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15 Sep

I’m delighted to introduce you to Daniel Piatek, a spiritual guide to many and an old friend and mentor of mine.

Daniel and I spent several years living, working, and meditating together in a contemporary spiritual ashram. That was almost 20 years ago.

These days, Daniel leads transformational spiritual travel adventures. His upcoming “Reunion with the Divine Odyssey Quest” is a unique alchemy of tour, retreat, vision quest and spiritual adventure through Catalonia, Spain and France, October 25 – November 3, 2019.

I encourage you to check it out. (More on this down below.)

Also, Daniel has provided some free resources below: a guided meditation entitled Advice from Your Future and an Ebook called “The 3 Sacred Keys”.

Guided Meditation

Advice from Your Future: A Guided Meditation to Discover Your Next Right Steps

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In order to discover new, creative solutions to life’s dilemmas, we have to get beyond the realm of what we already know. When we free ourselves from the limitations of our current perspective, and lean in with wonder and curiosity, perfect next steps can be discovered.

This guided meditation is a tool to assist you in discovering perfect next right steps for you in relation to a dilemma you’re facing in life right now.

It will free you to perceive beyond the world of the known and receive guidance from the deeper parts of yourself.

This meditation is designed to be engaged with a particular problem you’re facing, or choice you have to make. You will be guided to discover your next right steps toward creating a perfect solution.

Ebook Download: The 3 Sacred Keys

For a free electronic copy of Daniel’s short book which teaches a simple method for creating perfect solutions through living daily life from Not Knowing (daily life-as-meditation), click here: The3SacredKeys

Special Opportunity: Reunion with the Divine Odyssey Quest

Transformational travel provides a way to commune with the deeper parts of yourself. While you’re familiar with the positive influence of meditation in your life, imagine taking 10 days away from it all to discover parts of yourself which are wanting to emerge in your life now.

Daniel Piatek leads transformational spiritual travel adventures. His upcoming “Reunion with the Divine Odyssey Quest” is a unique alchemy of tour, retreat, vision quest and spiritual adventure through Catalonia, Spain and France, October 25 – November 3, 2019.

This experience is designed to explore both inner and outer landscapes, uncovering more about yourself as you discover new lands and new tales. This Odyssey Quest Tour, themed around the energies of the Black Madonna, the Mythic Dark Mother from cultures worldwide, will give you access to the deeper stirrings of your being while having the adventure of a lifetime.

For a video about the Odyssey Quest and more information, click here: https://heroacademy.kartra.com/page/8Db59

Daniel Piatek Bio

Daniel Piatek catalyzes, inspires, and guides others to take up the adventure of your life – becoming who you truly are. In his book, “The 3 Sacred Keys: An Operating System for Quantum Transformation,” Daniel teaches you how to access Wisdom & Creativity within. This Inner Genius can guide you, step by step, to perfect resolutions and a life that is a reflection of who you authentically are.

Daniel has continually walked his own path for over 30 years, experiencing profound life transformations as his alignment with his Inner Genius deepens. Utilizing the wisdom he’s gained, along with real-time, intuitive guidance, Daniel personally mentors his clients and students as they master navigating their own unique path.

You can find more information about his work at HeroAcademy.com

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04 Sep

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Looking to supplement prescribing pain pills, some doctors are suggesting mindfulness and meditation apps to prevent misuse before it begins. Rex Marco, an orthopedic surgeon in Houston, recommends meditation apps such as Stop, Breathe, & Think to his patients suffering from chronic pain. And for good reason—in clinical trials mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce it by 57 percent.

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Meditation apps may help curb addiction, too. In a recent study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers at the University of Southern California found that eight weeks of mindfulness training led to decreases in cravings and relapses among adults in rehab—even six months later. Apps are an easy, accessible way to practice at home, and several new ones targeting addiction are going beyond simple meditations with features such as trigger tracking, motivational messages, medication and mindfulness reminders, and on-demand group therapy.

