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Share your Heart


Share your Heart

Photo credit
Photo credit

Today's exercise is putting your feet up.

Yes, you heard me, all work and no rest is no fun. Balance is the name of the game, and after 5 days of good work-outs, you might welcome a break. On top of running after your kids and around in your work, time to recharge may just be a good idea. And if that means watching the whole first season of Downton Abbey in one go, so be it. But hey, I'm no medical professional, so consult with your doctor. He or she might prescribe a dose of Grey's Anatomy or March Madness instead.










Today's recipe is dessert.

I'm a big fan of fresh fruit, so whatever's in season gets cut up and put on a plate. Mango, raspberries, and papaya make a scrumptious combination, or cherries, apples, kiwis, and bananas. If you're more into baked treats, try subbing margarine for apple sauce, and cow's milk for a soy alternative or even orange juice.





"Heart to Heart - by Angela Zito"
"Heart to Heart - by Angela Zito"




Sharing your Heart

You've heard of the saying, a problem shared is a problem halved, and a joy shared is a joy doubled? That's what I'm inviting you to do today. Call a good friend, your parents, someone you love, or even better, make a date to meet in person. If you're an expat, it'll be Skype, but whatever means you choose - have a conversation.

Share what's bugging you as well as what's delighting you. Make sure you're heard and get everything you need to off your chest. Then return the favor.

Troubles weigh us down, you see, and keeping worries inside means they can claw their icy fingers around our hearts and squeeze. Having the empathy of a trusted confidante lets in the light, warms up and de-claws those icicles to let the light in. After a good heart-to-heart, your heart will feel stronger, like it's bench-pressed and kicked off 100 pounds.

If you're single, maybe it's time to try a relationship again. But an adult one this time, without bringing in previous baggage or entertaining unrealistic expectations. Being yourself and allowing the other one the same courtesy.

Image by aussiegall, Flickr, Creative Commons License



Open Your Heart

Creative Commons / lululemon athletica Today's exercise is Yoga.

I find it can speed up my heart rate the longer I have to hold a difficult pose, but it can also help to slow things down. Centering. Breathing. Relaxing. Enjoying. Relishing. Delighting in the strength and the point of sweet discomfort. Focusing and letting go at the same time.

After a workout on you might just find your body tired and your mind alert. Why not spend a few minutes in happy baby today?


Today's recipe is Simple Mexican.

Brown rice and a can or loose pre-soaked black and red beans, mixed in a pan with sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, and diced fresh peppers. Season with fresh cilantro, lemon juice, chipotle sauce and cumin, serve with avocado and baked tortilla chips. Muy bueno.

Let the feelings in

I'm writing this post while listening to the Coldplay Live 2012 film on netflix, the movie about their Mylo Xyloto tour and am just so touched by Chris Martin's words. Not just the songs' lyrics, but how he describes the joy of coming to work doing what he loves and the moment of togetherness they experience - the band, the roadies, the audience - that moment when the lights go down and the show is about to start.

Whatever your taste, take a moment to open your heart to your favorite piece of art. Maybe it's a song, a poem, a piece of writing, a painting. Can you feel the connection? Lean into the emotion. Can you feel how those men and women who have gone before us had to overcome their shares of daily struggles? Finding joy, hope, relief in their expressions? The exquisite stroke of a brush on canvas, a haunting melody, the most beautiful line of verse - taking our breaths away only to give us the kiss of life.

"Take the fire from my belly and the beat from my heart - still I won't let go. When you use your heart like a weapon, it hurts like heaven."



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:



Your Heart is Important

Looking for fun ways to keep your heart healthy? Exercise, eat and think right.

For exercise, when was the last time you jumped rope?

It's easy, just grab a rope and jump it. For at least 15 consecutive minutes. Your brain needs oxygen to think well, and your heart needs oxygen to feel well. This is why smoking isn't good on so many levels; it breaks down the process where red blood cells transport oxygen to other cells.

No need to get all professional about jumping rope like these guys, but their hearts sure look healthy:


(screen capture from pinterest some months ago, sorry, no idea who posted it)

Recipe: Thai Red Chili

Cut a piece of tempeh (fermented soybeans, kinda like tofu but nuttier) into finger-sized pieces. Dry-fry (no oil) in hot wok and set aside. (Use vegetable broth if it sticks. Use a non-stick wok, make it hot enough and it won't.)

Chop one red onion and glaze it in the wok.

From your freezer, grab a cup each of broccoli florets, sugar snaps peas, green peas, and edamame beans and heat through. You can also use fresh, obviously, but I like the fast option. Hey, add carrots while you're at it.

Stir in thai red curry paste and deglaze with a can of coconut milk. We like it quite spicy (2 heaped tea spoons) and use the light milk version, but you might have to play with it.

Serve over jasmine white rice or soba noodles.

For a sweet kick, add cherry tomatos and fresh basil strips.


Acknowledge your emotions. Take time to reflect on them throughout the day.Emotional intelligence is not about controlling, avoiding, or ignoring emotions, it's about being aware of them and not letting them take over.

"Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways." Sigmund Freud

Especially when you're stressed, remember to breathe deeply. Counting to ten sometimes works, or opening a window. When you're in a stressful conversation, take a 10-minute walk around the block to clear the air. Time-outs work for adults, too.



Keeping your Heart healthy

Our hearts are an important organ, and just like any machine they need to be looked after from a maintenance perspective. You don't expect your Ferrari to run on castor oil (or whatever a useful mechanical analogy would be), so you should only put the best stuff in your body-machine, too. Over the last few years, some scientists started looking into "broken heart syndrome", finding that grief or anxiety can result in stress cardiomyopathy.

This is where the heart becomes the seat of your love, light, and longing.

I thought this week would be great for heart health, so I'll be posting one exercise, one recipe, and one inspiration to keep our hearts healthy all around.



Sign up for a free account on, set the dial to Pitbull, and jiggle it for at least 20 minutes. While you're vacuuming, doing dishes, or on its own. Close the blinds if you're uncomfortable.

Alternatively, find a studio in your neighborhood that teaches ballroom, ballet, belly or whatever music is most up your alley. You can buy DVDs, or go to a Zumba class near you and enjoy making new friends while learning funky dance routines you can use next Saturday night.

Recipe: Roasted Veggies

pasta and roasted veg

  • Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit / 190 Celsius
  • In a heat-proof dish, cut up squash, zucchini, mushrooms, aubergine, carrots, peppers, and red onion into the shape of your choice.
  • Add salt, pepper, and other fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme.
  • Fill the bottom of the dish with vegetable broth to prevent sticking.
  • Roast for 40 minutes or until tender and serve over whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, in a whole-wheat pita, or on a whole-wheat sandwich.
  • Tip: add a spoonful of nutritional yeast for extra B12. :-)


Surround yourself with people who make your heart smile.

The more you try to please people who don't, the more you'll lie to yourself e.g. about being able to afford that new dress or starting that diet tomorrow.

This quote has been attributed to Dr. Seuss, and I like it:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.