness to the attention of Westerners (click here for some more about Thich Nhat Hanh). Others, like Jon Kabat-Zinn, the author of many books on mindfulness and the creator of the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course – MBSR, have brought mindfulness into the limelight. His course is now offered at hospitals as part of their healing plans. He teaches mindfulness to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness. Mindfulness has become quite popular. It’s no longer considered to be “new-agey” or “woo-woo”. In fact there was an article in the Costco Magazine this month! Mindfulness is recognized as a way to alleviate stress and live more peacefully.

Why practice Mindfulness?
There is scientific evidence that practicing mindfulness can brings peace into your life through your body and mind. Mindfulness can rid the body and mind of stress, anxiety and worry. It can keep related illnesses at bay. It helps the immune system and with the healing process. It can enhance relationships. I think mindfulness, like gratitude, can lead to contentment.

Are you ready to try Mindfulness? There are a few things to do before you start… put any device away. Next don’t think about the past or the future. Mindfulness is all about living in the present. Lastly, remember to breathe. It’s amazing how often we hold our breath. Ok! Here are 6 ways to bring mindfulness into your life:

1. Use Your Five Senses Regularly – We often find ourselves in our mind with our 5 senses muted. When your senses are on, your are aware. And if you’re going to be mindful remember to turn on your senses.

2. Be Mindful First Thing in the Morning – quietly wake up, pause, do some deep breathing or stretch. Have a positive thought. Do not pick up your phone or check your computer. Do not watch the news. Have a quiet ritual that can include smelling the coffee, listening to the birds, meditation or just sitting quietly.

3. Be Mindful During Your Regular Routines – I try be in the moment when I am:
• washing the dishes
• driving down the road
• showering
• brushing my teeth
• walking
• tidying up
• even simply breathing

4. Be Mindful In Nature – This is one of my favorite ways to be mindful. I go sit in my garden and watch the insects. Or take a walk. It’s an instant energizer for me!

5. Be Mindful While Eating – take time to really smell and taste your food. Put your fork down between bits.

6. Practice A Mindfulness Meditation – Many people practice meditation to reduce stress, worry and anxiety. It even helps with illness. Sit quietly, breathe, observe, accept and let go during a mindfulness meditation. Your mind will wander, gently bring it back. Here is a three minute meditation that is often taught with the Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MNSR method:

7. Be Mindful With Your Family – Be mindful when in the presence of your family. Be mindful when you are with others, even people you don’t know. Put down the phone, shut the computer and really listen. Look in their eyes. Have a meaningful conversation! This is what you’re here on the earth for… to be with people you love.

Life is a series of experiences, good and bad. Those experiences are often worries about future and depression about the past. Let go of that, at least for a little while. Come out of your head and give living in the present a try. Give mindfulness a try. Observe, accept and let go. It’s a positive way to react with your day to day life.

By the way, I decided not to make that day, a few weeks back, into a busy day. I dropped all my plans, grabbed my camera, the zen papa and my bike and rode off to be mindful in nature. I still got a lot done in the afternoon but not with stress and worry. Having a morning of mindfulness changed my day into something special. Here are a few of the pictures from that mindful morning:

Raindrops #1

Ladybug:leaf

Mexican Hat Wildflowers

Yellow:Black Dragonfly

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Posted in Manifesting, Mindfulness, Positve Thought | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

What’s Right With You?

Henri Matisse, a positive thinker!

Henri Matisse, a positive thinker!

“We become what we think about all day long.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The other morning I awoke with a sore throat. That’s always a sure sign of a cold for me. I almost felt disappointed in myself as I asked, “What’s wrong with me?” At that moment, I thought of my favorite Wayne Dyer quote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I knew I had to change my thinking. I had to ask myself, “What’s right with me?”

The idea about “What’s right” rather than “What’s wrong” was first introduced to me 7 years ago by my Yoga teacher, Suzanne. We would be lying down on the Yoga mat breathing and relaxing just before starting our practice. She’d have us mentally go through our body and find where any pain was located. Next she would tell us to acknowledge the pain and thank it. Then she would tell us to find what is right in our bodies and thank that part of your body…thank your toes, your arms, your legs and your head…etc. You would realize that the pain was taking up a very little space in your body and you actually had much more right than not.

