Luxuriate

Running after rain

This is one of my favorite words.

Luxuriate means reveling in that which lavishly produces a high degree of pleasure, comfort, satisfaction or contentment.

To revel (another great word) means to take GREAT pleasure or delight in.

Lavishly (and yet another great word) means in GREAT profusion, plenty, extreme abundance.

So, luxuriate means experiencing great pleasure in something that produces a profusion of enjoyment.

This satisfaction can be physical (like something absolutely delicious you eat that takes over your senses), emotional (like finding love or being with a fabulous friend), intellectual (like reading a great book with powerful ideas so well expressed, you swoon over the pages) and spiritual (like those incredible moments where you feel yourself transcend the human condition and experience a spiritual divinity or connection).

Whatever it is, it gives you supreme happiness, utter joy or perfect contentment.

Luxuriate means to really let yourself go, to fully experience with all your senses, no thinking, simply BEING and experiencing with everything you’ve got, total pleasure.

It’s WAY more than noticing or appreciating.  It’s luxuriating.  Reveling lavishly.

Although luxuriate is closely related to the word luxury and people often think of luxuries as sporting expensive price tags, the word luxury can quite simply mean indulgence in pleasure and it’s quite possible to luxuriate in unrestrained pleasures that cost nothing.

For example, I luxuriate in the smell of the trees and flowers after it rains, falling asleep to the pounding surf of the ocean, hiking in the redwoods, riding my bike to work, the fresh fruits and vegetables at my farmer’s market and talking to each of the farmers, sleeping with a cat on the top part of my head, homemade cabbage soup (I have the absolute best recipe), seeing the people I work with smile, kindness in someone’s eyes, the way someone who loves you looks at you, an airport greeting after a long absence, a cup of tea with someone who understands everything about you,  great art, the sound of birds in the morning, watching robins eat the red berries on my trees, reading a really good book, music, most every sunrise, most every sunset, the light right before the sun rises and right after it sets, stars, laughing, wild flowers in the spring, California poppies, seeing the hills turn green with winter rain (much of the year here they’re golden, but the second it rains, they’re a vibrant green), having friends over for dinner, writing and so much more.

Luxuriate originally meant to grow exuberantly.  Now it means to experience joy exuberantly.

Wishing you much in your life to luxuriate in!  And I would love to hear what that is for you!

Love,

Ingrid

 

 

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The history of genius

genius

The word genius is older than Rome.  It was born with the ancients.

They believed that a genius was a spirit, possibly good, possibly bad, that each person has directing the destiny of his life.

This genius spirit arrived at your birth, guided your actions, guarded and protected you, and even was a teacher.

The word hasn’t changed its shape at all in thousands of years.  It came from the same word in Latin, genius, which back then meant a guardian, deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth.

By 1828 in America this outside spirit was completely gone from the word genius.

For them genius was believed not to come from outside of us, but to be a spirit inherent in every person.  It was believed to be a unique mental and intellectual talent or aptitude residing within each of us.

In other words, the people of that time and place believed every man and woman has genius inside.  200 years ago.

Gradually that changed over the years, and genius came to mean uncommon powers of intellect, particularly the power of invention.  This idea now was that it was unusual to be possessed of vigor of mind and superior intellectual faculties, that a person who has these is very, very rare.

That’s what the people of today mean when they use the word genius.  It’s not for everyone.

Having been in the teaching profession for over 30 years, I’m quite certain the people of 1828 were the ones who got it right.  I clearly see genius residing in each person.

magnolia budsI view my job as an educator as an incredible opportunity to help those who cross my path, to help them specifically to bring that genius residing within them out so it has many buds and blossoms like all of the magnolia trees in my neighborhood right now.  Not one blossom, but many.  It is pure ecstasy to see it happen.

We are ALL educators because people are constantly learning from each of us.

May you be surrounded by people who nurture your genius and may you inspire the genius of many others.

By the way, this history of the word came from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary which is available online and in print from Amazon, and also from http://www.etymonline, both a tremendous source of genius-nurturing material.

