Sunday, October 17, 2010

Get Your Juices Flowing

I’ve taken to seasonal juice fasts. They seem to fall in step with paying quarterly taxes and checking in with my sex life. I can now cross “Fall ’10 cleanse”, “Third quarter ‘10 tax payment”, and gratefully, “October good lovin’”, off my fictional list. Yes, I am disciplined with my life in many aspects; what I eat, what I drink, the people I spend time with, my yoga practice, my meditation practice, working with clients, working out, leisure time, pleasure time and paying attention to my desires.

Juice fasting has been a part of my health regime for 12 years. My first attempt at consuming only juice for what I hoped to be a 5 day fast lasted only 3 days and was a nightmare. I didn’t follow a program about prepping or breaking a fast. Basically, I borrowed my friend Josh’s juicer, bought a whole bunch of organic veggies and fruits and started juicing calling it “Day 1” of my juice fast. What I learned the most about my virgin juicing experience is this … DO NOT GO TO THE MOVIES AND EAT POPCORN WHEN YOU HAVE NOT EATEN FOOD FOR THREE DAYS.

The overwhelming smell of buttered popcorn got the best of me and I rationalized with my friend, Rich, who suggested going to the movies, that popcorn was a vegetable and if I chewed it well it would liquidize in my mouth and essentially be corn juice. And of course, butter was already liquid, so that wouldn’t be an issue. I plowed through my small bag of popcorn watching Scream without incident. The movie was great as we all know, but basically I Roto-Routered my stomach leaving me with my own horror movie to contend with later that night.

I had read to take it easy during a juice fast; light yoga, go for walks, read books, no TV (so you don’t see food commercials which at the time I had two running nationally and always like to see my paycheck when it aired). Going to a movie didn’t seem like a bad idea, it’s not a restaurant with tempting food. I’d forgotten about the popcorn. Popcorn is not food in my book, but the aroma of fresh popped corn goes hand in hand with a movie. Being my first juice fast, and proud that I had lasted 3 days, I said enough is enough and broke my fast.

If shooting pains in my stomach, fever and sweating profusely are any indication that I had screwed up, then duly noted. I poisoned myself with popcorn. This was a huge lesson to me and I warn those who are doing a juice fast for the first time or are seasoned fasters, ease your way in and out of the fast. There is so much accessible information out there now on juicing and fasting and how to do it properly, I suggest reading as much as you can before taking your first juicing journey. I suggest a couple of days before juicing, eat vegan or raw, and DON'T eat a huge meal the night before as a “last meal”. Ease your way back into food when you are ready to eat solid foods again. Start with vegetable soup like a vegan butternut squash soup or a vegetable soup. Eating fruit on its own is good too. I love to have a chia seed pudding to break a fast with. Yum!!! Raw foods are great, but chew, chew, chew your food well and small amounts at a time. Go easy on spices. In fact, I avoid spices for a couple of days other than pinches of sea salt. Take your time and you will be fine. When breaking a fast over ten days, a good rule of thumb is that the break-in period should be extended one day for every 4 days of fasting. If you do intend to do a juice fast or any fast for that matter, please seek advice and guidance so that you don’t do more damage than good.

Thankfully I have come a long way from that first botched juice fast. I just completed a 5 day cleanse - 3 days of juice fasting followed by 2 days of juicing until dinner - dinner being raw salads from one of my favorite NYC raw food spots, One Lucky Duck. I personally like to include almond milks during my juice fasts for the fats and I also have lots of coconut water/coconut meat smoothies. Because I am a seasoned juice faster, I choose my own combinations of bottled greens, fruits, and nut milks. I don’t fast for weight management. I fast for cleansing, detoxing, boosting my immune system, and it just feels great! My self-prescribed selection of liquid goodness from One Lucky Duck included the bottled Norwalk pressed juices and fresh raw almond milk (TO DIE FOR). To save money (juice fasts are expensive) I buy Tai young coconuts and blend my concoctions at home by adding in different combinations of the following: cacoa, cacoa nibs, ginger, vanilla powder, mint leaf, blueberries, flax seed, chia seed, etc. basically whatever I am in the mood for. I drink lots of water, too.

