Posts by Nathalie

A study in science recognizes the relaxing power of the mantra

The style of meditation I teach is a mantra-based meditation. A mantra is a sound, or a vibration. In Sanskrit ‘manas’ means mind, and ‘tra’ means instrument, or tool.  Mantra translates to ‘instrument of thought’.  A mantra is part of the technique used in Deep Meditation I have been teaching since 2005 on a one-on-one basis, or to small groups. This individual instruction provides students with independence within their practice. The practice is very portable and follows you anywhere you go; you do not need to belong to a group or any institution. Among its many benefits, mantra-based meditation helps those who practise it to be calm, cultivate well-being, and gradually become self-reliant.

I started my own daily practise of this traditional type of meditation more than 25 years ago.  It was easy to learn, natural to practise, and brought me rewards right from the beginning.  During a mantra-based meditation like Deep Meditation, the meditator uses a mantra in a simple act of repetitive silent speech to help exert calm, or mental quiescence, without the need for intense concentrative efforts. Today, I would like to share with you a recent study about the efficiency of mantra repetition and its calming effect on the brain.

In a study published in 2015 in the Brain and Behavior, a scientific journal, scientists observed that repetitive speech, even in untrained subjects, elicits widespread deactivation or reduction in cortical activity.  These regions of the brain include the thought-related Default Mode Network (DMN), which relates to a variety of self-related processes, such as predicting and planning the future, mind wandering, and stimulus-independent thought.  Also, these functions have been linked to emotional stress. This study suggests a neurophysiological explanation that accounts for the relaxing power of mantra recitation, and shows that repetitive speech has a readily observable functional MRI (fMRI) signature, hence a significant reduction in thought-related cognitive processes. It is with great joy that I read this article last week because it confirms what my teachers and many years of tradition have taught us.  If you are interested in reading all the details about this study, here it is.

In Deep Meditation training you will receive a tool, a mantra, to help you meditate effortlessly.  From your first meditation experience you will spontaneously experience calmness, inner silence, or stillness of the mind.  It is natural for your mind to rest and mantra-based meditation is a technique that allows this to happen.  Such experiences are also called ‘yoga’, another Sanskrit word that translates to union, or connection, or if you prefer a state of unity within.  Mantra-based meditation is a tool to experience the calm within. It is simple, natural, non-religious, and available to you.

Once a month, or as needed, I offer an introduction to Deep Meditation that you can attend for free. In this session you can ask all your questions and learn more about all the benefits of this deep meditation practice.

À votre service!

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Treating the body as whole, rather than fixing the parts

According to Ayurveda, health issues develop when one part of the body forgets its role as part of the whole.  When someone goes for an Ayurvedic consultation, the practitioner spends at least an hour with the patient in order to get to know her well. Then a plan is developed that treats the whole person, rather than only the specific problem.  In my own practice I prefer to take about 90 minutes during the first consultation, and then 60 minutes for the follow-ups to really know the client.

In the West, the concept of treating the whole person is becoming more common, and there is a great need for more research into simpler ways of treating disease and problems that doesn’t involve expensive and sometimes radical diagnosis and treatment.  Despite this, it is still true that a diagnosis using Western medicine is, so far, the most accurate in the world, as are the treatment plans often offered. For example, if you have heart disease, knowing exactly what is wrong with the heart can be life saving. Diagnosing an arthritic hip and replacing it can add quality years to one’s life.  As a culture, we would be in trouble without this Western wisdom to diagnose problems with our parts and treat them.  But Western medicine still has work to do regarding treating the whole person, rather than just the parts.

Ayurvedic medicine, on the other hand, offers help in placing our attention not only on the parts that may be causing us problems but also on the role that these parts play in the whole picture.  Sometimes these parts have become isolated from the whole and have lost their ability to function properly.  Healing the cause of the broken parts by addressing the whole is a major strategy used in Ayurveda.  For example, we all know that stress affects our digestive system as well as our mind, our mood, and even our cognitive abilities. These individual parts can perform poorly due to systemic problems of the whole, such as failure to assimilate nutrients, or a failure to properly detoxify and remove of wastes, or by malfunctions in immune system. A dysfunction in any of these three areas can cause innumerable problems, concerns and disease. These are major areas that Ayurveda addresses.

To begin to strengthen your whole body, or to simply learn more about how Ayurveda can help you, I invite you to book a consultation. Another option is to enroll in my course called Ayurveda: From Theory to Daily Practise. 

