An Un-envisioned Gift

No one puts an accident on a vision board.

And yet, when an accident happens, it’s amazing how quickly healing can become one’s single point of focus. As I stared at my vision board for the year 2017 today in my home office, I couldn’t help but imagine how far along various projects would be if I has approached them with the attention and care I’ve given my body and its healing process over the past 16 days.

I’ve created vision boards over the last four years since knowing my husband, who attributes meeting me with helping him to fulfill about half a vision board’s worth of goals. I’ve had a pretty good track record with accomplishing what I lay out in them, no doubt a result of my strong pitta/Type-A/Enneagram #3 personality. The magic of manifesting items from my vision board is always in the noticing of how many things happen by sheer grace, often with zero to minimal effort on my part. In the same way, despite all the supplements, herbs and other remedies I feed my body, the true miracle is in the inexplicable way it knows exactly how to heal itself. I have no doubt put a lot of effort into the healing process, but the real magic happens effortlessly while I sleep and then wake up to notice the progress.

Ultimately, each item on my vision board is intended somehow to enrich my life, either by providing an opportunity for growth, or a chance to step away from life’s mundane to-do lists and laundry piles. We like to think that armed with magazines and scissors (or a journal, or just a daydream), we can identify all the ways the universe might conspire to aid us in our growth. And yet, the universe has its own wisdom, its own plans. A severe accident will provide beyond ample ground for quietude, deep listening and introspection, not unlike the dream trip to Bali and certainly more so than the new car we covet.

Unlike our projects, the measures of success when it comes to healing do not come in the form of a checklist and we can’t hire a coach to expedite the process. Progress is measured by a count of scabs, small increases in the range of motion of a muscle, minutes spent away from bed. There are moments when the healing process seems to plateau, and yet there is an indefatigable knowing that the body is mending itself at the cellular level, as new layers of skin are born and neural pathways are activated.

As I glanced at my vision board today, I felt at peace despite knowing that quite a number of projects and goals will likely be delayed as I carve out space – both in terms of time as well as material resources – for the continued healing that lies ahead. Although it hadn’t been in my plans for the year, I know this experience has (and will continue) to shower me with gifts I could have never envisioned. I trust that the coming weeks will bestow me with insights I can’t even begin to glimpse today.

Make your vision boards and hold your goals close to your heart. But, always remain open to the mystery of life and honor the unexpected missions that appear. Say yes when they arrive and bow to them as your greatest teachers.

CC image by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr. 

CC image by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr. 

 

 

The Russians Are Hacking More Than Elections (And It Could Affect You)

I know you’re probably tired of hearing about Russia and hacking, but I promise this is not about politics and could potentially save you a heap of heartache if you’ve worked diligently to cultivate a following on Instagram like I have.

Last week, my Instagram account was hacked by someone in Russia. I know this because when I couldn’t login on the app, I tried to request a password reset, and the message following the request notified me that the message had just been sent to an address with a .ru extension.

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After the initial shock that someone on another continent would commit such a nefarious act to co-opt a feed that is basically 98% food photos and 2% photos of my cat and that doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of followers, I did my best to remain calm. I was in the process of packing for a meditation retreat that began the next day, so after some purposeful breathing, I sat down and figured I would just write a clear and concise note to a friendly person at Instagram, and voila – my account would be back in my rightful hands in no time.

I’ll spare you all the details but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Long story short: the Instagram Help Center should not be allowed to use the word “help” in its name. It may very well be the least helpful place on the entire Internet for someone in my situation. Not only has Instagram disabled a feature that once allowed hacking to be reported and resolved, but if you do manage to get a response through one of the other reporting channels, you will essentially be dealing with a human masquerading as a robot. It seems that IG Community Operations folks who respond to emails can only send a very finite set of pre-written responses, most of which tell you to report hacking using a link that doesn’t allow you to actually do so. In most cases, if I wrote back to clarify exactly what I needed with an explanation of why the previous response was inadequate, I would receive exactly the same response back.

