Adios by Naomi Shihab Nye

IMG_6674I read this poem, fittingly, on my last day in Colorado. It was a part of a piece of artwork created by one of my hosts. When I was feeling sentimental about my vacation and adventure time coming to an end. It made so much sense to me, so beautifully soft and eloquent. I can’t help but want to share it.

Adios

It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with,
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring,
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite-tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.

~Naomi Shihab Nye
from Words Under the Words

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Kale Hempseed Pesto Recipe

KALEPESTOOne frigid Friday night I sifted through my cupboards and the refrigerator, determined to come up with a delicious meal for dinner that did not require me to make a trip out in the cold for more ingredients. I happily discovered I still had an entire head of kale, plenty of garlic, and some delicious specialty pasta.

My Cuisinart had been sitting on the shelf for WAY too long so it was decided: I would improvise a kale pesto using hempseeds as substitute for the traditional pinenuts. Suffice it to say the pesto turned out delicious, although a little heavy on the garlic so tread lightly if you tend to shy away from this flavor.

Kale Hempseed Pesto
1 head of kale chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic peeled
1/3 cup hempseeds
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/3 to 1/2 cup of EVO
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375F. Toss kale with EVO and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake kale for 3-5 minutes. When kale is finished, let cool for a couple minutes. While kale is cooling, add garlic to mixer and grind. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. You can add additional EVO to desired consistency. Add to your favorite pasta, spread on fresh bread, and enjoy!

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Letting My Belly Be

image1I have a confession. I have spent most of my life trying desperately to conceal or minimize my belly.

Even as a child, I had this little “pooch” that stuck out. I always took ballet and the leotards and tights dug their way into that pooch that wouldn’t budge. I wished on eyelashes that I would wake up with a perfectly flat, no, perfectly concave stomach. I would stare at myself in the mirror, sticking it out, sucking it in, pulling it in, flattening and spreading it with my hands as best I could – then I’d pinch all the belly I could muster. Oh, how I hated that thing.

As a teen I learned about sit-ups and crunches and ab-work and pilates and when I would put on my leotards I would hope in vain that the 25 sit-ups I had done the night before might have made a difference. More and more I started taking things into my own hands to rid myself of this abomination. I was taught, over and over again, that this belly just needs to go away. I so strongly felt that I needed to make it disappear, and then everything would be alright.

I went through periods in my twenties where I felt skinny and the belly was a little less of a problem. On those days I felt happier, more confident. But then I would wake up the next morning with it protruding over my pajama bottoms. What pants could I possibly wear that were both cute AND would hide my body? What could I wear that would make me appear different? What would make me appear better?

Now in my early thirties my relationship with my body has changed, mostly for the good. I have bad days and I have good days – the good days mostly outweigh the bad. But still I sometimes see my reflection in the mirror in an exercise class and all I notice is that darn belly trying to peek out of my lululemon pants that were supposed to be so slimming, they were supposed to make it disappear, at least for a brief moment. The deep-set belief of belly being bad as a child still rears its ugly head as an adult.

Five months ago I kind of fell into a new yoga studio with brand new teachers and a brand new practice. I fell into this studio during a period where a lot of change was happening in my life – everything felt like it was uprooted and of course this made me go back to old patterns of disliking my body. I almost didn’t go to my first class there because I thought to myself “No Maggie, you’re dealing with enough change right now, why add more fuel to the fire?”

Fast forward to class last week when our teacher Mitchel instructed for the umpteenth time for everyone to let our bellies be long, to let them hang out. When we are on all fours or in crouching cat (think downward dog with very bent knees) he often instructs us to imagine our bellies swaying side to side like a cat. And whenever he does this I can’t help but smile and think of my cat Milo who flaunts his belly like it’s his job. If he’s flaunting his belly, why shouldn’t I?

But the point is that for these five months I have been instructed to just let my belly be. To let it freaking hang out. To forget about the sucking in, the flattening, the diminishing, the shortening, the crunching. I can let my belly be itself – that little pucker toward the bottom of my torso that has held on to so much guilt, shame, and pain for most of my life. And the more I allow myself to let my belly be, the more confident I feel and the more solid I feel within the structure of my own body.

I am discovering a part of my body, my belly, for the very first time. With fresh eyes and a loving and wholly accepting heart. I know that my belly journey will have its ups and downs but what a great sense of relief to put my hand on my belly and say to myself, for the first time ever, “Hell yeah!”

 

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Homemade Hummus – easy as 1, 2, 3, 4 ingredients!

You will almost always find this item in my fridge.

I love making hummus because it never fails to shock me how incredibly easy and inexpensive AND delicious it is to make it at home. I know hummus typically contains tahini (and lots of salt) but I’ve grown to really love this very simple recipe – you taste each and every ingredient!

homemadehummus

 

Simply Homemade Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of water (or reserve the water from chickpeas)
  • My toppings of choice: fresh parsley, pinch of cayenne pepper

Add all ingredients into a Cuisinart or blender and mix until smooth. If you prefer a chunkier hummus, mix until slightly chunky. Top with parsley, cayenne, or anything that sounds good to you!