We have all asked that question, “What’s wrong with me?”
While you can’t ignore pain or sorrows, just remember that difficulties make us appreciate the positive more. We often grow through adversity. So acknowledge that and then focus on how much is right in your world rather than what is wrong. Do you have electricity? Do you have a grocery store nearby? Do you the right clothes for the right weather? If you answer yes to these and similar questions and then you have abundance! This type of thinking is the basis for a new type of psychology called Positive Psychology.

What is Positive Psychology? “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.” (http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu) Sounds right to me!

Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology sees life as “using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.”

What can you do to concentrate on what’s right with you?

• When you wake up in the morning, don’t focus on your aches or pains, focus on the many, many parts of the body that are feeling good!

• Be engaged in something you love at least once a day. If you have a passion you can lose yourself in what in you love!

• Surround yourself with positive people who love or support you unconditionally.

• I believe that this habit of “What’s right with you” is a very important one to teach to your children. Here’s one thing you can do: play a dinner game with your family where you each tell what happened right in your day.

• Practice mindfulness. I do this often in my garden. I love to see the little buds on the plants, the different stages of flowers, the small insects in the garden, the smell of dirt and the color of everything in nature. I also practice mindfulness when I eat slowly and really taste my food. Mindfulness, for me, always leads to gratitude.

• Practice Gratitude – gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. Every day remind yourself of how lucky you are. Gratitude can be affirmations like “I’m grateful for…” It can be the simple, but essential things like breathing, running water and a roof over my head or thoughts of family and friends and a job.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.”
~Eckhart Tolle

What you think about expands. Shift your attention away from what’s wrong and concentrate on what’s right. Try it for a day and you’ll adopt this attitude for a lifetime!

What to hear more? Watch this 23 minute TED video with Martin Seligman calle “The New Era of Positive Psychology”.

If you live near Denver (or even if you don’t!), I’d like to invite you to a workshop I’m giving with Tricia Gast of Body Talk. We’ll be teaching about releasing negative emotions like stress, worry, angry from the body, becoming a Peaceful Parent, finding your passion and becoming a positive thinker. We’ll be laughing a lot, practicing Yoga and giving you some practical tips on integrating all of this into your life right away. The workshop will take place June 28th from 8:00 to 12:00 in Littleton, Colorado with lots of heathy snacks included! The cost… you decide… that’s right! It’s based on the Buddhist principle called “Dana”: giving what you feel the program is worth. If you’re interested please email me at thezenmama (at) gmail.com and I’ll send you more information.

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Oh The Possibilities…

 Norman Vincent Peale, my favorite positive thinker!

Norman Vincent Peale, my favorite positive thinker!

My summer is just starting. I am at the start of two months of possibilities. I have a few commitments but otherwise each day is open to many possibilities.

I want to finish my book, have a great flower and vegetable garden, make really delicious food that is also healthy, travel to new places, take some unbelievable hikes in the mountains, read books, go swimming, create some new photography, meet some new people….. the list goes on!

I feel like a kid! Kids see the potential of every summer. Kids imagine great crafts, making a Tom Sawyer raft, a hole that must be dug, sprinklers to run through and stars at night to be wished upon. Were your summers as a kids that way? When we’re young and just starting out, the world is full of possibilities.

If only we could feel this way every morning, excited and enthusiastic! The whole day is laid out before us, just like a summer break. Fourteen – sixteen hours, depending how much you sleep of course, before us to use the way we want.

Then your inner voice starts a conversation:
“But wait,” you say, “I have responsibilities.”

“And I have children to take care of.”

“And my job is serious.”

“I have a ______ to pay.” (insert mortgage, phone bill, Visa card)

Ok. I understand. You have responsibilities! But don’t those responsibilities limit your possibilities. The possibilities that you make for yourself come from your beliefs.

You belief system is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Your beliefs are that inner voice your are hearing. If you can eliminate certain beliefs your reality will change

After eliminating certain negative beliefs, your other inner voice, the positive one, can say, “Wait, can’t our responsibilities be part of our possibilities?”