I reached out eight times via various Instagram channels, and also sent notes to Facebook, IG’s parent company, tweeted IG, and sent IG multiple messages via Facebook, which was a recommended technique in the myriad articles I found talking about what crappy service IG offered.

I also quickly found out after posting something about the hack on my Facebook page that at least half a dozen people I personally know had been affected by the same or similar hacks in the past month or so. One of them reported to me she lost her entire account thanks to the inaction of IG, so I knew after reading her note that I had to prepare myself to lose all my photos, witty hashtags and followers I’ve established over the past two years. With my retreat just hours away at the time of this realization, I figured there couldn’t be better timing to surrender to a serious act of letting go. And nonetheless, I kept firing off responses to the IG robots, and again and again, I was led down the same dead-end paths.

I went to my retreat, and as I do every time I visit the Buddhist monastery where it was held, I shut off my phone. As I slid my finger across the screen to power it off, I said a little prayer requesting that when I next turned it on, my IG account would not have been altered in any way (up until that point, the hacker hadn’t modified any content except to change my profile description to “Athlete,” which anyone who knows me would probably find at least a bit humorous). I also prayed that there would be a friendly email from someone at IG who would swiftly return my account to me.

Fast forward five days to the end of a wonderful retreat during which I barely thought about Instagram or hackers at all. I am always trepidatious turning my phone on after a retreat because I really enjoy the freedom of being unplugged and it usually means an onslaught of texts, voicemails and emails all demanding my attention. I took a few breaths to center myself and then within seconds of being on, I knew my account was pretty much lost. I had 10 texts from various friends telling me the hackers had started posting images of scantily clad busty women on my page, which by this point had no mention of me or my business on it thankfully.

After thanking friends for their messages, I surrendered. I had done all I felt I possibly could to reach out and possibly get resolution. I had tried every possible channel at my disposal, short of showing up on the doorstep of an IG office, and at that point I suspected even that would have been ineffective.

After being at a retreat and hearing so many people open up about their suffering, I clearly knew that the loss of a social media account was truly a first-world problem. Sure, I felt anger towards the hackers, but I also knew that people wouldn’t spend time doing such petty crimes if they weren’t in some situation of desperation for income or spinning in the daze of delusion that greed can spur on.

Forgiving the hackers and even sending them compassion was more an act I could do for myself, and not something that could influence them in any direct way. (I did try emailing them via the contact address they associated to my profile, but the message bounced back immediately.)

After five days spent in quiet, considering how to share my practice in an engaged way with the world, a question remained: how can I use this experience for some greater good?

The answer was to write this. If you’re like me, chances are you don’t have two-factor log-in set up on your IG account if it you’ve had it for more than a few months. IG apparently rolled out the option of additional verification in waves over the past couple months, but it seems there was never any prompt either within the app or via email to enable it. It seems the only way you might have caught wind of it would have been if you’re a reader of tech news sites or friends on Facebook with someone who is and shared something about it.

I did a very informal and unscientific poll of six of my most prolific IG friends, and only one had two-factor login enabled at the time I asked. (Now they all do, thanks to my prompting.)

Although there are certainly many far worse things that could happen than losing your Instagram account, I do want to save anyone reading this even the smallest bit of distress that a hack and the very real potential of losing all your photos poses.

So, please … I ask that if you’re reading this and have not (or are not 100% sure that you have) enabled two-factor verification, please take a moment to turn it on.

Like me, you probably have not engaged in any of the high-risk actions that IG claims lead to hacking, like sharing your password or using third-party apps. The reality is that hackers seem to have stolen lists of login info from various sites, IG and Twitter included. Let this be a wake-up call to also be diligent about changing passwords regularly. I know I don’t. I’m committing now to changing mine quarterly in sync with the solstices and equinoxes since those are days I pay attention to.

If there is a bright side to any of this (beyond hopefully preventing anyone reading this from being hacked), I was able to get my original username back, so I am back on Instagram as @pranaful. I’d love to connect (or reconnect) there. I also learned this morning that my old account is now disabled and seemingly vanished forever. I’d already let go of the possibility of getting it back, but learning this via a friend who had reported the page after it started flooding her feed gave me a true sense of finality.