The counselling I offer examines both your daily diet and lifestyle.  It can be done in the comfort of my home/office or by a Skype call. The approach is holistic and gradual. Depending on your needs, I will recommend a plan that will guide you towards achieving your goals, one step at a time and at your own rhythm.  

The course is for those new to Ayurveda and is designed for everyone.  It presents the history and philosophy as well as the fascinating principles of Ayurveda through the 5 elements, the cycles of life, and the 3 doshas. You will learn how to assess your own birth constitution as well as your imbalances. You will also start to integrate and become balanced by learning the best diet for your constitution. In addition, you will be introduced to other therapies like dinacharya, pranayama, asanas, and meditation, which form part of a daily routine.

Let me be part of the expansion of your life quality through the wisdom and such a holistic medicine.

À votre santé!

 

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Boost your Energy with a Spring Cleanse

Now is a great time to consider doing a simple Ayurvedic Cleanse, one of the best ways to protect your health and your wellbeing for the coming months and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

An Ayurvedic cleanse supports the elimination of toxins from the body, increases energy and vitality, supports healthy weight management, relaxes the nervous system and calms the mind, helps to reestablish one’s natural state of balance, and promotes optimal health and wellbeing.

When gentle spring breezes start to blow, it’s time for spring cleaning — not only for your house but for your body too. Toxins tend to accumulate all year round, due to improper digestion and high levels of stress. Not to mention the chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat. According to Ayurveda, toxic build-up can eventually manifest as a health disorder. And as we grow older, the body’s mechanisms for eliminating impurities tend to be less efficient, making it even more important to cleanse regularly.

This is especially important in the months of March and April. Why? When warmer spring temperatures melt the snow, impurities within your body also start to liquefy, flooding the microcirculatory channels that carry nutrients to the cells and waste away from the cells. When these essential channels get clogged, it can leave you feeling tired, sluggish, and toxic. A spring detox may be just what you need to feel fresh and energetic again.

The type of cleanse that I favor both for myself and my clients, which I recommend strongly, involves three phases: preparation, active cleansing and reintroduction. This structure helps to ease the body both in and out of it and takes up to nine days. The diet consists primarily of kitcheri and vegetables and is supported by detoxifying herbs. During the first phase of the process ghee is part of the diet in order to help pull fat-soluble toxins out of the cells. The whole process is done with ease, even if you are working, and can also be complemented by practices like self-massage with oil, as well as gentle sweating through exercises to help release imbalances held in the tissues in order to get optimal results.

Doing a cleanse gives the physiology a chance to detox, repair, and rejuvenate the tissues while rekindling the digestive fire throughout the body. There are many options when it comes to cleansing. The good news is I can help you with a complete plan for cleansing at home. Join my upcoming training AYURVEDA: FROM THEORY TO DAILY PRACTICE WITH NATHALIE KEILLER APR 17 – 21 as the Ayurvedic cleanse is an important part of it, or simply contact me for a personal consultation and I will customize the process for you and guide you through it.

 

 

 

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This Winter Keep your Vata Happy

This winter in British Colombia resembles more like the rest of Canada. It is colder and dryer than usual, hence the importance of keeping yourself warm in order to enjoy it fully. Winter is actually the season when the digestive fire is strongest. The body requires more fuel to stay warm and healthy in the winter months, and the cold weather forces the fire principle deep into the core of the body—igniting the digestive capacity. Our bodies therefore crave a more substantial, nutritive diet at this time of year, and you will likely find yourself needing larger quantities of food.

In general, you’ll want to focus on eating warm, cooked, unctuous, slightly oily, and well spiced foods. Drink room temperature, warm, or hot beverages and avoid smoothies, or chilled drinks. You can increase heat and circulation while encouraging clean and clear respiratory passages (in case of flu or nasal congestion) by drinking a tea boiled for five minutes with ½ teaspoon each ginger root, cinnamon, and clove. Also, teas made with combinations of coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds encourage strong digestion and can be taken after meals. Hearty, heating vegetables like radishes, cooked spinach, onions, carrots, and other root vegetables are generally well received this time of year, as are hot spices like garlic, ginger, and black pepper. Cooked grains like oatmeal, barley, brown rice, or kitcheri make a perfect winter breakfast, and lunches and dinners of steamed vegetables, whole wheat breads, and mushy soups and stews are ideal. Legumes should be well cooked, well spiced, and garnished with a dollop of ghee so as not to aggravate vata. If you eat them, winter is also a great time to enjoy eggs (especially poached or hard-boiled) and meats like chicken, turkey, rabbit, and venison. And while dairy is best reduced in the winter months, a cup of warm/hot, spiced milk with a pinch of turmeric, nutmeg, and cardamom before bed can help to encourage sound sleep.

