Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Point of Gratitude

I think I've written on gratitude many times before, but it still keeps coming back to me. What I find interesting about gratitude is that our society and everything about it really isn't set up for it, so you really gotta keep it up yourself if you want it to last.

I've had some amazing experiences in my life (or I should say one seriously amazing experience in my life) that have been firsthand confirmation of some of the principles we hear about in all the self-help/personal development books, namely that we create our own realities. It's a game of semantics but when you really come to realize it it's incredibly freeing.

The thing is we tend to look at what we lack in our lives. We hear this all the time, but have you REALLY thought about this idea?

I've lived in 3 different countries enough to realize that no matter where I go, I tend to focus on what I don't have. As an example, all I can think about when I am in another country aside from Taiwan is that I don't have the good food from Taiwan, or the mobility. When I am in another country aside from the US, all I can focus on is that I don't have kale. And when I am in another country aside from Italy, all I can focus on is that I'm not hearing the beautiful sounds of Italian and that the food isn't incredible wherever I decide to eat at.
Why do we do this?

A joyful successful life is not possible without gratitude. A successful life is possible without gratitude, but a joyful one to boot is not. I'm going back to gratitude everyday now, because I'm remembering how important and essential it is. I talked to one of my roommates yesterday about this and she asked, "Is it really that necessary to do all that stuff though?"and my heart went all in (partially unexpected by me) with a huge, solid "Yes...It's everything."Because, as I explained to my friend, if we don't live a joyous life, then it will all just be the rat race and getting in and out of the rat race and running on autopilot and never experiencing anything truly amazing. It's the waking sleep, as Andy Shaw calls it (image from him):

I have a genuine desire for myself to embrace all that personal development talks about; to really soak in, internalize and realize my truth from internalizing it all, and live from that space. Because I've been there before, and being short of that is not worth living.

Back to gratitude, I have a track outside my apartment. I live in a school and the school track is a 1 minute walk away from my front door. And I sometimes get the opportunity to stop and realize how amazing that is, and when I'm running on it, really appreciate it being there. When we appreciate things instead of wondering what we'll do when we don't have them anymore, we can really lean into joy and understanding how great of a life we have, and that is pretty much regardless of the material things you have, because when I appreciate the track in my backyard, it's not about the track. Making it about me having a track is an ego trip, not gratitude. It's about acknowledgment and deep thanks for my life the way I have created it so far. It's about responsibility, not about entitlement.

I just downloaded a gratitude journal app on my iPhone (the one by Happy Tapper, I like it quite very much) and have been writing in it whenever I feel like it. I also write on a notepad in the morning or whenever I'm around it. And I also have a stuffed beanie baby giraffe I bought a few weeks ago at this toy store. It looks at me in this head-slightly-tilted way, as if saying "what are you grateful for today?" and every time I see it I make a point to say, out loud, what I am grateful for. I am grateful for the opportunity to share this information with whosevers eyes read my blog and send my deepest desires that he/she will find a way to bring a practice of gratitude into their lives as well.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Back to Basics

If you don't keep it up, you will lose it.
Well that's half true. The truth is probably closer to something like if you don't focus and constantly refocus your attention, you will forget it. Which sounds more plausible really because that's what's really going on. I had an amazing experience a little less than a year ago. I feel like the beautiful period lasted maybe two months, while the incredible awareness lasted for maybe two weeks. Either way, I stopped paying attention to it and I lost it.

What I discount now and especially during the period immediately after I "lost" it (forgot it), is that I did so much to get myself there. What's there? I guess in general I'm speaking of this way of life that is in constant flow and your underlying feeling is joy. Not really happy like crazy manic happiness but just a sense of deep peace and joy for the miracle that is you and life as it relates to you. A space where creation just happens so naturally and normally that you wonder if you ever had a thought that you don't create.

I've been going back to basics, back to my practices that helped me get there. When I look back on records that I have, I realized I did so much more to get myself there than I think I did. I was really really focused on the "I love myself" practice. My commitment was much much more fierce than the maybe 10+ times I've retried (not including days like today where it's just upon waking up then it fades away within a few minutes) to commit myself to the practice. I think I was just in such a bad period before that that I had a REALLY STRONG reason and contrasting feeling to do it.
But I stopped shortly after I was in a relationship with my wonderful fiance. I guess I thought I got things handled now after such a huge transformation.

Here's the thing. During the time period I was in a state of strong awareness, I experienced so "directly" that we are creators. In reality we are always creating, we just don't know it. And then we think we don't, thus creating the experience that we don't...which just proves that we do create. But anyways, during this time, I knew we create, and I just did it. Everything that was crossing my mind as a desire was coming true in less than two days.