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Joan Didion Says it Best (About Migraines)

I spent most of the last two days in bed, with a migraine. Again. I start to feel like a broken record, as I “go dark” for these migraine days. But today feels like a fresh start, a new beginning, as it always feels when a migraine comes full circle and I get that post-migraine high.

I can’t remember how, but I must have been googling “migraine stories” and I stumbled upon Joan Didion’s essay “In Bed” about her experience with migraine. The first time I read it, I felt so much comfort to know that I am not the only one. Everything she says hits the nail on the head and I think to myself “Yes, Yes! That’s exactly it!”

I notice that I have a lot of shame around my migraines and I am working on that. When I keep coming back to a story like this though, I start to lose a little bit of that shame – little by little – every time. It’s like it’s not so bad to not be perfect.

“And once it comes, now that I am wise in its ways, I no longer fight it. I lie down and let it happen. At first every small apprehension is magnified, every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes, and I concentrate only on that. Right there is the usefulness of migraine, there in that imposed yoga, the concentration on the pain. For when the pain recedes, ten or twelve hours later, everything goes with it, all the hidden resentments, all the vain anxieties. The migraine has acted as a circuit breaker, and the fuses have emerged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria. I open the windows and feel the air, eat gratefully, sleep well. I notice the particular nature of a flower in a glass on the stair landing. I count my blessings.”

And she’s absolutely right. Today the ice and bitter cold don’t seem to matter. I am grateful to breathe in the crisp air and drive my car through mucky snow tracks and put on layer upon layer before leaving the house. Because I feel like I have come home in my body and I want to be grateful and aware of each experience and sensation and feeling as much as I possibly can.

To read Joan Didion’s full essay click this link.

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My New Years Wish For You

May Your New Year be Mindful and Delicious…

May it be filled with more love and less fear.May you continue to remind yourself “I am enough. I am good enough. I am doing enough.”

May you let yourself fall a few times, be a total mess, and grow from the process of putting the pieces back together.

May the choices you make serve you, as you learn to let go of what doesn’t.

This is my New Years wish for you!

I also hope you will join me as we embark upon the New Year together, starting this Monday January 5 … 
Sign up with me to jumpstart your New Year with tasty recipes, weekly intentions, and taking a look at the WHAT and WHY of what we are putting into our body. Click here to sign up and for details!  
Sign-up with a friend and receive a free phone consult! 
With Much Love,
Maggie
farbetterthingsahead
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Give the Gift of Coaching & Yoga

This holiday season, give the gift of coaching or yoga.

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Three sessions of health coaching or private yoga for $300 (valued at $450).

Valid for purchase through December 24.


Read what are people saying:

I not only benefit from the flexibility, body strengthening and calming effect of Yoga, but Maggie is helping me with a variety of ailments that I have. Whether it be my back pain, migraines, balance or osteoarthritis issues, she always knows the correct poses to do, and how to adapt them to my needs.

Maggie is kind, sensitive to my pain, and is very conscientious. She corrects the tiniest movements in my body that make the difference between doing a pose correctly or incorrectly.

As long as my body can tolerate it, she also makes me work! I love that! After a session with Maggie, I feel calmer and my body feels better. I am lucky and grateful to be working with such a special woman and an excellent teacher.


Contact me directly at maggie.converse@gmail.com for your PDF gift certificate to a loved one – or to purchase a package for yourself!

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Upcoming Event: Bundle Up Hike/Run/Walk!

Bundle Up Trail Journey

I love finding new places to run and hike, so when I was introduced to the Norwalk River Valley Trail (thanks Erica!) I was beyond excited.

Now, I get to share this wonderful space with YOU. I will be teaming up with lululemon athletica Westport on December 13 for a serene (and free!) journey through the Norwalk River Valley Trail.

We will start with a short meditation followed by a 2 mile walk or run through the trail.

Bring the kids, the dogs, and yourself!

There will be coffee and hot cocoa waiting for you at the end – provided by Coffee Barn of Wilton.

Saturday December 13 – 9:30 to 10:30am
(Please plan to arrive early)
Parking: Please park in the commuter lot next to Orem’s Diner.
We ask that you kindly RSVP to maggie.converse@gmail.com.

We want to raise awareness of the trail and we also have a goal to raise $1,000. We are already halfway there!

There is a suggested donation of $25. So that we know it is for the Bundle Up event please enter “BUNDLE UP” in the comments section when you make your donation of any amount. We will announce the total amount raised on the 13th.

Donations can be made by clicking here. Don’t forget to use the code BUNDLE UP!

We will see you on the 13th!
Bundle up run (1)

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What is a Retreat?

The word Retreat derives from Anglo-French retreat, from the past participle of retreaire which means to withdraw.

A retreat is a very personal experience and the motivating factors for one person to sign up for a retreat will be very different from the next person’s.