Love,

Ingrid

genius

The difference between fear and cowardice

lion-2 (2)

There’s a world of difference between fear and cowardice.

Fear is a painful emotion, anxiety or dread caused by the apprehension of impending danger.

Cowardice is the inability to control fear and so shrinking or running away from danger, lacking courage,.

Courage of course is the mental and moral strength enabling one to venture forth, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty firmly and resolutely.

I don’t have much fear anymore, and people who meet me now have a hard time imagining that I ever did.

But fear is actually the reason I now know how to teach others so well.   I had so much of it, I really understand it.

My profession involves a tremendous amount of public speaking.  I was terrified when I first started.  I hated it.  I couldn’t wear silk blouses because my sweat went all the way down to my waist and you can’t hide that in silk.  I hated it.

Everything about running a business terrified me.  I had to “sell” my programs and was terrified of doing sales.  Every sales conversation was torture.

At the end of my first workshops, I was terrified about the feedback I would get.

I was also constantly terrified about money.

But I wasn’t a coward.

I gave talks in the beginning where I thought I was going to pass out from anxiety.

I confronted the feedback at the end of each talk and workshop, some of it horrific, some of it cruel, much of it painfully true.

I balanced my checkbook and figured out what to do when I only had $125 in the bank and $500 office rent was due.  I never borrowed.

I dealt with it when people told me they weren’t interested in my programs in sales conversations.

I ignored the fear.

Yes, I was acutely aware of it, but I didn’t put any attention on it.  I focused on my goal and stayed true.

Doing that for over 30 years made me a great teacher.  I know how to help people through their fears.  I understand their fears, I know how they feel.  I know how to get them through.

It’s very common for people, when they’re working with me in my office, to say, “Wow!  This is really a safe space!”

Yes, it is.

I know how to create one.

May you have the pleasure of finding and creating those safe spaces that enable you to conquer your fears and achieve your goals.

Love,

Ingrid

‘Tis a fierce love

munchkin close up

I was leaving work around 9 pm one night and on my way to the car I heard a howling coming from bushes far away, long painful cries from a large and distraught animal.  I went to investigate and found this fella, at the time small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, loud enough to sound like a wounded lion.

Clearly his mother had abandoned him and he was desperate and, not surprisingly, starving.   I picked him up and took him home, thinking I’d find a new home for him in a couple of days.

munchkin i want to play now enough workHe would have none of it.  From the beginning he was staunchly attached to me.  He sensed whenever I was thinking of giving him away and would come sit in front of me and stare directly into my eyes with a fierce determination I’ve never seen in any animal.  He is the most strong-willed being I have ever met, human or otherwise.  I fell in love and named him Munchkin (little did I know how big he’d get).

A friend of mine who knows such matters told me he is a Norwegian Forest cat.  I looked them up to see what their dispositions are like and every place I looked said they’re very sweet, easy-tempered, mellow cats.

Munchkin never got the memo.  He’s always been fierce.

The Norwegian Forest cat came to America on Viking ships.  This I can believe.  Munchkin is a Viking.  I’m quite sure because he certainly has Viking manners.

When he wants something he just takes it and if he can’t have it, he bellows, swats and growls like a Viking chieftain.

munchkin lion king

Just to give you an example, my sister was here wrapping presents last month for the holidays.  Munchkin was lying on a bag of gift bows.  When she got to the point of needing a bow she tugged at the bag indicating he should get up.  He glared and yelled at her.  So she picked him up and moved him off of the bag.  She secured a bow on top of the present she was wrapping.  While maintaining fixed eye contact with her, Munchkin took his right paw and whacked the bow hard enough to send it flying across the room. Then, maintaining very defiant eye contact, he pointedly sat back down on the bag.

He’s a very deliberate cat.

In the beginning I didn’t see how we could possibly co-exist.  He played rough with the other cats and took flying leaps, landing on everyone who came to visit me, shocking the heck out of them (he’d land on your thigh and hang on by his nails).  He’d fall asleep with his face on my hand while I was working on my laptop and then attack me if I moved it.  I have scars.  He yelled at me if I was even a little late coming home.  He ripped apart furniture if I was working and he wanted to play.  He was a little barbarian.