Anyways as I stopped my practice of focusing my thoughts, my ability to create "directly" (as I describe) was dwindling and trickling away, and I started getting worried and nervous which obviously was just crowding out any remaining good stuff...and then stuff started hitting the fan and then here I am again. Well it's not exactly the same but I was pretty dejected as my base underlying feeling again. Maybe worse since I had "solid proof" that the stuff works. I went into fight mode and fix-it mode and of course it just made things worse and worse.

We really gotta tune into our feelings and love ourselves. I found that you gotta do these things otherwise you just won't get there. I guess I'm generalizing, but if there is another way someone oughta let me know. I mean I know of some other teachers and masters who have done things other ways, but I think for the vast majority of us who are making a living not by "directly" teaching, we have to do what the teachers are telling us to do. We gotta honour their words and do these things.

I'm going back to the basics and back to where I started,
Catt xxx

Friday, August 9, 2013

Juice, Juice, JUICEEE!!

It's been less than a year since I started juicing. The first time I had a juice was in early October/late September 2012. But today, I just realized how much I LOVE JUICE!

I really never thought I'd get here. Though I was never too averse to even strong-vegetable juices (whatever discomfort went away within less than a month anyways), today I cannot imagine my life without juice. I still eat "standard" for dinner and sometimes for lunch, but without having a juice in the day my day feels deflated of it's happiness. I don't think I'm dependent on juice but I certainly am in a deep love affair with juice. I love Juice!!

I've only had sweet juices and mostly reluctant to get creative outside of green juices (green lemonade!), but I've REALLY wanted to try "The Sicilian" from Crazy Sexy Kitchen. I've heard Jason write about how if you juice garlic the smell will stay there for days so I'm kind of worried and will probably use our old juicer to play around with savory juices.

Anyways, just wanted to tell anyone who's thinking about juicing or anything like that, DO IT. YOU WILL LOVE IT.

By the way Philips Avance is super incredible. I wish they had it in the US. My boyfriend has a nicer juicer than me now; how fair is that? ;)

I think since I started juicing I never really upped the exercise intensity as much as I've liked to, but it's coming along. The thing is I've actually lost a bit over 7kg since September 2012, though I haven't even paid as much attention to the weight anyways since it's just the way I feel when I have juice that makes me love it. I won't say that I've change 180 as a person or anything like that but I know that without it the person I'm becoming and stepping into would not feel as good as she does today.

Catt xxxx

Friday, July 26, 2013

Five Things About My Short Trip to London

I'm not sure what it was about my short trip to London with my fiance was, but I really miss London! I was only there for two days and I didn't really go to many tourist attractions and things like that or get to know the city so well. I was trying not to be attached just because we were there for such a short time period but after a week I still miss London! I guess we went on sunny days which made it a LOT better but still I don't know why I still miss London.

1. I love Joe and the Juice
I only got to go here once, the one on Regent Street (which looks like the Corso Buenos Aires of Milan, but London-y!), but I loved it! The boys there were so nice and chill and they were super-friendly (unlike my experience at Crussh - they weren't mean but they were also not what I'd call warm and friendly), like the boys at the Pret-a-Manager we met. They were very flexible in allowing us to decide what we wanted in our juice, and I love how they blended the spinach with the juice and I've been doing that a lot now! I love green smoothies so this is like the perfect in-between! We also got some sandwiches - I got Tunacado; it was heavenly. The style of the store is kind of hipsterish, but really very nice overall. I kept wanting to go back there but it was quite far from where we were staying at and Luton airport so we didn't end up going back.

2. The park(s) are amazing in London
I only went to Regent Park, because I couldn't leave there! It was so gorgeous and had a beautiful rose garden too. Many people were sleeping there and the days I was there it was nice and sunny. They also have lots of ducks, and I loveeee duckies.

3. Parking is expensive in London
Extremely expensive. I thought Italy was expensive, but London is like the double for a lot of things!

4. My fiance and I recommend the Grim Dykes Hotel
If you like nature-y places it's really a great hotel. You'd have to drive to get there and if you're renting a car you might as well just take the car everywhere, even though it is 5 min. from the metropolitan. The metro, or they call it the tube, looked pretty expensive in London, and split into zones. It's like that too in Milan, but the most expensive ticket in Milan is probably 4 euros, while that seems to be more of the standard for a single-way ticket in London. Anyways the hotel has great service, delicious breakfast (continental and cooked), and it's got so much nature. They have a couple of hiking trails which are short but FILLED with the freshest air I've had in a LONG time. My lungs were literally singing with joy with the air I was breathing there. Even though where we live in Milan there are a lot of trees and it's out of the city, it's nothing compared to when you get full blast of nature and it's seriously clean, crisp air. And they have this pond that looks a bit creepily abandoned (omg do not go at night), but it's got ducklings who are quite keen on some pieces of bread (and I love duckies!). They've also got a vegetable garden which the restaurant uses sometimes, which I adored. It's really pretty gorgeous of a place.

