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emotional intelligence


Heart-Centered Living

Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsYour heart was long thought to be the center of your being, the seat of your soul. English physician William Harvey wrote in 1653 that "The heart is situated at the 4th and 5th ribs. Therefore [it is] the principal part because [it is in] the principal place, as in the center of a circle, the middle of the necessary body."

Andreas de Laguna wrote in 1535 that "If indeed from the heart alone rise anger or passion, fear, terror, and sadness; if from it alone spring shame, delight, and joy, why should I say more?" (Both quotes from A History of the Heart.)

To live in a heart-centered way, there are three main areas to consider: physical exercise, nutrition, and emotional intelligence.

Aerobic exercise is useful for the heart to improve blood circulation and subsequent oxygen saturation in the cells. We've suggested dancing and jumping rope before, now how about walking? If the weather happens to be getting warmer where you are in the world, consider walking outside. If you like jogging and your joints are happy about it, walking really fast is always an option! You can start small and run for 2 minutes, walk for 2, and up the minutes running while winding restful walking minutes down as you get fitter.

What we put in our bodies is equally as important as how much we move them. I thoroughly enjoy the recipes on, and we've tried many of them. For example, this lentil version of the traditional shepherd's pie.

(You'll note the instructions are a lot more detailed than what I've put before - perhaps an indication of Type differences in Sensing and Intuiting? ;-))

Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie

Nava writes, “There are no words to describe this recipe other than ‘a deep dish of absolute comfort.’”

Recipe is Copyright ©Nava AtlasVegan Holiday Kitchen, Sterling, 2011; pictures are mine. We used kale instead of spinach, soy instead of rice milk, added carrots, and didn't use oil, seasoning mix, or cornstarch. Now, the fresh thyme - that's what made the recipe. And rosemary.



  • 8 large or 10 medium potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated margarine*
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil*
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • Two 15-ounce cans lentils, lightly drained but not rinsed (or about 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils with a little of their cooking liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine, optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos*
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning blend (such as Spike or Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 8 to 10 ounces baby spinach or arugula leaves
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs (gluten-free if needed)


  1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. 
    Shepherd's Pie w/ breadcrumbsDrain and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir the margarine into the potatoes until melted, then add the rice milk and mash until fluffy. Cover and set aside until needed. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
  4. Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the optional wine, soy sauce, seasoning blend, thyme, and pepper. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve in a small container. Stir into the lentil mixture.
  5. Add the spinach, a little at a time, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.
  6. Lightly oil a 2-quart (preferably round) casserole dish, or two deep-dish pie plates. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom. Pour in the lentil mixture, then spread the potatoes evenly over the top. If using two pie plates, divide each mixture evenly between them.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

Susan’s Notes

*This recipe comes out equally delicious without the margarine or olive oil. Mash the potatoes with the rice milk only, and use a non-stick pan to sauté the onion, adding a splash of vegetable broth if needed to prevent sticking.

Most regular soy sauce contains gluten. Look for a specially-marked gluten-free version if you’re cooking for someone who’s gluten-sensitive and omit if soy is an issue.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s) | Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Emotional intelligence helps keep our hearts healthy in that we can apply strategies and learn e.g. not to worry incessantly about things beyond our control. Stress is man-made and has physiological effects on the body and the heart; it quickens the beat and raises our blood pressure.

Whether you have Thinking or Feeling preferences, everybody experiences emotions. Understanding and managing them effectively enables you to lessen their negative impact. Here's where I find Brené Brown's work so groundbreaking: she found that we numb ourselves to avoid negative emotions. Fear, shame, embarrassment - we deal with them by e.g. eating too much, drinking too much, taking medication, or vegging out in front of the TV. The problem is that we cannot numb emotions selectively: if you numb your fear, you're numbing your joy at the same time. If you numb your shame, you're numbing your love at the same time. If you numb your embarrassment, you're numbing your empathy at the same time.

To allow your heart to feel happy, you have to allow it to feel sad. To not let that drag you down a vicious cycle, you have to acknowledge that all emotions happen and have value without getting overly attached to them. Even the good ones. Dr. Brown suggests embracing vulnerability, and if you've seen her video before, why not take a few minutes to review it. If you haven't seen it yet, please take 20 minutes of your time and enjoy:


Emotional Self-Sufficiency: Fact or Fiction?


Emotional Self-Sufficiency: Fact or Fiction?

Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project recently asked her facebook discussion group their opinion on whether a house is only as happy as the least happy person in it. What do you think?

The topic of self-sufficiency, emotional or otherwise, is one I come across on a daily basis. Not only in my personal life, but also in my profession as a coach. I have thought for a long time that people do the best they can in any given situation, and that they possess all the necessary tools and resources to reach whatever goal they set for themselves. One of those resources is the ability to ask for support. As much as there is to be said for finding one's own way, it's not written anywhere that you have to do it alone!

Now, what if you're in a relationship with someone and your moods are at odds? You better get used to it, because no two people are always in sync. Still, some people seem better in tune than others, so how do they do it?

According to Ms Rubin's commentators, it appears to be a more female phenomenon to feel responsible for and be influenced by prevalent moods in the house. Some of her male readers did comment on the fact that both positive and negative moods are infectious. Sounds like a rollercoaster ride when you have to take care of your own feelings and moods while at the same time be helplessly at the mercy of someone else's every whim.

How does feeling responsible for other people's moods help to lift everbody's well-being? Some people are more receptive for their environment, others appear designed to transmit. I can't help but wonder about the energy reserves of that person who takes it upon him- or herself to lift everybody else up. The success of their missions cannot always be guaranteed, either.

A helpful distinction was made according to the cause of the significant other's chagrin. Their being mad or sad because of something that's in your power to change seems to have more weight on your own happiness than something that is "not your fault."

Are bad moods and negative feelings really to be avoided at all cost? When children and teaching opportunities are involved it may be another story. When it comes to adults, many welcome the opportunity to live their emotional lives unencumbered. Some might react with more aggression or aversion to attempts of cheering-up, when all they want is to be grumpy for an hour.

What do you do when you find yourself on such a rollercoaster and would like to sit the next ride out? Do you isolate yourself physically from your environment to thwart any emotional contamination? Are you aware of which feelings are your own and which are transfers from your partner or family? Can you communicate the strength of your own position saying that their troubles do not affect you?

Different people and different situations warrant different strategies. Ms Rubin's group seemed to agree that we are all to some extent influenced by our environment. The closer the relationship, the more involved we become. If you would like to find out more about how you can expand your personal toolkit, I suggest reading up on Emotional Intelligence and investing in a few coaching sessions to raise awareness about your personal preferences, how your own environment influences you, and which alternatives you have in preparing for situations that usually affect you negatively.

Til next time, have a balanced one!

Image by Nagesh Kamath, flickr, Creative Commons License