Read also Headspace’s New Prescription Strategy Could Change the Way We All Meditate


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03 Sep

Be a Gardener

Human development is a slow, organic process. There are times when everything blooms quickly, and there are seasons of hibernation when it seems like nothing is changing, but in fact a lot is happening underneath the surface. Inner transformation can seem as slow as a tree branch growing. However, we need to consistently nurture ourselves, be patient, and let things unfold in their own way.

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Track the Discomfort

If you are caught in a loop of critical, anxious thoughts, such as Wow, I really messed up or I’m such a loser for reacting like that or I have to urgently fix this or else no one will like me, often underneath those thoughts is a deeply held self-shaming belief like I’m not good enough. Every one of these thoughts and beliefs will be localized in particular places or patterns in your body or breath. The next time you are caught in a seemingly endless loop of thoughts, instead of just watching your thoughts, also pay attention to your breath and track sensations in your body. Is your stomach in knots? Is your throat aching? Are you breathing hard? Gently identify where the pain or discomfort is in your body. Your mind may be all over the place, but your body tends to be much simpler. By placing your attention to the physical expression of your thoughts, you can more quickly identify what core beliefs are actually driving the wave of thoughts.


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31 Aug

Overwhelmed with guilt, blame, and shame? Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza invites you us to practice self-forgiveness and release whatever isn’t serving us you with this brief guided meditation.

Overwhelmed with guilt, blame, and shame? Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza invites you to practice self-forgiveness and release whatever isn’t serving you with this brief guided meditation.

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28 Aug

Try this short meditation, created by Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza, the next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious.

Try this short meditation, created by Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza, the next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious. 

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27 Aug

There are two ways of looking at a Daiquiri. 

Okay, three ways, including the one that says “what the hell are you doing looking at that enticing little green pool of sheer refreshment when you could be drinking it?” That, of course, is the sensible way. 

But for those with an unshakably analytical cast of mind, there are the other two. One sees the Daiquiri as a Rum Sour; a simple variation on a standard, even elemental pattern of drink-mixing. To the other, the Daiquiri is a Daiquiri and nothing else; it’s the unique end of a long chain of choices made by individuals. 

A philosophically-minded mixographer might distinguish these as the Platonic approach and the Aristotelean one; the one that starts with divine, pre-existing forms and seeks to understand the things in this world as often-imperfect reflections of them, and the one that starts with what’s right there in front of us and moves on to patterns and forms, if necessary, from there. If you had Plato and Aristotle peering into the same tidal pool full of fish, Plato would be the one saying, “isn’t it cool the way those fish, from the little school-swimming ones to that big, ugly fucker lurking under the rock there, all have scales and fins and gills, pretty much in the same places,” while Aristotle would be the one going “hey, there’s a skulion, and look at that batos burying himself in the sand like they do, and man, how those sardinoi do swarm!” (I am of course grossly oversimplifying things here, but hey, I’m a drinks writer, not a philosopher.)

I bring up our Greek philosophers because if you patronize modern craft-cocktail bars—the kind of bar that has 11 mezcals and two flavored vodkas; that has a drinks list where every name is a play on the title of a Mountain Goats song (“I’ll have ‘The Coroner’s Gimlet,’ please”); that has bartenders who know all of the drinks in the book and none of the dirty jokes—then the odds are very high that you’re drinking Platonically, whether you know it or not. And that’s fine. But it’s also not fine. 

Most young bartenders learn to mix drinks these days according to the “Mr. Potato Head” method (as master bartender Phil Ward christened it): you take a known drink, and you switch out this and you switch out that and voilà! New drink. Eventually, this gets applied to existing drinks, too. If one is close to a known pattern, it gets pulled into that drink’s orbit and its recipe—its “specs,” to use the current bartender jargon—gets bashed around until it fits the pattern. Keep at it and you can eventually reduce all known drinks to variations on just a handful of these patterns. 

