Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Simple Sacrifice

Obvious as it may be, I recently went on a hiatus from blogging. Initially, I set out to blog for simplicity and to iron out the whirlwind of thoughts that seemed to complicate life. I wanted to find joy in the simple things, go back to the basics, and give myself a fresh start. For a moment there, I failed. I think the most important lesson to remember here is that we are, in fact, human. We will make mistakes, and we will meet with obstacles. I have had a few obstacles along the way, but now I'm back: ready to take on any complications this life has to offer.

Tonight, as I regret the pizza we just ordered and strive to find the will to type after having just finished three papers for my classes, I want to explore the thought of sacrifice. I look back on these past couple of months, and I see that much was sacrificed for a new job, a new hectic schedule, and a new load of responsibilities. Health, quality time with my husband, smiles, housekeeping, laughs, hobbies, home-cooked meals, and (regrettably) daily baths have all been sacrificed as I took on a new job. (Note: showers were taken, just not relaxed ones.)

It would be easy to look at these last few weeks and be deeply disappointed. I look at it as a simple sacrifice. We do it everyday. Who hasn't sacrificed a breakfast here or there to get to work on time? I think the lesson to be learned is that we will make involuntary sacrifices, but we can always bounce back from them. This is me, bouncing back.

It's off to bed I go, with high hopes for tomorrow, and wishing my husband good luck in his pursuit for the will to wake up at 5:00 am. What happens if he doesn't? In the big picture, nothing. It's just a simple sacrifice.

"The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lighten the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy. The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him."
                                                                                                    -Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Simple Strength

In moments of hard times (and there will always be hard times), do not fear...

If you do, you're mother will call you out on it.

A very wise woman recently sent me the following quote to ponder upon and live by:

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. 
                                                                                                       ~Henry Ford            

A Simple Hot Cocoa

Neither my husband nor myself are much of a tea/coffee drinker, so when it comes to the warm comfort of a delightful drink, hot cocoa is our generally our choice.

The fact that I didn't come up with the following before disappoints me.

Ingredients in store bought regular hot chocolate:
sugar, corn syrup solids, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated coconut or palm kernel and hydrogenated soybean), dairy product solids (from milk), cocoa processed with alkali, calcium carbonate, and less than 2% of salt, cellulose gum, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, sodium citrate, guar gum, skim milk, sodium aluminosilicate, mono- and diglycerides, artificial flavors, sucralose. (made on equipment that also processes soy and wheat)

(add to milk and enjoy)

Ingredients in our homemade simple hot chocolate (organic optional):
cocoa powder, sugar

(add to milk and enjoy)

We specifically use organic cocoa, organic pure cane sugar, and organic fat-free milk. (My husband likes his with a dash of (organic) vanilla extract.)

I'm slowly realizing, better late than never, that there are so many ways we can simplify the products we use, produce, and ingest....all without sacrificing any of the "simple" satisfactions.

                           "The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink (cocoa) permits a man to walk for a whole day without food."
-Montezuma, Aztec Emperor (c. 1480-1520)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Simple Silence

My father recently went on a "Vipassana", which translates to "insight into the nature of reality". He has been known to do this from time to time, but I've only recently began to understand why. While this meditation can be practiced through a variety of techniques, I find one specifically astounding. Along with nearly 17 hours of meditation, those who choose to go on this journey are asked to observe a "noble" silence. This is the silence of the body, the speech, and the mind. I used to go crazy trying to consider what 10 days would be like without speaking or being spoken too. Now, I think going on a Vipassana would be a real treat.

Can you remember the last time you went 24 hours without your cell phone? I definitely can't. The days that I tell myself to shy away from over communicating, someone will call as my own personal oath of technological silence is destined to be broken. Email, facebooks, cell phones, iphones, twitters and texts have turned our society into an over-communicating frenzy (as she typed on her Google hosted blog).

You don't have to meditate and you don't have to be far from your phone, but if only for an hour...treat yourself to a "simple" silence. You'd be surprised at how little you will have missed.

                              “See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls.
-Mother Teresa

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Simple Thought

I had a lot of ideas about what to write today, but I found myself saying something to my husband that I realized would be perfect:

"You can only do the best you can with what you're given."

I said this to him a few times today, as we're both under quite a bit of pressure professionally. Partly, of course, I said this hoping that I would believe it myself...and to my surprise, I did. When things get really difficult, I ask myself, "What's the worst that could happen?" I could lose my job, my money, my academic good-standing, but could I lose something really important to me? My health? My happiness? My family?

Sometimes we have to simplify our thoughts and break things down into what's important and what's not. A professional goal may seem important temporarily. But if you don't achieve it, what's the worst that could happen? On the other hand, family is important. The worst that could happen in this case is that you lose the love and support of a loved one. I cannot think of a greater catastrophe.

