True health comes from nourishing body, mind, and spirit. Community is an essential aspect of nourishing mind and spirit. So I recently sat down with Dr. Orlanda Varela, Director of SINEWS, a Madrid-based therapy institute, to learn exactly how community plays a role in mental health.Read More
I was recently interviewed by a Madrid-based yoga instructor, Eliza Coolsma. Her thoughtful questions inspired me to pay close attention to the daily rituals that contribute to my well-being. And I'm sharing the interview here in case it inspires you too. If you want to learn more about my early morning routine, favorite seasonal breakfasts, thoughts on balance and why I prefer not to focus on happiness, keep reading!Read More
Bali was our holiday destination. We spent most of our time in the jungle at an eco lodge surrounded by rice paddy fields and dense forests of coconut, papaya, cacao, and banana trees. We were deep in the heart of the island, far removed from anything resembling the modern world, but in the midst of everything important. We got to see the real Bali; thriving nature, tiny villages scattered throughout rice paddy fields, a preserved way of life, sacred temples, and ceremonies where gifts were offered to the gods.
This was the Bali I convinced my husband was worth traveling 20 hours door-to-door to experience first-hand. And this was the Bali that, beyond a beautiful place for a relaxing holiday, I heard possessed a special culture, one that offered us the opportunity to observe a very genuine way of being. The villagers here are poor, they have a hard life. But the strong social ties and sense of community and family enrich their well-being in a way money cannot. The signs of their genuine nature were subtle, but they came across so vividly and were so authentically ingrained in the daily life, that they really made me think.
Strangers smiled at each other, locals smiled at foreigners, even the endless pack of roaming street dogs, as disheveled and ratty as they were, looked like they were smiling (yes, dogs can smile, though it could have just been the humidity getting to me there). But my point is that the smiles were genuine. We can all tell when smiles are not genuine, can't we? The villagers were smiling in their eyes as much as on their lips which gave me the sense that they cared for others around them on a fundamental level, acknowledging that we are all one, all a part of nature, and therefore all deserve that basic level of respect.
When was the last time you gave a stranger a genuine smile?
We had a guide lead us on a 7 1/2 hour round-trip climb on Mt. Batukaru. Our ascent was divided into 4 sections, each marked by a small temple just off the narrow foot path, if you could even call it a foot path. Our guide left incense and flowers at each temple, as a gift to show gratitude for the mountain and ask for permission to pass into the next section. On the mountain, in our wanderings through the villages, and at the eco lodge, we observed that these basic rituals of gratitude are a typical part of daily life. I think gratitude is one of the main paths to joy and contentment.
What are your daily rituals of gratitude?
Patience + Trust
Balinese driving defies most western rules and boundaries, yet the roads had an order to the disorder. Motorbikes and cars would pull into traffic without waiting for an opening and trust that the cars behind them would make room. Which they always did, without batting an eye or honking their horn. They allowed room for patience on the road, and they trusted each other, so I began to trust their chaotic order.
How often do you allow room for more patience when driving? Where else can you be more trusting in your life?
Have you been to Bali? What made an impression on you?
We have reached the fourth and final guest interview for the Whole Resolution wellness series. If you missed the previous interviews, you can find them here: Week 1 (Skin Care), Week 2 (Mind, Consciousness, and Thought), Week 3 (Yoga & Ayurveda). This has been a very rewarding process interviewing these women, drawing inspiration, listening, and learning. And this final interview is no exception.
The wonderful thing about traveling is you never know who you will meet along the way. My husband and I traveled to Spain this summer and had the privilege of staying at a beautiful B&B called Erlexte in Laguardia, the heart of the Rioja wine country. Meeting the owner of Erlexte, Maria, was one of those unexpected connections that we feel incredibly lucky to have made.
I am not sure I have words to describe the exact impression she made on me. Maybe it was because she reminded me of my grandmother in her petite physical stature, but more importantly in her attitude, energy, and disposition (which is hard to do because I proudly put my grandmother up on a pedestal). Maria has a beautiful spirit, infectious energy, and an assertiveness that really struck a chord with me. She is sharp and determined while maintaining a calm and gentle way. She is a woman who knows how to make the most out of life regardless of what is thrown at her, and this I believe is the key to contentment and happiness. Her balanced, intuitive outlook and desire to seek out and prioritize her own well-being was apparent in the way she presents herself and the daily schedule she keeps which, among other things you will hear about in the interview, involves tending to bees that produce some very delicious honey. (We are still slowly savoring her honey!)