5. Be with someone you love
I know many people want to punch me in the face for this, but I mean anyone. If you don't have anyone that means you probably haven't been very honest about yourself. But even then you could not have anyone I guess. The point is, home for me doesn't really mean a point on the planet, it really means the space where you can be yourself. Sometimes points on the planet prevent this from being true (not even talking about politically oppressive societies - just sit next to the phone in my house for a week and you'll know what I mean). It's a personal practice but definitely worth it. Always ask yourself first "where am I going" before you ask "who am I going with" and it should work out to the best (lessons from CwG :))


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Juicy Clean Sweep

Last week, my fiance and I went on a Juice Detox from Jason Vale.

I am a pretty big advocate of Jason Vale. Jason was first introduced to me by Andy about a year ago. I started reading his Slim4Life Freedom from the Food Trap around this time last year and things have really changed for me. People being like "I could never give up junk food" doesn't bother me as it used to before while I was cleansing. I've gotten past a lot of judgmental remarks that used to bug me as a result of reading Slim4Life. It really isn't like any other diet books that teaches you what to eat and what not to eat. It really transforms the way you think about food. I'd say it's a bit like hypnosis, but really, it's just getting fuller facts (and of course, there may be even more facts out there and the rule of thumb for me has always been follow how you feel) so that you can really be the one making the decision. Anyways long story short,  I highly recommend this book!

The programme my fiance and I did was the 5lbs in 5days plan. I thought it would be pretty hard because I have done one-day juice fasting before and it was difficult, but this was way easier than the one-day fasting. I'm not really sure why, but I think it's the "restriction" mentality. If you're only doing one-day, you feel like you're restricting yourself for a day. If you're doing 5 days of juice only, you kind of think you're on a trip (or something like that; something less temporary).

So I got this book in April or March on Kindle as the "taster" edition, but the full version is coming out in September. I never done a 5 day juice detox before in my life, and the 21 day cleanse I went on still consisted of loads of solid foods. What I like is that you can trust Jason gets the nutrients you need down, and plans like this really are worth so much.

My fiance and I also bought the app, which to me was essential for the completion. It's really not hard, 5 day juice detox, but it isn't so easy if you're kind of blindly doing it just making the recipes and then have normal life for the rest of the part. The app helps a lot because there are coaching videos with tips and tricks and you get to know what to expect. In short, it's like having illustrations in a cookbook (not to mention he also does the recipes so you can watch what to do). I think I would have done terribly if Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution had no photos with real action going on (like he is in the photos so you know how much of what to use and what shape to cut things in etc). It gives you a benchmark and an idea of how it's done, which is essential. You also feel like you're having fun with Jason during the 5 days and Jason has a great personality (well on camera at least ;)), which makes the 5 days easy to do. We also did, on day two, get the new Philips Avance which is really a dream. It's not as easy to clean as they advertise it of course, but really if you're going slowly you can clean this in 5 minutes (1 is a bit exaggerating and in the video they probs didn't clean it completely clean, but I've never had an easier to clean juicer than this!)

I never experienced serious detox withdrawals, as even though before this programme I stopped juicing for a while I've always had loads of fruit and veg in my diet since I read Slim4Life. The reason why I started this programme was I was sooooo out of it. I liked Jamie's recipes and I liked cooking, but I had no desire to eat anything (don't get me wrong; I desired to eat, but I didn't know what!). It sucked!! I really felt clueless and kept asking "what should we eat for dinner........." knowing that whatever my fiance said I would say "I don't feel like it......" Well I'm glad to say that for now, a few days after we finished the plan, I don't have that problem anymore! I've been having ideas of what I'm craving again, and of course I don't crave any junkie food (if I do, never in large fiance knows I love me my tiramisu!!), but that happened after I read Slim4Life already.

Anyways throughout the programme I never experienced any detox symptoms that people complain about. I experienced a little bit of craving for fried foods (I had a thing for homemade fries) and roast veggies but it wasn't too bad. We didn't exercise twice everyday (I think three of the five days) but we both lost quite a bit and my tummy became a pancake! Which is super exciting because that's like the one thing that was always not happening!

The juices were delicious and very satiating. I was never hungry except on the last day, where I didn't drink every juice fully because we were traveling to London.