Carving out the time for a juice fast can be tricky. I wouldn’t plan any lunches or dinners. Permit yourself to take it easy. Your body will be living off fewer calories so do less. Try some restorative yoga or go for a walk instead of a run. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling light and sexy. Healthy is sexy after all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sad Joy

The sun has found new angles to stream into my bedroom. This means a new season is on its way. I live in a ground floor apartment which is located in the back of the building with windows that view a quiet courtyard. As fall approaches the sun is lower in the sky and the sun’s rays have a chance to poke through the two narrow slots on either side of the building across from the courtyard. I never do get a whole lot of sunlight in my apartment, but as the cold weather approaches the light gets less and less. When it does find its way into my bedroom, I know that my room was graced with warmth and life even when I am not there. There is something sad and joyful in the change of season. We let go of hot sticky nights, warm toes in the sand, cold watermelon dripping down our chins. We welcome layering sweaters, steamy bowls of soup, red noses from running outside in the foliage.

I spent the last week of August in Red Feather Lakes, CO about 2 hours northwest of Denver attending a meditation retreat with Acharyas Pema Chodron, Gaylon Ferguson, and Adam Lobel. When I arrived it was as hot as summer could get and by the last day, September 1, the temperature was in the low 60s. As we said our goodbyes to each other that fresh sunny morning, there was a palpable sad joy in us.

Ani Pema Chodron
Ani Pema Chodron spoke about sad joy. She explained that joy comes after sadness. We need to go through the sad part gently, awake, and present which then allows the heart to break open. From the open heart the joy flows out. This is how we cultivate a tender heart. She reminded us that if we skip this process, joy is brittle and full of fear.

When we soften our attitude or position we cultivate a tender heart. We become less fixed on having things turn out our way and begin to open to uncertainty. It’s this softness that gives us courage and strength, not tights fists and absolutes. Sad joy is goodbyes and hellos, winning and losing, deaths and births. This is the beauty of being alive, laughing until you cry or crying until you laugh.

We become open to the tender heart through the process of meditation, sitting quietly and still, observing the breath, training the mind. It’s no picnic or day at the beach, but the benefits are beyond words. Two weeks after my return, I am feeling the bliss from this concentrated and disciplined time I spent on my cushion. I kept waiting to write about my experience until it felt organic. I feel different. Many years of 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there on my cushion has added up like money in the bank of freedom. Not monetary freedom, but freedom from a cluttered confused mind allowing for space and clarity. I know that I can’t hold onto to this state of being as this is fluid, too. There is sad joy in everything.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time Out From Me?

I found myself saying I need to take a time out from being Kim Stetz. Brief as the time out was, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I came up with the idea. What would I do for “x” amount of time not being me? I like me just sometimes I think I am a bit much even for … me. Last week a new comer in my life told me that I am “intense”. He said he wasn’t quite sure in what way, but intense nonetheless. I took it as a compliment. I spend most of my time, day in and day out, helping others by teaching yoga and health coaching. When I am not doing that, I am working on myself so that I have the strength, courage, and insight to help others. After all, we are all here to serve.

This brief time out I was seeking, I equated to the space after meditation when the bell chimes and you let go of the mantra or the technique, and sit for a few moments without purpose or intention. That space. That was the time out from me that I desired. I wanted to part from myself, briefly and not too far away, kind of like if I was a daemon in The Golden Compass. Daemons are part of the soul in this Sci-Fi tale. The daemon co-exists with the human and is forever changing until the human reaches puberty. The daemon then fixes on a particular animal, which best reflects the personality of the adult human. The human cannot live without the daemon and vice versa. I haven’t figured out what my daemon would be if I were in this Sci-Fi tale, but I love the idea of having some kind of creature as our other half of our soul.

I wanted to be this fictional daemon and push the boundaries to see how far away I could get from myself without hurting. Trying to escape one self doesn’t work especially if you’ve read The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron, oh, probably 100 times. What could I do for ten minutes that didn’t have a purpose or meaning? Surely there are plenty of things to do; after all, it’s just me that I was looking to take a time out from. I am not the President for God’s sake.

