Happy National Meditation Month!

It’s a funny thing how quickly a practice can become a lifestyle. It’s only been about a year and a half since I started dabbling in meditation. It started slow, an audio recording here, a 21-day challenge there, the occasional moment of mental stillness during savasana after my yoga practice. Then, slowly, unconsciously, it became a regular habit.

In times of greater stress or emotional upset, I’ve found comfort in meditating multiple times a day, but mostly it’s just a 20 minute practice to calm my mind before bed. There are still the occasional moments that I lose track and forget how important tapping into that inner calm can be, that’s what this week’s video blog is all about:

Looking to start a meditation practice of your own? For this month only[Offer Extended Due to Continued Interest!], I’m offering specially priced Intro to Meditation coaching sessions!

Click below for details & to reserve your spot on the meditation pillow:

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Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries: Magical Moments and Improv Play

Magic Things Print on Etsy

Magic Things print on Etsy

There are some moments in life that just feel so perfect it’s unreal. Last night, as I was walking home from a day filled with friends, laughter, love, and great new experiences, I glanced up to see the first few snowflakes falling past the streetlights. Yes, it’s been a long winter and I’m a little sick of snow, but I could still appreciate the beauty of that moment. Then, just when I thought the evening couldn’t get anymore magical, a bunny hopped out of nowhere to lead me down the alley to my apartment. Perfection, right?

The sad thing is that there have been times in my life that I might have missed the magic of these moments. I have a tendency to live inside the labyrinth of my mind, forgetting to pay attention to the outside world. I overanalyze, over criticize, and just generally bring myself inward to the point that I sometimes forget to play and appreciate the simple things. So that’s my new motto: play more. I’ve been reminding myself of it every day and pursuing new interests that encourage it in the hopes that it will become a habit.

For instance, after avoiding it for nearly 5 years, I finally signed up for a Second City improv class. I’m a by the book, highly prepared, and planned out performer so the idea of doing improv has always terrified me to the core. Of course, I also know that some of the greatest opportunities for growth in life come from doing the that thing that scares you most. So a few weeks ago, I took a deep breath, made my payment, and tried not to throw up on my way to class. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was a lot of fun.

Since that first class, I’ve started attending a few improv jams and mixers around the city. I’m still such a newbie in this world that I love observing everything. One of my favorite characteristics about my new hobby is the lingo. When all is said and done and the evening is about to end, no one says “thanks for acting with me” or “it was great working with you,” instead they say “thanks for playing.” Because that’s exactly what improv is at it’s best: we’re just a bunch of kids getting together on the playground [or in some cases at The Playground] and playing pretend together.

Don't Forget to Play print on Society6

Don’t Forget to Play print on Society6

As for other areas of play in my life, I’ve made a point to break up the serious studies of my yoga teacher training [3 weeks left!] with a little project pose playtime.

Most of the inspiration for these poses have been found on instagram or in the challenge pose section of the Yoga Journal blog. It feels great to dare myself to grow in my practice as I photograph my progress along the way. If you’d like to follow along in my playtime, you can find me on instagram: @michelleshea.

And speaking of instagram, I’ve been posting a lot of photos of my new favorite cherry cheesecake smoothie lately so, as promised, here’s the recipe:

Life is Just a Glass of Cherry Cheesecake [inspired by Mind Body Green’s recipe]

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 3.25.45 PM

Ingredients

2 tbsp raw cashews
2 tsp Sun is Shining powder [or a few handfuls of greens like spinach]
1 tsp maca powder [optional, but good for you!]
1/2 banana, frozen
a handful of cherries, frozen
a splash of vanilla
1/2 c So Delicious coconut milk [more or less for desired thickness]
1 tsp cacao nibs [optional]

First, place cashews, green powder [or greens], macs powder, and coconut milk in blender. Process on high until smooth.
Then, add in the remainder of the ingredients & process on medium until smooth.
Add more coconut milk as desired to assist in blending or to make a thinner smoothie.
Serve in your favorite pretty glass & top with cacao nibs for a chocolatey crunch.

