Friday, October 11, 2019

Garden Update - October 2019

- By Sn Paramjyoti Howe
It’s harvest time!  All the effort over the summer with Niwas’ garden has come into full fruition in the last few weeks as we are producing more food than we can keep up with, making canning and other preserving a main activity.  
 We made tomato pasta sauce, plum sauce, apple sauce, Kale chips, and frozen carrot soup.   We picked edamame, and beets, birds nest gourds (that we will dry and then hang in the garden next year for the birds) and filled the greenhouse with pumpkins to finish off their ripening.  We picked onions, oh so many onions and now have them hanging in the kitchens for easy access and decorative storage.  And last, but defiantly not least, we harvested all the mountain corn, which is the most beautiful manifestation of corn we have ever seen (not to mention, a completely new corn on the cob eating experience that, I have to say, has become a new favourite).  
I think the highlight of the garden this year, without wanting to offend any of the other amazing plants that offered their all, were the ground cherries.  These little lanterned orbs of gold were a regular post-dinner pilgrimage, our daily treasure hunt which was never in vein.  Needless to say, we are planning a bigger patch of them for next year. 
And now, with snow on the ground we start planning for the years to come.  A beautiful reality of cycles and seasons. 
We look forward to feeding you all from Niwas’ garden next year.

Niwas Recipe - Turmeric Latte - October 2019

 - By Om Shanti Pelkonen
There is now snow on the ground at ‘Niwas, the earliest we’ve had.  We’ve been staying warm in preparation by chopping wood, harvesting within the garden, making compost, warming ourselves by the fire, Asana (of course!) and now also more regular Turmeric Lattes.  
Turmeric is an important part of the Ayervedic health system and contains curcumin which has been proven to have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Turmeric is known as Haridra in Sanskrit, which roughly translates to “that which improves skin complexion.”  Turmeric balances all three Doshas and is helpful in expelling increased Pitta.  
There are numerous recipes out there for making a perfect Tumeric Latte. Our go-to is generally to use coconut or soy milk, and to sweeten it with ‘Niwas honey.  It is really important to use pepper and an oil within your Turmeric Latte as this helps the body absorb the important curcumin within the turmeric.
Here is an online recipe that you can play with:
Lastly, don’t hesitate in adding fresh ginger, nutmeg and/or cinnamon as well.  Just don’t forget the pepper and oil! 

