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How to Meditate: Find Your New Beginning

suffering

Suffering. While it is something that we all must endure as human beings, there is something so baffling about the way we hold onto, and create, suffering that is familiar. I don’t like to think that I’ve created suffering for myself, but if I’m being completely honest I realize that I have. Maybe you’ve done this… gone over and over something in your head, trying to figure out what went wrong, what you could have done differently, wishing you could go back in time and fix it. By worrying, we needlessly create suffering for ourselves. We know there is no going back, only the here and now, and only the hope of another day to go forward… yet we continue to allow the mind to worry, giving the only thing that we actually possess – the present moment – away to the power of fear.

Thoughts and feelings are complex parts of our human makeup, and we can easily make the mistake of taking them as truth or being consumed by them. But the truth is, you can control your thoughts and you don’t have to let them control you. Meditation can help.

I recently came back from spending almost a month at Kalani, an amazing retreat center near the ocean on the big island of Hawaii. If you haven’t been to Hawaii…what are you waiting for? It’s absolutely breathtaking and there is so much to see. There’s this thing called Hawaiian time…it’s at a much slower pace than Dallas time. Things get done when they get done, there is no sense of hurry and urgency. It’s refreshing to not feel pressured or rushed. Before I left for Hawaii I felt weighed down by life, mostly past experiences and choices. Coming back home, I feel light, hopeful and optimistic. I learned to go with the flow (something I thought I already knew how to do).

Meditation

My Favorite Meditation Spot in Hawaii

While in Hawaii I spent a lot of time meditating and practicing letting go. If you’ve been to any of my retreats you know that letting go is one of my favorite topics; I believe that letting go of anything (good, bad, indifferent) makes room in your life for new possibilities and opportunities…for exactly what it is you need. Eyes open, watching the waves pound the lava rocks noticing the brilliant blue of the sky and the mesmerizing action of the water, I was completely present and aware. Eyes closed, I would meditate on the things in my life that I needed to let go of, I found awareness of the suffering I had been creating for myself.

Meditation is a powerful tool and there are many physical and mental benefits. It is a practice that is simple and easy to incorporate into your life. It doesn’t require any special equipment or any great skill. It simply requires you.

How to Begin Your Meditation Practice

    Find a quiet place at home, work or outside (my favorite)
    Set the timer on your phone for five minutes…gradually working up to longer….or not.
    Sit comfortably, move and adjust your position if you need to.
    Focus on a word, color, mantra (phrase), prayer.
    When you get distracted, bring yourself back to your breath and then refocus.
    When the timer goes off, ease back to your routine, taking the sense of peace, calm and focus you discovered.

Other Meditation Ideas

Maybe a walking meditation works better for you, where you focus on your surroundings. Maybe you get a meditation app or use another tool. Maybe your yoga practice is your meditation. Use what works for you. The key is to be present and aware. When distractions present themselves, practice letting them go and bringing your awareness back to the present moment without frustration, judgment or discouragement. If you notice that you are stumbling over obstacles in your meditation practice, here are some tips.

This spring, find your new beginning by embarking on a journey of meditation. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

If you need help beginning your meditation practice, we’re here to help, check out our first Meditation Retreat on June 26-28. We also practice meditation at all of our retreats, view our upcoming retreats to see what works for your schedule.

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Introducing Home Baked Breads, Muffins & Granola

Yoga retreats

Kaycee Murdoch, Retreat Manager

We are happy to introduce Kaycee Murdoch and her delicious baked goods. Kaycee has been helping make Retreat in the Pines the special place that it is since January 2014. Kaycee, as Retreat Manager, helps handle day-to-day operations at the retreat center, shares her fabulous cooking skills with our guests creating delicious meals for some of our retreats, and leads hands on cooking classes.

Kaycee is known for her AMAZING baking skills. Nina and I have fallen in love with her granola, banana bread and her especially delicious rustic breads (our favorite is the roasted garlic!).

We are so excited to announce that we are now offering Kaycee’s delicious baked goods for sale at all of our retreats. You can place your order Friday night and you’ll take home a fresh baked bundle of deliciousness on Sunday.






Products and Prices:

Rustic Bread & Fruit Bread

Rustic Bread & Fruit Bread

Rustic Bread
$5 – loaf
~ White
~ Whole Wheat
~ Roasted Garlic
~ Rosemary

Fruit Breads
$4 – mini loaf
$10 – large loaf
~ Banana Almond
~ Pumpkin Chocolate Chip
*All fruit breads can be ordered Gluten Free at No additional charge!