There’s No Place Like Home: How to Smudge Your Apartment [and Your Cat] with Sage

white sage

I can’t remember the first time I heard talk of smudging to clear the stagnant energy from your home, but the second I did, I knew I wanted to take part. Smudging, or the practice of burning dried herbs and dispersing the smoke around your home, is done in several cultures and has become sort of a modern new age girl’s rite of passage. Every hip chick I know that owns tarot cards and meditates has smudged at least once. Opinions vary on how often you should clear the energy from your space, but it’s mentioned most in reference to moving into a new place. After all, it’s a great way to make your new apartment feel like your own AND because burning herbs smell pretty pleasant, it’s also a great way to get rid of any unwanted smells left behind by the previous tenant.

For my first smudging experience, I took the easy route and purchased a two pack of bundled herbs from Whole Foods. Yes, you can bundle your own, but since I’m a beginner I thought it best to go with a professional bundle, lest my own version fall apart mid-ceremony and ignite my bedspread or something.

After a little research in the library of Google, I’ve come to the conclusion that smudging is really what you make of it. You can say a prayer while smudging, use feathers to disperse the smoke, walk in a certain pattern around the room, or really you can just make it up as you go along. The important part is indulging in the ritual for whatever your purpose may be…and fire safety. Also very important.

For my ritual, I chose to move around the room in a clock-wise direction, partly because it was recommended online and partly because it’s simply the direction that made the most sense in the layout of my apartment.  Not having any feathers on hand [being vegan and all], I chose to do a combination of swirling my sage bundle through the air like a magic wand and gently fanning the smoke into corners I couldn’t reach. I found that I had to re-light my sage stick several times to make it all the way around the small room. You see, you don’t smudge with a full flame, but rather the burning embers that are left smoldering after you blow out the initial flame. These can cool off quickly, especially when you’re having a little too much fun doing the magic wand swirl. I made sure to give a little sage-love to the areas behind my clothes and in the corners of closets. That being said, I didn’t worry too much if I might have missed a few crevices here and there. Again, this ritual is what you make of it.

For my own little spin on things, I decided to focus special attention to certain feng shui areas of my home. If you’ve ever mentally laid a feng shui map over your apartment, you’ll see that every third region has a different claim to an area of your life like Love, Family, or Career. Generally these regions are used for decorating your home in certain colors or textures to create positive energy in your life, but I figured it couldn’t hurt if I did a little energy cleansing in the regions most important to me as well. I even smudged myself and my cat…who was unusually calm, but intrigued by the whole scenario.

zooey smudge

For more information on smudging your space, check out:

About.com – This article in their Feng Shui section was my main source on the how-to before getting started.
Miseducated.net – This lovely & straightforward article is by my friend Amber Renee. I actually had forgotten about it until after performing my ritual, but I love her step by step with included prayer.

And speaking of Miseducated.net, after an extended hiatus, my ask a healthy life stylist series is now back up & running! You can read my most recent advice on how to cut back on caffeine as well as submit any questions you might have by clicking Amber’s lovely graphic below:

caffeineaddiction

 

♥ & Light,
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Now Available for Pre-Order: The Health is Beauty eBook Series!

I’m super excited to announce my latest project: The Health is Beauty eBook Series!

This three-part series will be released over the course of the next year, each book containing it’s own intense focus on an area of whole-being beauty: Face, Body, and [the ultimate beauty secret] LOVE.

At a special discounted price for early bird orderers, you can reserve your copy of the FULL Health is Beauty eBook series today! Or, if you prefer to pick & choose your topics, you can reserve the first book alone: More Than a Pretty Face.

Arriving this winter, More Than a Pretty Face will contain my favorite & most effective secrets to unlocking clearer, glowing skin through food & wellness. Holistic skincare is an area I’m extremely passionate about & I can’t wait to share my knowledge with you!

Bonus: Pre-order today & immediately gain access to my 7 Secrets to Sexy Skin download!

Thankful Thursday: Votes of Confidence

Despite the crazy emotions of the Full Moon, I have plenty to be Thankful for today:

Twelve Standouts

After climbing to 4th place in the Room for Color Competition in just over 24 hours, we’ve now slipped slightly to 5th, but that’s still plenty to be happy about. PLUS tonight our little blue room was featured by the Apartment Therapy editors as a “don’t miss” entry! We just need to stay in the top 5 until Sept 27th to advance to the next round…so if you haven’t already voted, there’s still time.

