Gratitude - What does it mean to you?

Bodhi Tree - Tuesday, November 05, 2013

By Evan Evans - Yogi, dentist etc...

Perhaps you’ve heard the statement ‘Gratitude is the open door to abundance’.  I definitely have and others like it, but what does this mean?  

Basically, people who practice gratitude have trained themselves to become aware of the abundance of wonderful things in their life that they can be grateful for.  The more they do this the more they enjoy life, as they’re always looking at the good that is ever present around them.  The more they enjoy the successes in their life, the more successes they seem to have. 

Grateful people express their thanks and appreciation to others in a heartfelt way, not just to be polite.  Grateful people report fewer symptoms of discomfort and spend more time exercising.  And the more a person is inclined towards gratitude, the less lonely, stressed, anxious and depressed they will be.  If you possess a high level of gratitude, you often feel an emotional sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life itself. 

By being grateful, what you are doing is ‘programming your brain’ to view your day more positively.  You are directing mental focus on what worked well, and ignoring what didn't.  Essentially you are actively creating your life, by choosing what you are focusing your energy on.  Cool, huh?

Cool indeed you say, but is it really possible to express gratitude when you’re not feeling you have anything to be grateful for?  And how do you increase your feelings of gratitude when nothing seems to be going right, or life presents great challenges and adversity?   Yes and simple, respectively.  

The answer to both questions is that to ensure it’s working when we really need it, we constantly need to practice gratitude, in good times and bad.  It may be human nature to notice all that is wrong or that we lack, but if we give ourselves the chance on a regular basis to notice all of life’s gifts and blessings, we can increase our sense of well-being, and create hope and optimism for the future—no matter what is going on.

With time and steady practice, your ability to attract success and successful people into your life will grow.  Before you know, you’ll be basking in the abundance you’ve always wanted (that was always there waiting for you to notice ;-)

So, here’s your homework:

  1. Start a journal (or practice) of listing at least three things that happened during your day that you are grateful for.  Reflect on each item and just why you are grateful.  Best time is before bed, to clear the mind and generate good feelings for a good sleep.
  2. Make an effort to truly give a heartfelt thank you to people when you thank them during your day – and do this often.  Look them in the eye and feel the gratitude that you are generating and transmitting to them.  Smile.
  3. From time to time, make a special effort to write a thank you letter or personally thank someone in a special way for making your life better.  Enjoy the feeling it cultivates in you and them before, during and after!
  4. Pass it on.  Share with others what you are doing in terms of your gratitude practice and why.  The information and guidance you pass on may change the life of even one person or many, and all because you took the time to care.  You will be remembered fondly, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Since practicing gratitude regularly myself, I’m convinced that it works so well that it may truly be the key to lifelong success on all levels.  So, now that you know just how powerful this attitude is, what are you grateful for?

The Attitude of Gratitude

Bodhi Tree - Tuesday, November 05, 2013

by Anton Edwards - BYC Adjuster, yogi and life enthusiast

"The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga." - Yogi Bhajan

Often I like to pause and reflect on what I am grateful for in life and seek inspiration from the small moments and amazing people I have met along life's winding path. Here are some of those moments of grateful reflection. 

That moments you meet new friends, the re-connection with old friends, observing old patterns, the auspiciousness of the practice, the connection to the communal energy of yoga, of the room, the sweat, the tears, the old and young who practice, the ones who have passed the ones to come. The moment of grounding before you step into a room to practice, to teach, to touch. The intricacy and hippocracys of being human and the similarity between all of us. What others do that really push your buttons and catching yourself doing exactly that to someone else. The moments that hurt, the moments that heal. The feelings and experiences that bring you into presence and the thoughts that draw you away. The moment of realization when you see that as mysterious and mischievous as the universe can be it always unfolds in the most beautiful of ways when you let go and stop trying to control. The ebb and flow of it all, the pure and perfect balance when consciousness is viewed as a whole, the contrast, light and dark, good and bad hot and cold. The moments you stick out like a sore thumb, the moments you fit in. The moments you want to disappear into the crowd and the moments you want to scream just to be heard. That drop of sweat the is just begging to be wiped, the willpower to ignore that and the seven other itches that decide that right just then its their time to shine. Music, moments shared, smiling at strangers, the start of something new, the end of something dear. Love of every sort, the kind that bubbles up from the heart and soul and chokes the back of your throat. 