Muffins
$3/each or $15/six pack
~ Blueberry
~ Apple Cinnamon
~ Cranberry Almond
* All muffins can be ordered Gluten Free at No additional charge!



Homemade Granola

Homemade Granola

Granola
$6.00 – one pound
~ Cinnamon
~ Raisin w/ Almonds
~ Mixed Nuts
~ Antioxidant Fusion
*Wheat free & made with all natural & organic ingredients

Join us for one of our upcoming retreats to sample Kaycee’s cooking!

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Kitchen Sink Frittata

frittata

Oh, the incredible edible egg, how I love thee. Personally, eggs are my favorite way to start the day. They make a nutrient-rich, protein-packed breakfast that keep me satisfied until lunch, while also doing great things for my mind and body! I know there’s a lot of confusion around whether eggs are “good” or “bad” for you, but this article does a great job of breaking it down and explaining it.

Usually, I eat poached eggs for breakfast, but when I’m cooking for others the Kitchen Sink Frittata is always my go-to. It works great because you can really put anything you want in the frittata and I pretty much always have various odds and ends in the fridge that I can throw together to make a wonderfully tasty breakfast creation.

Get creative! I always love using leftovers in my kitchen creation: fajita veggies from last night, sausage from that BBQ place yesterday, sautéed mushrooms from dinner on the other day. Don’t underestimate the power of leftovers!

Love.
Nina

PS. Did you see that Seattle made throwing away food illegal? Pretty awesome considering that over 40% of food is thrown away in this country. And as I heard in one documentary a few years back, “Food is life. When you throw away food, you throw away life.”

PPS. I don’t ever measure anything, I’m working on it. And I’m working on getting better at recipe writing. And I’m working on refining my culinary skills (thanks to all your encouragement at the retreats, I’ve decided to start pursuing a Culinary Arts program sooner than later). So, use your best judgement here. And forgive me if it doesn’t come out perfect. Main goal: HAVE FUN and LEARN NEW THINGS.

Kitchen Sink Frittata

3 tbsp freshly chopped organic cilantro (don’t be afraid to be generous with fresh herbs)
12 large organic eggs
½ cup organic greek yogurt
½ cup organic milk
1 large onion, diced
garlic (minced or pressed), separated – 3 cloves, 1 clove
1 red bell pepper, diced
a few handfuls of spinach or arugula
12 organic baby bella mushrooms, sliced
½ pint cherry tomatoes (cut in half) or 2 roma tomatoes (sliced)
1 package cream cheese, cut into 15 cubes
coconut oil
s&p to season
grated parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Coat a 13” x 9” pan with a thin layer of coconut oil (easiest method is to scoop out with your fingers – with clean hands – and coat the pan like your grandma used to do with crisco).
  2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat melt a tablespoon of coconut oil. Once the oil is hot (this happens in a hot minute), add 3 cloves garlic and onions, and cook until browned. Add bell peppers and mushrooms; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. While your veggies are cooking, whisk together eggs, greek yogurt, milk, cilantro, remaining garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Cover bottom of baking dish evenly with a thin layer of spinach/arugula. Layer the cooked veggies from pan on top. Space cream cheese cubes so that they are evenly placed in the pan (I did 5 rows of 3). Pour egg mixture on top. Add tomatoes, evenly.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until eggs are puffed and set in the middle. Remove from oven, add a thin layer of grated parmesan, and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

Get creative! Try out different herbs, whatever veggies you have in the fridge, and experiment with different cheeses you find. Let us know what you learn!

 
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Give More Than You Take

give more than you take

Last year Nina treated me to the Give More Than You Take art exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art as a Christmas gift. While I loved the exhibit (it was one of the most unique and interesting installations I’ve ever seen), what really struck me was the concept: “give more than you take.” While it might seem contradictory to one of my favorite topics, self-care, I believe they’re quite complementary.

Jim Hodges, the installation artist from the exhibit, transforms everyday items, often overlooked, into breathtaking pieces of art – like this beautiful sky he made out of denim. I came across a quote that describes the installation perfectly: “Delicate art that conveys a sense that everything is precariousness, everything is fleeting, so embrace this lovely moment.” ~ WBUR The ARTery

Without doubt, we know everything in life is fleeting…but do we live our day-to-day lives with that in mind? I know I don’t. There are many things that I take for granted on a daily basis, despite the fact I am always working to find more gratitude in my days.

What about you, what do you take for granted?