I hope you can see now why I could not pass up this interview opportunity to draw from her wisdom. She epitomizes a person whose complete being and lifestyle captures the essence of overall wellness, of whole nourishment.
Maria gave up time for this interview from her winter holiday in southern Spain. I have included the original interview in Spanish as well as the translated version. So whatever version you feel most comfortable reading, I hope you find inspiration from her story. Also check out Maria’s B&B here and beautiful pictures of Laguardia and its history here. And if you ever find yourself in Laguardia, do not pass up the opportunity to stay with Maria at Erlexte. You will be most warmly received.
Photo Credit: Erlexte B&B
History & B&B
Maria, can you tell us about your background? Is your family from Laguardia?
I am a senior, a widow since 5 years ago. I launched this B&B endeavor with my husband almost 20 years ago in Laguardia (Rioja Alavesa) after we left my husband’s company that manufactured mini “do -it-yourself” tools in a small fishing village near San Sebastian.
What does “Erlexte” mean? Why did you decide to turn your house into a business?
"Erletxe" erle = bee and etxe = house (in Basque etxe = hive).
We started the B&B because we built a house that was too big for two people, and as young retirees almost 20 years ago, doing something to “stay active” was a positive decision for us. The B&B had closed for a 4 year period while I attended to my husband’s illness. It reopened five years ago, a step my brothers encouraged.
As I experienced first-hand, you are a wonderful host: attentive, generous and proactive. You take pride in taking care of your guests. How does your priority for your own health affect how you take care of your guests?
There has a been an interesting shift since the second opening, as we now have the excellent help of two wonderful ladies, Nicoleta and Cara. Their support and my continued health have allowed me to give personal attention to guests. Taking time for my own activities also supports my health. These include yoga, Zen meditation, and “bees”!!!! Meditation, which I have practiced for 30 years, helps my attitude towards life, yoga benefits my health, and the bees are a delight to enjoy.
What advice would you give to young women for leading a successful and fulfilling life, like you have?
An important aspect for women, and for young people in general, is that they live in the “here and now” or “in the present” for as much of the time as possible, given this makes us realize what we are thinking, feeling, and doing. Plan well for activities in the future, but live here in “the present”.
Another aspect is “to accept” what comes, good or bad, without rejecting it. Rejection causes more suffering than if you had accepted it. We live in an ever-changing world and life.
You are an incredibly proactive and vivacious woman. You make your own honey, attend silent retreats, and do yoga all while running your B&B. How do you make time on a daily basis for your own wellness?
Life at Erletxe is simple: I meditate when I get up, then I eat breakfast and attend to the guests. In the afternoon, I welcome guests when they arrive, respond to e-mails, practice yoga with a blind “master” or go for walks.
Is there a favorite meal or snack you find especially nourishing?
Photo Credit: Gambas and Grits
For the area of food and cuisine, La Rioja is an exquisite location. Beyond grape cultivation for wine, there are many excellent vegetables and fruit: artichokes, asparagus, chard, borage, tomatoes, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, and more. But the king of La Rioja is the red pepper which has a niche market each for its 10 to 12 varieties. They are available from mid- September to November, so we buy them all then. We grill them, clean and bottle them, or put them in plastic bags to freeze.
A simple and popular recipe is “Piquillo”stuffed peppers (these are the small to medium sized, sweet red ones); you can buy them jarred or frozen and defrost them. Meanwhile prepare a filling of veal, cut into somewhat thick chunks, and fill the peppers pushing down with a “stick” so the filling does not come out. Then cook onion and carrot together with a little flour and beef broth, and crush it a little to make a sauce. Pour the sauce over the peppers, and then cook together for about 10 minutes.
The good thing about this recipe is that instead of meat the filling can be substituted; sometimes we use fish or leftovers from the previous day.
Photo Credit: Martha Stewart
Historia y Casa Rural
María, ¿Nos cuentas de su historia? ¿Es de Laguardia su familia?
Soy una persona mayor, viuda hace 5 años, que comenzó con mi marido la experiencia de la casa rural hace casi 20 años en Laguardia ( Rioja Alavesa) después de haber dejado ambos la empresa de mi marido, donde se fabricaba mini herramientas para “do-it-yourself”, en un pueblo pesquero cerca de San Sebastian.