The human condition and experience as a whole. 

Every day I open my eyes, Place both feet on the ground and express my gratitude to the universe for being me, being here, now, and all the privilege that brings into my life. It can be so easy sometimes to become negative about certain situations in life but by simply allowing yourself to instead express gratitude for the things, opportunities, people, experiences, you have you rip yourself right out of that thought pattern and in those moments I can't help but smile. 

Life Knowledge - Ayurveda #5

Bodhi Tree - Friday, April 05, 2013

by Caryn Kilback

Nourish Yourself, Body, Mind, and Soul

April showers bring May flowers. This popular adage is a perfect reflection of how our bodies attune to and mimic nature, according to Ayurveda. The prelude leading up to spring is a naturally wet season. The snow is slowly melting, sap begins to flow and move inside the vasculature of trees, and there seems to be a general lightness as everything that was stuck, frozen, or in hibernation over the winter starts to unearth itself.  This too is also happening within our own physiology as everything internally starts to soften with the warmth of the changing seasons flooding our physical bodies with excess mucus, phlegm and water retention, but can also be felt emotionally and mentally with undigested thoughts or feelings and stuck mental patterns that keep us bogged down. In Ayurveda, this watery and dense earth like elements are represented by kapha, one of the three bodily humors called doshas (vata, pitta, kapha).  

Physiologically the body is made up of predominantly water and then mass, or water and earth; therefore, the body needs not only pure water for cellular nourishment, but also other things like mucus and phlegm to play a vital role in the protection of our tissues and organs, as well as lubrication for joints. When kapha becomes out of balance, it’s like an internal dam has been opened and all of that excess water can turn to mud and weight us down. This mud creates more mass in the body and can be experienced as a feeling of heaviness or lethargy, stickiness, fatigue, and an emotional dullness. 

To help guard against the spring propensity for kapha overload and prepare for the renewal this season brings, it is important to nourish yourself appropriately, body, mind, and spirit to help support internal growing and desire for change with the changing of the seasons. Through any periods of growth, whether it’s structural growth or emotional spiritual growth, the body needs adequate nourishment to support that time of rebirth. Think stimulation, activation, and invigoration to not only stoke our internal digestive fires, but also detoxify both body and mind out of any stagnant patterns. Favor bitter, astringent, and pungent foods such as leafy greens, barley and grapefruit, sprouts, quinoa and cruciferous veg, and spices like garlic, cayenne and ginger while decreasing cold or iced food and drink, fried and oily foods, dairy and meat. 

To help support the body clear out excess and create space for prana to move in and restore, add in strong standing poses to your regular asana practice. The pelvis and legs are the densest part of the body and are prone to hang onto excess weight and water retention. Poses such as utkatasana, malasana, and surya namaskar series all help increase heat and circulation by pumping prana throughout the body, which in turn, aids not only in physical digestion, but also in the digestion of thoughts and emotions. Be sure to drink lots of water to help flush everything out. 

Try this recipe for a nourishing spring meal to get things moving. Be sure to share with friends and family for not only the delicious food, but also for emotional and spiritual nourishment. 