Well, why not? As George Bernard Shaw wrote: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”

So first, take time to examine your beliefs by answering these questions:

• Is the world for you a loving place or hostile?
• If you’re a parent, do you look for the good in your children or the bad?
• Do you spend time with yourself or are you always doing things for others and living only with the constant chatter in your head?
• Do you wish things were better yet do nothing to change that? Or do you act on your thoughts?
• At your workplace are you open or are you controlling? Are you a leader? Maybe you see yourself as a victim? Are bad things are always happening to you…Or are you with your world?
• Do you laugh much?
• Do you have time in your life to simply be?

Your job as a parent, your career and even how you pay bills can be what you make it! So in this post I’m giving your homework. Time to stop seeing the world as a limiting place. Instead see the world this week as a week of possibilities.

1. Be open.
2. Make mistakes.
3. Think outside the box.
4. Be open to coincidence or serendipity.
5. Stop complaining.
6. Do something a lot different from the norm. Drive home a different way. Stop at a new shop that’s just opened. Brush your teeth with a different hand.
7. Do something outside your comfort zone.
8. Remove negative behavior.
9. Volunteer in your dream job.
10. See the humor in life.
11. Change your attitude!
12. Sing this song from Oklahoma all week (or something equally as positive):
“Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.”

13. Lastly, it’s up to you to make your day fun and full of possibilities.
• For example, if you’re with your children all summer, create a fun summer filled with trips to little creeks, playgrounds, hikes around a fun farmer’s market or a scavenger hunt around your neighborhood. (It doesn’t have to be expensive)
• If you’re in a serious job, start bringing humor to work. People may be grumpy at first but they’ll start to look forward to your jokes and one day bring a joke of their own!
• If you are overwhelmed by the bills you have, look at them in a different way. Thank them what overwhelms you, like paying bills, for the opportunity it give you to have a house, car, phone or to do the many things you get to do. Thank your taxes for giving you an incredible place to live. Thank your sore throat for helping you to slow down. Take an opportunity to change some negative into a positive.

Creating a possibility is like removing a roadblock in the street that is your life!

So join me and be excited for all the possibilities this summer. As part of your homework assignment, write below what possibilities you have for the summer. You all know the quote “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, make some lemonade with your responsibilities and turn them in possibilities. I can’t wait to hear what you’re going to be doing!

My favorite positive thinker, Norman Vincent Peale

My favorite positive thinker, Norman Vincent Peale

If you live near Denver (or even if you don’t!), I’d like to invite you to a workshop I’m giving with Tricia Gast of Body Talk. We’ll be teaching about releasing negative emotions like stress, worry, angry from the body, becoming a Peaceful Parent, finding your passion and becoming a positive thinker. We’ll be laughing a lot, practicing Yoga and giving you some practical tips on integrating all of this into your life right away. The workshop will take place June 28th from 8:00 to 12:00 in Littleton, Colorado with lots of heathy snacks included! The cost… you decide… that’s right! It’s based on the Buddhist principle called “Dana”: giving what you feel the program is worth. If you’re interested please email me at thezenmama (at) gmail.com and I’ll send you more information.

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17 Fathers Quotes To Inspire Great Dads

Fathers are a beacon of light

A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.”
~Unknown

I’ve always known that having a good father is important. However more and more I realize how essential having a good father is for an easier adulthood. Friends who didn’t have a father or have “father issues” continue to search for what’s missing in their lives.

I’m very thankful that I have my own wonderful father who has always treasured me. And I have an incredible husband who shows my three boys what it is to be a great Dad and husband!

Great fathers:

• Give Protection – by making a safe home and being there through thick and thin.
• Give Support – whether it’s financial or emotional.
• Teach self confidence – Self confidence is taught by treasuring your children and by showing them the respect you want them to show you.
• Treat Mom like a queen – This helps children to see how to be a great spouse someday.
• Are there for their children – Think of the Harry Chapin song. You need to be there! Quantity time is more important than quality time.
• Are funny! – I grew up with a very humorous dad and then married a very humorous husband. Being a fun dad helps to make life fun, too!

My father and me

Here are some great quotes that help to define what it is to be a great dad!

