Behind the Scenes – “Yoga As Art” at Movement Arts Studio

Behind the Scenes – “Yoga As Art” at Movement Arts Studio

by Gayle Picken

Kara Keating of Movement Arts yoga studio on Camano Island is a choreographer, dancer and yoga instructor. I recently had the opportunity to visit the studio and watch a rehearsal of the “Wing” performance they’ll be performing at the 4th Annual NW Mind Body Spirit Connection event on October 13th, 2018.

Have a look!

Sustainability in the Work Place – 10 Easy Steps You Can Take to Make a Difference

Sustainability in the Work Place – 10 Easy Steps You Can Take to Make a Difference

by Monika Star

I believe one of the best ways to encourage an eco-friendly lifestyle is to become a role model and share what you know about sustainability with your family and friends. For my part, I went through the Sustainable Community Steward training program offered by the WSU Snohomish County Extension. In addition to receiving university-level training and working on inspiring projects, I met incredible people through this program that I absolutely love!

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Heather Teegarden, pictured above as “Heather The Recycler,” who is the Natural Resources Outreach Program Coordinator. She shared her Top 10 Suggestions for how to reduce your daily environmental impact in the workplace:

  1. Commuting: See what options you have for tele-commuting. Look into taking the bus, vanpooling or even carpooling! Check out the feasible bike routes if biking to work is an option.

  2. Morning coffee: Does your morning commute involve a stop at your favorite coffee stand? Be sure to turn off your engine so you are not idling for extended periods of time. Better yet, park and go inside! Be sure to bring your reusable mug and choose a company committed to sustainability/using “shade-grown and fair-trade” coffee sources!

  3. Get creative with the copy machine: Get to know (and use whenever possible) the double-sided feature. Instead of discarding paper only printed on one side, save it and print to the backside when possible.

  4. Rethink printing projects: Does the agenda need to be printed or can it be sent out electronically? Does the meeting require people to travel to the office or can it be done via teleconference? Rethinking can really save many types of resources!

  5. RECYCLE! Be sure to check out the guide for your office’s recycling hauler, it may accept different items that your hauler at home. Some offices are much more limited on what can be recycled. “Wish cycling” (when you think, “this should be recyclable” as you toss it into the blue bin creates contamination at the Recycling Center and has led to a reduction in recycling materials markets. When in doubt, check it out (or throw it out).

  6. Take your lunch outside and enjoy nature: The more people connect with nature, the more they see the importance of taking care of our natural resources. Plus, it is awesome for your health to have frequent “Nature Baths!”

  7. At the end of the day be sure to turn off your monitors. Saving that “vampire” energy from sucking unnecessary kilowatts throughout the evening! If you are going away for the weekend, or an extended vacation, turn your computer all the way off. Rebooting is good for it occasionally.

  8. Turn off the lights when you finish in a meeting room. So many businesses leave lights on unnecessarily

  9. Ask your HR or Management about setting up a “Green Team.” It is a great way to engage employees and educate the other staff members.

  10. Want to do even more? Sign up to become a Sustainable Community Steward!

Sustainable Community Stewards participate in a variety of educational training and community events. Last year my team helped out with “Repair Cafe” events where people had the opportunity to bring in broken items and community volunteer “fixers” would help repair them so they could be used again instead of thrown away. We also get to go on “Behind the Scenes” tours of recycling centers, alternative power sources and commercial composting sites. For information about Sustainable Community Stewards current offerings and the next round of volunteer training, see
Join us and see what you’ll learn. Master Recycler bragging rights are just part of the fun!

Monika Star is an avid wellness advocate, beach watcher, arts promoter and a natural connector. She is the community outreach director for the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection events and enjoys spending time meeting folks who are doing good things for our community.

Behind the Scenes at Experience Momentum

Behind the Scenes at Experience Momentum

10 years ago, Shanon Tysland, a physical therapist with a background in fitness, and his wife had a vision to create a wellness center where they could treat the whole person, so they took the leap and made it a reality! Celebrating 10 years in business in Lynnwood and soon to be opening a new center in Seattle, Shanon took some time to share his journey with us and gave us a tour of the various health and wellness services they provide at Experience Momentum.