Yet fiercely loyal and completely attached.  Whatever room I’m in, he’s in it too.    A passionate presence. munchkin prince

After 14 years of living with me, I’ve taught him how the feminine of my species likes to be treated.  It took a bit of explaining.

munchkin and jazz sleepingIt’s amazing how telepathic he is and how sensitive he is.  He’ll always be a Viking (and I’ve grown to love that), but he’s now also a sweetheart.  He now treats me with kindness, respect and gentleness. He’s sweet and loving with the other cats.   He trills rather than screeches when he wants something.  He lets me move my arm when he’s sleeping with his head on it while I’m working.  He’s always curled up either near or on me.  He loves to play.

munchkin pulling norma's pants downHe still tries to pull everyone’s pants down (he’s often successful but I’m not going to show you pictures). When he’s very happy, he still tries to bite me and has drawn blood if I didn’t catch it in time, but now I can usually see it coming and I can tell from the look in his eye it’s a pure expression of love.

‘Tis a fierce love we have.

Recently he developed a lump on his left side.  I took him to the vet last week.  He said it’s malignant, aggressive and inoperable.  I can’t believe how fast it’s growing.

Ever since Munchkin developed the lump, he started sleeping on my head at night.  At first he would get on top of the pillow, on top of my head, and gradually take over the entire pillow, moving my head off completely.  After a couple mornings of waking up with my head at a right angle and the stiffest neck imaginable, I put an identical pillow for him next to mine and got him to lay down on it.  Soon as I fell asleep, he’d move over to my pillow and move my head off.  I would move over to the other pillow and after I fell asleep, he’d move over there too.

So I explained to him that I was happy to share a pillow with him but that he has to share it, he can’t take all of it.  So now he makes a “C” around my head, his front paws by one ear, his body wrapped around my head and his back paws by my other ear.  A friend of mine calls it a cat halo.  He just wants to stay connected as closely and with as much physical contact as possible.

So it is with us.

munchkin with carrotThe vet’s prescription is to spoil him rotten.  So I went to the pet store and splurged on $76 worth of cat toys.  Anyone who has pets knows it takes a lot to spend that much on cat toys, you have to buy a lot of stuff.  He is especially happy with a large carrot filled with catnip.

I have three cats and you can’t spoil one without spoiling the others, so they’re all in cat play time heaven.  Munchkin can’t play that long now, but he does enjoy the minutes he can and I can see he’s very proud of it.

Munchkin and I have a world of wordless communication.

Fierce.  Fierce love, fierce loyalty, a fierce intention.

I have no doubt it is immortal.

May you too have someone in your life who loves you so fiercely.

Love,

Ingrid and Munchkin

munchkin close up

My mitochondria are rejoicing

mitochondria

I’ve had so many people ask me about this, I decided to write it down …

Last week someone I really admire posted on Facebook he had become a vegan and people around him made very negative comments.  He noted that nutrition is a very touchy subject.  My nutritionist says it’s the touchiest of them all, even touchier than sex, religion or politics, and I agree with both of them.

It’s a very personal choice what goes into our mouth.

I became vegan nine years ago. There are many kinds of vegans. I follow a program called “high nutrient density”, it’s a very specific type of vegan and there aren’t many of us.

Nine years ago one of my best friends, after a long period of severely declining health, was clearly dying.  It was ripping my heart out.  Then out of the blue she suddenly experienced a very rapid resurgence and soon was bursting with vigorous health.

She lived 3,000 miles away from me and I was doing everything I could to be close to her. When her health turned around and I could trust it was really stable, I asked her how this miracle had come about.  She said she read two books and worked with a nutritionist to apply what these books recommended.  The change was immediate and dramatic. She came off all her medications and regained her health.  And even her youthfulness and vigor.

I sobbed with relief for a solid 30 minutes.