So as we work hard in our roles and responsibilities as students, employees, etc, we should take a little pressure off and remember that our most important responsibilities are to ourselves and to our loved ones. Without a healthy and happy family, "simply" nothing else matters.

"I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich."
Thad Mumford, Writer&Producer

"Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts."
Author Unknown

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Simple Peace

                                                                             "When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place."
-Bhagavad Gita 

It's easy to get caught up in this race we call life. Errands to run, work to do, bills to never ends. It's when I realize this sad truth that I look at the habits of the ultimate minimalist who is able to lead a simple, stress-free life. Be it Gandhi or Buddha or another spiritual leader, many of them share the same simple habit - Meditate. 

Gandhi would meditate daily and spend hours on reflection and prayer. I'll be the first to admit - that kind of dedication isn't in the books for me right now. However, it doesn't take hours to allow the stress to melt away. Depending on how much time you have, it could take as little as five minutes at any time of day. Personally, I like to meditate when the sun is out. I often will meditate to the sounds of nature, or a soothing song. In my opinion, it doesn't matter what setting or sound. What matters is that you are releasing bad energy from the body. 

Often times when I meditate, I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth. When inhaling through my nose, I imagine a clean, clear stream of fresh air - full of positive qualities and good energy. This has now slowly entered my body through a strong and prolonged nasal inhalation. I give my body a second to appreciate and welcome this new energy. 

Upon exhaling through my mouth, I imagine that the good energy is "cleaning things out". The stream of strong air that I exhale is full of the negative energy, the stress, and the bad thoughts that you want to melt away. I continue this cycle of cleaning my body and ridding it of what I call "toxins", until I feel refreshed and full of positive, clean, energy and thought. My mind is clear, and I am ready to take on whatever life has to offer. 

When you find yourself in the clutter of life, try meditating, if only for five minutes. Practice meditation in your own special way that works for you. When you meditate, you understand the "simple" peace that life has to just have to find it for yourself. 

                                                  "A racing mind that react sensitively to little things indicates thinking that has lost its spiritual strength. Meditation restores that power." 
- Innerspace

A Simple Dance

Due to some technical difficulties, I couldn't post this blog yesterday:

Good times may come and go, but rock and roll is here to stay! Okay, here's what I mean: There are days when you get so much good news, you're beyond yourself. Although life must go on as usual, it is so important that you cherish those moments, if only for five minutes, because before you know it, the moment has passed and the complexities of life cloud over. Today, was one of those days.

My husband and I are in a race to accomplish some very critical professional tasks, both of which happen to land on the same day next week. Needless to say, the house is a mess, our food intake has been far from thoughtful, and from morning to evening we cram as much into one day of work as humanly possible. Today, we needed to continue this routine, celebrate a half milestone anniversary, and scream off the rooftops about some positive professional news we received.

I was elated with the receipt of the news. I was stressed about the amount of work that needs to be done. I was anxious about not being able to celebrate the day the way we normally would. And then I saw my husband.

I married a man so romantic, he puts Meg Ryan movies to shame. As I was involved in my moment of mixed emotions, my husband was walking toward me. He put one arm around me, took my hand, and began to dance.

It was at this very moment that I realized how much we really should live in the moment. Our day may have been hectic as usual, but somehow we found those five minutes we needed to delve into our own "simple" celebration.

                                                                 "Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order."
                                                                                -Samuel Beckett, Writer (1906-1989)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Simple Illumination

"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." - Eleanor Roosevelt 

Oh, Thomas Edison, where would we be without you? In the dark? I think not!

As an involuntary member of the MVP (migraine victim party), I constantly find myself shying away from artificial light. Of course, we don't live in the simpler times when we could sleep as soon as the sun went down. When there is no sunlight left in the day, it's time for all those artificial lights to rise and shine.

I've recently discovered the wonder of candles. Of course, I've always kept them around the house, but I never took the time to light them. In my mind, they were always just for show. In no way am I admitting to working by candlelight, but I have found that the illumination of a candle nearby my work station is truly calming. Not because it is scented or looks nice, but because it's a product that doesn't want anything. It doesn't need to be filed or calculated, fed or cleaned. It just sits there, modest and glowing, reminding me of simpler times while I plow through piles of work.

There's something to be said about my philosophical understanding of a candle. The flame of a candle is beautiful in so many ways, while at the same time being about the size of my pinky nail. How can something so small give so much? From the small flame of one candle, I can light 10, 20, or 500 more candles, and my initial flame wouldn't lose a thing.

