Forgiveness: Five Ways to Lighten Your Load, what a subject! Recently, I received a special request for this as a blog topic from someone who had been betrayed and who was having a hard time forgiving. She realized that she needed to move on and forgive, as the feelings of resentment were wearing away at her peace and she wanted to move on. I commended her on her awareness of this, as well as her desire to stop focusing on the "wrongdoing" of the other party and take responsibility for her own inner well-being. For that's the only way to truly heal.

So, today I'd like to give a few tips on the how of forgiving. Because, when all is said and done, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Wouldn't it be nice to stop carrying the unhelpful, useless baggage of resentment and feel lighter and happier? Well, here are 5 tips that will help you lighten your load. I guarantee that if you put forth effort to practice even one of them it will greatly increase your peace!

1. "The more one knows, the more one forgives." -Confucius
I like to think of that great quote in this light: If you really KNEW the reality behind what was happening in your life (think "Grand Design"), you would realize that everything is happening for a reason. Our worst experiences are our greatest teachers and gifts. I know (oh, trust me...I know) that this can be very, very hard. However, I also know that it's true. So, for this first tip, I recommend just becoming open to this idea. Give yourself permission to be open to a greater level of understanding. Just this simple act of being open will create a sacred space for a happier, wiser state of consciousness.

2. Be grateful. No, this doesn't mean saying "Gee, thanks!" when someone cuts you off in traffic. It means that you are aware that, again, everything in your life is a blessing (albeit often in disguise) and that you are conscious enough to say thanks to your Higher Power - whether that be God, your higher self, the Universe, Buddha, or Santa. Open yourself to the possibility that this experience is a great teacher, here to make you more free, happy, and wise. Perhaps it will make your life from this point on much easier because you will no longer sweat the small stuff. Gratitude is also one of those magical qualities in life that just shifts everything and clarifies your understanding.

3. Find a mirror that you are comfortable looking into. For a few minutes every day, say the following to yourself as you gaze into your eyes: "I love myself by letting go" and "I am open to forgiveness." Feel free to throw in any other hokey affirmations, as long as they actually work (and most really do).

4. Realize that just because you choose to forgive another person does not mean you condone their behavior. Yes, your husband may have run off with your best friend (on your wedding night to your mom's house), but that doesn't mean you need to let it ruin your life. It means that other people are acting in an ignorant, selfish manner. They are being unkind, but still human. However, everyone has faults and makes big mistakes. The best thing you can do for yourself is to choose who you want to work things out with and who you want to say goodbye to. Forgiving does not mean continuing to spend time in unhealthy relationships. You can forgive for your own well-being while simultaneously maintaining a space of defined boundaries.

5. When in doubt, visualize! The power of your own imagination is huge. Huge, I say! If you change your consciousness on the matter through the power of your thoughts and mental images, you will be able to watch the entire situation shift with ease. To begin, become aware of your current state of consciousness on the subject. Just observe what is going on in your mind. You may notice a lot of thoughts like "Why can't I forgive?" and "That jerk!". To shift into the happy place, all you need to do is begin to change your thoughts and images to a state of positive affirmation. For example, when you catch yourself thinking "I'm so mad at her," you can replace it with the thought "I love this feeling of forgiveness!". Reinforce this with your imagery as well. In fact, it would be extremely helpful to spend just a few minutes every day imagining the ideal situation. See yourself feeling lighter and lighter, happier and happier. Visualize yourself being confronted with that person and feeling completely at peace. See yourself surrounded and engulfed in brilliant love and light. Yes, this may sound new-agey, but who cares? It works!

The Perfect Party Pleaser: Gourmet Vegan Mini-Pizzas

Happy holidays, my friends!

Today I've decided to post one of my favorite crowd pleasin' recipes from my 2nd edition of Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. They're easy to make and mouth-wateringly delish. Literally. I just started salivating....

Hope you enjoy!

Artichoke, Kalamata, & Sun-Dried Tomato Mini-Pizzas with Garlic and Rosemary

Do I even need to give you the recipe after a title that long? Although these are quick and easy, they’re always a huge hit! Absolutely divine and seemingly gourmet, this recipe takes less than 20 minutes, start to finish. I’ve left the measurements fairly loose, as it’s sometimes nice to just make one of these (and sometimes nice to make twenty). Please don’t be bashful with your toppings—just pile on the good stuff!