I bought the books for no other reason than I believed reading them would bring me closer to her.  I had no health issues and thought I was eating very healthy already (primarily chicken, fish, salad and vegetables).

I found the first book, The China Study  by T. Colin Campbell, eye-opening, interesting and compelling.  I found the 2nd one, Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, even more so.

On a spontaneous impulse I decided to try the Eat to Live program for one day.  My only reason was to bring my friend closer by sharing the same experience she was having, 3000 miles away.

After the first day, I surprised myself by how good I was feeling.  So I decided to do it for a second day.  I felt even better.  I decided to quit when I stopped feeling so fantastic.  It turned into a third day, then a fourth, then a fourteenth…

My friends began to ask me, “So are you vegan now?”  I said, “No, I’m sure that I’ll soon crave a cheeseburger and I’ll go back to the way I was eating.”

Nine years later…

I’m a big fan of understanding the precise definition of words. Back then when I read that this program was a high nutrient density program, I realized I didn’t know what the word nutrient meant.  If I was going to consume nutrients in high density, I certainly wanted to know what a nutrient was.

The word nutrient means any substance that, when taken in, serves to enable an organism to survive because it nourishes, promotes growth, replaces loss and provides energy.

That sounded very cool.

Then I realized I didn’t really know what it meant to nourish the body.  I thought food in general nourished and had the vague idea that broccoli was more nourishing than french fries.  But my intelligence on the subject was rather limited.

Everyone I know who has ever been on a nutrition program (and I know thousands!) has talked about fats, proteins and carbs.  I learned that these are called macronutrients. Macro means large and these are things you need in large quantities.  But not all proteins are alike, not all carbs are alike, and certainly not all fats are alike.  So focusing on macronutrients alone isn’t a guarantee of nourishing the body.

I learned that micronutrients are the keys to nourishing the body and, even more importantly, were responsible for the incredibly great feeling I was starting to get used to.

Micro means very small.  Micronutrient means very, very tiny essential nutrients that bodies require in small amounts and which are vital to growth, energy, disease prevention, repair, healing and well being.

Micronutrients are basically vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (phyto means comes from plants) and antioxidents.   Just to give you an idea of quantity, scientists have discovered over 10,000 different phytonutrients that are really good for the human body.   If you want to get more technical about what each of these categories mean (I discovered I knew nothing about them and they were of great interest to me), I recommend reading Eat to Live (link above) where they’re explained really well.

And then I got interested in why micronutrients nourish the body and discovered mitochondria.

I think that back in my school days I had several biology professors who talked about mitochondria in severely boring lectures where I dedicated myself to not paying attention, so all I knew was that they were part of a cell.  And, of course we all know our bodies are made up of cells.  My knowledge ended there.

Now that I have learned what they truly are, I have fallen in love with my mitochondria. They are the power generators of the cell.  They convert oxygen and nutrients into ATP, which is the chemical energy that powers all of the cell’s activities.  Just like your car runs on gas (or electricity), your cells run on ATP.

Mitochondria require both oxygen and nutrients to make ATP.  They need lots of each.

Simply put, your mitochondria produce your physical energy.  In addition, they regulate cell growth, health and death.  They also make the iron compound that allows your red blood cells to transport oxygen to the rest of your body.  They do a million other complex and vital functions.

Mitochondria are commonly called the powerhouses of the cell.

They take in nutrients, break them down, and create energy rich molecules for the cell.

They can’t function without nutrients.  With the right nutrients, they are powerful.  Without them, they simply can’t function.  And get this – loss of function in the mitochondria speeds aging, disease and death.  Mitochondrial dysfunction has been linked to an array of degenerative illnesses, ranging from diabetes and neurological disorders to heart failure.

The cells are nothing without mitochondria, just like a car with no gas can’t do anything.  These little buggers are really important.   And nutrients are really important to them.

So I learned what they like to eat, what they consider a nutrient.  It’s very different from what most restaurant menus present.

They LOVE micronutrients. They like them in high-volume and high variety. Mitochondria ADORE high nutrient density.