The award-winning new Cocktail Codex, by the team of Alex Day, Nick Fauchauld, David Kaplan and Devon Tarby, does just that, presenting the wide and tangled world of mixed drinks as “intuitive progressions” from just six “well-known templates,” as Day explains in his introduction: The Old-Fashioned, the Martini, the Daiquiri, the Sidecar, the Highball and the Flip.

Now, the Cocktail Codex is actually a fine, intelligent book that presents as compelling a case for the Platonic approach as can be made, while still accounting for little things like tradition, chance and the irrepressible power of human variation. Day and his crew are not the problem (indeed, their New York bar, Death & Co., has consistently served me some of the very best drinks I’ve had in the city for well over a decade). Others, however, use far less nuance, to the point that no matter how far out the drinks sound when you’re ordering them, when you’re sipping them they all seem more or less the same as what you get in any other bar. They’re exercises in applied theory rather than individual drinks. 

Mixing drinks doesn’t have to be so abstract. Sure, bartenders have always relied on patterns to a certain degree, from the far-off days of Jerry Thomas on. When Thomas told the readers of his 1862 How to Mix Drinks that you made a Santa Cruz Fix by taking a Brandy Fix and “substituting Santa Cruz Rum instead of Brandy,” that was the original Mr. Potato Head-thinking. But there have always been bartenders who focused more on executing the recipe no matter what its eccentricities may be rather than worrying if there was a way to “improve” it so it better matches some higher pattern. 

I’d like to get back to that Daiquiri we started with, but to do it I’d like to rope in a couple of other drinks, too: Brazil’s Caipirinha and the ‘Ti Punch of the French Caribbean. Like the Daiquiri, these two drinks can each be described as a simple mix of a sugarcane distillate with lime juice and cane sugar. 

In fact, a great many modern bartenders treat the Caipirinha like a muddled Daiquiri on the rocks, with simple syrup for the sugar and Brazilian cachaça for the Cuban-style white rum (I can say this having tested literally hundreds of bartenders as a part of the Pernod-Ricard company’s long-running BarSmarts certification program). They’ll muddle everything in the shaker, shake it all with ice, and strain it over fresh ice. I’ve also seen, if less frequently, the ‘Ti Punch handled as another rocks-glass Daiquiri, but based on rhum agricole, with Martinique cane syrup for the sweetener and the lime in the form of a fat wedge that is squeezed directly into the glass. 

Both of those approaches will yield a perfectly palatable drink, even a refreshing one. What they will not yield is an interesting one or one with individuality. The Caipirinha and the ‘Ti Punch are not standard rum-lime Sours. They evolved in different worlds, as parts of different traditions, and they’re meant to serve different needs.

To make a Caipirinha the Brazilian way, you’ll forget about the cocktail shaker and the simple syrup. The Caipirinha is not a bar drink. In the back-country of São Paolo state, where the drink was born at the beginning of the twentieth century, the “pinga com limão” (cachaça with lime) or “Batida Paulista” (São Paolo Muddle) was a folk drink, the kind of thing your granny would whip up when you were feeling a bit low. Such drinks use as little specialized equipment as possible. They also don’t worry about engineering a precise, knife-edge balance between sweet and sour. 

The most important part of traditional Caipirinha-making is preparing the lime. Most modern bartenders will simply cut the thing in half and then hack one of the halves into chunks. In Brazil, though, this is where the real technique comes in. In expert hands, preparing the lime is a four-step process that takes far longer to explain than it does to perform.

1. Cut the top and bottom off the lime—its Arctic and Antarctic, if you will. You want to cut just enough so that the green flesh is exposed. 

2. Slice the lime in half from pole to pole through the woody white stem that runs through the middle of the fruit (its ends are the little white dots in the middle of each exposed bit). 