Have a look at the “Behind the Scenes” video:

Sharing Angel Love

Sharing Angel Love

By Monika Star

Do you believe in Angels? I certainly do. You might use the term guardian angel, divine messenger, good samaritan, spiritual being, hero/shero, helper, protector, well-wisher, spirit, supporter, etc. Whatever the term, angels exist among us or they show us signs from the other side.

I am writing this week’s blog article a couple of days prior to one of my dear friends Alicja’s birthday, and I would like to dedicate this article to her. She stepped up in times of need in my life in my early twenties and I will never forget. Despite our roads in life taking us to different places, we manage to connect at times after 20 plus years. I claimed her as one of my earthly angels here on earth. Happy Birthday, Alicja!

I’m sharing part of my personal experience to encourage others to be open and to follow their angel spirit guides.

Sometimes a brief encounter out of the blue is when divine intervention can take place. As I was doing my healing work from my deep grief from my mother’s passing, I had to get out of the confines of my safe home and seek assistance in this. I had just moved from North Carolina to Lynnwood, WA at that time.

I came across two conferences happening under one roof at the Lynnwood Convention Center- one was a yoga conference and the second one was on the upper level and it happened to be the NW Mind Body Spirit Conference. Some of my experience was a blur since I was in deep grief, but I do strongly recall the time when I went over to Dena Marie‘s table. We talked and she gave me one of her Ora’s Angel coloring books. After that something pierced through with the Love and Light that Dena was radiating … I believed my heaviness was lifting. It gave me a glimmer of hope that healing can take place again. That’s the Magic that can take place at these events.

There are numerous other incidences that I can recall where Angels were taking part in my journey here on Earth. Just last week I was at a conference and one of the things that stood out was a woman by the name of Judith Grace who was freely giving out to everyone around here these sweet butterfly staple angels. Small gestures like these do touch my heart and you never who this may touch deeply in their time of need.

Here’s a photo of Judith working away creating more of the angels to give away.

Whitney Freya is an author and artist and she leads workshops where attendees paint huge life-size angel wings on canvas as a way to be guided into their deepest knowing. I had the opportunity to ask about her latest book, Rise Above, and here is what she had to say…

“My new book, Rise Above, is really about the magic that is within and around all of us and how we can co-create MORE of a dynamic relationship with our own infinitely creative self. I really feel that what we are being called into right now is a new understanding of the oneness and the boundlessness of who we are as individuals AND as infinite beings. It is our linear, left brain that has created boundaries and separation where a greater possibility is truly in witnessing how we each have access to angels, guides…within ourselves and around us. We can BE angels for others and receive that level of divine guidance when we pause, go within, and choose to connect with that deep wisdom.

So much of what I teach is interwoven with the language of symbols. I have found there to be tremendous power and wisdom contained within the experience of connecting with symbols, like the angel wings, and allowing the thoughts, feelings and energy that we experience when meditating on the symbol to guide us. The invitation, as I see it, as you paint your angel wings, is to RISE ABOVE, to look at whatever is happening in your life from a higher, eagle’s eye, type of experience.

My latest book, Rise Above, was going to be called “Super Soul Flow” (the name of my newest meditation course) up until I woke up on November 9th, 2016. The first coherent words in my head were RISE ABOVE. I really felt like this was it–we were being called to Rise Above and take responsibility for co-creating the country we want to live in. I knew that had to be the title of my book. THAT SAME MORNING, I traveled from L.A. to Santa Barbara to fly my “wing” (my paraglider) for the first time by myself! It hit me on the train about halfway to SB–Rise Above! I am going to fly today! Wow!”

Whitney continues …

“When you start engaging in life on a symbolic level, it can really get magical! I love sharing my sacred painting practice with others because I know that there is SO MUCH more to life when we learn to create self-awareness around how we receive and perceive information, guidance and inspiration. Painting, colors, symbols…stimulate your intuitive, love-based, right hemisphere and, when in balance with the left hemisphere, can open you up to all kinds of newness & possibility!”

If you are curious and want to explore these ideas more, she has a FREE online course called The Life Artist Master Class. It is a journey, guided by 5 sacred symbols, into looking and living life as ART, with YOU as the artist.