The differences in our programme included that we used steamed beetroot, which made the taste so different (yeah I know it's kind of really weird). We just could not find any fresh beetroot in Italy! Also we defrosted frozen peas for the sugar snap peas because we couldn't find that either! We couldn't find kale, but since we grow kale in our little garden we did that. We also could not find any parsnip (we called a lot of farmers for this), so we used carrots instead.

Other than that the results? Well a belly as flat as a pancake is what I've dreamed of for years! Aside from that our scale is not very accurate; it ranges from 3kg differences at times so I think I lost 5lbs? I don't know but I definitely look more vibrant, which I can really tell, and no more "I don't know what to eat" (those are the most miserable things ever).

I highly recommend the plan to anyone who is thinking of taking control of their health. But I must warn that this is a serious commitment - it's a serious dive in and no looking back to being slim, feeling the amazing energy of a healthy lifestyle, and the capacity to live like you mean it!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Pamper Yourself to a Easy-to-Do, Natural Food Facial!

I love getting facials. Actually, I've only gotten one before; the rest I've done myself. The one I got at a boutique was expensive and did not include all the things they said they would include, so I decided to find out ways to do them myself. I had problem skin before, but ever since I started cleansing with oil (that's for another time), my face has become a lot more clear, and given that it's only been a month since I've started, it's been the most effective treatment I've ever done (that includes sleeping before 10pm everyday). Anyways, I had a problem with my ear recently while in Italy, and a medical practitioner told me to do breathe in a lot of steam everyday for 10 minutes. This reminded me of facial steams. So as I started doing it everyday, I also started giving myself a facial everyday (not the best idea, but I figure since I'm steaming everyday for now). Anyways I wanted to share how I do my facial everyday as it's great for my skin and easy to do! I got my inspirations from Crunchy Betty, and have used no commercial products in this facial.

First of all disclaimer if anything anyone tries from my advice screws up,'re allergic, you burnt yourself and everything..burn your table...I am not accountable, etc. Also, if you have severe acne or other problem skin this is probably not a good idea.

I'm just sharing what works for me and has been easy enough for me to do regularly! I love that this is all FOOD and it works better than a facial at a spa (okay, the ONE facial I got at a spa)! I've been doing this everyday and my skin is being pampered big time, but I think once or twice a week is more than enough. I call this one my Italian Foods Facial, because I'm here, and well, chocolate, red wine, and basil...pretty Italian! (Plus prepping this facial steam is like prepping a pasta).

Catt's Luxurious Italian Foods Facial Routine
Read everything thoroughly before you start.
The basis of this facial is cleanse, steam, feed, and moisturize. I get things going for other steps while I do one step, as you'll see below. You'll only really need things to mix ingredients in and a small pot for the steam and an even smaller pot if possible for heating wine. And a towel for the steaming! Remember to have your hair tied and pulled back!

Raw honey (~1 tsp)
Sea Salt (~3 tbsp)
Red Wine (you only use ~1 tbsp, but you might need more to heat it)
Basil (~2 tbsp)
Cacao powder (or cocoa powder...I think there's a difference but not much) (you only use ~1.5 tbsp)
Green tea (fresh and cooled)
Jojoba oil

1. Put the kettle on the fire with enough water to fill the small pot for the facial steam.

2. Rinse your face with warm water, and put ~1 teaspoon of honey in the palm of your hand. Wash your face with the honey like you would any cleanser, then rinse off the honey with warm water. Pat-dry your face. (Note: Honey best as raw honey! There are great raw honeys in the US. It's the solid looking honey).

3. Transfer the hot water to the small pot you will use for your facial steam, and put that on a medium fire.

4. Get your sea salt (different from table salt! I use this one - it's a large crystals sea salt) and dump it into the pot and stir until the salt is dissolved.

5. Either while the water is coming to a boil or when it's already boiling (put on low heat if so), make the liquid for your face mask. You have to make it now so that it has time to cool down for use later. I use a tiny tiny metal pot on a tiny tiny burner for the coffee makers (moka) in Italy. I don't think they're that common, so I'm thinking if that doesn't work, you can have another pot with boiling water and heat the wine in some small bowl in the boiling water or something like that. Actually I've never tried it, so don't take my word on it. Or you can heat more wine than needed and fridge it for later on. Anyways, this is my favourite wine, but I'm using it because it was opened two weeks ago and while we fridged it I don't think it's a good idea to drink it anymore. But it's still got the beneficial properties since it was fridged.