In spite of all the things going on in our world and in our daily life, at the end of the day we must realize life is rich, life is precious, life is amazing. One of my favorite quotes hangs in front of me every day, even as I write this, is by Roshi Joan Halifax: “In being with dying, we arrive at a natural crucible of what it means to love and be loved. And we can ask ourselves this: Knowing that death is inevitable, what is most precious today?”

Right now my immediate response is my children. I look back at when they were young and just like that, it’s over. I’d heard the days are long and the years are short, but at the time that seemed an impossible concept. It wasn’t. It was the truth. Some days were longer than others, but in a fleeting moment my sweet four year old, seven year old and 12 year old are now 18, 21 and 26. What happened? I took those years for granted without even knowing it. With each year leaving me wiser than the last, I am left with a new understanding of the precariousness of life, and I want to spend every precious moment that I can (and that they’ll let me) with them.

As you think about the question, take a moment to contemplate your response. Is it someone in your life, a family member, friend or pet? Is it an idea or vision you have for your life? Is it a way of looking at your circumstances or living your life? Then, honor that response. Seek out that person with a phone call or if they’re in the other room, with a hug. Take a moment to journal on your idea or vision, exploring how to make it a reality. And finally, find gratitude for that most precious thing.

Know that every day you can “Give More than You Take,” by honoring the present moment and what you cherish the most. Allow that present moment to give you perspective on your life.

Looking for a New Perspective?

While 2015 is still young, make plans to take in an art exhibit, go to the symphony, watch a play, enjoy a dance performance. Because I believe that art, like travel, will give you a whole new perspective on your life. If you’re ready for a new perspective and have a free weekend, check out one of our upcoming yoga retreats. I invite you to find the ultimate relaxation at a Yoga Nurture Retreat, healing and joy at our three night Love Yourself Retreat, and letting go at a Detox Retreat. Or make plans to Escape from the City to find wellness and move in Zumba! All retreats include yoga for all levels. Do something to change your perspective right now and make plans to keep it fresh, today.

>>View all Upcoming Retreats

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Discover Your Detox

focus on the new

Sometimes (ok a lot of times) there’s something I need to do, but I just don’t feel like it. Like detoxing… it’s something I don’t feel like doing, but I recognize how GOOD I will feel once I begin.

Detoxing is an important aspect of wellness and finding peace. Don’t worry, I’m not referring to one of those detox fad diets where you only drink a disgusting “detox” formula for two weeks… those are dangerously unhealthy. I believe that a healthy detox is an ongoing practice of ridding ourselves of the things that are toxic to our lives. When talking about detoxing, most people immediately relate it to food – but toxins go far beyond food. Anything with an inherent property that “tends to destroy life or impair health” could be considered toxic. This means that negative self talk, harmful relationships, unhealthy habits, faulty coping mechanisms, stress, unnecessary clutter – emotional, physical and mental – are all forms of toxins… and the list goes on. With 2015 upon us, it’s the perfect time to make a positive change in our lives.

It’s a perfect time to start a practice of detoxing.

Not Feeling It?

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Warm Up with Healing Spices

Hot Tea for Healing

Cozy Up with a Warm Mug of Healing Goodness

Winter…perfect weather to curl up with a mug of warm, healing spices in your hot tea or cider. Find a place to sit quietly – put on your favorite PJs or sweats, wrap yourself in a warm blanket (or my favorite, an electric blanket) and get comfortable in whatever place you find. Take a moment to enjoy the present moment:

  • Observing the beautiful winter landscape out your window.
  • Start that book you’ve been wanting to read.
  • Journal
  • Your hopes and intentions for 2015
    Your gratitude for 2014

  • Meditate on an affirmation
  • I am…peace, strength, joy
    I let go of…anger, disappointment, negativity
    I deserve…love, happiness, forgiveness

Choose whatever speaks to your heart and what nourishes you at this time of year.

Winter is the perfect time to strengthen your body’s immune system. Enjoy a festive treat on a cold day when you combine healing winter spices with your favorite hot tea or cider.

Hot Tea or Cider with Healing Spices

  • 1 Cardamom Pod (green) – Good for digestions and to detoxify the body through its diuretic properties
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick – Controls blood sugar levels and is an anti-oxidant – protecting the body against damage from free radicals
  • 1/8 inch of Ginger Root (peeled and thinly sliced) – Promotes circulation and lowers high blood pressure
  • 2 Whole Cloves – Warming and soothing for the digestive system (what you need in the winter months) and anti-flatulence properties
  • 2 Whole Peppercorns – Stimulates digestion and has anti-bacterial properties, keeping the digestive system healthy
  • 2 cups water

Add all spices to boiling water and let boil for five minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Strain out spices.