3. Extract the stem from each half of the lime with a couple of long, shallow cuts angled to meet beneath it. You should end up with two neat lime-halves, each with squared-off ends and a v-shaped notch running down the middle of its flat side.

4. The final step is to cut downwards from the bottom of the notch, but not so far as to completely split the lime-half. Then a couple of cross-ways cuts are made, dividing the flat face of the lime into three roughly equal parts; these, too, do not go all the way down, but leave a little skin in the middle to hold all the parts together. Repeat for the other half (you’re doing two because if you’re sipping a Caipirinha, you want to be doing it with a friend). Your final product should be two lime halves, each segmented to make it easy to muddle but still hanging together just enough to make it easy to handle.

Okay. Now it’s easy. Take a big, Double Old-Fashioned glass—a “bucket glass,” as it’s known—and put a heaping teaspoon of plain white sugar into it, and maybe two, depending on how big and juicy your limes look and how much cachaça you think you’re going to pour in there. Grab one of the lime-halves and put it in the glass, skin-side down. Now take your muddler—the only specialized tool you need here—and press the hell out of it. Without the woody stem, you’ll be able to neatly extract all the juice. At the same time, you’ll be grinding the skin into the sugar, flavoring it with some of the bitter lime-oil. You want that. 

Now the cachaça. You want the clear kind. If you can spring for an artisanal one, such as Avuà or Novo Fogo, so much the better. If not, one of the cheap commercial ones will still get you where you need to go. How much do you put in? The answer, I suppose, is, how much do you want to drink? Just make sure you leave room for ice, which you’ll add after stirring the booze in with the lime slurry. How much ice? Up to you. 

This is the kind of thing that drives a dedicated Platonist nuts. There is no ideal Caipirinha—there’s just a technique. Muddle a lime up with some sugar, throw in some cachaça and ice, and done. With sugar, booze and ice all in play, it seems like the Caipirinha barely has a set of specs at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s arbitrary: it does follow a pattern, but one of use, not theory. The proportions depend on who will drink it and what the occasion is. If it’s meant as a slow-sipper, it will probably have more booze, ice and sugar (for texture). If it’s a quick hoist, there will be less. 

The ‘Ti Punch is just as situational. In fact, in Martinique there’s a saying about that you’ll hear the minute you start drinking these things: “chacun prepare sa proper mort”—“each prepares his own death.” Like the Caipirinha, the roots of the drink are in DIY and suit yourself. 

You start by covering the bottom of a rocks glass with sugarcane syrup, thickly if you want it sweet, much less so if you don’t. 

Then comes the lime, which also needs special treatment: you cut a medallion off the belly of the fruit, just a little bigger around than a quarter. There should be a nice swell of peel on the outside and a ring of white surrounding a little pocket of green flesh on the inside. Squeeze this, skin-side down, into your glass so that the bitter lime-oil will coat the syrup.

Now add a shot—however you define that—of 100-proof white rhum agricole (Neisson, J.M and La Favorite are favorites here). 

Ice? Well, that’s a little controversial. Many in Martinique claim that a proper ‘Ti Punch should never have ice. But that seems like a bit of a modern overcorrection. Back in 1903, anyway, a long article on the island in the French magazine La réforme sociale defines a ‘Ti Punch as a “breuvage fait de rhum, de sirop, de citron et de glace” (“a beverage made of rhum, syrup, lemon and ice”). In the 1973 edition of his standard work, Antilles et Guyane a travers leur cuisine (The Antilles and Guyana Through Their Cuisine), Dr André Nègre not only specifies that the citrus must be “a scrap of lime-skin,” with maybe “a few drops” of the juice, but insists that the whole thing be stirred together with ice.