Dancing around my apartment with the music quite loud seems to loosen the vice grip on my brain. Dancing makes me laugh and lighten up. Of course, this is not an escape from me, it is me, dancing, laughing and having a great time. I tapped into the lighter version of me, but nonetheless still me. My fictional daemon was having a great time, too. She couldn’t escape me either.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Heart-Opening Language

Twice within a week I found myself in conversations with two different friends who seemed to be suffering from the same situation. They were caught in the thoughts of thinking that another person is responsible for their happiness or their woes. Some friends that I speak with will understand what I am saying when I explain that what they are feeling has nothing to do with the actions of other people and everything to do with themselves. Just as some friends that I speak with won’t have the faintest idea of what I am talking about as if I am speaking a foreign language. With this experience in mind, it got me thinking that what I am saying will seem like a foreign language if you don’t speak “heart-opening” language. This language can seem hippy-drippy and Kum Bah Ya-ish, but really it is a language filled with heart felt advice, compassion, and words that can and will heal your soul. The trick is to be open and put your fears aside. You know when you hear it, whether you speak it or not. It's kind of like walking past people in a conversation and they are speaking Spanish or at least you recognize it as Spanish even if you don’t speak Spanish. Heart-opening language you will hear in a yoga class, or a dharma talk. But what about just walking down the street and your ear catches this, “You don’t need someone to apologize to you in order to forgive them. You can forgive them all on your own, AND you don’t even have to tell them that they are forgiven.” To some that makes perfectly good sense, to others it’s not so easy to wrap their head around and that’s okay, too. The more one is exposed to people who embrace this way of communicating from the heart, the more likely their own heart will open to this language. Forgiveness is big in heart-opening speak. Really big. I am not so good at remembering quotes from movies or books, but the opening paragraph, Chapter One, of Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts has stuck with me for the past five years.

It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.

With that opening paragraph, I was in. I was into forgiveness, I was into traveling through India with the author’s words and his incredible journey. I was into reading the next 930 pages of Shantaram. Perhaps that opening paragraph has inspired you to put it on your Kindle or iPad, or head to your local book store or find it on Amazon. Or maybe you said, “What’s that got to do with anything?” or maybe you’re indifferent. There are many other responses too, I was just rattling off the top of my head.

I offer the concept of forgiveness if you are feeling stuck in an emotion and holding on to anger or fear of letting go of that anger. Sit in a quiet place and take a few full breaths in and out. Notice how you feel. If you want to work with anger, practice connecting with that angry feeling and breathe with it. Notice the story that is going on in your head and then stop repeating the story in your head - it’s just a story. The more you tell it, the more power you give that story. Instead of recounting the story that pissed you off in the first place, practice connecting with the breath, notice the inhalation and the exhalation, and keep letting go of the story. Guess what is going to happen? The anger will go away. You will soften. You will have created space for forgiveness. Next, with each breath forgive yourself for getting angry with yourself. Maybe with some practice you will open the door to forgive someone who you feel has wronged you as well as opening the door to learning heart-opening language.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


In a million years I never thought I would be writing that I met a war hero. This entry was supposed to be about whether or not to throw home made banana bread out after one finds a humongous, antennae flailing, roach taking a steam bath in the freshly baked loaf. After hemming and hawing and a few, "NOOOOs!!!" I did throw the bread out much to the chagrin of a few of my dog owner friends. Apparently dog owners go beyond the 5 second rule when it comes to considering something consumable or not. Someone even suggested that I should have popped it back in the oven. Maybe he was right.

Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell, attended a lunch in NYC on Tuesday afternoon, April 13th. I had never heard of this man until about 2 weeks ago when a friend from yesteryear, as in grade school, contacted me. I remembered this friend fondly. There was a group of us that banded together playing kick ball, dodge ball, after school parties, and well, first attempts at spin the bottle. Of course there were the chosen ones that the girls hoped the bottle would land on and this friend was one of them. I also remember him being kind with the dodge ball by not whipping it at the girls as hard as a boy can. Anyone remember those mean boys? Enough to make anyone "sick" for gym class. He lived on the base, Plattsburgh Air Force base. The base kids were transient, and the townies always seemed to welcome them. I was actually a new kid on the block at the time having just transplanted from Co-Op City, Bronx, NY. We shared two years as grade school friends. His family relocated before Middle School years. That adorable blue eyed boy moved and I had not heard from him in 30 years ... and then there's Face Book. What a shock to see his name on my Fan Page! After a few back and forth notes, I assessed he didn't seem like a stalker or energy drainer, he said he was happily married for 15 years, has 4 children, and seems to have had a successful career. I have "friended" others with less credentials than his, so new FB friends we are. He asked me if I had heard of Marcus Luttrell and I said that I had not.