Fathers need to teach their kids to ride bikes:
“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”
~Sloan Wilson

Fathers need to have tough skins:
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
~Author unknown (Possibly Mark Twain)

“Discipline doesn’t break a child’s spirit half as often as the lack of it breaks a parent’s heart.”
~Anonymous

Father’s need to understand their children go through stages, sometimes not good ones:

“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.”
~Charles Wadsworth

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.”
~William Shakespeare

Fathers need to gently discipline:
“A father is a man who expects his children to be as good as he meant to be.”
~Carol Coats

“When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.”
~The Talmud

John and the boys in Costa Rica

Fathers need to learn to be fathers:
“Fathers, like mothers, are not born. Men grow into fathers and fathering is a very important stage in their development.”
~David Gottesman

“The guys who fear becoming fathers don’t understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent.”
~Frank Pittman

“Becoming a father is easy enough, but being one can be very rough.”
~Wilhelm Busch

Fathers need to know when it’s time to let go:

“How true Daddy’s words were when he said: ‘All children must look after their own upbringing.’ Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
~Anne Frank

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.”
~Hodding Carter, Jr.

Fathers need to treat mothers with respect:

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
~Henry Ward Beecher

Fathers need to lead by example:

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
~Clarence B. Kelland

“Character is largely caught, and the father and the home should be the great sources of character infection.”
~Frank H. Cheley


Fathers need to have a good sense of humor:

“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”
~ Harry S. Truman

Fathers need to have unconditional love:

“A parent’s love is whole no matter how many times divided.”
~Robert Brault

Thanks, Dad and John, for being great fathers. Thank you for the humor, the unconditional love and for teaching me, and my boys, to ride a bike!

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The Four Agreements

Don Miguel Ruiz's 4 Agreements

Don Miguel Ruiz’s 4 Agreements

“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are.”
~Don Miguel Ruiz

Have you read the best selling book (bestseller for 7 years!) THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz?

He writes of four agreements to practice and much more. These four agreements stay with you! These principles help to create love and happiness in your life. I really enjoyed reading the book several years ago and re-visit these agreements to remind myself of their power. These agreements are simple, but simple isn’t always easy. Actually living these Four Agreements can be challenging.

Don Miguel Ruiz left his career as a surgeon and became a Toltec shaman following in the traditions of his family. The ancient Toltecs lived in the south of Mexico not far from the Guatemalan border. He began his career as a surgeon but then instead followed his family’s traditions of being a shaman. He moved to the United States before and has lived here after writing the book. THE FOUR AGREEMENTS was published in 1997. It’s based on Toltec Wisdom he learned from his family. He shares these ancient Toltec teachings as a way to find happiness, peace, and love. He has now passed these traditions onto his sons.

The Four Agreements are:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word:
Say only what you mean. Avoid saying things against yourself or gossiping about others.

This is some of the best advice in the book. I gave up gossiping years ago. The advice of the poem, “words will never hurt you” is so wrong! Words hurt people very much and if you’re talking behind someone else’s back they can feel it. Or they may find out from someone else. The negative talk you tell yourself is equally as hurtful. Your subconscious believes what you tell it. Stop both!

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say is their own reality, their own dream. When you stop taking things personally, you can analyze why someone’s actions.

I love this one. It’s advice my mother gave us years ago. She’d say, “If someone is angry or trying to make you feel guilty about something it’s because they have a problem, not you.” I always take that to heart. After initially being hurt or angry sometimes, I try to delve deep into what might be going on in that person’s life. This person may be dealing with financial issues, relationship problems or any of life’s big dramas. I don’t accept letting others treat me in a negative way, but I also don’t take it personally. I try to extend non-judgment to everyone.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Maybe you learned the same thing as me about the word assume? It makes an ass out of u and me? It’s still the same! It’s the same as the agreement above, “Don’t take things personally”. If you make assumption, you might miss what someone else is going through in life. Try, once again, to imagine that’s it’s their problem not yours. Use your inner wisdom and practice non-judgment.

4. Always Do Your Best
In any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

I know that I was always told this as a kid: “We’re happy as long you’ve done your best.” Your best is going to change from moment to moment. Somedays your best is incredible. Other days your best is just so-so. Your best will always be changing depending on health, wealth or wisdom. Do you best and avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, or any regret.

Each of us will find one or more of these agreements difficult to do! Pick the one or two that you need to work on more. It will be different for everyone. And these are great to share with your children!