As members of today's society, we can give one day's work, and come home completely worn out. Give help to 50 people, and end up needing help yourself. It's like the man who started his life excited to be a scientist, and ended up 30 years later finding it hard to wake up in the morning and go to work. Why can't we maintain our childlike innocence and joy as we go through all the moments of life, good and bad?

In this world of iphones and flat screen TVs, I think we need to give some time to enjoying the "simple" things in life.
Take a moment, and light a candle.

                        "I wanted to buy a candle holder, but the store didn't have one. So I got a cake."
                                                                                                           Mitch Hedberg, Comedian (1968-2005)


Monday, January 3, 2011

A Simple Solution

Chemicals chemicals everywhere...oh I long for some good clean air!

My mother once taught me a trick that I've recently taken a step further. Instead of using store bought cleaners that house far too many chemicals, sometimes some simple soap and water will do the trick. Here's the kicker: it works on everything! I always have a spray bottle of all-natural lavender soap (1 part liquid soap, 3 parts water) laying around and I have yet to find an opportunity when it didn't come in handy.

Yesterday my husband spilled some juice on our fabric couch....spray! Kitchen counters...spray! And my personal favorite: My husband cleaned the entire oven guessed it...spray!

So out with the nose-burning chemical concoctions and in with the "simple" solution of soap and water.

                                                        "Soap and water and common sense are the best disinfectants."
                                                                                                               William Osler, M.D. (1849-1919) 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Simple Moment

I woke up this morning reassuring myself that it was okay not to cook, clean, do laundry or anything else today so as to give myself a full day of playing catch up with my studying. My sole responsibilities today were to attend a meeting for an NPO I'm involved with in the morning and then study until evening. Boy, did I have it all wrong.

This morning's meeting served as a catalyst for my signing up for too many responsibilities I don't have time for. I then set out to accomplish said tasks, and I sit here now, 5 hours later, still trying to get them done. Today, I'll write about tea.

With it's origins in south and east Asia and it's debut unknown, tea was has been a common drink in for over 4,000 years. Many studies have shown tea to have disease fighting capabilities. Medicinal qualities aside, tea often has the most beautiful benefit of being a relaxant.

You see, tea doesn't have to be a social drink, a caffeine fix, or even a cold weather pick-me-up. It's not just your chai tea latte or your green tea weight loss supplement. Sometimes, tea can just be a gift to you. The gift of a moment...just for yourself.

As a sworn member of the anti-caffeine campaign, I'm a firm believer in the herbal teas. By herbal tea, I don't mean black tea with lemon or secretly caffeinated green tea. I mean genuinely natural, home brewed, herbs and water. A few of my favorites ingredients are:

-lemongrass: Detoxifier and reducer of blood pressure.
-ginger: The super plant! From plant to root, ginger seems to help nearly everything.
-lavender: Alleviation of anxiety, irritability, and tension.
-peppermint: Refreshing flavor and soothing to an upset stomach.
-honey: The yummy antiseptic and antibacterial sweetening agent.

So as I sit here, slowly building anxiety about the work I have and the hours I don't, I think I'll put life on hold and make myself a simple cup of tea. After all, who doesn't need a moment "simply" for themselves?

“There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” 
                                                                                     -Bernard-Paul Heroux, 1900's Philosopher

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Simple Introduction

Let's answer the most obvious question first: Aasha is the Sanskrit word for hope/wish. 

The purpose of this blog is to simplify. Simplify what? I could say "my life.", but that would be small potatoes. I mean everything. Simple people, simple food, simple thoughts, simple world. You name it, and it should be simple. 

I spent an hour researching simplicity, and each time I looked it up in a dictionary or thesaurus, it was linked to "foolishness". When did we become a society who compared a simple man to an ignorant man. Gandhiji, arguably the greatest man of the last century, was supremely simple by nature. He was a man of non-possession who ate simple foods and meditated daily so as to never get stressed. Where has all the simplicity gone?

Today we see the espressos shots and energy drinks, the scheduling and syncing, and the drive thru diets and dinners in the freezer. The simplicity of life has gotten lost somewhere between the Starbucks menu and the stain remover aisle at the local drugstore. With all of the product options, marketing gimmicks, target advertising, and brand recognition, we're "simply" doomed. 

Not to say that I am a simple person. I'm just a woman, who realized that the fate of tomorrow starts today. I'm going to take a day-to-day approach to simplifying my home, my family, my thoughts, my everything. In this blog you'll see cleaning techniques, recipes, book recommendations, healthy habits, quotes that inspire, and anything else that helps me get my life back to the basics. 

Why Aasha? I once heard that if you really want something, you have to put it out there for the universe to find. I figure if I wish hard enough and I publicize it for the whole world (wide web) to see, maybe, just maybe, it will be granted. 

So, Universe, here is my wish: Simplify