Lentil Dahl Makes 2-4 servings

1 cup Lentils
1/2 cup Onion, chopped
1-2 clove Garlic (or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder), minced
1-2 teaspoons Ghee (alternatively: coconut, safflower or olive oil)
1 scant teaspoon Garam Masala (or 1 pinch each: turmeric, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, cumin and/or clove)
1 Carrot, quartered and chopped
1 stalk Celery, cut into small pieces
1 cup Kale, stalks removed, leaves torn into small bits
2 cups Vegetable Broth
Fresh cilantro for garnish

Rinse lentils and drain. Melt ghee over medium heat. Sprinkle in spices and sauté one minute. Add onion and cook a few minutes until it softens. Stir in lentils until thoroughly coated. Add carrot, celery, kale and cook a moment. Turn heat to high and add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat to low.
Serve over a bed of rice, quinoa, or barley

Life Knowledge... Ayurveda #4

Bodhi Tree - Friday, March 01, 2013

by Caryn Kilback

The many components of Ayurvedic practices help us understand the body, mind and spirit in relation to the world at large in order for us to maintain an optimum level of well-being. One of the most powerful ways in self-understanding that is at the forefront in paving the way for whole body wellness is walking into and through the doorway of the mind, or manas

In order for us to be able to understand some of the inner workings of the mind, we must also examine the word ‘belief’ in relation to the mind. Webster’s dictionary defines the word belief as a “conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon, especially when based on examination.” Yoga, being one of the sister sciences to Ayurveda, provides us with a GPS system that help us navigate through the inner terrain we call self; therefore, one of the most important aspects of yoga sadhana, or spiritual practice, is gaining access to the sheath of the mind body. Because the mind serves as a bridge between our senses and our actions, it pervades our entire being and directs all our thinking, feeling, pain, pleasure, emotion and higher more intuitive states, encoding a ‘belief pattern’ that becomes intimately connected to our experiences and impressions the mind takes in. Because of this, the mind exerts the deepest influence on the body and is a powerful tool that can affect wellbeing. Advaita Vedanta, the school of Hindu Philosophy, says that “man’s bondage is caused by the mind, as well as his liberation.” In other words, we have the ability to choose what we hold as personal truths or beliefs. As our personal sadhana begins to mature and deepen, we can begin to hone in the mind with careful discipline and discernment in order to examine what we believe to be true of our thoughts, feelings and actions and whether or not it is holding weight over that which is actually truth. This can be both very frightening and empowering because we are essentially responsible for the way in which we choose to perceive reality and thought pattern and choose to react in situations based on emotion without a clear sense of understanding. This offers a sure sense of confidence because we are now placing ourselves in the seat of the observer where the higher faculties of mind, or Wisdom, can take over and the knower and the known are one.

Swallow. Exhale. Breathe! The most important aspect with self-reflective examination is to go slow, be ever so loving and gentle and approach it from a place of observation and non-judgment. You are simply learning something deeper about self. Keep a journal close by to record anything that might come up or something you want to explore deeper: 

During awareness practices such as yoga, meditation, martial arts, dance, walking in nature, and any other practice that allows you to connect with yourself, begin to pay attention and observe when any feelings of agitation or mental chatter begin to arise, as well as feelings of pleasure. As long as you are not in any place where there is a risk of injury, work towards disciplining the mind and sit in the experience a little bit longer for questioning and reflection. The mind can then allow for navigation in that we perceive reality and felt experience through attraction versus aversion. Journal about your experience, be a curious observer and most of all, be kind to yourself.

Do you always believe your own thoughts? Does it matter if the thought is life affirming or not?

Life Knowledge - Ayurveda #3

Bodhi Tree - Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dina ChariyaA Daily Routine for the Body, Mind, and Soul

By Caryn Kilback - Ayurvedic Marmatherapist

The skin is the largest organ in the body and is not merely a defence barrier, but also an important organ in elimination and absorption. Therefore, the skin is directly correlated with the health of the entire digestive system and colon. When excretion becomes inefficient from the other channels in the body, toxins accumulate and become excess in the body. Having nowhere else to go, toxins end up being excreted out via the skin. One of the ways to keep that skin glowing radiantly is by ensuring the health of what is called the rasa dhatu, or the fluid tissue of the body. Rasa dhatu can be thought of signifying that of “romantic love,” because fluid is nourishment to all systems in the body, both on a cellular level and a functional level. Just like when you fall in love, a part of self is being nourished that wasn’t fully being nourished before. The fluid tissue does the same for the body, therefore, it is romantic love in the sense that it is like a subtle dance between you and that what nourishes.  