For me the reason for signing up for the Radiant Retreat in 2008 was crystal clear: I was 25 and I felt totally STUCK. I was in a very fine job that paid well and paved the way for a career in the art world. But, to put it simply, something was missing – call it a “joie de vivre,” call it my mojo – I wasn’t feeling fully alive.

I received an email from Jennifer asking if I would join her on that retreat many years ago and it became very simple: in order for me to get “un-stuck” I needed to remove myself, or withdraw, not only internally but also from my external environment. I needed an extra boost and an opportunity to have the physical and mental space to determine how I was going to follow my true path.

The retreat helped me determine that it was absolutely acceptable for me to want to be a yoga teacher… and more! I will never forget one conversation Jennifer and I had during a visit in Philadelphia when I gave her a vague description of what I wanted my career to be – her response was “You should be an ease-maker.”

The retreat provided a foundation for me to slowly start to become that ease-maker. In work, in friendship, and in love.

It was that wonderful tipping point that allowed me to access truth and my very own authenticity.

There are many ways we can describe a retreat and the benefits it yields. But the most profound for me has been accessing authenticity.

A retreat allows us to peel back the layers and move the junk out of the way for us to realize what it is we want and then we slowly start to do the work to get there.

The heaping mounds of guacamole, superb yoga classes, and stellar company are just the cherry on top!

Join us March 21-28, 2015 in Tulum.

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A Feeling of Everything-is-alright-ness & Philadelphia Half Marathon

I think I love doing these races so much simply because they make me feel more alive. Just getting to the starting line last Sunday for the Philadelphia Half Marathon was a total well of emotions. And when I crossed the finish line … well you will just have to read on to find out what happens.

This year has been a big old wake-up call for me, most especially pertaining to my health.

I have been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years, teaching yoga for 8 years, and health coaching for 3 years. I am also a perfectionist. Or at the very least have some major perfectionist tendencies. This perfectionism has kept me from coming clean, or being totally honest not only with myself but with every person in my life – from those who I see on a daily basis to those who sometimes peek at my social media presence.

My migraines took a turn for the worse around Christmas last year. They became more frequent, longer in duration, and the symptoms were more severe than I had ever experienced. I was getting a migraine every 7-10 days lasting 2-3 days and, without fail, I could not hold anything down; vomiting regularly and spending at least a day recuperating and rehydrating. I am still dealing with these severe migraines but I have taken several steps to make taking care of them a top priority.

I didn’t want to tell anyone what was really going on except for a select few because I thought admitting that I was having a challenging time meant I was a failure – in so many ways – including a failure as a yoga teacher and health coach. It hadn’t dawned on me that being truthful with myself and giving my health the attention it needed was a huge part of being the best teacher/coach I possibly could.

Since December 2013 I had to say no to so many people and events: from endurance events to weddings to teaching … it started to become so very apparent that my health was not in a good state. Not only that but I was not giving my health the attention it deserved.

I would be struck with a migraine and on top of the physical pain and discomfort I would sink into a state of depression. I am now learning to transition into migraine-mode with more forgiveness and compassion for myself. It’s is tough work, but I am learning to let go and let the migraine just take me into the migraine-state for however long it needs to process through my body.

So what on earth does this have to do with a half marathon? Well, I was hesitant to even sign up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. What if I got a migraine on race day? It was something I thought of every time I laced up my sneakers and went for a run. The list of what if’s ran through my mind endlessly. I finally came to peace with the fact that a migraine might happen on race day, but I also accepted the exciting possibility that it might not.

The very last run I went on before we left for Philadelphia, I said to myself “I’m going to run this thing” – that became my mantra and I visualized approaching the starting line with my friends and imagined what it would feel like to get back into doing this thing that makes my heart sing.

And guess what? I ran that thing! I got to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon and even set a personal best at 1:57:43. This was the first race for me in about a year which, if you know my history with triathlon and running, is a pretty big deal as I have spent the past 4-5 years filling my calendar with races.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.54.42 PMSo what happened when I crossed the finish line?  My eyes filled with little tears, I got that knot in my throat, and my heart swelled up. (I think I’m officially a “Finish Line Cryer.” Is that a thing?)

The days that I have spent on my couch in more pain and discomfort than I can come close to describing … those days have given me a greater appreciation for the days without a migraine. Where I am grateful just to toe the line at a race and be amongst the running community. Where I am grateful to share race stories with my friends, our teeth chattering as we make our way back to our hotel. Where I am grateful for that hot shower after a race, the water washing away the sweat and soothing my aching muscles.

It’s a feeling of lightness, of “everything-is-alright-ness” … and maybe migraines have given me more awareness of its existence.

PhilaHalfI am grateful for my experience with migraine. Migraine has given me a deeper understanding of debilitating pain and discomfort; it has given me greater appreciation for the days WITHOUT migraine – what a sweet blessing those days are; migraine has taught me to accept the help and support from loved ones when it is offered, and to ask when it is needed; and migraine got me to get my butt in gear this year to make my health a priority. We should never be so busy that we cannot take care of ourselves.

 

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