Other things I’m thankful for:
Fringe: Season 5 on Netflix instant. Nick & I have been slowly making our way through the series  this summer & now we can finally see the end. No spoilers, please! ♥ Attending a dear college friend’s wedding last weekend where the groom wore eyeliner, the bride wore black, & they served several flavors of VEGAN WEDDING CAKE!Argo Tea’s Pumpkin Chai Lattewriting at bars & coffee shops ♥ Phone dates with friends ♥ So Delicious coconut yogurt [I’m all about the probiotics, baby.] ♥ new blue bedsheets ♥ My lovely Lady Date with Diva LaVidalady dates in real lifekale chipsspending rainy days with Sterling Cooper Draper Price ♥ kitty cuddles ♥ & YOU!

 

 

Lady Date with Diva LaVida – An Interview

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of recording an interview with my dear friend & former client, Diva LaVida on her podcast Lady Date with Diva LaVida. Tonight, it’s finally online.

lady date with diva lavida

 

You can listen in on our lady date over on Diva’s site or download the episode on iTunes.

Topics covered include: 
* Website design & digital branding
* How to get glow-tastic skin
* #KaleEveryDamnDay & Vegan MoFo
* My favorite vegan eats around Chicago
* and, of course, Hula Hoops!!!

If you’re interested in the glow-tastic health coaching that I offered to Diva, visit the Health Happiness & Hula Hoops shop for pricing & details.
OR if you’re intrigued with developing your digital brand the way I’ve helped Diva rock hers, you can purchase my branding start-up package in the blog shop.

Want to interview me yourself or just have questions about my services?
Don’t be afraid to ask.

Testimonial Tuesday: Mary’s Kind Words

The best compliments are those that arrive unprompted. That’s why I was unbelievably flattered when my friend & fellow health coach, Mary Harris, offered to write a testimonial for my health coaching business.

After bonding over a mutual love of vegan cupcakes during our classes at IIN, Mary and I became long-distance friends & occasional peer coaches to one another. In a field where most health coaches are self-employed, it’s nice to bounce business ideas off of someone who understands things. Through this peer coaching process, Mary has gotten a pretty good sense of what it’s like to work with me as a health & lifestyle coach…and apparently, she’s impressed.

So, without further ado, here’s what lovely Mary had to say about my coaching style:

maryharrisphoto

“As a holistic health coach myself, I have met many health coaches and witnessed various approaches to overall wellness. Michelle is unlike any other coach I have ever met – a true one of a kind and such a positive person. She has a keen ability to really listen to a client’s needs and concerns, and she offers sound advice and guidance. But most importantly, Michelle lives what she preaches. Her passion for the vegan lifestyle is infectious, and she offers so many great ideas to her clients, not to mention her videos and blog are too fun not to follow. I highly recommend working with her.

-Mary Harris, CHHC & Co-Founder of Heaven & Earth

Want to sign up for your own personalized health & wellness guidance? 
click here button

Want to learn more about Mary? Be sure to check out her luxurious natural beauty products and don’t miss the girl-power post she wrote on breaking the body-shaming cycle for her blog, Sprout & Blossom Wellness.

How to Survive Allergy Season Naturally

Spring is out in full force in Chicago and it’s brought a nasty, unwanted guest along with it: an ultra-high tree pollen count. I don’t usually enjoy unwanted guest and I’m particularly perturbed with those that leave me feeling like a cranky, teary-eyed mess.

tree pollen

 

Funnily enough, I never had to worry about seasonal allergies as a child. I’d watch my dad sneeze & sniffle his way through the summer thankful that my immune system was better than his. It wasn’t until the spring of 2008, when the pollen count went sky-high in Indiana, that I had my first reaction to tree pollen. My symptoms got so bad that things eventually transformed into a nasty sinus infection & my favorite season became a mine field of potential sniffles.

Thankfully, my reactions have calmed down over the years [partially thanks to giving up dairy & gluten…food allergens can have a compounding effect on seasonal allergy symptoms], but I still have to tolerate a bit of discomfort when the pollen-cast goes crazy. I’ve developed a few tried & true remedies for getting myself through.

So, in hopes that I can help fellow sniffle sufferers, here are my favorite ways to make it through allergy season still [mostly] alive:

1. Flush Out Your Sinuses. Forget the addictive nasal sprays & start your day with some clean, filtered water & a NetiPot. I can’t believe it took me so many years to finally try this device. Admittedly, I was a little scared at first. The idea of pouring a saline/water solution through my nasal passages didn’t exactly sound like fun, but it’s not as weird as it sounds…ok, it kind of is as weird as it sounds, but it works wonders for clearing out the allergens. I usually only remember to break out my Neti when I’m already feeling a little stuffy, but you can use it preventatively almost every morning. Just be sure to use clean water…no one wants an unseen parasite swimming up their nasal cavity.