Try adding in a daily dose of skin brushing followed by an abyangha oil massage to your daily routine and love the skin you’re in, both literally and figuratively.  

  • To start, purchase a natural bristle brush from any local health food store. 
  • Start at the extremities of the body working your way towards the heart brushing the skin gently in circular motions, improving overall circulation of blood and lymph, and help shed excess skin cells for renewal. 
  • Next, liberally apply and massage in warm oil such as sesame, sweet almond, olive, or apricot oil to the skin using long strokes. 
  • Finish with a warm shower or bath, re-applying small amounts afterwards if the skin needs extra nourishment. Abyangha oil massage helps keep the skin soft and supple and is perfect for nourishing dry, chapped skin that is prominent in most winter months, particularly Calgary’s cold and dry climate. 
  • Lastly, touch is very therapeutic  and grounding by helping to aid in the relaxation of tense muscles and sinews, increases circulation, and eases the mental emotional faculties of mind; the perfect daily dose of love.   

Wanting more for your skin?  Here’s some food for thought: 

  • Sip on nettle tea to help purify the blood and add in a good quality EFA 3.6.9 supplement (Essential Fatty Acids), following the recommended daily allowance (R.D.A.) on the bottle. 
  • This will help nourish and lubricate the system internally as well as help improve sluggish bowel functioning. 
  • Be sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate with pure h2O!

Life Knowledge - Ayurveda #2

Bodhi Tree - Monday, December 31, 2012

Ayurveda and Cleansing 

by Caryn Kilback - Ayurvedic Marmatherapist

Ayurveda provides a number of approaches to healing the body through various cleansing practices, and with the birth of a new year upon us, there is no better time than the present to spend some much needed TLC on the self to help restore and rejuvenate the body after the general busyness and indulgences of the holiday season.Cleansing not only helps rejuvenate the system by eliminating built up toxins (ama) in the physical body allowing for improved organ functioning, nutrient absorption, and cellular energy; cleansing also removes built up or stuck ama in the mental, emotional and pranic bodies.

Follow this gentle cleansing protocol to help re-build and strengthen tissues, increase vitality, and clear imbalances in the mental, emotional, physical, and pranic bodies [adapted from ‘Fundamentals of Ayurvedic Marmatherapy Vol II’ by Nikki Manzie]:

Week 1:

Reduce and then eliminate processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, pop and sweets (except for pure raw honey, maple syrup and molasses).

Week 2:

Reduce and then eliminate milk, yogurt and cheese (dairy), as well as meat. (Ghee or clarified butter permitted) 

  • Add in, warm spicy tea upon rising using fresh ginger and cinnamon, as well as warm lemon water, and drink several cups throughout the day
  •  Eat several servings of fruit, but choose only 1 variety of fruit (i.e. apples or pears), gently warmed or cooked, adding in 2-3 spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, all-spice
  • Eat 3-5 small meals a day using simplified food combinations adding in spices to help increase agni or digestive fire
  • Eat seasonal, local, organic, and homemade as much as possible. Use your hands to prepare your food, create a relaxed and joyful environment, give thanks, and share your food with loved ones.

Week 3:

Follow the same protocol as week 2 with the herbal teas, lemon water, and several fruit servings choosing one variety; however, meals are replaced with Kitchari for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (See below for Kitchari recipe).

Week 4: 

Same as week 2.  The fourth week is very important; as this is the time the medicine of this cleanse really starts.