Who has been an angel in your life? Join our facebook group, the NW Mind Body Spirit Lounge and share your angel story with us online or join us at our booth at The Kind Fest where you can thank your angel and take a selfie of you with angel wings.

Monika Star is an avid wellness advocate, beach watcher, arts promoter and a natural connector. She is the community outreach director for the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection events and enjoys spending time meeting folks who are doing good things for our community.

Behind the Scenes with Christina Malecka – Unplug – Reconnect – Restore

Behind the Scenes with Christina Malecka – Unplug – Reconnect – Restore

By Gayle Picken

When I heard about Christina Malecka’s Digital Detox Retreats, I was immediately intrigued. Our 24/7 technology-dependent lifestyle is creating all sorts of health issues, from overwhelm and anxiety from keeping up with emails, texts, and messages to the emotionally draining obsession of maintaining our “image” on social media.

Christina has created a program to help you learn how to restore balance to your life. Watch this video for a behind-the-scenes look at her “Unplug. Reconnect. Restore” retreats:

Gayle Picken is an event producer, healthy living advocate, travel blogger and director of the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection. She loves yoga, hiking, kayaking, connecting with people and exploring the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Creativity is in You!

Creativity is in You!

by Monika Star

Did you know that creativity is not something special reserved for “artists” only, but is an essential key to living a happy, fulfilled life? Tapping into that sweet creative zone let’s you feel fully present and fully alive. The key is to just get started…

Madisyn Taylor, co-founder and editor-in-chief of DailyOM, talks about the importance of creativity in her book, Unmedicated – The Four Pillars of Natural Wellness. I reached out to her to get her thoughts on the topic:

“Creativity is step 3 under pillar two of Unmedicated. Take time to create.

I talk about creativity in terms of my work because after doing such heavy and deep emotional work it is especially important to take time for creativity. We are all born creative beings and somewhere along the way many of us have been criticized in some way whether we were told we couldn’t draw or sing or dance. Creativity is our birthright and we all have our own unique way of expressing ourselves, we just need to do it. As humans we create in every moment from our thoughts to how we dress ourselves or decorate our homes. When we tap into our creativity we tap into a powerhouse force within us.”

Madisyn’s book, Unmedicated, is now available as an audio book. Exciting news Madisyn, congrats!

Geraldine Banes, is an artist, cranial sacral therapist, and owner of Studio Beju in Duvall. She’s one of those amazing women who has stepped into her role as a “creative” and you never know what she may be coming up with next in her “living out loud” artistic life. This is her take on the topic:

“Creativity thrives on stimulus. It may be a sight, sound, a scent, a thought, something you’ve read or a conversation that somehow galvanizes you into creative action. Whatever that creative action sparks into being often depends on what stimulates you personally or gets you interested enough to explore the subject more. It can be as simple as seeing the light hit a plant, like this fireweed. The deer love this plant and it grows in places that may have seen more than one wildfire. Creative inspiration is a bit like wildfire. It takes just a spark and whoosh you are off and running. So whenever you feel a lull, know that the next inspiration is just around the corner, or even exactly where you are right now. The trick is to be open to it so that you can register it and admire it when it presents itself to you – which if you are open and aware will be all the time, no matter where you are, who you are with or what the lighting is. So get your camera out, get your eyes used to seeing & noticing interesting things that happen during a normal day and you will be amazed at how beautiful life is.”

Come visit Studio Beju on Wednesdays for Creative Circle Afternoons from 1-3pm.

Natasha Kennedy created an adult coloring book called “Maia of the Forest.” I reached out to get her personal story of how she came up with the idea for her coloring book:

“I had a very bad season (about 2 years) of severe anxiety and depression, and I chose to draw the line art for this story whenever I was having a panic attack. I pondered the themes of the story of Thumbelina and wrote a narrative based on that story, illustrating symbolism about depression, the lies we believe, and how it feels. The idea was that as drawing the book and writing the story was healing for me, perhaps coloring within the lines and reading the story would be healing to others. I didn’t want to just be one of the many affected by depression, I wanted to be part of the reach out as well.”

Natasha also shared her take on creativity:

“Creativity is at the core of being human. The things we bring to life through our minds, hands and words are the bits of our soul that we send out into the world, and leave behind for others. Creativity is our ability to express both the divine and the simple in ways that are beautiful. Whether our ideas come into being, or remain inside our heads, the pursuit of creating them is healing and life-giving. Creativity is the expression of self, and a way that we can be known by others.”

You can see Natasha’s other projects at

Want some help getting started?

There is a Coloring for Adults club that meets the 4th Tuesday of the month at Third Place Books Commons in Lake Forest Park.

Urban Sketchers is a club that organizes outings to sketch at different places around the city. See

Sketchbook artist Roy DeLeon posts daily sketches of his life observations on his facebook page. The sketch pictured above is of him sitting in meditation, a favorite activity. Roy says his posts have taught him how to see beyond the obvious and inspire him to develop healthier, happier relationships with other people, the environment and with Spirit.

I truly hope you get inspired with this week’s blog, keep on exploring your creative side, and check out of the clubs mentioned above! Happy Creating!

Monika Star is an avid wellness advocate, beach watcher, arts promoter and a natural connector. She is the community outreach director for the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection events and enjoys spending time meeting folks who are doing good things for our community.

Opening the Senses with Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)

Opening the Senses with Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)

By Gayle Picken

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was surrounded by trees. Cedars, Western Hemlocks and Douglas Firs towered over our house and swayed dramatically during the windstorms. Friends and relatives visiting from the mid-west would marvel at how tall and green they were, but I mostly took the trees for granted and didn’t fully appreciate their beauty until I was older.

Now with mindfulness and meditation becoming mainstream, I’m seeing lots of stories, classes and workshops in “Forest Bathing” or “Shinrin-yoku” – a practice developed in Japan of opening all of your senses while being in the forest to soak in all of the healing properties of the trees. It’s said to have profound health benefits, including lowering stress and blood pressure and boosting our immune system.

Could it be that trees can have that much of influence on our health?

Curious to learn more, I called on some of our NW Mind Body Spirit Connection experts to give us some insights.

Forest Bathing in a Group

Maureen Rivelle of Open Hands Reiki in Edmonds, led Forest Bathing groups every month during the Spring and Summer of 2017 into Southwest County Park or another park in Lynnwood.

“It is a very relaxing and rejuvenating “activity” that gets us back in touch with nature. Especially in the winter, many of us are far removed from the outdoors and nature and its positive effects on our bodies, minds and spirits. So my idea was to bring the balance of nature back into our lives by offering a way for people to go into the woods without having to travel far, and by removing the fear factor of being alone in the woods.”

Maureen took her group into the park and found a place that was relatively quiet and out of the path of people, yet where the group could remain within eyesight of each other.

She started off with a group meditation and grounding and then each person found a tree, got out their blankets and pillows and leaned against their tree or laid down next to it.

“We then communed with nature in our own way. Some people took much-needed naps,” she recalled.

After about an hour, Maureen would go around to each person to tell them it was time to walk out. “We shared our experiences as a group, afterwards,” she added, “In every case, people felt refreshed.”

Maureen’s tip: Look for a quiet spot without any mosquitoes!

Take the time to disconnect so that you can make time to reconnect

Marc Lainhart, The Intuitive Prospector, has been leading “Forest Friday” Hikes in the summer for the past 4 or 5 years. They include an easy to moderate hike along with Qigong and meditation.

I like to think of it as “connecting back to our original home,” said Marc.

“I used to do a lot of hiking by myself,” he added, “and then friends started asking to come along. As I built my spiritual practice, I incorporated meditation and Qigong into a forest bathing practice.”

“There is an exchange of elements that take place between us and trees/nature. Sometimes we forget this.”

Part of the experience is walking in silence with no words, no technology. “We take in the power and the essence with where we’re at,” he explained.

Marc doesn’t charge for the hikes, but accepts donations to help with gas and the trail head parking pass. For details, check his facebook page.

“The Forest Friday Hikes offer an opportunity to power off, reset and connect with higher self. Nature is our greatest teacher”

Interested in Learning More about Forest Bathing?

M. Amos Clifford has written a book called “Your Guide to Forest Bathing” where he invites you to bring this powerful self-care practice into your life. He shares the healing power of forest bathing, discusses the elements of practice, and gives you a step-by-step for optimal flow.

Clifford founded the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy and offers a Free Starter Kit if you sign up for the email list.

You can find his book online or at a local bookstore near you.

I’d love to hear about your experience forest bathing! Share your photos & stories in our group: NW Mind Body Spirit Lounge. See you in the forest!

Gayle Picken is an event producer, healthy living advocate, travel blogger and director of the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection. She loves yoga, hiking, kayaking, connecting with people and exploring the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Tips for Navigating Summer Eating … an Interview with Registered Dietitian, Crystal Franck

Tips for Navigating Summer Eating … an Interview with Registered Dietitian, Crystal Franck

by Monika Star

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Crystal Franck, registered dietitian at Experience Momentum in Lynnwood, WA. She took us on a tour of their wellness facility, including the yoga studio downstairs, the physical therapy room, the CrossFit gym and their outdoor urban garden space, and then we sat down in her office where she provides nutrition consulting for her clients.

We talked about her approach to nutrition, tips she has for summer eating tips and what she loves about working at Experience Momentum. She also shared a bonus recipe perfect for a 4th of July picnic!

Here’s the interview:

M. Thanks so much for giving us a tour of your office and Experience Momentum, Crystal. I’m wondering if you have any special plans for the 4th of July?

C. I usually go to eastern Washington to visit my Dad for the 4th and we go boating, but this year I’m staying here and I’ll be doing the Yankee Doodle Dash 5K in Everett. Experience Momentum will have a float at the Edmonds 4th of July Parade. Last year they received an award for the “Most Original Float!”

M. What type of nutrition services do you provide here at Experience Momentum?

C. I’m part of a team of providers here who educate, connect, support and empower our members to help them uncover new possibilities for their lives. We want to help define what people want for wellness in their lives and then assist them on their journey. As a Registered Dietitian, I help people with everything from working on overcoming emotional eating to looking at food quality and quantity, meal planning, grocery store tours and farmers market tours. Our goal is to help people achieve a sustainable wellness lifestyle. Other team members here include physical therapists, CrossFit trainers, massage therapists, yoga instructors, kickboxing and dance trainers.

M. Do you have any special tips for eating healthy during the summer?

C. Yes! Summertime is here, which means the season of outdoor picnics, potlucks, and BBQs is upon us. I get lots of questions about how to successfully navigate potlucks and parties, so here are some of my favorite tips:

  1. Don’t arrive ravenous. Plan to eat a hearty balanced breakfast with some protein, healthy fat, and a fruit or vegetable. Since the dishes served at picnics and parties tend to be more indulgent and carb-heavy, opting for a protein-rich breakfast with some colorful produce will help keep you full and energized and help balance out some of the choices you might be making later in the day. Arriving with a little food in your belly helps you scope out the situation and decide which foods you want to eat, where arriving super hungry makes us more likely to graze on snacks and potentially overeat.
  2. Stay hydrated. Warmer temperatures mean we require even more water to keep our bodies functioning optimally. When we are dehydrated, our bodies may send us hunger signals when we are actually thirsty, as these signals are very closely linked in our brains. Therefore, staying well hydrated may help keep us from overeating in response to these signals. Additionally, the beverages served at parties and BBQs tend to have more calories from sugar, alcohol, or both. To help keep your caloric consumption in check, alternate water with each sweet or alcoholic beverage you consume.
  3. When in doubt, eat a vegetable. For optimal health, our dietary guidelines for healthy Americans recommend eating 2-3 cups of vegetables per day for folks over 9 years old. Since a serving of most vegetables is ½ cup, that equals about five vegetable servings per day. Veggies are full of fiber, which helps keep us satisfied. You may find that filling up on veggies translates into you being less hungry for more decadent potluck foods. Additionally, vegetables are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting compounds. Increasing your intake of vegetables has been shown in research to help manage weight, protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as lower cholesterol and help manage blood sugar.
  4. Bring a dish to share. Since the dishes offered at potlucks can vary wildly, I always bring a dish that I will feel good about eating. Most parties and potlucks will have some desserts and carb-heavy sides, so I try to bring something with protein and/or veggies to help bring some balance. Some of my favorite protein-rich sides to bring include deviled eggs, a meat and cheese tray, and veggies with homemade hummus or a Greek yogurt dip. I also like to bring dishes with some extra veggies, such as our delicious recipe for roasted cauliflower salad (see recipe below!) Cauliflower provides more iron and vitamin C than potatoes, and is anti-inflammatory, and we swear you won’t miss the potatoes!

M. Those are great tips! Anything else you’d like to share about Experience Momentum?

C. We are a 1% for the planet company, which means we give away at least 1% of our annual sales each year to protect, preserve, and restore the environment. Some of the ways we do this is through letting our employee of the month and member of the month each select an environmental charity to support, and by closing our doors each year on Earth day so we can volunteer for projects, such as cleaning up the Interurban Trail and planting our urban garden. We also send teams of volunteers to support global environmental projects every three years. This past February we sent a team of twelve to Thailand, where they helped build barriers to help prevent forest fires and supported clean water efforts. Here’s a link to more info:

M. Thank you so much for sharing this great info, Crystal! Anything else you’d like to leave us with?

C. I always say that regardless of where you are in life, nutrition can help!

Thanks to Crystal Franck for sharing her time and expertise with us! To schedule a free 15 minute nutrition goal assessment with one of the Experience Momentum Registered Dietitians, call or text 425-776-0803.


Bonus Recipe: Loaded Roasted Cauliflower Salad

* 2 lb. cauliflower cut into same-sized pieces (about 1-2″ chunks)
* 6 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and chopped
* 6-8 slices of nitrate/nitrite-free bacon, cooked and crumbled
* 1/2 cup sliced green onion
* 1/2 tsp. onion powder
* salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
* ½ cup chopped jalapenos (optional)
* 1 cup avocado or olive oil mayo
* 2 tsp. yellow mustard
* 1 tsp. onion powder
* salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
* Cut up cauliflower into small same-sized pieces. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil or avocado oil. Roast at 400 degrees until lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.
* While the cauliflower roasts, cook the bacon until crisp, then drain on paper towels. Once cool, crumble into small pieces. * Cook the boiled eggs and set aside to cool. Once cool, peel and chop eggs coarsely.
* Slice the green onion.
* Whisk together the mayo, yellow mustard, 1 tsp. onion powder, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper to make the dressing.
* When you’re ready to assemble the salad, put the cauliflower into a bowl and top with the chopped eggs. Season well with salt, fresh-ground black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. onion powder; then add the dressing and gently combine with the cauliflower and eggs.
* Add the crisp bacon pieces, jalapenos, and green onion and stir (gently) until the salad is well combined.
* You can eat right away or let the salad chill for a few hours. Leftovers will keep well in the fridge overnight and can be eaten the next day, although you probably won’t have much left over because it is that delicious. Enjoy!

Monika Star is an avid wellness advocate, beach watcher, arts promoter and a natural connector. She is the community outreach director for the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection events and enjoys spending time meeting folks who are doing good things for our community.

Behind the Scenes Tour of Iris Wellness Center

Behind the Scenes Tour of Iris Wellness Center

By Gayle Picken

Meeting passion-driven entrepreneurs is one of my favorite benefits of what I do here at the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection. It’s so exciting to watch someone’s dream come alive and see the impact that they are making in the world.

Carleigh Tenzin is one of those entrepreneurs and we had the opportunity to meet her and visit her new wellness center on the Edmonds waterfront. Carleigh is definitely on a mission to change the face of health care … have a look at this “Behind the Scenes” tour of the Iris Wellness Center:

Fun in the Sun – Healthy Food Picnic Ideas

Fun in the Sun – Healthy Food Picnic Ideas

by Monika Star

With warmer, beautiful weather finally arriving here in the PNW, it’s the perfect time to treat yourself and your loved ones to an alfresco picnic or an outdoor dining experience in your backyard. Picnics, I believe, are where it’s at … and they’re super fun!

Besides the fresh, yummy goodness that you get when you make the meals yourself, a picnic also provides an opportunity to stay engaged with your family and friends and build stronger bonds while enjoying each other’s company. Eating together outside can foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belonging, hopefully free from any type of electronic distraction. Research also verifies that spending time in nature can greatly benefit our psychological and physical well-being.

So let’s start planning and reap all of these benefits! I’ve reached out to some of our friends of the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection to get their picks for “go to” healthy picnic dishes.

Start with Veggies

Melissa of Honeybee Table likes to make her picnic Veg-friendly. She says that “picnics and barbecues can be tough events for plant-based eaters to navigate. My favorite dish to bring along is a batch of veggie burgers. Aside from being incredibly versatile and flavorful, veggie burgers are high in fiber, protein, and minerals (especially iron when grains and legumes are involved). They can be prepared in advance or grilled if structured well.” Here’s a link to her blog with the recipes: I for sure will be trying the Moroccan chickpea burger–it looks delish!

Sarah Reilly, certified functional medicine health coach, from the Functional Health Equation always suggests mason jar salads for picnics. “You can use any combo of protein, veggies, greens, beans, nuts and seeds and you layer the heaviest items on the bottom and the lightest on the top. It is a great way to get in a balanced meal of protein, healthy fats, fiber and greens!” The salad pictured below has beans, cucumbers, carrots, tomato, raw beets, arugula and micro greens and a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. There is no set way to make these salads, so get culinary creative on this one.

Lisa Flowers, a holistic health coach, suggests marinated and grilled Portobello mushrooms. Add some good cheese and then eat them on a bun with lettuce, tomato and onion…like a burger. Another favorite is quinoa tabouli with whole grain pita or gluten free crackers. Quinoa is a highly nutritious seed, most people think it is a grain, that is packed with protein. Combine that with nutrient dense parsley, tomatoes, green onions and lemon juice and you have a delicious dish. Contact Lisa at Happiness Quest Health Coaching for the recipe.

Serve Up Some Sips

A refreshing drink is Summer Solstice Tea from Tea with Your Dragon in Stanwood. Victoria Dawson, shop owner, keeps a big jug of it all ready to go in her refrigerator. The ingredients in the summer solstice tea blend are: green tea, dried raspberries, sweet basil, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and calendula flowers. Brew in hot water for 15 minutes, strain out the herbs, add ice, and then when it cools, it’s fun to add your own fresh fruit and herbs. Sweeten to taste. Yes, please!

Let’s not forget dessert that can be healthy too!

Cindy with Trimazing Vegan Lifestyle Coaching says if she’s going to a picnic and needs a great dessert item that both kids and adults will love, she chooses her homemade Snicker Bites. They can be made ahead of time and kept it in the fridge or freezer until it’s time to head out, and they’re easy-to-eat finger food–perfect for a picnic. Recipe available here!

Everything Elderberry has tasty elderberry popsicles that come in 4 flavors: mango orange, tart cherry, limeade, and strawberry lemon. Kristin says that she created them with her 2-year old daughter in mind to help her stay hydrated in the warm months ahead. So far, these icy treats have been a great hit with her business customers as well. They make a great afternoon snack, picnic dessert or just something to help you cool off on a warm day. Pack them into a thermal bag and tote to the park or beach. Each popsicle has a full serving of homemade organic elderberry syrup said to help keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Kristin’s popsicles are made with organic juices and a splash of fresh lemon to make it a refreshing choice. See her one-stop shop for everything elderberry:

Special thanks to all who contributed their recipes and inspiration for this article.

Wishing you many healthy picnic adventures!

Monika Star is an avid wellness advocate, beach watcher, arts promoter and a natural connector. She is the community outreach director for the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection events and enjoys spending time meeting folks who are doing good things for our community.

Camping Zen – aka One Yogi’s Guide to Spending a Weekend in the Woods

Camping Zen – aka One Yogi’s Guide to Spending a Weekend in the Woods

By Gayle Picken

Have you ever wondered why your food tastes so much better when you’re camping?