It’s a short book and you may want to give it a try! Click on the book below to get it at Amazon.

And by the way Don Miguel Ruiz’s son Don Jose Ruiz has released a sequel with his father, The Fifth Agreement, which adds a further agreement:

5. Be Skeptical but Learn to Listen.

I think I’ll read this book over the summer! Read more about Don Miguel Ruiz, his family and their books at his website… click here.

“Everything is there for us, but first we need to have the courage to open our eyes, to use the truth, and to see what really is.”
~Don Miguel Ruiz

If you live near Denver (or even if you don’t!), I’d like to invite you to a workshop I’m giving with Tricia Gast of Body Talk. We’ll be teaching about releasing negative emotions like stress, worry, angry from the body, becoming a Peaceful Parent, finding your passion and becoming a positive thinker. We’ll be laughing a lot, practicing Yoga and giving you some practical tips on integrating all of this into your life right away. The workshop will take place June 28th from 8:00 to 12:00 in Littleton, Colorado with lots of heathy snacks included! The cost… you decide… that’s right! It’s based on the Buddhist principle called “Dana”: giving what you feel the program is worth. If you’re interested please email me at thezenmama (at) gmail.com and I’ll send you more information.

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Thich Nhat Hanh, photo courtesy of his Plum Village website

Thich Nhat Hanh, photo courtesy of his Plum Village website

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

I discovered Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tik-N’yat-Hawn) a few years ago when my mother gave me the book, Peace With Every Step. It was a particularly crazy time with three kids full of activities, working at my job, cooking meals, cleaning as much as I could, doing laundry and trying to fit in a garden… everything added to the chatter in my head and gave me monkey mind . I craved peace. Then, suddenly, here was a way within a book to help to bring peace back into my life! I loved it.

Thich Nhat Hanh is the best known Zen masters in the world today. He is a writer and peace activist. He was born in central Vietnam in 1926. He entered the monkhood at the age of sixteen. He helped to found the “Engaged Buddhism” movement to help to bring about peace in Vietnam and other countries during the 60′s. Martin Luther King Jr. called him “an apostle of peace and nonviolence”. His life has been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for individuals and society. Today, Thich Nhat Hanh still travels the world leading retreats. His home is Plum Village in France, living in the meditation community he founded. There he teaches, writes and gardens. You can read more about him here.

I know how busy we all are. So while you may not have time to read Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, here are some little nuggets of his advice to weave into your very busy days!

On Mindfulness
Thich Nhat Hanh is all about mindfulness – noticing everything without judgment. Mindfulness never fails to change my mood!

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”

“Around us, life bursts with miracles–a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.”

On Waking In The Morning
We don’t always wake up in a good mood… so try saying this before you get out of bed and see how your day will change. This quote is like my mantra!

“Waking up this morning I smile
knowing there are 24 brand new hours before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment,
and look at beings with eyes of compassion.”

On Letting Go
Zen Mama started because I realized that if I could let go, I could be a better mother and have a better relationship with my kids! But it can be very difficult!

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

On Breathing
Another way to change your day is to make sure you are breathing deeply, in and out.

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”

On Meditation
I loved the walking meditation that I leaned through the book. To do the walking meditation: walk at your regular pace, not too fast. Be aware of each foot touching the ground. Be aware of everything around you, clouds, trees flowers, little creatures. Have a smile on your face and smile into every cell in your body. Try taking two or three steps for each in-breath and each out-breath. I think as I breathe, “I am breathing in peace.” When I breathe out, I think, “I am breathing out ________” You can fill in anxiety, busyness, anger… whatever emotion you want to let go.

“When we walk like (we are rushing), we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth… Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

On A Positive Attitude
I know that some see a positive attitude as sticking your head in the sand or being a “Pollyanna”. Yet I know that the days I have a positive attitude are my best and happiest days.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

“I have noticed that people are dealing too much with the negative, with what is wrong. … Why not try the other way, to look into the patient and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?”

On Expectation of Yourself and Others
We try so hard to fit into the culture. Try to not fit in today and don’t just do what the culture expects of you.

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

We’re always searching for the person we know ourselves to be, not a second rate version of someone else. So, why are we trying to make everyone else into an idea of what we think they should be? Reading this quote really made me think!

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce.

