How to Fill Your Bucket

MatunuckRI

Labor Day Weekend is almost here. Looking ahead to the turn of the season means most of us shake off the sand and fold up the beach towels. I’m not much of beach lounger myself but I do love walking along the surf’s edge. Fortunate am I to combine beach walking this summer with multiple reunions with dear friends and family. We visited 5 different beaches in 5 east coast states this summer! It is rare occurrence for us to have so much activity and one that coincided with the cosmic event of the solar eclipse. Believe me I cherish each and every memory, stored up to examine again and again in winter.

Belmar1957

One thing I observed about kids and the beach, the play is pretty similar today to when we were kids. Remember that sand pail and shovel you used on the beach as a child? How many different ways did you use that? Not just for sand that’s for sure. It can hold lots of beach flotsam and seawater, the precious bits and pieces to later spark shards of memory. In my mind’s eye I see the roll of the waves, hear the sounds of the surf and cries of gulls, and feel the sand between my toes, smell the briny shoreline. Remember when the shells and stones, mermaids purses, dried seaweed, and driftwood festooned your bedroom and littered the back porch?

MatunukStones

Maybe today you don’t use the bucket, maybe you should. We’re all familiar with the Bucket List, a popular term, made more ubiquitous by the 2007 film, for that list of things to do before you die. It’s no small thing to be made aware of your mortality in such a way. To “kick the bucket” is a bravado term for dying, one that invokes the image of cowboys expressing gallows humor, i.e., that detached coolness in the face of dire odds.

A bucket list is so much better if it motivates individuals beyond their fears and daily to-do lists, spurring them to positive action for their own well-being.

 

FenwickDE

Whether you see your glass half full or half empty right now, I recommend a different kind of bucket. Not the end-times container but one we can carry every day. It’s the container of our core beliefs, a reminder of what we value, and how to put those beliefs into action. Have you thought about yours lately? Why not cultivate a commitment to altruism, the selfless concern for the well-being of others?

Prosocial action is good for you, and good for all. This is how we grow resilience in the face of stress, by reaching out in our own small ways as best we can. We are all neighbors after all and recent events in Charlottesville and across Texas illustrate that in the most graphic and dire ways.

NationalSeashoreCapeCod

Robert F. Kennedy  said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest  walls of oppression and resistance.”
BelmarNJ

 

In the waning days of summer, ask yourself: What are my core beliefs? How can I bring actions for our common good into greater alignment with my daily life?

Close your eyes and listen to the waves, see if you can hear your answer.

MatunukSurf

 

Be Well — Safe Holiday Weekend to ALL

Claire

 

 

All Photos Claire Mauro

Advertisements

Look Up! It’s Awe-Inspiring

NasaTotal Eclipsehttps://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/preparing-for-the-august-2017-total-solar-eclipse

Look up! The world is turning it’s eyes to the skies for the next couple of months with summer fireworks celebrations and the coming solar eclipse on August 21st.

Boston Fireworks-Globe.png

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2014/06/28/fourth-july-events/NFuQBHN1COxrGsIWMvuYfK/story.html

It’s a good time to ditch your inner cynic and that “meh” feeling and engage your power of awe. Whether it’s on the macro or micro scale, there is beauty and wonder to be found all around us. It takes us out of ourselves and unites us with all living things, engendering a sense of wellbeing that’s good for overall health. A recent study out of UC Berkeley suggests awe-inspiring moments actually reduce inflammation through positive emotion, altering our immune response.

LizzieFur

What’s you strongest sense for experiencing awe? Is it the sound of loved one’s approach, the softness exhale of baby’s breath, or the feel of a pet’s fur?

How can you be sure your summer days are awesome??

Share some AWESOME ACTIVITES

Berryful

Berry picking takes you up close with nature, using all your senses to find the ripest, most sweet smelling fruit. You can marvel at the shape and texture, the weight of fruit in your hand before you pop some into your mouth.

Cascade Lake

Find your View\point. You don’t need an exotic location to enjoy a view- although it sure can be spellbinding. Just a lookout from a vantage point can change your perspective and help you see the big picture. Too foggy to see the horizon? Bend low and find the life within a tiny lichen to take your breath away.

Star gazing is a sure way to enjoy the night sky. There are more stars out there than you think. Take a telescope out to a playground and have a look around.

Savor Your Alone Time

Where ever you go Notice the light. We’re in the season of light and although the days are subtly growing shorter there’s plenty left. It’s not just fireworks that inspire awe. As the dawn comes up there is a symphony of awakening to behold in the sunrise, and a spectacle of a color in the sunset before moonglow.

Dance Along the Path

https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/dancing-along-path

Dance the Eclipse Use this suggestion to create your own personal interpretive dance for the eclipse. You could help raise the positive emotion of the planet and for sure you will please yourself!

 

Vinegar Girl.png      Hagseed.png

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com

Mind games—Reading keeps you mentally sharp especially longer sentences and new vocabulary. Lazy hammock days are just right for tackling a literary classic you always meant to read. Or try one of the newly re-framed Shakespeare classics from PenguinRandomHouse: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler or Margaret Atwood’s Hag-seed.

Crostada.jpg

Fruit Delight  For a fruit treat, nothing is better than a rustic Crostata. No pie plate needed. Just shape the dough onto a baking sheet, pile your fresh picked fruit in the middle and turn up the edges. I made this one with figs and almonds.

Best Wishes for Health and Happiness this Summer!

Claire

All Photos Claire Mauro unless stated.

 

It’s Summer time, do you know where your toes are?

 

Beach Yoga 8

I love when the universe sends me a message, even when it comes with an ouch! I was assembling a shelf last weekend and dropped a heavy-duty wheel attachment that glanced off my middle toe—on my “good” foot. Even though my toe throbbed non-stop for 24 hours I had to laugh. I’d been thinking hard about my summer goals and juggling those expectations with the siren call of outdoor adventures. I’m well aware of how push-pull of demands from outside can derail my focus and I was determined to stay on task. But experience has taught me the body has a way of “talking over” the voices of others. Pay attention! Yes it’s the barefoot season, with the summer solstice arriving at 12:24 a.m. on Wednesday June 21. Temps are in the 90s after our prolonged cold spring rains. Summer in New England is heating up.

ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING

A dear friend once came to visit and taught me a powerful lesson about stillness. In the heat of the day, after she had traveled so far, why not just sit together?? With the fan lazily moving overhead and the windows open wide we sat in companionable silence on the porch and gradually, with no outside interruption, words poured forth. Keeping perfectly still was a release, a rescue of sorts. So maybe this summer, in the heat of the day, just stop with the busyness. Sit in stillness – not for 30 seconds- try 5 minutes. As you stretch your awareness, instead of your movements causing a breeze you’ll be able to detect the movement of air around you. Be still another 5 minutes and you will begin to feel cool. You will actually have greater clarity to then get up and continue if you must—you might even shift your awareness of what is truly important.

 

Nationa Seashore1

WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?

It’s Travel Time. Road trips restore us by putting the horizon just beyond our windshield. Our car becomes a magic chariot, decanting us into a new landscape. In summer an old growth forest becomes a sandy shoreline; suburban sprawl a charming historic wharf; city streets a mountain retreat. Such was the case for my husband and I this past week. After days of endless inland rain we emerged into a sunny Wellfleet afternoon on the Cape.

 

IMG_8991

THE MUNDANE BECOMES SUBLIME

The daily catch of seafood and locally grown produce led the day. Our outlook brightened with the sun, and I noticed how we see each other differently across a table of nature’s bounty, enjoying the moment without regard for the tasks and chores and nagging questions left behind at home. The simple pleasures unfolded with a meal well-prepared, with engaging and artful hosting and the vibrant setting where all guests were made to feel welcome.

 

IMG_8982

REMEMBER TO PLAY TOGETHER

Within the shared moments, across the sand or across a table, new possibilities emerge. Mingled on the fresh scent of the breeze off the ocean that day was a tantalizing suggestion of new opportunity and renewed promise. O, Spring does lead to Summer! — in relationships as well as the progress of the seasons.

STAY CURIOUS

Walking on the sand we test the icy water. And leave some footprints to wash away when we leave. Despite the impermanence of our day excursion we feel more grounded, finding a respite from events beyond our view. As the day winds down we’re filled with the hope that lingers in the slowly setting sun.

IMG_9004

 

FOLLOW THE CURRENT

The beauty of stillness is that you can take it with you anywhere. Whether you embrace every invitation or not, when you work hard and play hard too, the interval in between becomes an important component of a healthy balanced life.

 

IMG_9022

Book of the Month: Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

This is a gorgeous book for an imperfect time. There are lessons on the beauty and serenity inherent in the everyday, especially in the natural, slightly used and in need of repair. Charming collages combine with haiku creating a multidimensional experience for the reader. The text’s gentle prodding cultivates curiosity in both young and old.

A Bit of Movement:

Toes are in the spotlight in a summer weather, and I’m not talking about a fresh pedicure. How’s your toe alignment? Now that barefoot season is upon us, it’s the perfect time create an exercise habit for your toes. .A little Toe Yoga can set you up for a great day of fun in the sun.

Chris and I have teamed up for a sequence to start your day off on the right foot!

Stretches: Don’t just swing out of bed and start moving—take time to feel the surface beneath your feet. Notice the points of contact from toe to heel, then push off.

Stop at the kitchen counter while you prep your morning wake up drink- and  stretch your toes by lifting up from the heels.

Alignments: Sit and weave your fingers between your toes, shaking hands with your foot. Then hand-in-foot circle the ankle too.

Foot prints: Capitalize on this foot awareness by pressing your feet into your mat as you rise up into the warrior pose. Feel the power of your calves and thighs respond to this supportive grounding. You have enhanced the value of your workout by cultivating a strong and mindful base.

Something to Wear: Yoga Toes Sandals

Something for Fun: Foot Art – henna tattoos for the feet

Something Soothing: Foot Reflexology

Happy Summer Solstice to All!

Chris and Claire

Text Photos Claire Mauro

Yoga Photos Chris Primavera

Arancini,  Ceraldi

purrfect

Fresh Color for Dinner!

Mom and Dad Florida

Dad and Mom outside their Florida Home, 1970s

My Dad was right. During his adult years high blood pressure was a dangerous problem because he had a type of hypertension not well-managed with the existing medication. In an effort to help himself he turned to naturopathic medicine. Dad tirelessly promoted a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, at least that’s how it seemed to us sitting at the dinner table. He became the food explorer, trying new flavors and combinations and pressing his discoveries on the rest of the family.

There was no stopping Dad when he leaned over my dinner plate, squeezing fresh lemon on all the vegetables, meat and potatoes saying, “This will make you beautiful!” He often railed against our packaged snack foods of childhood. Mom was no help; she went along with all his ideas. I’m sure she hoped a cure was in reach and his strategy would keep his debilitating disease at bay.

Carrot Appetizer

Carrot, hummus, and sunflower seed appetizer

It turns out Dad didn’t go far enough. Over the years I‘ve been inspired by his food adventurism myself. I cherish the memories of group meals and extended family dinners from my childhood and with our own family and friends today. Healthy fresh meals, full of fun preparations and festive gathering together, remain high spots on my life landscape. For a while though I lost sight of Dad’s full aim, his belief that through loving interaction we also can use food as medicine.

Today there are many voices hawking food cures, touted to us daily across the media. Popularizing a particular food may give it the mantle of fad or quick fix (really, an “it” veggie of the year?)  And ubiquitous food advice masks more serious issues of food access and quality control for large swathes of our population. Now it seems the media saturation, if effective to draw your attention, is increasingly important. A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows people all across the country are dying daily from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes due to poor diet. We are dying from lack of good food in our land of endless abundance and the all-you-can-eat buffet!

Savory pancake

Savory pancake with tomato and avocado-feta topping

Mainstream medicine is taking a life-changing step, to prescribe food and improved patient access to it through hospitals with a Fresh Food Pharmacy.

Not only that, teaching kitchens are springing up in primary care doctors’ offices, with the basic healthy food preparation skills deemed important to ensure compliance with food prescriptions. The loss of home economics in schools turns out to have endangered our entire national population. Good food practices are lacking across all economic strata. Ask your doctor about gaining food skills!

 

Strawberry huller tool

Fresh strawberries are easily prepped with a knife or strawberry huller tool

Healthy choices are a mark of self-care, just as Dad advocated all those years ago. When we teach our children and ourselves the powerful connection between choosing fresh ingredients and our health and wellbeing, we aren’t denying joy, we are embracing a whole new more joyous adventure into living life fully.

It does take inner strength to do this and a big dose of self-parenting as well. For the past two weeks I’ve been attempting a sugar and gluten cleanse with guidance and group support from Donna at Better Off Well. It’s been eye-opening to discover the hidden sugar and gluten in everyday food encounters. I discovered my own behavioral pitfalls and made substitutions for my food indulgences. Every day is not perfect, but I’m more aware and that makes my choices more mindful. This is a potentially life changing moment, and I know my parents would be pleased to see the lessons they introduced still having an impact.

CabbageslawDinner

Red cabbage and citrus slaw, sweet potato and kale-stuffed portobello mushroom

Here’s my latest Book Discovery—Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal. The South Indian cooking is light and fresh and full of color and flavor. Ingredients are widely available as are the spices. Take yourself on a food adventure in your kitchen!

And for the crime novel lovers, a dash of Indian food, history and culture is integral to the satirical murder mystery, Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. As an admirer of Jane Eyre, Jane Steele must navigate the dangerous world of Victorian England to secure her lost inheritance. See my review on Goodreads for more.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and others who parent us along the way!

Photos and food prep, Claire Mauro

 

 

Core Values, Lived Practice

Easter Daffodils

An astonishing week for blooms in our corner of New England brings a burst of activity to our home and landscape. My desire for change prompts me to contemplate a new broom, the better to sweep away the cobwebs of winter. The shift in the light illuminates areas needing attention and that includes not just our immediate environment.

My late winter injuries linger with nagging pain to attend to just when I want to keep moving. Patience for healing is as important as any actions such as proper exercise and nutrition. Slowing down brings focused action. The result is not great leaps but incremental movement, and that’s pretty satisfying. The hare gives way to the tortoise. I have a habit of turning difficult moments into questions. This leads me to ask– How can we create forward motion when confronted with obstacles?

Hellebore

Core values + Lived practice -> Well-matched Opportunity = Heartening Action

Retreat is not defeat it’s a chance to re-group and come back stronger. Reflecting on your personal home truths and checking in with yourself to see how well your daily life aligns is a good regular practice. I believe in the rhythm of seasonal cycles to provide a framework for this kind of review. With the best of intentions things will still fly apart with regularity, that’s the certainty in the world of uncertainty. Restoring a balance is not always the same as putting things back together as they were before.

Re-assembly required. So often we build on top of the ruins instead of taking the time to go back to the basic foundations.  We need to remember what is underneath, then we can build solidly.

Crocus

Show compassion for yourself as you restore balance. Here are some suggestions:

Be gentle with your words, your thoughts and with your body–urge yourself on without drill sergeant shouting, use graceful movement not punishing workouts.

Allow your environment to please you—choose time in nature, silence vs noise.

Eat food you enjoy —buy fresh ingredients, cook simply.

Celebrate daylight! Bathe in the light to lift your spirits!

April dawn

P.S. Elan Mastai has a lot to say about building and what to do when things go wrong in his new book—All Our Wrong Todays. A Utopian environment sounds good, but what’s the alternative? The protagonist. Tom Barren, in this time travel adventure unmasks societal misdirection, false gods and searches for redemption. You can find my review on goodreads.

all the best to you

All photos and graphics by Claire Mauro

Adventures in Time

Tulip Time
Tulips on a snowy day

Remember to breathe Every good movement instructor has encouraged students in the studio with this phrase. When exerting yourself with physical effort it is potentially dangerous not to breathe, raising your blood pressure and straining your muscles. It seems obvious to just breathe, except we all need the reminder because sometimes we don’t breathe, and not only when exercising.

How many ways are there to describe it? Hold your breath, gasp for breath, forget to breathe, have the breath knocked out of you, takes my breath away

With phrases like these we suspend our action, hold still, wait for the next thing to happen. We are overcome with emotion in shock, fear, surprise, or grief, in pain, or deep in intense concentration.

In times of unpredictability we each need to raise our awareness to the breath, to assert our autonomy and breathe, rather than be held in a collective gasp, a population holding its breath.

Version 2
Tell me all about it

Reflect on your own resilience Breathing is your most basic point of control. Not being able to catch your breath is life threatening and breathing shallowly in your upper chest raises your anxiety. Deepening the breath draws you into yourself, settles your emotions, allows you to gather your strength. Use the moment of deep breath to feel your feet on the ground and pause before you act. It’s helpful to recall experiences of dealing with difficult situations in the past and how we got ourselves beyond them. Take the time to consider the lessons learned and how they might be applied in new situations.

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, there is no way to stop unanticipated and unwelcome news from arriving. I was recently reminded of this with an unexpected medical diagnosis. In my response I traveled down familiar side paths of reaction and arrived at the same place of transition I was headed to all along. I like to think I got there faster from experience. Time, we all want to believe, is under our control.

This month I have two books for your consideration:

The Child in Time Ian McEwan He is the master- I’m a fan. It’s very interesting to read this work from an earlier point in his career (1987). There are signature elements familiar to his readers and what have become cornerstones in contemporary fiction – the layered complexity of the narrative, the metaphysical exploration, and the sheer, breathtaking depiction of unspeakable loss. He toys with time and place with expertise and plumbs emotional depths we feel along with his characters. The Thatcher era political comments are quite timely for today. The tragedy and terror of child abduction strikes at every reader’s heart- and remains a danger. If you read this be sure to also view The High Street Abduction a recent video from BBC News. An adaptation of The Child in Time will air on BBC and PBS starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk Portia Nelson  This 35th anniversary edition contains her classic Autobiography in Five Short Chapters. The poem is an iconic statement on awakening to yourself, applicable at any age and repeatedly at every stage of life. The genius of her presentation is in a form so universally accessible to understanding it deserves your time.

Fresh Fig
Proof of Spring- Fig tree

Happy Daylight Savings Time!

 

P.S. Many Thanks to Ms Lizzie Cat for her Cattitude

All photos Claire Mauro.