Add 1 or 2 TBSP to 1 cup hot tea or cider. For tea, feel free to add sweetener (I like a little bit of stevia or raw local honey – good for the immune system if you have allergies) and milk or squeeze a slice of fresh lemon or orange into the tea.

I love to combine the tea and the cider with the healing spices. Warm, delicious and soothing.

Store the remainder in the refrigerator.

The healing properties of spices are endless, here’s more information on what spices will benefit your body and lifestyle. Learn more about the healing aspects of spices and Ayurveda at one of our Detox and Yoga Retreats.

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Just Say No…So You Can Say Yes to You

just say no

Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody took care of you? Say no to the non essentials in your life and you’ll have more time to take care of YOU.

2014 almost gone…how did that happen?! Before the madness gets even more maddening, take a moment to press pause and take care of yourself. I know, with a late Thanksgiving it feels like Christmas is going to be here any second and you’re thinking “I don’t have time for that!” Just as I’ve shared with my retreat guests – if you don’t take time to take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others or do all of the things you need to do on a daily basis.



Learn to Say No

In this day and age we’re expected to do more…holiday parties, volunteer work, homemade gifts, more, more, more! There’s the implication if you do more, you’re a better person – better than you were last year, better than your neighbor, the best version of yourself (never attainable). And the funny part of being the best version of yourself, every year the bar gets a little higher. You can stop the madness by saying no.

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Savory Sweet Potato Soup

savory sweet potato soup

You know that feeling of a fresh cup of your favorite coffee, nothing to do, and listening to Christmas Jazz in your pajamas feels like? Okay so maybe this isn’t one of your happy places (yet), but I think I’d describe this feeling as a “perfectly cozy”. And I’m pretty sure that this soup is exactly that. And mom totally agrees – as she put it, it’s a “hug from the inside out”.

Just a disclaimer for all those non-curry-lovers out there: this recipe calls for curry! But wait! Will you please try it? It’s only a little bit of the spice (it’s not an actual curry dish) and it’s really good for your health - add as much or as little as you’re comfortable with.

Let me know what you think!

xo
Love,
Nina

P.S. I found the original recipe on Dishing Up The Dirt and added my own twist. Enjoy!

Savory Sweet Potato Soup Read more »

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Turkey Noodle Soup

Easy recipes for turkey leftovers

Warm up on a cold day – Turkey Noodle Soup with a mug of hot tea and warm crusty bread.

We recently created a delicious homemade and healthy Chicken Noodle Soup for our Gratitude Retreat. It’s just as amazing with turkey. With Thanksgiving next week, this is an easy and delicious way to use any extra turkey.
  • Leftover turkey chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 2 cups carrots cut into coins
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning Blend
  • 5 cups low sodium chicken stock or use pan juices from turkey with water added
  • 1 cup water
  • juice from 1/2 of a fresh lemon
  • 16 oz package of egg noodles
Directions Sauté garlic, onions and celery in coconut oil for five minutes. Add sautéed veggies along with herbs, carrots, turkey pieces, chicken stock and water to crockpot. Let cook on low in crockpot for three hours. Add noodles and cook an additional ten minutes, turning the heat to high, or until noodles are soft. To use chicken instead of turkey, I recommend roasting the chicken (stuffing it first with several cloves of garlic, rosemary and a lemon cut into quarters). Use pan juices and add water to equal liquid. This is delicious served with grilled cheese, crusty bread with olive oil or crackers and cheese. The perfect warm up for a chilly day! Our gratitude retreat was such a success we’ve added a three night Gratitude Retreat in 2015. If you need a jump start for your gratitude journey, we’d love to have you! Get more details. We are so grateful for each of you. What are you grateful for?
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How to Relax the Tightness in Your Neck

Does your neck feel tense and tight? Maybe these stretches will help. I was recently asked to submit information for an article about stretches that yoga instructors use for themselves and teach to their students. I frequently get neck discomfort and tension from working on my laptop. These neck stretches work beautifully.

Yoga Retreat at Retreat in the Pines

Neck & Shoulder Stretching at a Yoga Retreat

I plan to incorporate these stretches into upcoming yoga retreats. These feel especially good if you’ve been driving for awhile, with your neck and shoulders hunched and tight. It’s a perfect complement to our Friday evening hip opener class. Learn these soothing neck stretch when you join us for a retreat.

Read the whole article here.

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