Week 5:

Maintain your new eating habits as much as possible while slowly adding in and incorporating your regular diet.


adapted from “Enlightened Eating” by Caroline Marie Dupont

1 c. brown long grain or basmati rice (soaked 8 hours) 

1/2c. whole mung beans (soaked 8 hours) 

2 Tbsp. ghee or coconut oil 

1 lg. onion sliced fine 

1 garlic clove, minced 

2 tsp. ginger, grated or minced 

1/4 tsp. ground cloves 

1/2 tsp. turmeric 

3/4 tsp. cinnamon 

1/2 tsp. cardamom handful cilantro, chopped 

7 or 8 mint leaves, chopped 2 tomatoes, diced 

3 c. water 

1-2 tsp. sea salt, to taste 

2 c. chopped cauliflower (and/or other vegetables like green beans or potatoes)


1. Soak brown rice and mung beans together for about 8 hours, drain and rinse.

2. In a large pot, heat ghee or coconut oil and fry onions, garlic, ginger and spices gently for about 7 minutes

3. Add cilantro, mint and tomatoes, stirring for a few minutes

4. Add drained rice, mung beans, water and salt. Cook on medium low heat for 40 minutes

5. Add cauliflower and other vegetables if desired and simmer for 8-10 more minutes until vegetables are tender and rice is quite soft, adding more water as necessary.

Serves 6

Life Knowledge - Ayurveda

Bodhi Tree - Friday, December 21, 2012

Many of us in the yogic world are familiar with the term Ayurveda, while many others respond with a blank stare. Although becoming more common place, Ayurveda is still very much an elusive concept and healing art to the Western world. Ayurveda can be defined as a system, which uses the inherent principles of nature, to help maintain health in a person by keeping the individual’s body, mind and spirit in perfect equilibrium with nature.

Ayurveda is the ancient healing medicinal system used in India, and dates back as early as 300A.D. It’s goal is to aid in the treatment and prevention of dis-ease by bringing the body back into its own natural state of homeostatic equilibrium.

Ayurveda teaches that we are a microcosm. A tiny universe exists within the self that not only mimics the world at large, but also interfaces with the external world around us. This healing system combines lifestyle with nutrition to create a holistic model of health by examining how the many different qualities of relationship play out as internal forces within the body or external forces from the environment. 

Practice listening to the body and how it interacts while implementing these few Ayurvedic rituals into your daily lifestyle regime:

1. Upon rising, start your day with a warm glass of purified water with fresh lemon. This will help activate digestive fire, also known as agni, and get peristalsis moving in the digestive tract. The lemon is rich in natural vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes that will help cleanse the liver and pull toxins, or ama, out of the gastrointestinal tract.

2. Invest in a tongue scraper (or a metal spoon). Have you ever looked at your tongue in the morning? Most often there will be a white, even yellowish coating that resides along the middle towards the back of the tongue. This is built up ama or toxins that have accumulated in the gastrointestinal tract overnight. By scraping the tongue back to front 7-14 times, this will help dislodge unwanted ama while stimulating the taste buds to prepare for your morning meal.

3. Embrace the cold! There is no better way to enliven the system up than by splashing the face with cold water roughly 7 times in the morning. In addition, you can also bathe the eyes with cold water while blinking the eyes open and closed, moving them from side to side and up and down. The body becomes incredibly dehydrated overnight and bathing the eyes and face with cold water helps rehydrate the skin while the cold stimulates the optic nerve in the eye and sensory nerves in the face.

By Caryn Kilback - Ayurvedic Marmatherapist

Om Cooking 22 - Basil Cashew Pesto

Bodhi Tree - Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This month’s article is a little bittersweet for me as it’s my last one. I’m off to Vancouver to start my diploma in Holistic Nutrition in September and with that a whole host of other new adventures!

I’ll leave you with one of my all-time favourite recipes, which in its original form, takes full advantage of one of the best summer ingredients at the Farmers’ market, basil. If you’d like to experiment a little you can use any seasonal leafy green that’s available, switch up the nuts with seeds and go cheese-free. Pesto is great when sautéed with kale, Swiss chard or broccoli. Also use it tossed with pasta, topping your morning egg scramble or as a sandwich spread. The possibilities are endless!

Happy Cooking!
Yoga teacher & kitchen advocate
Find this recipe and more at

Basil, Cashew and Lemon Pesto

2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup cashews
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
2/3 cup olive oil (add a little more or less, depending on the consistency you’re going for)
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except olive oil and pulse until smooth. With the machine on, drizzle in olive oil until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Divide into 250 ml containers and freeze for up to 3 months or refrigerate for up to 7 days.