As with the Caipirinha, there is one piece of special (if decidedly not fancy) equipment that comes in handy here, and that’s a “bois lélé”—a long stick with a star of horizontal roots projecting from the bottom, each trimmed down to half an inch or so. You sink the roots in the glass and spin the stem between your palms and everything gets mixed up neat as you please. Fun, easy and effective. Not, however, standard drink-mixing protocol, and the results are not remotely like a Daiquiri (to their credit, the Cocktail Codex crew classify this one with the Old-Fashioned, which is certainly more appropriate, what with the lime acting more as bitters than as a souring agent).

The more you try to pull either of these drinks into the standard rum-lime-sugar Daiquiri pattern, the more you lose what makes them interesting. But you can say the same for the Daiquiri itself. 

The modern “pattern” Daiquiri goes something like this: an ounce-and-a-half good white rum, three-quarters of an ounce lime juice, and three-quarters of an ounce simple syrup. Shake, strain, garnish with lime wheel. If, however, you go back to the oldest Cuban bartender’s guides, you’ll notice that the consensus of their various versions is just a little bit different. 

For one thing, the Cubans didn’t measure the lime juice: it was just the juice of half a lime, however big that is (some recipes called for a whole lime, but that would have been the very small key lime rather than the now-standard, larger Persian lime, which took over in the 1920s). And the rum is always Bacardi, but a Bacardi that doesn’t exist anymore, with lots of pot-still in its blend. More importantly, though, none of them use simple syrup. When they’re calling for sugar (rather than, say, grenadine, or a spoonful each of sugar, grenadine and curaçao, as in John B. Escalante’s 1915 Manual del Cantinero, the first Cuban cocktail book), they’re calling for granulated sugar. 

The preference for sugar over syrup in sours is an old insider’s rule of American bartending; as old-timer Bill Kelly put it in 1946, “for real life in a drink give me sugar.” The dry sugar not only affects the taste—I’ll get to that—but it also affects the preparation of the drink in pattern-breaking ways. One of the main advantages of the Platonic school of drink-mixing is efficiency: by assimilating drinks to known patterns, you’re also assimilating them to known, and streamlined, procedures. 

Sugar dissolves well in water but not in alcohol. Hence the standard simple syrup, which is just sugar and an equal volume or weight (the difference is slight) of water. If you’re not using it, you need an extra step: first you add the lime juice to your shaker, then you add the sugar. What you want is a standard barspoonful. If it’s a small barspoon or the lime seems extra-juicy, heap the sugar up a little. If it’s large or the lime is extra-dry, well, you know. Then you stir, maybe half a dozen back-and-forths with the spoon. This takes less than five seconds; you don’t need all the sugar to dissolve, just most of it. Then it’s rum—see below—and ice and shake, shake, shake (this will dissolve all the remaining sugar).

For some bartenders, that few seconds of stirring represents an intolerable inefficiency, one that’s compoundedd when you pour the drink. A key advantage of the standard-pattern Daiquiri is that you start with a known and fixed amount of liquid, with the lime and syrup accounting for a predictable ounce-and-a-half of it. This allows you to fit the drink in the same glass you’re using for a Manhattan or a Sidecar or that “Moon over Goldschläger” from the Mountain Goats menu. 

Made the old Cuban way, however, the Daiquiri usually has less lime juice—half a standard Persian lime yields about half an ounce of juice. Without the water that’s in the simple syrup, the sugar only adds a little volume: lime and sugar together will yield only something like two-thirds of an ounce, give or take. That gives you more room for rum, of course: there’s no excuse for using less than two ounces, although you don’t want more. But even then, you’ll still be a third of an ounce short compared to a standard three-ounce pattern Daiquiri. That means you’ll need stock a smaller glass to put the drink into, with all the inefficiency that goes with that (in a good bar, accepting a lower “wash line”—the level of the liquid in the glass, is a no-no). 