High quality crusty sourdough bread, cut into ½-inch thick slices
Fresh garlic, minced or pressed (about 2 cloves per slice of bread)

Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (about 4-5 olives per slice of bread)
Marinated artichoke hearts, drained* (about 2-3 artichoke hearts per slice of bread)
Marinated sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut and drained* (1-2 tablespoons per slice of bread)

Finishing Touches:
Dried rosemary leaf, about ½ to 1 teaspoon per slice
Olive oil (regular or extra-virgin), about 2 teaspoons per slice of bread
Sea salt (a light sprinkle per slice of bread)

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

2. For each slice of bread, spread the garlic evenly over the top with a knife. Arrange the olives, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes on top of the garlic. Sprinkle evenly with the dried rosemary. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

3. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-20 minutes, or until the bread and toppings are lightly browned. Be careful not to overcook or the rosemary will become bitter.

4. Serve immediately.

Serves: any number of hungry peeps; SF/Purple (according to the guidelines in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth)

*I usually place the artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes in a strainer together to allow the excess marinade to fall away.

Asian Asparagus Wraps

For my upcoming holiday potluck, I'll be making one of my most requested appetizers--these yummy, crunchy asparagus wraps. They're super easy to make and always, always a hit. Recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. 

Photo by Wanda, admin for the Vegan Peace forum.

Note: If you need some extra help planning your Thanksgiving meal this year, I've created a ten-course menu (the same one I'm using!), complete with recipes, a shopping list, and a timetable checklist to take the stress out of your holiday!!! You'll also receive the telecall link, so you can listen to the workshop, as an extra bonus! Click here for the deets. : )

Asian Asparagus Wraps

What an easy way to impress guests! These crunchy munchies will have people thinking you went all out, when actually they take only about 15 minutes to prepare. The key is to make sure you have very flavorful asparagus spears before wrapping them. In fact, they should taste a bit too flavorful as is, since wrapping them in the phyllo will “dilute” their flavor a bit.

3 large (or 6 small)* sheets phyllo dough, thawed (see page 42 for phyllo tips)

Overly Flavorful Asparagus:
12 thin (or 6 fat) asparagus spears, trimmed (see page 39 for tips)
2 teaspoons toasted (dark) sesame oil
1 tablespoon each: fresh lime juice and tamari, shoyu, or soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

The End (Happily Ever After):

Non-hydrogenated margarine (or toasted sesame oil) for brushing**
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds (preferably black)

1. Place the asparagus, sesame oil, lime juice, tamari, and garlic in a medium-large skillet. Sauté over medium heat, stirring often, just until the asparagus is bright green and barely tender. You will want them to be slightly underdone, as they will cook a little more in the oven. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Gently remove three large (or six small)* sheets of phyllo and set them aside. Immediately roll up the remaining phyllo dough in plastic. Place in another airtight plastic bag and put it back in the fridge.
3. If you are using three large sheets of phyllo, cut them in half width-wise to make six sheets.
4. Place one sheet of phyllo on a clean dry surface and brush it with margarine or toasted sesame oil (or spray it with oil**). Place two thin asparagus spears (or one fatty) at the bottom of the phyllo sheet, making sure to scrape some of the garlic and flavorings from the pan onto the asparagus. Roll the phyllo up and over the asparagus. Continue rolling up until you have a phyllo “cigar.”
5. Place it on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Brush the top with more margarine or toasted sesame oil (or spray with oil). Sprinkle with some raw sesame seeds. Repeat this process with the remaining asparagus and phyllo.
6. Bake until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to over-brown, as phyllo cooks very quickly. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 asparagus wraps; 30 Minutes or Under! SF (if using oil)/Blue (according to the guidelines in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth)

*If your 1 lb. package of phyllo dough contains twenty large sheets of phyllo, you’ll need to use three sheets. However, if your 1 lb. package of phyllo contains forty smaller sheets, you’ll need six sheets.

**You may instead spray the phyllo with oil, as it’s quicker and lower in fat. Of course, the more “buttery” and time consuming approach of brushing the phyllo yields a more intense, rich flavor.