The Yoga Of Motherhood: Sanyam/Restraint - October 2019

 - By Sn Gyanhira Huberman
One of my favourite teachings from the Ashram is the teaching of sanyam, or restraint. While sanyam is often used in reference to meditation, what is on the inside usually expresses itself on the outside too.
Restraint is generally understood as control in a limiting or restricting sense, but my Teacher Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati-ji described it in another very beautiful and profound way that seems to pertain more to the concept of balance, of not going under or overboard.
He used the analogy of holding a bird in your hands. You need to hold it firm enough that it cannot fly away, yet gentle enough that you do not harm the bird.
I love this analogy, it made the concept so clear in such a simple way. I was so inspired by this teaching that, while pregnant, I painted a yantra (a geometrical light formation that emanates from sound vibration) of the Cosmic Mother for the nursery, and included the image of the cupped bird at its centre. As my husband and I raise our children, this painting continues to remind me that our children are not ours, but that they are entrusted to us for a time. They are born with free will, yet we hold them for a time until they are ready, and it is safe, for them to fly. 
The image of the cupped bird also reminds me to be balanced in my parenting because sometimes the power of separation anxiety and the desire to protect is so strong. I want to keep my children safe. Safe from physical danger, but also safe from emotional danger. It is easy for me to go overboard in trying to control my son's movements, activities and social interactions throughout the day in the name of "safety," or "protection," and I find that sometimes what is really at the centre of that might be my own insecurity. I do think that children need the freedom to explore, learn and discover for themselves; at the same time, I do need to be close by to step in when needed. That's the sticky bit for me right there. "When needed."
The cupped bird reminds me that, if I hold my children too close to me due to my own insecurities and fears, I may end up harming them by preventing them from developing the skills they need to thrive in this life, and the resiliency and confidence that one absolutely needs in order to bounce back from inevitable hurts and failures. I have found that it takes so much courage and strength on my part to allow my children the freedom that they need and are entitled to. To give them my love, versus my attachment.
On the flip side, what happens when we don't hold our children tight enough? My family is such a great example of this analogy. If left unchecked, I have the tendency to be controlling. My husband has the opposite tendency towards permissiveness. This is something I think we are seeing more these days in a very well-intentioned attempt at "democracy in the family." It's not bad in my eyes, as long as we strive to keep things in balance. I think we now know that, in order to feel safe and secure, children thrive with a certain amount of routine, boundaries and predictability. Otherwise, they may not feel held, but a bit lost instead as they move throughout their day and social interactions. 
Lastly, the image of the cupped bird helps me reflect on my own self-care as a mother. Enter the tendency towards perfectionism as a mother, toward being the "perfect mother." Ahhh. When I had my first child, I allowed so little self-care for myself. We all know the mom-bun. I rocked that bun for weeks (maybe a month!) at a time without taking it down to comb, let alone wash it. When I would finally take my hair down, it ached from the root from being tied up for so long, and had actually dreaded in several places. I had thought that I was being a great mother, giving my all to my child and so little to myself, but in the end not being balanced in my self-care led to inevitable burn out, not allowing me to be my most healthy self for my son. This may seem obvious, but it was really difficult to distinguish when was a good time for me to engage in self-care. It always seemed equally important to be available to him, and then once he was asleep, I didn't have the energy to get up and do self-care.
The promise I made to myself before having our second son was to not hold myself so tight, to relax my ideas and to allow for a little more self-care, because I knew that I couldn't do it the same way twice. Now, I make sure to brush my hair (every few days), and my teeth (almost every day) and shower (well, more than before!). 
AND I'm FINALLY writing this blog! It's not perfect... because I don't have time (or enough sleep) for that! Maybe, in some cases, good enough is perfect after all. 
Om & Prem,Jordana (Sn Gyanhira)

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The Currency of Love - Oct 2019

-By Sn Shivani Howe
Harvest season is such a magical time at Niwas. To be honest, it’s my favourite time of year (that and Spring when everything starts growing).  The Fall,  a notoriously high Vata time (think, air, either, mental energy, change and potentially ungrounded) really gives us an opportunity to come into the heart, or Anahata Chakra, for its connection to the air element.  This leads us to the potent practice of breathing Gratitude.  It’s simple.  Breathe in wonder, breathe out gratitude.  
Gratitude and Grief are two sides of the same coin in the currency of Love.  Just as fear is our experience of Apana Vayupushing up when Trust is moving down;  Gratitude is the expression of Prana Vayu emanating outwards when Grief is imploding.  
One of my favourite teachings of Martin Pretchel is ‘You have to praise (read be grateful/love) to the dead in order to grieve, and you must grieve the living in order to Love’.   And it is through this lens that I feel the medicine of gratitude comes forth.  For, when we bring gratitude, which lives in the heart and therefore is connected to the past, to the forefront of our mind we are allowing the positive flow of energy (prana vayu) of the past to empower the present. 
As with Spring, Fall is also connected to one of Niwas’ sadhanas - Navaratri; the nine nights of Durga.  This Sadhana is a wonderful way of taking all that moving energy of the Fall, the change and the transition, and consciously directing it into a practice of mantra to refine and harness the energy of transformation for Spiritual evolution.  The first three days of Navaratri are dedicated to Kali - in her ability to help us let go of all that is no longer serving us.  The next three days are to Lakshmi, which allows her energy of abundance to come forth and fill the space created by Kali.  The last three days are dedicated to Ma Sarsaswati to create integration and wisdom around the transformation (an important aspect that many in sadhana skip or avoid).  The whole experience gives one a tangible cultivation of the energy of Ma Durga.  Powerful, pure, loving and all-encompassing.  If you missed the opportunity to practice the Navaratri sadhana this Fall,  not to worry, you will have another opportunity in the Spring.  
Till then,  keep your heart flowing in gratitude; love the people and beasts in your present and your past, and drink many cups of warm turmeric milk.  A wonderful elixir for this time of year.  (See recipe included in this month’s newsletter… you can thank us later…)