If, however, you’re willing to tolerate that extra few seconds for stirring and keep a special Daiquiri glass around, you’ll get a different drink. Not radically or obviously, but subtly and discernably. Tasted side-by-side with a syrup-based Daiquiri, you will be able to tell them apart. The sugar one is brighter, cleaner, crisper. The syrup one is rounder, with a slightly slick texture and a sweet molasses note not found in the sugar one. We could speculate as to why this is, bringing in sugar-water bonding and a whole lot of other stuff, or just file it as useful information. Some people, tasting both, will prefer the pattern Daiquiri. Most do not. I do not. 

As with the Brazilian Caipirinha and the ‘Ti Punch of Martinique, the old Cuban Daiquiri is more procedure than pattern. There are other drinks where this is true: the Mint Julep is one, and modern bars have trouble with it as a result. But if an Aristotelean approach to bartending, where these unique species are incorporated as they are and not assimilated to larger families and patterns of drinks, might take more preparation and training, it pays off with drinks that are different; that preserve nuances and edges that are otherwise buffed out.

In a world that seems dedicated to eliminating all nuance and driving a Mack truck through subtlety, that makes them extra precious. 

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27 Aug

Peter Sterios

Athena Sterios

My relationship with meditation is bittersweet. Early on, I sensed that it could be useful for my hyperactive mind, but sitting for long periods of time proved difficult: it was a never-ending saga of battles between the urgency to fidget away from painful sensations in my stiff body and the perceived obligation to remain still, follow instructions, and meditate the “correct” way.

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Part of my struggle was that I believed that hatha yoga and meditation were separate. It took decades for me to recognize (mostly through practicing asana, which slowly prepared my mind for the rigors of sitting) the irony in this common misperception. The dichotomy in these two practices eventually showed me that the joy brought about by movement is a necessary component for learning how to sit quietly and contentedly. This insight allowed me to explore other stillness practices found in Patanjali’s eight-limbed system of hatha yoga, including conscious breathing exercises (pranayama), sense withdrawal (pratyahara), and mental concentration (dharana)—techniques that, over time, transformed into merged awareness experiences (dhyana) and freedom from the fluctuations of the mind (samadhi).


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26 Aug

While cognitive behavioral therapy is the first line of treatment for chronic insomnia, mindfulness-based treatments are on the rise, Shelby Harris, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral sleep medicine, tells Shape.

“I find that when my clients use mindfulness, it also helps them with stress and anxiety—two of the biggest reasons that people have trouble sleeping at night,” she says. It’s backed by science, too—a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day significantly improved sleep quality in adults with moderate sleep disturbances. Even if you don’t suffer from insomnia, meditation before bed (and throughout the day) can help with both sleep quantity and quality, says Harris.

So how does it work? If you’ve never heard of sleep meditation before, it’s important to know that it’s not a way to “put you to sleep,” says Harris. Rather, meditation helps give your brain the space to quiet down so that sleep can come naturally, she explains. “Sleep comes in waves and will happen when it wants to—you just have to set the stage for it.”

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23 Aug

Try this abundance meditation practice, led by Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza, to cultivate the inner energy you need to get through the day.

Try this abundance meditation practice, led by Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza, to cultivate the inner energy you need to get through the day. 

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21 Aug

Christopher Dougherty

I come back to this meditation when­ever I feel depleted in some way—from what’s happening in the world or on social media, or if I simply haven’t been able to cultivate the energy I need to get through the day. With this exercise, we remind ourselves of all the things that bring us joy, wonder, and awe. I hope you enjoy it.

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First, find a comfortable seated position. Notice how your body feels, connected to the earth, in whichever way you choose, and allow yourself to be here, in this moment, in this breath. How does it feel to be here now? It may feel scary or uncomfortable or just right. Allow it to be without judgment, without shame. Notice how the present feels in your breath. Allow your breaths to be short and shallow, or long and deep. And as you breathe, notice if you have space for a little bit more air with every inhalation, perhaps drawing in and out through your nose. Give yourself permission to take in a little bit more air, and release it. Allow your breath to fill in through your nose, through your lungs, down into your belly, and then out again, exploring all of the space and capacity that you have.


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