I am a curious person, so I Googled him. Marcus recently penned a memoir, "Lone Survivor... The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10". Recently I saw an expose on 60 Minutes about Green Berets and the crazy life they live protecting us Americans. Apparently, Navy SEALs are the elite of the elite and some start training as early as 14 years old as Marcus had. Marcus is one bad ass dude. As the title of his book states, he is the lone survivor of his team and he barely survived at that. I am reading the book now only after meeting Marcus at the lunch. In brief, he is a courageous and gracious man. The lunch was organized by a fan, no PR people in charge. He arrived early with his super friendly, playful lab, Rigby, at his side. No celebrity bull with this man. A smile for everyone, but not a fake, I- am-here-doing-my-job smile. In between the book signings, hand shakes, and listening to the stories of what brought each person to this lunch gathering, I could feel his genuine gratitude for his life and what he has endured. Of course his physical presence can't be missed. I am guessing he is 6'4" and about 225 lbs. More than diving into a situation, I like to observe from the side lines. The fans were extremely respectful not wanting to bombard their hero, yet wanting to share a story, ask for an autograph or a picture. He obliged one after the other. The care taker in me thought Marcus must be thirsty. I asked the bartender for a glass of water, no ice, and made my way to Marcus. Really, isn't that what it's all about, looking out for others, getting out of the "me" plan to serve others? This is what we do as yoga teachers, we serve. He serves out country, the least I can do is offer some water. That was my moment with Marcus. Seeing how I could help him. Yes, he had already signed my book and posed with me for a photo, but I was glad that I had thought of something so simple to help him, and he thanked me. This is gratitude, mindfulness and awareness all rolled into one. Give and receive. I enjoyed the lunch with about 40 others, Marcus joined each table at some point during the meal to socialize with everyone. Terrific day, made new friends, and met a real live hero. I am thankful to Marcus and all of those who serve and protect this amazing country we live in. I am also thankful to my grade school friend who reached out, said hello, and asked me to attend the lunch on his behalf.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Soft Spot

 I have something for you to chew on. Pema Chodron wrote, "No lasting happiness comes from being caught in this cycle of attraction and aversion. We can never get life to work out so that we eliminate everything we fear and end up with all the goodies."

Well, that's no fun now is it? The habitual predicament that humans are caught up in is to want only good things to happen and not bad. Of course we don't want bad things to happen, but wouldn't it be better to accept that they will happen? Just as good things will happen. That's the balance of life. The point being as long as we are caught in the paired extremes of praise and blame, hope and fear, pleasure and pain, fame and disgrace, you can't have one without the other. Just like you can't know hot without cold, you can't know calm without chaos. If we are to live a more balanced life, the effort is to not get caught up in the extremes. This is where the term equanimity comes into play. Cultivating equanimity takes work.

First thing that has to happen is to actually notice when you are being negative or holding on so tightly to a concept.

Second take a breath or two so that the awareness becomes mindful. Awareness is like the sudden interruption of the door bell or a dog bark. Awareness interrupts the brain and says "Yo, something's up". Mindfulness is actually deciphering what to do with the awareness. Mindfulness is the action. Third, don't separate yourself and think, "Only bad things happen to me". This clearly is not true. All humans know pain just as we all know pleasure. The way to cultivate equanimity is to stay in the soft spot if you will. It's not rigid and fixed. There's movement to go either way. You meditators out there know this and that's one of the benefits of the practice. We peel away the layers of protection to become more vulnerable, heart open souls. Some of you may say, "That's exactly why I don't meditate. I like and need my armor." Unless you are going off to war, leave your armor in a footlocker.

I am not sure how possible it is to live in our capricious world and not get caught up with hopes and fears unless you are a cave dwelling monk. However, all is not lost. We can work on coming more toward the center so as not to experience such extremes in our reactions. You may be saying, well that's just me, part of my personality. Um, not really. The jury is out and you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. Of course that old dog has to be willing. Our habits are just that, habits. You form them, you ingrain them and you can get rid of them too. Think of a habit as a muscle that has worked out a lot. If the habit is undesirable, try giving that muscle a rest and exercise some new muscles. I guarantee you if you dedicate as much mindfulness to your new, hopefully productive habit as you did to your old one, you will succeed. Awareness is key to staying in the soft spot. Connecting that you, just like everyone else, gets caught up in the cycle of pain and pleasure. We are all in the same boat. This is an incredibly insightful tool towards equanimity. Takes the edge off if you will.

P.S. Full moon on the 30th. Free gift giving when you share the moon!