Please also take time to share this with others who use IG. My hope is that as many people as possible will protect themselves to the best of their ability in the light of the widespread hacking that is happening. My suspicion is that part of why IG disabled channels for reporting hacking is that they simply became overwhelmed.

My other hope is that IG makes a commitment to better customer service. I am not holding my breath, but I’m putting it out there. I learned in the process of all the research I’ve done in the last week that they recently launched Instagram Together, a site supposedly dedicated to “fostering kindness in our community,” and while this seems like a nice PR front, I’d like to see ripples of kindness extended to people who find themselves the victims of hacking. If you know anyone employed at IG, I would love to meet them.

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Do a Spring Kitchen Cleanse!

Cleansing your kitchen is a great complementary practice to a spring digestive cleanse. In the same way the body naturally wants to purge excess accumulation during this season, we also find desires to clear our physical spaces of clutter as well.

Kitchen cleansing is a great way to cultivate a deeper sense of mindfulness in the kitchen. Food waste is at epidemic proportions and I’ve found that doing regular kitchen cleanses helps me to be more mindful of using everything that I buy and minimizes the waste coming out of my kitchen. When I first started doing these, it was sometimes staggering how many half-bags of bulk foods I had floating around, sometimes with multiple portions of the same items.

Here are seven tips to make your kitchen cleansing process effective and easeful:

1) Take everything out. Empty your fridge, freezer, pantry and cupboards shelf by shelf. This allows you to take thorough stock of what exactly you have. As you take out each item, purge anything that is well past its expiration date (use a smell test for anything just expired), as well as any items that have visibly degraded or that you are certain you won’t use. For any items that are still usable, you might donate them to a friend or seek out your local Buy Nothing group if you use Facebook (people on my local group are always giving away partially-used food items).

2) Take inventory. After a shelf is empty, clean it well to remove any dust or food matter that may have accumulated. As you return items to their rightful place, make mental notes of things you might wish to use that you may have forgotten about. You might commit to using as many items as possible in your meal planning for the next week.

3) Find a place for everything. If you’re a bulk foods shopper like I am, consider transferring any items in bags to jars. This has a few advantages: a) foods will stay fresher for longer, and b) foods become more visible. Jars can initially seem bulkier to store, but The Container Store and other places sell expanding shelves that allow you to house items efficiently in a way where you can see everything.

4) Say goodbye to sad spices. The good thing about spices is that they last quite a long time, often even beyond any printed expiration dates on their packaging. But, they do eventually lose their potency, both in terms of flavor and medicinal effect. As you go through your spices, get rid of any that have clearly changed in color (this is often most prevalent in green leafy dried herbs like oregano). To test other items, place a small amount of a spice in your hand or on a spoon. Bring it to your nose. If you don’t detect a pungent odor, chances are it is pretty lifeless and should be replaced. You can avoid collecting too many spices by seeking out somewhere that sells spices in bulk, where you can buy small amounts or just what you need, rather than a full jar. For those in Los Angeles, Spice Station is my go-to for bulk spices (and they ship for those who are not local). Co-opportunity in Santa Monica also has a great selection of mainly organic spices.

5) Label everything. Have you ever tried to discern a bag of dried marjoram from dried oregano? Stared at a powdered spice mix with no clue what it is? Or forgotten the name of that really cool heirloom dried bean you bought at the farmers market? Labeling jars or other unmarked packaging makes everything easier, especially when you share a kitchen with someone else who also enjoyed cooking. A Sharpie and masking tape will do the trick, or an old-school label maker is always fun!

I love my label maker!

I love my label maker!

6) Remove clutter. After you’ve tackled food items, turn your attention to your kitchen counters. If you find things that don’t pertain to cooking, move them elsewhere. Let your kitchen be a dedicated space to cook in, not an office. Find new homes for anything that doesn’t belong there.

Once counters are done, empty and inventory all cabinets and drawers housing your kitchen tools. If you come across anything you haven’t used in over a year or that you purchased for one-time use, consider donating it or gifting it to someone who can use it (again, the Buy Nothing groups mentioned above are great for this). The same goes for anything you may have excess of. You only need so many measuring cups, wooden spoons, etc.