¿Qué significa “Erlexte”? ¿Por qué tomó la decisión de convertir la casa en un negocio?
“Erletxe” erle=abeja y etxe=casa en vasco = colmena; el comienzo de la casa rural fue debido a que se construyó una casa demasiado grande para dos personas y que jubilados prematuros con edad de seguir activos fue una decisión positiva para los dos hace casi 20 años. La casa se cerró durante 4 años para las atenciones que requería la enfemedad del marido y se volvió a abrir hace 5 años animada por los hermanos.
Al ver de primer mano, usted es un gran anfitrión: atenta, generosa y proactiva. Usted toma orgullo en cuidar sus huéspedes.
¿Cómo se aplican los principios de la salud integral que usted sigue en su vida personal a la hospitalidad de los huéspedes?
Esta segunda etapa está resultando interesante, pues permite una atención personal a los huéspedes con el acompañamiento de Nicoleta y Amaia, dos chicas excelentes. También el cuidado personal con diferentes actividades que ayudan a la salud como el yoga, la meditación Zen y “las abejas”!!!!!
La meditación, que la practico desde hace 30 años, ayuda a la actitud ante la vida, el yoga a la salud y las abejas a disfrutarlas…
¿Qué consejo le daría a las mujeres jóvenes para llevar una vida exitosa y satisfactoria, como usted la tiene?
Un aspecto importante para las mujeres, sobre todo jóvenes, es que se viva “aquí” y “ahora”, es decir en el presente el mayor tiempo posible, pues nos hace darnos cuenta de lo que pensamos, sentimos, hacemos y como lo hacemos; se planifican las actividades a futuro, pero se vive el “presente“.
Otro aspecto es “aceptar“ lo que llegue, bueno o malo, sin rechazarlo, el rechazo produce más sufrimiento que la aceptación, vivimos en un mundo/vida transitoria.
Usted es una mujer increíblemente dinámica y vivaz. Usted hace su propia miel, asiste a retiros de silencio, y practica yoga... todo mientras que gestiona la casa rural!
¿Por la vida cotidiana, cómo crea Ud. tiempo en su día para si mismo?
La vida en Erletxe es sencilla: al levantarme meditación, desayuno y atención a los huéspedes. Por la tarde, recibirlos cuando lleguen, responder los emails y practicar yoga con un “maestro” ciego o dar paseos.
¿Hay una comida favorita suya, la cual Ud. encuentra especialmente nutritiva?
En lo tocante a alimentación La Rioja es una zona muy selecta : se cultivan verduras y frutas excelentes, aparte de la uva para elaborar el vino. Alcachofas, espárragos, cardo, borraja, tomates, etc. , albaricoques, melocotones, peras, ciruelas etc. Pero el rey de La Rioja es el pimiento rojo con un mercado especial para sus 10-12 variedades, desde mediados de septiembre a noviembre, donde compramos; luego asamos, limpiamos para seguido embotar o ponerlos en bolsas de plástico para congelar.
Una receta sencilla y popular son los pimientos del “Piquillo” rellenos ( son los rojos medianos-pequeños que tienen un pico en la punta): se sacan del bote o se descongelan; mientras tanto se prepara una beisamel de carne de ternera un poco espesa y se rellenan los pimientos sujetándolos con un “ palillo” para que no escape la beisamel. Se prepara una salsa de cebolla, zanahoria , un poco de harina y caldo de carne, se tritura y se le añade por encima a los pimientos para que cuezan juntos unos 10 minutos.
Lo bueno de esta receta, que en vez de carne se puede hacer la beisamel con cualquier pescado o “sobrantes” que nos hayan quedado del dia anterior.
Does Maria's adivice of living in "the present" resonate with you? Whether it's Piquillo or another pepper, do you make stuffed peppers at home? I will be sharing my version next week, so stay tuned!
And until then, thank you for following this wellness series. I hope it gave a motivating boost for the new year and serves as a resource to return to throughout the year. And a deeply grateful, heartfelt thank you to my guests: Milena, Tammy, Laura, and Maria. You are truly special women, and I am lucky to know each of you. Thank you for the work you do everyday to provide whole nourishment!!