So, I made a HUGE mental shift.  Instead of worry about my proteins, carbs and fats, I started counting my micronutrients.  Yes, counting.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman did the painstaking research to measure and rate the nutrient density (quantity of micronutrients) of a variety of foods and came up with an extremely useful scoring system: Food Nutrient Density Scoring System

His extremely thorough research is one of the many reasons I like his Eat to Live program best.

It turns out that blueberries have bazillions of micronutrients, but kale has bazillions of completely DIFFERENT ones.  Each different super food has bazillions of VERY different micronutrients.  Remember I said mitochondria LOVE variety, so you can’t get all your micronutrients from 3-4 foods and expect to feel fabulous.

I started loading up on a WIDE variety of foods that are the most micronutrient dense and flooded my mitochondria with micronutrients.

Not only did I suddenly feel amazing, I had no craving whatsoever for junk food or unhealthy sweets.  This is a HUGE change for me.  While I was predominantly eating healthy meals, I also adored cheese and cheeseburgers and was also well known to periodically sit down someplace (like at Olga’s diner near where I grew up and my friends from Medford Lakes know what I’m talking about here) and had no trouble putting away a large cheeseburger, a giant plate of cheese fries followed by a massive piece of homemade cheesecake for dessert.  Suddenly I had no desire to do that.  It almost felt weird.

Just to give you an example of what I mean by flooding my mitochondria with nutrients, for breakfast I get more micronutrients than I used to get in a week. It’s winter now so I start with fresh pomegranate, grapefruit and persimmon.  I have a gorgeous cold press juicer and make a very potent juice with beets, cabbage, bok choy, carrots, celery and kale. I use that juice as the liquid base in a green smoothie I make by adding frozen blueberries, strawberries, one entire bunch of kale, half a bunch of collard greens, fresh ginger and chia or flax seeds. Everything is organic.  Most is from the farmer’s market.  The quantity of micronutrients is off the charts.  All that is breakfast.

My friend who volunteers at the Oakland zoo said my refrigerator looks exactly like the chimpanzee refrigerator. It turns out their DNA is similar to humans, so I guess I’m not surprised.  I love bananas too, even if they’re not so nutrient dense.

Most people see what I eat and their first comment is, “I could never eat that way.”  I think that’s fine.  As I said before, it’s a personal decision what goes into your mouth.  I have better things to do than debate this point.

But I will say most people are surprised when they have dinner at my house.  I’m not going to go into all my meals, but recently I had good friends over who brought chicken over for dinner thinking I would provide the “sides”.  They ended up forgetting the chicken, having 2nds and 3rds of what I cooked, and completely cleaning their plates.  I have amazingly good recipes (thanks to my fabulous nutritionist who has helped me with all my questions (Arnell at ArtOfEating@hotmail.com) and some recipe books)

The most common comment I hear when I have people over is, “Well if it tastes like this, I actually could eat it every day.”

But here’s the deal, I wish you could feel how I feel.  I can actually perceive every cell in my body rejoicing. I can feel it.  I have so much energy.  I often work with people 30 years younger than me and find I have more energy than they do.  I have energy throughout the entire day until I go to sleep at night.  It’s a calm energy, not a hyped-up caffeinated kind.  I don’t have energy slumps.  My mind feels incredibly alert and my mood is rather joyful.  When I sit down to relax in the evenings, my body hums happily and peacefully.  I sleep incredibly well.  I wake up refreshed and feeling light, ready for a morning run and Pilates.

Scientists estimate the average human body has 37 trillion cells and many of them have 1,000-2,000 mitochondria EACH.  It staggers the mind. That’s A LOT of mitochondria!  When every single one of them are happy, you can really feel it!

I’m not writing this because I think you should read it and immediately start this program.  I just think that in order to understand what nutritious really means, the world should know what a nutrient is.  And I think it’s time we discovered our mitochondria. They don’t really tell you what you need to know in biology classes.

Mitochondria are fabulous.  And when they all do the happy dance, it’s out of this world.

