Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The High Cost of Avoiding Conflict

Conflict is necessary for growth, but we often avoid it. Sometimes it’s because we feel emotionally insecure when we think about contradicting someone we care about or bringing up a topic that might make them defensive. Yet we might be overestimating the risk of their responding with anger, hurt or resistance to what we have to say. Even if some risk is involved, and the other person is not entirely happy with our confronting them, avoidance can be a costly choice. We might miss valuable potential payoffs, such as the opportunity to learn, to expand our expertise, or to deepen our emotional intimacy with another person.

We may avoid conflict because we fear our expertise or importance might be questioned and that makes us feel insecure. I know many shamans, healers who are guided by the teachings of ancient wisdom traditions, who are well respected in their communities and by those they work to heal. The most effective ones I know are those who do not take themselves too seriously despite their impressive reputations. They understand that self-importance and the need to see oneself as adept at all times can be a weakness. If we can overcome our fears of losing our reputation and being judged as not so clever or wise after all, we can find it easier to engage in conflicts that might lead us to becoming even more knowledgeable and skilled.
By using shamanic and Jungian techniques for accessing the unconscious mind, we can let go of any fear of conflict and engage in difficult conversations that hold potential for growth. We can discover ways to resolve conflicts rather than avoid them.

Engaging in conflict while being humble and willing to remain fully present in the conversation despite any discomfort can help us to make that conflict positive and productive. We increase the likelihood that we will grow from the experience.
In my work as a shamanic practitioner and a Jungian analyst in clinical practice, I’ve had people complain to me about someone in their lives. When I ask, “Have you talked to the other person about your complaints?” they often admit they haven’t. They want to avoid an uncomfortable conversation and hope someone else will resolve the conflict—or that it will resolve on its own. Usually at this point in our conversation, I will help free them from the grip of ego fears and self-importance by using shamanic and Jungian techniques that engage the unconscious mind. I know this can help them face their fears and resistance. I might have them close their eyes and allow their fear of confrontation to arise in their mind and become a symbol with which they can dialogue. I tell them to ask this symbol, “What message do you have for me?” and “What do you want from me?” When the symbol answers, it speaks with the wisdom of the unconscious mind. In such a conversation, a person might discover that her fear of conflict is related to a fear of losing a relationship that is important to her. She might discover that she is holding on to shame leftover from childhood and afraid of being seen as a lightweight whose ideas and opinions have little value.

If there is a conflict you are avoiding or dreading, you might want to take a walk in a natural area or spend some time just sitting among the trees or on a park bench. Don’t think about the conflict. Instead, simply observe nature. Pay attention to the movements of the leaves, the creatures and the clouds. Bring your awareness to the sensation of breathing and to the feeling of sitting on the earth. Notice what you are hearing, seeing, smelling and experiencing. Let your senses come alive. Then, ask yourself, “What do I need to know about talking to (fill in the name of the person you need to face or confront to discuss the conflict)?” or “What do I need to know about this conflict I’ve been avoiding?” Wait quietly for an answer.
The answer or insight might come in symbolic form, perhaps as a movement of animals or insects, a sound coming from far away or a shape in the clouds. Although these natural phenomena may seem random, your unconscious mind can work with nature and its symbols to provide your conscious mind with insights. What might that squirrel switching directions and scurrying away be telling you? What message does the sound of a bubbling creek have for you concerning the conversation you have been dreading because you fear the discomfort of conflict?

After using these techniques involving your intuition and your unconscious mind, you might want to journal about what you learned.

The unconscious mind is a rich pool of insights, energies and information that can be used in everyday life to resolve problems and identify positive actions you can take to change your life. By using shamanic and Jungian techniques to tap into its riches, you make it easier to let go of any fear or anxiety about conflict and face it with confidence and even curiosity about the possible outcomes. In fact, sitting quietly on a park bench and watching the clouds may be just what you need to ensure a positive resolution to the conflict before you.

How do you handle conflict in your life? Do you seek it out, avoid it, dislike it but deal with it effectively, or have some other way of coping with it? Do you go within and access the insights of your unconscious mind before trying to resolve the conflict? Reflect on what you have discovered as a result of bypassing your analytical mind and ego and tapping into the wisdom found within your unconscious mind. While what you find in your unconscious may not always make you feel good about yourself, and might cause you embarrassment, the exploration and the insights you gain may be exactly what you need to resolve a conflict with minimal drama and discomfort for all involved.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Make Wine a Key Part of Your Thanksgiving