This article is an excerpt from the chapter on “Food as therapy, and improving your digestive fire (agni)” in my Ayurvedic Training: From Theory to Daily Practice. Visit this page for more info and to register to this course from April 17th to 21st 2017.

Here’s my favorite oatmeal recipe to start the day making Vata dosha happy.

Use organic steel cut oats for a nuttier taste; salt, ghee (optional), fruits, nuts and spices.

For 2 persons use 2/3 cup of oats for 2 cups of water

Boil the water, then add a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of ghee, and the oats. Add dried fruits: mangoes, raisins, apricots or figs to the mix and slow cook for 25 minutes. Do some yoga or meditate while it cooks.

*If you use fresh fruits (berries or other precooked fruits) add them after.

Just before serving add some almonds, coconut, sunflower seeds (or your favorite nuts), as well as cinnamon and cardamom to taste, and 1/8 of a teaspoon of turmeric powder.

Bon appétit and have a beautiful day!

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Rest, play and celebrate the beauty of being a human ‘being’

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Rest is an essential part of the creative cycle and therefore the cycle of life. Everything in nature moves within the following steps: creation, maintenance, and dissolution. Each breath you take has its full cycle, each task you face, each meal you take, and each smile you make 😉  Think of the cycle of one day that begins when you wake up, lasts until you prepare to go to bed, and ends with sleep.  Deep rest during sleep state is essential to allows for the next cycle to begin from the highest place.  If you’ve had a good night sleep, the next day will go pretty smoothly even when obstacles come your way, and you’ll find inspiration and solutions more easily.  However, if you haven’t rested deeply enough, you’ll need other strategies to help you cope with the ups and downs of life .  

Daily meditation is a great tool for you to recharge fully and bring efficiency to your actions.  It is the best way I know to enhance your quality of sleep, as tensions, like anxiety, are released in deep meditation, which in turn supports your ability to rest.  It is in the rest and digest after the final phase of each cycle that space is given for inspiration to arise and for new projects and ideas to emerge. (In Tantra Philosophy we refer to two more steps in the cycle of life: concealment and revelation, which will be the theme of a future blog.)  Without balance between rest and play, our nervous system ages faster, our quality of life reduces and clarity of mind is impaired.

In preparation for and during the holiday season, make sure you get enough rest.  Not only will most of us be given many opportunities to celebrate, but we’ll receive from our bodies and minds lots of invitation to rest!  While work, play, and celebration are necessary, and often fulfilling parts of life, a balanced lifestyle includes equal portions of rest and play. 

Here is some advice to end 2016 in an auspicious way, which will help you begin the New Year optimally energized.

“Take pauses; say “no, thanks”; sleep; and meditate to sustain your tranquility. Rest gives you time to be with yourself, lie in your own arms and feel who you are. When you rest, your connection with life and its cycles is restored and deepened, opening your heart, so you can celebrate life.”

 “Play naturally follows pleasure: say “yes”; cultivate the activities that bring you joy and stimulate your creativity.  Feast on gatherings with your favourite people. Be where sacred space opens – a space where your dreams and blessings can be shared and heard.”  

“You are a human being, not a human doing. You are meant to be in harmony with yourself, enjoying life in all its forms and offerings.” 

Rest, play, and celebrate the deep beauty of being human with those you love. Have a really happy Holiday Season!

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Ever heard of Prana? Tejas? Ojas?

In Ayurveda, the subtle forms of Vata, Pitta and Kapha have their corresponding subtle forms in the body and they influence our minds.

If you’re curious about Ayurveda you’ve probably heard that Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the three main doshas, or humors, in the body. The doshas are dynamic energies; they constantly change, like our moods, in response to our emotions, thoughts, actions, the food we eat, the seasons we’re in and other sensory inputs that feed our mind and body. Respectively, Prana, Tejas and Ojas are the more subtle forms of these three doshas, which have an influence in the mind. Similarly, the same things that disturb the doshas can also disturb these mental forms. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Prana is the mental form of Vata, our life force and the breath of life. It is the flow of intelligence at a cellular level, the communication between each cell that holds our organism together. Prana gives us inspiration and positivity; the will to live, grow and heal ourselves, and connects us with our inner self. When Prana is still, we experience pure blissful awareness.

For the body and mind to be in balance, we need just the right amount of Prana.