Being nourished physically is very important. Being nourished spiritually, emotionally and intellectually is also important.  These four are all vital to a happy and healthy life that’s brimming full with pleasure.

May you be nourished in all of them.

Wishing you vibrant health and happiness in all aspects of your life!

Love,

Ingrid

 

The return of the sun

The word solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which meant point at which the sun seems to stand still.

Our winter solstice just happened on December 21st.  Our summer one will arrive June 21st.

The solstice this past week marked the longest night of the year, the shortest day.

For me, all the dark lends itself to reflection, whereas the long summer days lend themselves to action.

Right now we’re in the midst of what I call the Sacred In-Between Week.  The year, for all practical purposes is over, the new one has yet to start.  We’re in the enchanted middle between ending and beginning.

It is a moment in time where the sun stands still.

A sacred moment.  I will embrace it as a perfect one to reflect on the past and forge my future.   A contemplative week.  Possibly it is also so for you.

Right now 2019 is but a canvas waiting for the paintbrush of  your and my imagination

This week I will unplug from the “real” universe, and everyone else’s universe, taking a deep dive to wander through my own universe.  A universe where I dream expansively and create reality as I wish.  A reality of beauty, kindness, spirituality, love, goodness.

From this universe I shape my next year and beyond.  I emerge exhilarated, ready to start anew, eager to create a new year full of things never before seen.

Our winter solstice has been honored for thousands of years, going back even before Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun god of the Syrians.   Humanity’s magical celebration of the return of the sun.

May you look kindly on your past and may your happiness and joy lengthen with each new lengthening day.

Happy new year!

Love,

Ingrid

Gudenas Sister Week

Justine Zumba

The woman in the bluish top with her hands over her head is my big sister Justine in her Zumba class.  You can tell right away she’s unusual because most 71-year-old women don’t look this physically fit, youthful.  I’m ridiculously proud of her.  She’s always set amazingly high standards, an incredible example in many facets of life that inspire me.

She’s been a victorious trial attorney with extensive experience in civil rights litigation. Now she’s a full-time writer, extraordinarily creative, a true artist.  She lives life on her terms.

For most of the year we’re separated by 3,000 miles as she lives in Philadelphia. This is the time we take turns visiting each other to pack a year of sisterhood into one week.

She arrives on Monday with her delightful 18-year-old son, Gabriel.

Gabriel getting diploma 2015_6

We’ll go running every morning.

Village Run #3

Monday night we’ll have a traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve dinner.

Kucios-Table

Tuesday we’ll do our usual Christmas tradition of exploring lavishly decorated lobbies of San Francisco’s most elegant grand hotels.

Kucios Fairmont Hotel

We’ll top that off with a madcap drive up and down the steep San Francisco hills, a drive Gabriel loves.

kucios Nob Hill 2

And then a movie.

Wednesday we’ll drive down the California coast to Big Sur.

Kucios Big Sur

Thursday we’ll hike across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Kucios Golden Gate Bridge

Friday we’ll drive up to Calistoga in the wine country for a spa experience, surrendering to the natural geyser-produced hot springs mineral waters and a fabulous massage.

Kucios Calistoga spa

Saturday shopping (“Here, try this on, come on, just try it.  See!  It does look good on you!”).

Kucios Shopping

Kucios teaInterspersed will be intense conversations over hot tea.  It’s not unusual for us to stay up till 4 AM talking.  About anything and everything.  Important mixed with trivial, lots of girl stuff.  We’ll relive memories, we’ll talk about our parents, the aunt we painfully miss.  We’ll laugh much.  We’ll share everything we’ve learned over the last year.  We’ll explore our goals for next year, our dreams.  We’ll inspire each other.  We’ll laugh even more.

She’ll boss me around.  I’ll boss her around.  We’ll boss Gabriel around and he’ll boss us around.  We have a bossy family.  That laughs a lot.

A sister like no other.  A nephew like no other.  A week like no other.

Justine Easter 2015 - 2 1

May you also have a joy-filled holiday week like no other.

Love, Ingrid