On Slowing Down
Do you find you are always rushing through your day? I try to make my day last forever so this quote is one of my favorites!

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”

On Love And Relationships
Loving unconditionally can be very difficult. It means being there for someone without judgment. It doesn’t mean giving up. It means you’re willing to support someone you love.

“When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?”

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

“You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

“Compassion is a verb.”

I hope you enjoyed these quotes and got an idea of what Thich Nhat Hanh is all about. I’ll be giving away my copy of Peace With Every Step. To be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment about why you need peace in your life. I’ll put your names into a hat and the Zen Papa will pick one!

Click through the link below to read more about Peace With Every Step:

Everyone, including yourself, can profit from your happiness!

Everyone, including yourself, can profit from your happiness!

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When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking… I Was!

My mother and my three siblings in Sedona

My mother and my three siblings in Sedona

“In teaching (and mothering) you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.”
~ Jacques Barzun

I am so lucky to have the mother I do as an example of how to be the best mom. I won the Mother Lottery. She is the original Zen Mama. Growing up she was ever present yet not hovering. She didn’t seem to worry and always trusted that I was making the right decisions. When I had problems, she listened, without judgement and then gave me solid advice but didn’t press me into following it. When the time came for me to go to college, travel or move to Colorado, she let me go on these grand adventures in life with a smile and a cheer even though inside she knew she’d miss me. We are finally living in the same town again, much to my joy and delight. My mom is a blessing and my inspiration!

Mothers, as we know, are very influential in their child’s life. I don’t think we mothers even know how much we influence our children. We mainly influence them by example. We act, they look.

Each stage with our children is about letting go. From the moment our children lift their heads up and roll over, they are working towards independence and we need to let go at each stage. We don’t have to worry (but we will anyway!) because hopefully if we were doing our job of setting a good example, they were watching. Remember that saying? “Do as I say, not as I do.” Children are always watching you!

I was watching my mom, taking it all in. And when I became a mother, this is what I strove to be like! When I wrote the book, How To A Zen Mama, I unconsciously had in mind all of those nuggets that my mother set her standard by. I’m very lucky!

Here’s favorite poem that sums it all up! And a few quotes to inspire you or write in your Mother’s Day card!

When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

“When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I LOOKED….
and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.”

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
~ Author Unknown
(Thank you to the Zen Papa for loving me!)

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
~ Honoré de Balzac

“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
~ Tenneva Jordan

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”
~ Rajneesh

“A mother understands what a child does not say.”
~ Jewish Proverb

“It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver

“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.”
~ William D. Tammeus

“There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.”
~ Chinese Proverb

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”
~ Sophia Loren

“I’d like to be the ideal mother, but I’m too busy raising my kids.”
~ Unknown

And to my children, Max, Charlie and Oliver, thank you so much for teaching me these many lessons about what being a mother is all about! You’ve changed my life. In letting you go, I’m able to see to sit back and see the person you’ve become. You’re all perfect the way you are and I love being your mother.

My birthday and my three boys

P.S. My latest book, Zen Tips, Daily Meditations for Happiness and Fulfillment From the Zen Mama, will be on sale at the Kindle store for just $.99, starting Saturday for 5 days, in honor of Mother’s Day!

Have a wonderful day!!

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7 Ways To Find Peace In A Garden

Zen Tip Finding Miracles In The Garden I was so exhausted yesterday when I got home. That’s what the end of the school year is like for teachers. It’s spring, the kids are ready to be outside and filled with energy. The first thing I did to revive myself is go outside, grab my garden hose and begin to water my perennials and vegetable seedlings. I began to feel a little more like myself.

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”
Luther Burbank

I have several gardens but my favorite is the vegetable garden. If you’ve never planted one, you should! One of my greatest joys is planting my vegetable garden. I have two; one I make with my preschoolers and one at home.

There is great satisfaction in growing vegetables. I adore my flower garden but it’s the vegetable garden that I look most forward to. There is incredible beauty in a head of lettuce and little scallion sprouts popping up out of the dirt. My mother had a huge garden that all four of us children planted, weeded and harvested! I’ll never forget digging up potatoes and watching beans form. Maybe it’s why I’ve always loved eating vegetables from a very young age. I couldn’t wait to grow one of my own when we got our first house. I’ve had one where ever we’ve lived. Each spring, there’s nothing like starting over each year… a fresh slate to do what worked and change what didn’t.

