Happy Furry Home

Tips for Keeping a Pet-Friendly Home Clean

Households with multiple pets abound as families often opt for a mix of companion animals. Currently, more than 70 million dogs, 75 million cats and 6 million birds are kept as pets in the U.S., according to a recent American Pet Products Association survey. While we cherish their affection, downsides include pet hair dust bunnies, scattered litter, spilled seeds and potty accidents. Cleaning up can be easier with training and planning.

“Living on the beach, it’s easy for the dog to bring sand indoors, so I taught him to shake it off,” says dog expert and trainer Amy Robinson, in Vero Beach, Florida. “I put water in a bottle and misted it lightly on his head, then gave the cue, ‘Shake,’ and shook my shoulders. He mimicked me and got rid of most of the sand. Brushing him with a towel got the rest.” Once the dog understands the cue, retire the water bottle.

“I have a Newfoundland/poodle, a great Pyrenees/poodle and a Labradoodle, so I keep old towels outside the door to wipe dirty feet,” says Kathleen Thometz, owner of Doodle Art & Design, in Western Springs, Illinois. “The Newfoundland can open the door, so I have to catch him before he tracks in muddy paw prints.” Thometz keeps their hairbrush with the towels. “I have them groomed regularly, but a quick brush after a walk means I don’t have to vacuum between weekly house cleanings,” she says.

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Vegan Lunchbox

Plant-Based Choices Provide Midday Boost

Judith Fertig

We all have good intentions to eat more fruits and vegetables, and it’s easier if we start with just one plant-based meal a day—lunch. Natural Awakenings has enlisted the help of vegan lunchbox experts to help us all enjoy easy-to-make and colorful feasts good for home, office, school and on the road.

“Vegan food offers so much variety, especially at lunch,” says Johanna Sophia, of Pine Plains, New York, who recently hosted the online series The Raw Lunchbox Summit. “A vegan lunch gives an extra boost in the middle of the day for more brain power, clarity and energy.” She and her two children operate Johanna’s Raw Foods, which makes vegan fast food such as veggie burger bites and carrot crackers, available at health food stores.

Laura Theodore, the vegan chef and recording artist who presents The Jazzy Vegetarian PBS television program, lives and works in the New York City area. After a childhood dominated by bologna sandwiches for lunch, she gradually changed to vegan dishes. “I began to notice a difference when I ate mostly plants,” she says. “I could do more and think better.”

Theodore favors colorful and delicious vegan foods that travel well in a lunchbox with a cold pack, so she can take them to rehearsals or wherever else she goes. She creates her zucchini fettuccine with a vegetable slicer and loves to end a meal with something naturally sweet, like her maple-raisin-date truffles. Such experimenting in the kitchen led to her newest cookbook, Vegan-Ease: An Easy Guide to Enjoying a Plant-Based Diet.

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Inside the Chant with Krishna Das

Kirtan Music Transports Listeners to a Deeper Place

Robin Fillmore

Photo by Payal Kumar

Influential spiritual leader Ram Dass has described Krishna Das (Jeffrey Kagel) as an example of someone whose “heartsongs” open channels to God. The Grammy-nominated kirtan artist, long considered yoga’s rock star, consistently plays to sold-out crowds worldwide. The Long Island native’s journey has gone from being a member of a popular rock band to going to India, where as a student of spiritual leader Neem Karoli Baba, the trajectory of his life and music shifted and expanded.

His 1996 debut album, One Track Heart, focused on updated chants from the ancient tradition of bhakti yoga, followed in 1998 by Pilgrim Heart, with a guest appearance by Sting. Since then, a steady stream of 14 albums and DVDs produced on his own label have provided the soundtrack for yoga classes everywhere; the soothing rhythmic chants performed in a deep, rich timbre complements instruction in the spiritual element of the exercise.

Das’ specialty, kirtan, updates an ancient tradition of devotional chanting as meditation accompanied by instruments. A kirtan concert invites audience members to join in the experience through chanting, clapping and dancing and is characterized as a journey into the self that also connects us with each other.

How would you introduce your music?

Across the country and around the world, yoga practitioners are chanting the names of God in tongues including Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi and English. They’re taking kirtan music out of the temples and the yoga studios and into dance halls, universities, cathedrals and other unexpected places.

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Relax and Unwind

Restorative Yoga Poses Foster Healing

Meredith Montgomery

In classical yoga, teachers often sequence instruction toward reaching a pinnacle pose such as an inversion or arm balance. In restorative yoga, the peak pose is savasana—in which the practitioner fully relaxes while resting flat on their back. Leeann Carey, author of Restorative Yoga Therapy: The Yapana Way to Self-Care and Well-Being, explains, “This passive asana practice turns down the branch of the nervous system that keeps us in fight-or-flight mode and turns up the system allowing us to rest and digest. It feels like a massage for the nervous system and encourages self-inquiry, reflection and change, rather than perfection.”

The physical, mental and spiritual benefits are similar to those of active yoga, but because poses are held longer and supported by props such as bolsters, blankets, belts and blocks, “There’s no stress on the tissue and joints. Each pose gifts us with longerlasting benefits, including more time for the mind to unwind,” advises Carey.