The arrival of autumn brings with it cooler days, colorful leaves and rich, hearty foods as the last of the harvest is brought in.
Thanksgiving is the cornerstone feast of the season, with a traditional approach of turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, seasonal vegetables like corn and squash, pumpkin pie for dessert … the menu options are only limited by your imagination. But to make the meal truly complete, make wine the centerpiece.
“The versatility of wine makes it the perfect complement for a big meal like Thanksgiving,” says Marcel Morgenstern, a sommelier from Pondview Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. “Adding a bold red wine to your gravy adds amazing flavor and heartiness. Pour table wines that pair well with turkey. A sweet dessert or late harvest wine goes nicely with your slice of pie.
“And of course, there is also the social side, swapping stories and catching up with family and friends over a shared bottle of wine. It brings the whole day together.”
To fully integrate fine wines into your Thanksgiving celebration, Marcel offers the following tips.
·         If you won’t drink it, then don’t cook with it. You cook with wine because it brings out new and exciting flavors to enhance your palate. If you aren’t willing to put it in your glass, don’t put it in your gravy.
·         Decant those big, beefy reds. Allowing a full-bodied red to breathe releases flavors and aromas that will delight. Decanting will also filter out any sediment from a wine that has been aging. You don’t want to treat younger reds too carefully: don’t be scared to aggressively pour them into a decanter and swish them around to help the bouquet to open up. Marcel suggests pouring the 2011 Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon into your decanter up to an hour before sharing it with your guests.  
·         Pair it up. Wine and food are a great match, with the right pairing complementing each other. For fans of white wines, put a crisp Riesling or Gew├╝rztraminer on the table. A Thanksgiving “must try” is the slightly off-dry Gew├╝rztraminer-Riesling blend. If you happen to favor reds, a medium-bodied Cabernet Merlot blend with soft tannins is a beautiful match with turkey with a rich gravy or reduction.
·         Make it fancy. Many amateur wine lovers discount the importance of glassware, but it can make a huge difference in the enjoyment of your wine. The size, shape and style of the glass can influence everything from the flavor to the aroma to the temperature of the wine inside. A large bowl and narrow opening functions as a loudspeaker, intensifying the nuances of the wine. And if you can, avoid stemless wine glasses. They may be trendy, but the stem of the glass is there to keep your hands (and, thus, body heat) away from your wine — and greasy fingerprints really don’t look great on beautiful wine glasses!

About Pondview Estate Winery:
Drawing on more than three generations of winemaking experience, Pondview Estate Winery is one of the newest additions to the Four Mile Creek appellation in the heart of Niagara’s wine country. Family owned by Luciano and Adriana Puglisi, Pondview crafts exceptional Ontario VQA wines rooted in an Italian heritage. Luciano’s enthusiasm and respect for the winemaking process, alongside his dedication and commitment to excellence, earned him the prestigious title of Grape King in 2008, awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture to the finest vineyard operator in Ontario. The secret to the success of Pondview Estate Winery is the long-held belief of the Puglisi family: Great wine is a harmony of earth and vine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Five Tips for a Happy and Healthy Plant-Based Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. We take time to be with our loved ones and be thankful for our relationships, our health, and our opportunities. It’s a time to celebrate the harvest and all of the wonderful flavors and colors and textures of autumnal foods – and the best part? All of the best fall foods are plant-based! And there are plenty of ways to celebrate and incorporate them into the holiday season.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I wanted to give some of my best holiday tips so that you can feel joyous about the holiday and celebrate what Thanksgiving means to you while still doing what feels good for your body.

Here are five tips for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving:

Have fun planning a menu. Don’t limit yourself by thinking only of traditional foods. If you’re cooking for a larger group and they’re expecting their holiday favorites, there are ways you can emulate those foods with a healthier recipe, like mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. But if your guests are adventurous, go outside the box! There are tons of amazing seasonal recipes you can make to celebrate harvest time without loading them full of meat and dairy, but you could also look to other cultural dishes to really explore the world in your menu.

Invite people who share your values. This might be easier said than done! It can be a fun way to recharge with people who actually share your values and will appreciate every second you put into planning and cooking for them. People are often busy visiting their families, but with many people living far away from loved ones, an invitation to a fun plant-based holiday gathering can be a great thing.

Start a new tradition. I love this! Traditions can be anything, whether it’s Frisbee in the park, watching a certain movie, or silly things like hiding something that everyone has to try and find. Have fun with it. If you’re not sure what to do, look up traditions of other cultures and use it as a teaching lesson for your kids.  

Spend time with your loved ones creating memories. What may just be a silly song or movie time or a walk through a pumpkin patch today, could end up being one of our most cherished memories. Remember that the holidays aren’t just about food. It’s about spending time with your loved ones, celebrating the reason you can come together, and being thankful for what your blessings.  

Take time for yourself! It’s not uncommon for us to spend so much time trying to make an enjoyable experience for our children and loved ones that we end up exhausted at the end of the day or weekend. Make sure that you have time to unwind. Get in a workout, meditate, and relax. Whether you enlist help making food or spend some time prepping for your meal in the days before, do what you need to do to keep from getting burned out and overscheduled during the holiday.

Keep in mind that your holiday can still incorporate your healthy habits. There’s no reason why post-Thanksgiving fun can’t be a walk around the block or an hour at the park. You can even pick up a football and play together! The most important thing is to take this time to recharge and take time to feel the joy of gratitude for your blessings, the things you’ve worked hard for, and the people who love you.

Here’s my favorite holiday recipe for Cauliflower Mash to get you inspired for your plant-based Thanksgiving!

Cauliflower Mash

• 1 lb. bag frozen or fresh cauliflower
• 1/4 cup fat-free soymilk
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
• 1 tsp poultry seasoning
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• 2 Tbsp cornstarch
• 2 Tbsp water to mix with corn starch
• 1 Tbsp fresh parsley

In a pot, steam cauliflower for 10-12 minutes or until very soft. Drain well using a colander. In a saucepan, combine soymilk, garlic, 1/4 cup water, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning and yeast over medium heat. When it begins to boil, slowly mix the cornstarch/water mixture into the sauce, stirring constantly until thickened.

When cauliflower is cool enough, squeeze as much water out as possible. Place the cauliflower in the processor or high-powered blender and blend for about a minute. Add sauce and fresh parsley to cauliflower and process until creamy and smooth. If it’s too thick, you may adjust the consistency by adding a little bit of soymilk. Makes 4 servings.

Vanessa Chamberlin is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Lifestyle Coach and author of The Fire-Driven Life: How to Ignite the Fire of Self-Worth, Health, and Happiness with a Plant-Based Diet. For more information, please visit, and connect with her on Twitter, @vkchamberlin.

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