Pine nuts are typical in a classic pesto, but I like to mix it up with any type of nuts I have on hand.
Arugula, spinach, cilantro, parsley, canned artichokes or any other greens can be substituted for basil.
Omit the Parmesan for a vegan version.

Om Cooking 21 - Homemade Chai

Bodhi Tree - Thursday, June 28, 2012

It seems this Summer is off to a much wetter and cooler start than usual in Calgary. It seems a bit odd to be thinking of ways to keep warm, but alas, that’s what I’m doing! If you are too, here’s a little something (besides hot yoga!) to do just that. It also aids digestion (fennel and ginger) and maintains balance of the doshas.

Happy Cooking!

Yoga teacher & kitchen advocate
Find this recipe and more at

Homemade Chai Concentrate

2 Litres water
15 black peppercorns
15 whole cardamom pods
6” fresh ginger, sliced
5 whole cloves
5 whole allspice
5 cinnamon sticks
3 Tbsps fennel seeds
3 whole star anise
3 Tbsps black or rooibos tea, heaping

Heat water in a large pot until boiling. Add all spices and simmer for 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how strong you like your chai. Turn off heat and add tea, letting steep about 10 minutes. Strain and serve with cream, milk, almond milk, soy or any other milk preference, and honey. Store in mason jars in the fridge for homemade chai at any time!


Bodhi Tree - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A split second is all it takes to change one’s life forever. While racing in the World Championships a few years ago, I collided with another athlete. As wheels clicked and bodies crashed, I was helplessly airborne before slamming headfirst into pavement. The impact fractured my skull.

At the time, I didn’t realize the implications this event would have on my life, nor the challenges that would follow. In hindsight this accident, quite literally, knocked some sense into me. Until that day, I’d never stopped to consider the wonder of moving my body, the blessing of each breath, or even appreciated being alive.  Since then however, my ability to move is something I’ll never forget, nor cease to give thanks for.

Life with an acquired brain injury is both a blessing and a curse. Readily concussed, I routinely struggle with simple tasks. I’m a master of compensation. I look at my hands to tell left from right, and carry a journal like a pensive. With my brain on paper, I scribble names and numbers, dates and times. Frustratingly, when I become overtired or stressed, my brain stops working. This never ceases to upset me. So too does it teach me patience. Each time this occurs my only option is to rest until the fog lifts and I can think again. Enforced naps at age 29 are no more fun than they were at age 3...but at least now I can say “I am grateful.”

By definition, gratitude is a noun. It is a state of thankfulness. There is much in my life that I honour. But in the years since that fateful injury, it has come to mean far more than what I just take for granted.  Through the vicissitudes of trauma and recovery, I have discovered that gratitude is also a verb, a way in which to live - and through the practice of yoga, a celebration of the light that shines within.

So I am grateful. Even when my brain doesn’t work my body still can.  On these days especially, I feel blessed to stand on my mat and breathe words of thanks.  I am indebted for nothing in particular, and everything in general.  To appreciate one’s ability to move does not require perfection. Gratitude in its finest form is to realize that nothing is insignificant. I am thankful that my body still works despite all its cracks and that I can still think and marvel at the wonders of this world.

This past week in class, I gazed around the room. As always, I was stunned by the diversity of students at the Tree. It struck me how, despite all our differences, regardless of each person’s past or present, we are unified through our bodies. With yoga’s joyful mind/body connection, in every breath and gesture, we are fortunate to be able to move, breathe and live.

As you turn to the person beside you and whisper “Namaste”, smile and appreciate their abilities.  They may not be perfect, but the cracks that make them unique also let their light shine through. In this journey surrounding my brain, I’ve finally found the elusive answer to the question that flits through the scattered neurons.  What does my body have to do with gratitude?  Everything. Blessed be the cracked who shine in the light.