Or how sleeping on a hard, bumpy, damp surface outside for a couple of nights can actually leave you rejuvenated and refreshed?

It’s not logical, is it?

With the amount of effort required to plan, pack, shop, load, travel, unload, unpack and set up and for a camping trip, you think you’d come home a lot more stressed out than you were before you left.

Yet, as millions of people across the globe can attest, the experience of camping outdoors, whether in a tent, trailer or “glamper”, somehow serves to reset our soul and revitalize our spirit.

For me, camping has become the ultimate experiment in mindfulness…

Removing the Layers of Distraction

It can take some time to settle in. Often when we arrive at our camping destination, I’m still thinking about all of the things I forgot to do before I left… making a mental list of items to check off as soon as we get home. Setting up camp is often hurried or stressful as we are still in our “must get it done” energy. Even preparing the first meal feels like a chore to simply stave off hunger.

But then we move to lighting the fire–that time-honored tradition and iconic symbol of everything “camping”–and that is when we flip the switch. The fire, big or small, smoky or roaring, no matter how long it takes us to light, is ours and signifies that we have arrived. We are camping! Outside in nature. In a spot we’ve made our own. And that is when this practice begins.

Loud pops and crackles draw my attention and then the mesmerizing flames take over, pulling me in even further. I take a deep breath and start noticing my surroundings. I notice the sounds of the wind rustling through the trees. I notice the entertaining shenanigans of a resident chipmunk or jay. I notice temperature starting to cool my skin and I move a couple of inches closer to the fire. My body starts to relax and the layers of “to do’s” in my mind starts to slowly fade. My senses open and this begins the practice of “just being”–watching the canvas in the sky unfold as the stars appear one by one.

Bringing Our Awareness to the Space Around Us

In the morning, the sounds of the birds and the glow of the morning light wake us up. No alarms. No schedule. No need to even look at a clock. I pull on a sweatshirt and move to the picnic table. I fire up the camp stove and put the percolator on the grate. No hurry … the percolator takes its time and slowly starts to rattle as the water begins to heat up.

I notice a caterpillar on the picnic table. I become fascinated at watching it move, the tiny legs, the articulation of the long fuzzy body, the surprising progress of this tiny creature inching closer and closer to the stove. Breathing in the fresh air feels exhilarating .. how lucky we are to be in this spot right now, outside, with birds darting in and out of the bushes and butterflies dancing their way through our camp.

I hear a “bloop” and see the first bubble appear in the percolator’s glass top. This brings a smile to my face. How exciting to see that the water is boiling and our coffee is starting to brew. I realize how special it is to be present here in this moment, making coffee outside at the picnic table at our camp spot. Life is good.

I grab the box of pancake mix and add some water from my water bottle into bowl, stirring it with a fork as the frying pan heats up on the stove. The wind picks up and a couple of pine needles land in the bowl of batter. No worries, I think to myself as I pull them out, we’re camping, a little dirt won’t hurt us …

The smell of the sizzling melted butter in the pan signals that its time to cook the first pancake. Cooking outside in the open, with the trees waving and light clouds moving across the sky, it’s glorious!

Drizzling syrup over the stack of pancakes, I notice the steam coming from the pancakes and then I gaze at the piping hot cup of coffee I’ve poured in my favorite camping mug. Scrumptious! My mouth is watering before I even pick up my fork. After my first bite I have an epiphany — this has got be the best pancake I have ever tasted! The flavor is amazing and the texture so perfect … I am feeling the soft wind on my face, and I relish the moment and sink even deeper into this state of “un-doing.”

Pausing and Absorbing Our Practice

At the end of the weekend, I resist packing up. Can’t we enjoy one more cup of coffee by the river or savor another stroll through the woods? The important list of “to do’s” for the upcoming week has long been forgotten and I briefly consider the possibility of staying another night.

Camping, out in nature, where we’re forced to simplify, slow down, and return our focus to our most basic needs of shelter, food, water and fire, becomes a meditation. In our busy modern technology-driven life, it reminds us of what it is to be human.

As I slowly pack up the tent and sleeping bags and bring my attention to my life back at home, I feel energized and renewed, and I begin planning our next trip …