Why should you garden? One of the biggest reasons for me is to find peace, revive and relax. Here are seven ways that bring peace in a garden:

1. An important lesson in the garden for us and for our children is the waiting and anticipation. Our culture is very impulsive and our society expects everything to happen instantly. No one seems to ever want to wait. It’s important to learn that good things come to those who wait. Anticipation for the seeds to grow is like Christmas!

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”
~W.E. Johns

2. In a garden you can experience true living in the moment. You experience mindfulness as you watch the bugs and dig up worms. It allows you to think about something other than stressors. You use all your senses especially sight, touch and smell as you dig in the earth. Touch and smell the dirt, smell basil, admire the miracle of a sprout or taste a small scallion. For me and many others, there’s nothing like tasting a fresh warm tomato right out of the garden.

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

3. Gardening is a chance to be creative – I sometimes feel like an artist in my garden. I love to mix colors in the flowers. I plan so something is always blooming. I like to plant the lettuce in a pattern, red, green, red, green. I love to take pictures of the insects at work. My garden is filled with possibilities. It is my palette.

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
~ Claude Monet

4. You improve your mental health in the garden – All sorts of studies have shown that people with depression feel much better after being in their garden. I’ve even read that gardening is good for your brain. One study found that people in their 60‘s and 70‘s who gardened regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners. Just Fascinating!! By the way, leave your phone in the house.

“Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.”
~Author Unknown

5. My physical health is also improved – You might not think of exercise when you garden but after a day of digging up a patch, I’m sore and have used muscles I haven’t in a while! You’re breathing in fresh air and feeling the sunshine and getting your dose of vitamin D. Eating all those vegetables is good nutrition, too, a great example for your family. Kids will often try food that they’ve grown when they’ll never try it on their plate. This is as local as it gets! One study I read found that people who gardened recovered faster from surgery. Another found that certain strains of harmless soil-borne Mycobacterium vaccae stimulated the human immune system. Exposure to this bacteria can aid in developing a strong immune system! Another one I read is that farm children are less likely to develop asthma than city children.

“Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.”
~ Anonymous

6. Time slows down in a garden – For me, life slows down if I spend anytime in nature. Our society is so busy! Many people never slow down. And our poor children also need to slow down and not be involved in so many activities. I can let go of my monkey mind in the garden and my time there lasts forever. A garden teaches us patience

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
~Lao Tzu

7. You can find yourself in the garden - With all that quiet and time to think I reconnect with whom I am. I’ve let go of the stressors in life and of the feeling like I’ve haven’t gotten anything done. All around me is beauty and peace.

“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Are you ready?
• First get prepared. Are you planting a container garden? Or a plot outside?
If it’s your first garden pick things that are easy to grow. Don’t have a book on gardening? Google is at your fingertips!
• Have your seeds and dirt ready to go. Some kind of mulch is a good idea, too, to keep the dirt weed-free and moist. Choose easy to grow seeds. Or buy young plants.
• If you don’t have space, try container gardening. I’m going to do a combination this year. Prepared Mama put them in container and has great advice here and here. I like her 4″, 6″ 8″ and 12″ container ideas like the one below:

flowerpot9

One thing you need to know is when to plant. There are veggies that like cold nights and can take a little snow and others that can only be grown in the heat of summer. I recommend the following for an easy:
• Spring garden: crops include spinach, lettuce, peas, scallions, onions
• Mid Spring: crops potatoes, broccoli, beets, radishes and carrots
• Summer: after the last frost plant, tomatoes, pumpkins, squashes, beans, herbs like basil, dill, chives, oregano and rosemary.

Is all this too much for you? Ask for help! You probably know a gardener who is as anxious as I am to share. Otherwise, remember, google is right at your fingertips!

Please let me know if you start a garden! I’d love to hear how it’s growing.
Experience all these things for yourself and find peace in your garden… and if you have kids, teach them this kind of peace, too.

“Life begins the day you start a garden.”
~Chinese Proverb

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Posted in Balance, Gardening, Mindfulness, Parenting, Simplifying Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments