Why I Shaved My Head

Dear Fellow Seekers,

This week I’m letting you in on a pretty personal topic. It makes me a bit nervous to write this... I’m scared you might disagree with my reasons or my politics or you’ll feel uncomfortable in your own long-haired skin after reading it. 

Please know that I have no intention of creating a shaved head cult, nor do I judge any of you for growing your hair really long, or dying it regularly, or whatever you do. I want you to feel free being yourself, just like I’m working on feeling free to be myself. 

It’s just that my fear of disapproval runs deep, I guess. I’ve always been afraid of being different. I’ve been afraid of being too sensitive, too shy, too quiet, too vegan, too spiritual.


And therein lies reason #1: I’m sick of living out of fear. 

The second reason is that if I didn’t have a family, I would be a monk

Whenever I have time to watch TV, I always want to watch documentaries about monks. Yup - movies about monks or Buddhist nuns are my favorite! They always inspire me and make me feel calm. 

I’m fascinated by monks. It’s like my whole being lights up when I’m in their presence. Buddhist monks were my first meditation teachers and I will never forget the warmth of their smiles and their tangible, incredible kindness.

Shaving my head lets me practice being non-attached to my physical appearance while still living a householder’s life. In my mind, it’s not an all-or-nothing choice. 

I think we can live in families but still choose to renounce certain things as reminders to look inward for satisfaction and contentment. It takes away that limiting belief that “one day I’ll get my appearance right, or my bank account right, or my relationships right, and then I’ll feel at ease.” 

It leaves our happiness in our our hands, and doesn’t let us blame others or our outer circumstances for our suffering.

The third reason is really straight forward: I think Selfie culture is killing our sense of basic goodness.

I noticed that I (like many people) spend more time than I was aware of looking in the mirror, fixing my hair, blow-drying my hair, being concerned about my hair, and feeling confident only when I looked “put together” or was ready to snap a photo. I’m sure you can relate - whether you’re a man or a woman. Just look around in any public place and you’re sure to see someone grooming themselves in front of a cell phone and posting their selfie to Instagram.

I still have an Instagram and Facebook account, but shaving my head has made me more aware of what I post, and trying to make it of value to others, not just a “look at me” picture. 

The 4th reason is also very straight forward: Donald Trump is our president. 

There’s never been a time I’ve felt more like rejecting societal norms and especially the expectations of women than right now. I know that I can be smart and beautiful and valuable no matter what I look like - and now is a time I feel I have to act on that truth. 

The last reason is a bit more complex, and has to do with excuses and time management. I make excuses all the time about not having time to do this, or do that. The things that get pushed aside are things that really matter to me - like cooking homemade food or meditating or practicing yoga or spending time with my husband or friends. While I never spent a lot of time on my hair compared to what other women do, it still felt like shaving my head would save precious time in the morning and motivate me to practice more.


The good news - it’s worked! Since shaving my head, I actually do feel more centered. I practice more every day, and I’ve even taken the leap to be fully vegan and gluten free. These are things I’ve always tried to do but couldn’t seem to pull off.

Something about shaving my head gave me the energy and confidence to do all these things I’ve wanted to do.

I hope these reasons and this story are in some way interesting or inspiring to you. Let me know if there’s something you’re scared to do, but that you feel in your gut might actually help catapult you towards greater happiness or contentment.

Love,
Sally

Hot Chocolate After the Gym?

First, please allow me to address the obvious. Yes, despite my love affair with yin yoga, and quiet peaceful yoga studios, I also enjoy going to my local gym and lifting weights.

Having a husband who is a personal trainer doesn't hurt. Years ago he encouraged me to balance my yin practice with weight training, and my body has never felt so balanced.

So now onto the hot chocolate.

You may know from the consistent analogies I share in class between that vague concept of "desire" in spiritual traditions and my very real desire for pastries... that I have a thing for sweets. I could eat cupcakes and donuts and canollis every day. 

I don't, though, because I usually feel like crap if I do.

But THIS! THIS hot chocolate, especially when it's cold outside, is absolutely amazing.

Thanks to the incredible genius of Emily von Euw, author of Rawsome Vegan Baking, I found a way to enjoy hot chocolate without dairy or refined sugar, and I can tell you (from someone who grew up on swiss miss, then frequented the Ritz Cartlon cafe on Broad Street in Philadelphia solely for the purpose of enjoying their decadent cream-based hot chocolate), that this vegan recipe stands up to the best of them.

Give it a try, and please tell me what you think. It's not just for vegans or dairy-free mavens. It's for anyone who loves deliciousness.

Ingredients:
1 cup organic unsweetened plain soy milk (I like Westsoy brand)
1 TBSP raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder if you're in a bind;)
1 TBSP unrefined coconut oil
1 TBSP maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
a small pinch of cayenne powder (optional)

Directions:

Heat the soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk) in a small pot on the stove. While it's warming, mix the cacao powder, coconut oil, and maple syrup in a small bowl until you've formed a mostly smooth paste.

Once your chocolate mixture is thoroughly mixed, add it to the warm milk and stir until smooth and even.

A handheld milk frother makes it super frothy and even creamier.  I like the "aero-latte" and you can usually find it for around $20.

Stir in the vanilla extract and cayenne at the very end.

Enjoy!

Yoga without the Divine is Half The Story

Remember that definition of yoga you learned way back in your first yoga teacher training? Or the first time you read the yoga sutras?

You might have heard that yoga means to "yoke" or "unite." Your teacher may have eloquently described how when your movement is linked with your breath, that's yoga.

Hmm... is that really true?

Don't get me wrong, I have said that very same thing to many students, many times.

Starting out in a yoga asana class, this makes sense. First step, breathe. Second step, try to keep breathing while you move. Third step, try to keep focusing on your breath even when it's hard.

But what about the fourth step, or the fifth? What about the possibility of yoga when you're not moving? When you're in traffic, or in line at the grocery store? And what about when your parent dies and you're left weeping in the darkness of your closet when no one else is home? 

Surely yoga, in all it's wisdom, has more to offer than just linking movement with breath. 

Oh, and then there's the grand illusion that we think we're uniting with other people when we practice yoga asana. Sure - maybe, after class we smile at our classmates. Or we're more kind to those we see throughout the rest of the day. But - there's the other side to our interpersonal relationships in yoga class. And I'm sure you've felt awfully separate and pissed off in class from time to time.

(Thank you for being honest).

So let's get real. We are working on the whole "I ought to feel more compassion towards others," and "I wish I wasn't so judgmental of my friends and family... or myself" but we are often doing it without the power to do it.

We have been convinced, brainwashed even, to think that our ego has the power to save the day and end all our suffering. If only we could get to our cushion every morning, eat totally vegan, and remember our mantra all the freakin time. If only we weren't so lazy, undisciplined, or unmotivated.

Uggh. I've had enough.

Our egos can't do it. And that doesn't mean we've failed. 

The power of yoga (true, ultimate yoga - the yoking of the individual with the entirety) comes from surrendering to the Divine.

The power to love our neighbor comes from the Divine.

The power to accept our friends and family... just as they are... comes from the Divine.

The power to accept ourselves and all of our limitations comes from the Divine.

And this, to me, is closer to the whole story. We must have a willingness to look at the limitations of our own self and of our analytical mind to experience yoga. We must sit down, shut up, and take in what happens in silence. Only then can we stop the madness of our ego clinging and feel whole.