“Restorative yoga allows both muscles and the brain to recover from fatigue, so we are stronger, sharper and better able to act in the world afterward,” explains Roger Cole, Ph.D., a certified Iyengar yoga teacher in Del Mar, California, and a research scientist studying the physiology of relaxation, sleep and biological rhythms. He attests that it also serves as preparation for pranayama (mindful yoga breathing) and meditation, which require a clear, well-rested, focused mind.

Perfect for beginners and used by longtime practitioners to complement other yoga styles, restorative poses are designed to accurately realign and reshape the body. They also can be therapeutically tailored to support natural healing for issues related to tension, premenstrual syndrome, weak immune functioning, back pain, pregnancy and recovery for athletes. “Poses for healing may require targeted gentle stretching, but prop use will coax the body into desired positions without requiring muscular effort,” says Cole.

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Music as Medicine

Music Soothes, Energizes and Heals Us

As primeval drumbeats echo across an African savannah, the rhythms circle the globe, picked up by the chants and rattles of shamans gracing Amazonian jungles and Siberian tundra. They’re repeated in Gregorian chants filling medieval cathedrals and “om” meditations sounding in Himalayan caves and yoga classes everywhere. They gently echo in the repeated tones of mothers’ lullabies, happy hummings as we go about our day and the melodies of Mozart.

Music is the soundtrack of our lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. It exists within, uniting and guiding us, and has helped heal body and spirit since the dawn of humanity. National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists recently discovered that the universe itself has a song.

Pioneering Practitioners

From the soothing tones of a harp to the jarring screeches of a construction site, the stress-reducing or stress-producing properties of sound are familiar to us all. “Stress is an underlying cause of the vast majority of all illnesses, and sound and music are effective in relieving stress and bringing stillness,” says Jonathan Goldman, an internationally recognized pioneer in harmonics and sound healing and director of the Sound Healers Association in Boulder, Colorado.

Through researching his many books, including The 7 Secrets of Sound Healing, Goldman is convinced of the profound effect sound has on the human organism. “The simple chanting of the sound ‘om,’ or ‘aum,’ in addition to instilling calmness and relaxation, causes the release of melatonin and nitric oxide. It relaxes blood vessels, releases soothing endorphins, reduces the heart rate and slows breathing,” he explains.

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A Good Food Fight

Keeping Food Out of the Trash Bin

As much as 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. is wasted, even as one in six Americans goes hungry. Instead of feeding people better, we are feeding the city dump. Of all types of trash, food consumes the most space in our municipal landfills, followed by plastic and paper. Rotting food then releases harmful methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

While food waste is a big problem, social entrepreneurs see a big opportunity. Around the country, they are working to reduce, recover and rethink discarded food valued at more than $160 billion a year. In the process, they are not only cutting food costs, but also creating jobs and fighting climate change.

University of Maryland College Park alumna Cam Pascual co-founded the nonprofit Food Recovery Network (FRN) after watching hundreds of pounds of food hit the trash in her campus dining hall every night. Pascual and her colleagues mobilized a volunteer network to shuttle leftovers from the university to soup kitchens, donating 200 meals a night to feed the hungry.

In the last five years, FRN has recovered more than 1 million pounds of food from 184 campuses in 42 states, proving that ingenuity and philanthropy can together fight the food waste travesty. “There are two major barriers to recovering leftover food; one is awareness, like helping businesses to understand the laws that protect them from liability,” says Pascual, the organization’s current director of innovation and operations. “The other is the labor involved. Universities are the perfect ecosystem for food recovery because college students have flexible schedules and are community service-minded, offering a ready supply of volunteers.”

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Yay for Play

Ways to Spark a Child’s Creativity

Whether it’s playing dress-up, making forts from sofa cushions or drawing pictures, creative moments can define and distinguish a happy childhood. Yet it’s not all just fun and games, according to experts. Childhood creativity, nurtured both in the classroom and at home, is crucial for developing qualities such as sound decision-making, flexible thinking and mental resiliency.

Analyzing more than 150 studies across the fields of psychology, neuroscience, education and business management, the Center for Childhood Creativity, in Sausalito, California, found many important life skills are affiliated with a creative upbringing. The resulting white paper, Inspiring a Generation to Create, underscores that rather than simply being an innate trait, creativity can be taught.

“Creativity should be an integral part of every child’s education. The research shows that we can avoid the drop in original thinking that happens as students move into early adolescence,” reports Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind.

Creativity isn’t only child’s play; parents also could do well to infuse their own lives with its discoveries and delights. “Through creativity, parents can reawaken a sense of wonder and joy, and nurture characteristics like patience,” says Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children.

Engaging Parents

Cameron wrote the book in part to guide her own daughter, actress and film director Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, in her creative journey through motherhood. While many such works focus on art projects for kids, Cameron’s book emphasizes activities that put creative fuel in the parental tank. For example, she recommends parents take up the ritual of “morning pages”; writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts the first thing each morning.

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