What it means to be a UC Berkeley Wellness Ambassador

One of my intentions for 2017 is to serve as a wellness ambassador to help to create a culture of health within the workplace by promoting staff participation in UC Berkeley wellness programs, services, and events.  My colleague Veronica and I were recently featured on UC Berkeley’s Be Well at Work Newsletter and you can read our interview below. Yes, the Camino does come up in one of my responses. It seems that lately more things are a ripple effect of the Camino!

Be Well at Berkeley – March 2017

Veronica and I posting flyers in English and Spanish

Posting flyers in English and Spanish

Laurie and Veronica have always been advocates for fitness both at home and in the workplace, so it was no surprise when they decided to become Wellness Ambassadors for International House. Ever since Laurie started at I-House in 2005, she rallied co-workers to join lunchtime hikes on trails around campus. The camaraderie within this informal hiking club formed many friendships over the years. Last October, Laurie started teaching yoga to staff at lunchtime on Mondays. Veronica joined I-House in 2015 as a Human Resources Assistant. She is often the first person a new employee will encounter, and she makes everyone feel welcome with her positive attitude.

We recently chatted with them to learn how their advocacy for health and wellness have inspired and made a real difference in the lives of others within their department.

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Coming out of the Camino Closet

The Camino has provided in more ways than I could ever imagine, and it keeps providing in the months after my return home. The executive director at my workplace was curious about my Camino as he and his wife have some friends who recently walked the Portuguese coastal route. They also lived in Greece and Germany so were somewhat familiar with the Camino. He surprised me by asking me to give a presentation about my Camino at an all-staff meeting. I was unsure at first because this was a personal journey and I have tried to keep my private life and work separate.

Arrival to work on day 1

Walking to work was great training!

My closest colleagues were familiar with the Camino from hearing me talk about it and seeing me train during lunchtime hikes. I was spotted with all my Camino gear when I walked to work three days in a row. But I was not sure if I could explain the Camino to people who have never heard of it, let alone share my personal experiences in front of a room full of people, many of whom I did not know. Was I ready to come out of the Camino closet?

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Bom Caminho: A Ponte de Lima Jazz Serenade

A light rain was falling when I arrived in Ponte de Lima around 8 p.m. after my train and bus rides from Lisbon.

A lone kayaker gliding along the river

A lone kayaker gliding along the river

Approaching the beautiful arched bridge built by the Romans in 1125, I heard jazz playing. I wondered where the sound could be coming from, because the small village seemed rather quiet and empty of people. The music became louder as I got closer to a street light on the bridge, and I realized the jazz was coming from speakers concealed inside the lamppost! I was mesmerized by the beauty and the feeling of that moment—crossing a bridge and being serenaded by jazz. It was as if the Camino had rolled out a welcome mat and said, “Come here child; we’ve been expecting you. You are exactly where you need to be.”  Continue reading

St. James Day + Tarta de Santiago Recipe

Today is July 25th, St. James Day, and that means it’s time for the largest festival in Santiago de Compostela. Below is an overview from CaminoWays of how the festival is celebrated in Santiago. I’ve also included an easy recipe for Galicia’s favorite dessert, Tarta de Santiago, a delicious cake made with almond flour. Continue reading

My Rekindled Faith

When my mom and I were on our tour in Fátima, Portugal, I had to ask her about something that had bothered me since childhood. When she and my father got a divorce, our neighborhood church turned her away. I couldn’t understand this because my Mormon friends down the street had the support of the entire local Mormon congregation when their parents got a divorce. They brought over casseroles, babysat, and donated clothes and school supplies. By contrast, my mom, who had attended Catholic school and went to church every day, had nobody to help her. That’s the reason why I had resented the Catholic Church for most of my life. Continue reading

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of HappinessToday in the United States, it’s Independence Day, a.k.a. the 4th of July. On this national holiday, we celebrate “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This well-known phrase comes from the United States Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776. We all have different ways of celebrating this day; many gather together with their families, have picnics, and watch fireworks. It’s summertime fun American style.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about independent traveling, specifically about walking Camino de Santiago alone as a female. When my family first heard about my wanting to walk the Camino on my own, they thought I was nuts; my mom in particular was afraid for my safety.

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Mindful Pride in SF

Over the weekend, San Francisco hosted its annual Pride Celebration and Parade. Below you will find some highlights of how SF celebrates Pride and a video about one man’s journey from addiction to mindful meditation. But before you delve into those, here’s a time-lapse video of the Civic Center illuminated with rainbow lights.

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108 Sun Salutations for Solstice

Happy summer solstice! In some yoga circles, it is traditional to celebrate the changes of seasons—the summer and winter solstice and the vernal and autumnal equinox—by doing 108 Sun Salutations. This practice is most often done in large groups and often as an offering, such as an offering of peace or unity (see The Global Mala Project, which facilitates collective yoga events typically including 108 Sun Salutations).i

What Are Sun Salutations?

yoga-sun-salutation

Surya Namaskar (Sanskrit for Sun Salutation) is a series of yoga poses done in a continuous, flowing sequence, intended to improve the strength and flexibility of muscles. Sun Salutations are an excellent way for hikers to warm up and stretch their body. You can benefit with just a few rounds before any workout or hike. See below for the classic twelve steps of Surya Namaskar and a variation of the series that you can do without a mat. When on the Camino, I would start each day with a few rounds of half salutations, and I truly believe that they helped prevent injuries.

For a complete cardio workout, challenge yourself to do 108 of them upon the change of seasons.

Why 108?

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Self-Observation Poem and Camel Pose

Self-Observation Without Judgment

Release the harsh and pointed inner voice.

It’s just a throwback to the past,
and holds no truth about this moment.

Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up
for each imagined inadequacy.

Allow the dialogue within the mind
to grow friendlier, and quiet.

Shift out of inner criticism and life
suddenly looks very different.

I can say this only because I make
the choice a hundred times a day to release the voice that refuses to
acknowledge the real me.

What’s needed here isn’t more prodding toward perfection, but
intimacy – seeing clearly, and embracing what I see.

Love, not judgment, sows the
seeds of tranquility and change.

Danna Faulds, One Soul: More Poems from the Heart of Yoga

Do you have a favorite poem to share for Mindful Monday? Email me or share it in the comments below.

Yoga Pose of the Week

Camel Pose | Ustrasana
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Ode to the Oak, and Tree Pose

This poem was read by a yoga teacher at class I attended recently. I enjoyed it. Maybe you will too.

The Oak Tree

by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr

A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke.
How can you still be standing Oak?

The oak tree said, I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two
Carry every leaf away
Shake my limbs, and make me sway

But I have roots stretched in the earth
Growing stronger since my birth
You’ll never touch them, for you see
They are the deepest part of me

Until today, I wasn’t sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you
I’m stronger than I ever knew

After class, I asked the yoga instructor about it and she emailed it to me. Who knew you can get so much out of a free yoga class at REI!  I didn’t think about the poem again until a few days later when I was stopped in my tracks at the beauty of this oak tree.

Oak Tree

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