2. Boost Your Immune System. Seasonal allergies are caused by your immune system attacking what it perceives to be a foreign intruder. The healthier your immune system, the less likely your allergies will give way to further health complications like sinus infections & the quicker you will feel relief from your symptoms. In an effort to both reduce your current sniffles and prevent future post-nasal drip, you can treat allergies with some of the same home remedies used to fight a cold: lots of water [to flush invaders out of your system], green tea [for antioxidants], and plenty of vitamin C [for a natural anti-histamine effect].

3. Decrease Your Inflammation. Increasing your consumption of omega-3’s like flax seed & chia seeds and decreasing your intake of sugars, meat, & dairy will help to reduce your body’s inflammatory response to allergens. If you find yourself also suffering from itchy mouth & throat, you’ll want to avoid foods that may be cross-reacting with your allergen like apples, nuts, & cherries.

4. Clear Out the Passages. Eating spicy foods, like hot peppers, and pungent foods like onions & garlic can help to naturally clear your sinuses. Meanwhile, adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a hot bath can heal the mucus membranes in your nasal cavities and break up the congestion in your nose for easier breathing.

5. Fight Pollen with Pollen. So the vegan police may hate me for this one, but sometimes the best way to reduce your allergy symptoms over time is to take a dose of the same pollen that’s causing them…in the form of raw, local honey. While I avoid honey in most packaged products & choose to bake with maple syrup & agave, I will occasionally indulge in a few spoonfuls of raw honey purchased from a bee-friendly small business at my farmer’s market. Just like taking a small dose of poison to build up an immunity, taking a spoonful of local honey helps your system adjust to the pollen in your area. If you’re more vegan than bee-gan, however, you can supposedly get similar results by consuming small doses of the sap from whatever tree’s pollen you’re allergic to.

6. Clean Up Your Diet. Whether it’s to boost your immune system or to avoid the compounded effects of food allergies on your seasonal allergies, eating clean is never a bad idea for allergy sufferers. Many people these days have undiscovered food allergies that could be making their seasonal symptoms worse. Discovering these allergy triggers is one of my favorite things to help my clients with because it not only reduces seasonal suffering, but it can also increase energy, clear acne, & reduce migraines. If you’d like to learn more about discovering your own allergy triggers, sign up for a free health coaching consultation by telling me a little about your health & lifestyle.

Water Week, Day 5: Water Cures

water pills

image via

Yesterday, due to factors outside of the water week project, I was feeling less than perfect. A tiresome morning at work transitioned into a major headache and, eventually, a couch-bound evening.

Thankfully, water does a great job of easing almost any aches and pains. It’s actually my go-to remedy for a headache. Nine times out of ten, the pain behind my eyes is a warning sign that I’m not hydrated enough. This particular time, I knew I was plenty hydrated, but my body still needed a little boost to flush out the sugar & soy from a day of indulging in vegan shakes. A few extra glasses later, I was feeling back to normal.

So the next time you’re faced with a headache or joint pain, reach for the h2o before you reach for the Advil…your body will thank you.

For more information on how water cures, check out this website.

Water Week, Day 3 Recap: Inflammation Therapy

Yesterday, I fell off the wagon.

Not the water week wagon, but the gluten-free wagon. You see, during a lovely morning out with friends I came face to face with this vegan deliciousness at Dollop [the coffee shop formerly known as Kickstand if you’re from Chicago]…

donut w: sprinkles

…how was I supposed to resist?

And while I DID share it with my lovely boyfriend and it WAS amazingly delicious, I immediately regretted my decision when gluten decided to rear it’s ugly head and drop kick me in the stomach.

Thankfully, water is a great remedy for the excess inflammation caused by food sensitivities. So, while I still didn’t feel great for about half an hour, I did recover rather quickly thanks to a few extra glasses of good ole h2o.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that staying well hydrated is a way to cure yourself of any food ailments, but if you find yourself in a tough spot of discomfort after mistakenly [or, in my case, stupidly] indulging, drinking adequate amounts of water is a great way to flush out the things that your system doesn’t like.