7) Be regular. I recommend doing a kitchen cleanse twice a year, and schedule mine to coincide with my annual spring and fall cleanses. If you don’t have a regular cleansing routine, set a reminder in your phone for the spring and autumn equinoxes to prompt you.

Do you have a favorite kitchen cleansing tip? Click “Comment” and share below!

 

 

 

Five Pieces of Advice for Choosing a Spring Cleanse

It’s not an accident that spring is a popular time for cleansing. As we shift into kapha season in the Ayurvedic calendar, we enter into a time when we are especially prone to feelings of sluggishness, lethargy and overaccumulation. Just as accumulated snowfalls melt at this time of year, we too have an instinct to transform and release anything in our bodies, minds or physical space that has served its purpose.

In the age of the Internet, we have access to thousands of cleanse regimens at our fingertips. While I don’t think there is one optimal cleanse for everybody, I do think there are some common traits that differentiate the most effective cleanse from less effective routines.

Here are five things in particular I urge you to consider when choosing a cleanse:


1) Find someone you trust: There’s a ton of information in books and on the Internet about how to cleanse, but nothing compares to having a real person to go to for questions, support and encouragement. If you’re considering a cleanse with someone you don’t already know, take some time to get to know them via their website/social media and feel into your heart to detect if you feel a resonance with that person and their message. If the answer is no, keep searching until you find someone who feels more aligned with you.

2) Look for Options: The best cleanses I have done give suitable options for people with different lifestyles, body types, activity levels, etc. A good cleanse should have some flexibility built into it and be able to support you wherever you are in your life. If you have special circumstances or concerns in your life that may impact your ability to cleanse, have a conversation with your cleanse guide to learn about modifications that can support you.

3) Avoid Too Many Pricey Supplements: I’m a big believer in the power of food to help us detox, rejuvenate and heal. You don’t need dozens of supplements to have an effective cleanse experience. Supplements are often just a money-making tactic for cleanse leaders, who get a cut of every bottle sold. I’ve also seen cleanses where supplements are recommended without much explanation. If you choose such a cleanse, ask your cleanse guide for information on what the various formulas do so that you can be informed. Someone I know recently did a cleanse that required over $500 worth of herbs, many of which were left over after the cleanse. If you are considering making a substantial investment, it is worthwhile to get a sense of dosages and perhaps skip any supplements where you’ll only need a couple pills during the cleanse.

4) Go Beyond Food: Anyone who has done a cleanse can tell you that it is much more than a physical experience. Cleansing encourages us to work on our minds and emotions as well. The best cleanses I have come across offer support through tools like articles, discussions and guided meditations around particular themes. If you choose a cleanse that only offers food recommendations, I would encourage you to assemble your own set of tools to accompany you on your journey. This could include spiritual books you’ve wanted to read, podcasts or downloadable meditations, yoga classes and more.

5) Be Skeptical of Weight Loss Promises: You may lose some weight when you do a cleanse, but that should never be the primary outcome you are searching for. In my experience, when people get fixated on a number on the scale, they miss the beauty of the cleanse journey itself, and can spiral down a hole of self-judgment and blame when they don’t lose the weight they were hoping to shed. It’s problematic that so many cleanse leaders make promises about weight loss because each one of us responds differently to cleansing routines, and we don’t always see our waistlines shrink. Honor your body and its own process and trust that whatever outcomes you experience are right for where you are in this point in time.

If you’re looking for a food-based cleanse that is in alignment with all these recommendations, you are invited to join me March 20-27 for the Pranaful Spring Cleanse. This cleanse can also be done in any one-week window of your choice. By signing up, you’ll get all the materials for use at any time.

Whatever cleanse you may end up choosing, I hope you have a positive experience and that you stay curious. I’ve done numerous cleanses over the last 15 years and each experience is different than the last – sometimes wildly so! Keep an open mind and heart and be willing to receive all that this transformational ritual can offer.

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