6. The way to make your facemask liquid is to heat the red wine (I use around 3 tbsp; probably 1/5 of a cup) on a very low fire, and add basil leaves to it once it starts getting warm. I use fresh basil leaves, as I have a nice little plant (I live in Italy right now). Let it boil a little, but not too much. If your skin is dry, boil it until there is no sharp smell (boil the alcohol away). If you have oily and problem skin, the alcohol will help so don't boil it too much!

7. Leave the basil-infused wine to one side. It is time for the facial steam!

8. Put your pot on a coaster/something-so-that-it-won't-burn-a-surface.

9. Drape the towel around your head and around the pot to form a little "tent," as seen in the photo.

10. Hold your face over the steam for 10 minutes, and breathe deeply. The steam opens your pores and the salt is good for detoxing. Now, don't be stupid and burn your nostrils or anything. Keep the appropriate distance, which will change as the temperature changes. Turn your head so that all parts of your face get the benefits of the steam. If it's too steamy for you to handle, you can take breathers.

11. After the steam, rinse your face a few times with warm water, then once with cold water. Pat dry.

12. Transfer the wine to a cup, leaving the basil leaves behind (or something you can mix it with).

13. Get the cacao powder. Mine is from Italy and it's "bio," meaning organic in Italian. It's a wonderful thing!!

14. Add enough cacao so it becomes a spreadable paste, a little thicker than nutella but not so that it's clumpy (it will work even if it is clumpy).

15. Spread this chocolate wine mask all over your face. Isn't it wonderful?

16. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Read, sing Italian songs, practice presence, etc. Don't eat the mask (though I'm sure it's safe to).

17. Wash off the mask with warm water.

18. Tone with green tea (that was made earlier). This is the green tea I use (it's not Italian; it's Taiwanese), and I put it in one of those spray bottles (I got this one at Target! Go to the travel section not the toiletries section) and keep it in the fridge so that it's cold. Green tea is high in antioxidants, which are very healing to the skin when applied topically. The coldness closes the pores.

19. Finally, moisturize a bit with jojoba oil. It's oil and it's especially important if you have oily/combination/problem skin. This is because if you do not moisturize (and this is a good moisturizer as it is natural and very similar to the skin's oils) your face will work hard to produce more oil. I know you've heard about this tons of times before, but until you actually try it it doesn't do you squat! I got mine for 8$ at Trader Joe's. I know, my ingredients come from three different continents, but I'm sure you could find something (and there's always amazon!). You can also use grapeseed oil to moisturize (I use it to wash my face!)

Ta-Da! A luxurious [mostly] Italian facial that is easy to do, enjoyable, and costs way less than a facial at a spa! It really leaves my skin so smooth and supple (the chocolate does that part!), and it really cleanses the areas that need to be cleaned.

Happy Pampering!

-Catt xxx

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Emotional Hindrance

Our emotions are the truth and we should always follow our emotions. But there is a difference between changing a situation/improving a situation we feel bad about and judging something as bad. One is brief and done in order to understand ourselves, the other is to have others feel sorry for us (manipulating others) or getting things and others to change for us.

This is something to always remember: we, literally, make up what is labelled good and what is labelled bad. This is why we have so many differences in opinions about things, let alone different emotional reactions about things that we try to cover up with contradictory words.

Most of the time we don't accept something because we fear change, even change that improves us. More accurately than "we fear good change," our minds (and to an extent our bodies, if you like) react to and judge the onset of change as "bad," which is why we start doing weird things when things start feeling unfamiliar. Aside from this just being a bad habit we just picked up by mimicry, it is in part biology - the idea of homeostasis. I can stand outside in the cold and come inside in the warmth and my body will maintain a temperature of 36C, plus or minus 1 degree.

Unlike the body however, emotionally, our state of homeostasis is determined not by biological functions but by our emotional functions, which are usually determined by what we might call our "programming." This comes from our upbringing - our parents, siblings, those around us, those we go to school with, our community, our country, etc. And it works the same way as our biological homeostasis. This is what Gay Hendricks calls the "Upper Limit Problem," which is written in more detail in his book The Big Leap.

For instance, when people first meet me they find that I am very easy to talk to and generally, "happy and energetic." While these are good qualities that have given me more opportunities that I've enjoyed than not, how much of it really is consciously determined by me in this life period? In other words, while we choose our circumstances before we are born (in my cosmology), in this lifetime, how much of it was a conscious choice? Of course our "subconscious" and what not is a part of us, but the question of "deservingness" comes in (my philosophical tendencies). Yet even if I do not "deserve" my "good fortune" and those who are poor do not "deserve" their "bad fortune" (these are judgments which are made up), nothing permanent will come from the "good" being shared with those who do not have as much "good," unless it creates an inner change.

-Catt xxx