When there is too much Prana flowing in the body, one may suffer loss of mental control, and sensory and motor coordination; it may predispose us to learning and behavioral problems such as ADHD; as well as feeling ungrounded, stressed and alienated, affecting our sense of identity. When there is too little Prana, we may suffer lack of mental energy, enthusiasm and curiosity, and may feel that our receptivity and creativity are inhibited. Restricted Prana makes our mind and senses dull and heavy, there is lack of motivation, and attitudes that can become conservative and rigid.

Tejas is the mental form of Pitta, the fire of the mind. At the level of the cell it is cellular intelligence. It promotes intelligence, reason, passion to learn, focus, self-discipline, perception and mental clarity. When there is too much Tejas in the mind, we become overly critical and discriminating; we experience doubt, anger, irritability and enmity. One can be hard to please and prone to temper tantrums. When there is too little Tejas, it causes inability to enquire or discern, accepting things uncritically and losing the power to learn from experience. It can also cause us to be passive and impressionable, overly influenced by others; we may lack purpose and lose direction.

Ojas is the mental form of Kapha: the essential vital fluid of the body in subtle form in the mind. It promotes mental strength, stability, endurance, patience, calmness, good memory and sustained concentration, happiness, contentment and bliss. It connects our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being and is essentially our peace of mind. It is regenerated through meditation. Too little Ojas makes us fearful, weak, worry; we may suffer lack of confidence, difficulty concentrating, as well as poor memory. Nervous exhaustion can develop. Too much Ojas can cause heaviness and dullness in the mind; complacency and unwillingness to change or grow. High Ojas is much less a problem than excess Prana or Tejas, which are the main factors in mental disorders.

Prana, Tejas and Ojas control Vata, Pitta and Kapha in the body.

On the negative side, the use of drugs, whether they are medicinal or recreational, is a factor that causes imbalances of Prana, Tejas and Ojas. Excess exposure to mass-media, televisions or computers, overly strong sensations, and overly bright colors, loud noise, and stress can reduce these subtle qualities. Excess or pretended emotions also affect the balance of these three subtle forms.

On the positive side, factors that balance them include meditation, prayer, self-study, deep sleep and relaxation. Aromatherapy, the right use of colors, aromas, and gems are other strategies that Ayurveda uses to heal at the subtle levels. Pranayama (breathing exercises) is another great practise, but excess breathing can also aggravate Prana. The best way to balance Prana is by spending time in nature and commune with virtues such as: faith, love, receptivity, compassion and understanding.

I encourage you to take a few minutes in silence with yourself and reflect on this article. Choose one of the strategies mentioned above that resonates with you, then be creative and plan how you can apply it in your daily life. Feel free to share your experience, or comments in the space below.

This article is an excerpt from the chapter on “Pranayama, Asanas and Meditation” in my Ayurvedic Training: From Theory to Daily Practice. Visit this page for more info and to register to this course.

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AYURVEDA: Foods and their energies

The art of eating in harmony with nature is one of many strategies to heal your body and mind with Ayurveda

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In Western diet, foods are evaluated for proteins, calories, carbohydrates, vitamins, and other nutritional contents. However in Ayurveda, we look not only for vitamins, minerals, and chemical nutrient content, but first and foremost for the energetic properties in foods (and that includes herbs.)

Ayurveda evaluates our diet based on the tastes and its effect on the doshas, as well as the following energetic qualities of the food:

Temperature: cold or warm;

Weight: light or heavy; and

Moisture: dry or wet.

The ayurvedic approach treats what you are like right now, and takes it one day at a time, one season at a time.  When you wish to bring balance into your digestion, look at what qualities and tastes dominate in your diet, and balance them with the opposite qualities.

The following six tastes are at the core of this practice:

  • Sweet foods: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  Examples: wheat, rice, milk, cheese, fruit, dates, etc. They reduce Vata and Pitta, but increase Kapha
  • Sour foods: organic acids like yogurt, cheese, sour fruits, fermented foods, lemon, etc. They reduce Vata, but increase Pitta and Kapha
  • Salty foods: minerals, natural salts, sea vegetables, etc. They reduce Vata, but increase Pitta and Kapha
  • Pungent foods: onions, chilies, ginger, garlic, radish, etc. They reduce Kapha, but increase Vata and Pitta
  • Bitter foods: dark leafy greens, turmeric, rhubarb, dandelion, etc. They reduce Pitta and Kapha, but increase Vata
  • Astringent foods: legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, pomegranate, etc. They reduce Pitta and Kapha, but increase Vata

As an example, if you want to balance Vata dosha, which tends to be cold, light, and dry, prepare your food in a way that is warm, moist or oily (unctuous), and heavier. In terms of taste, favor sweet, sour and salty tastes and reduce astringent, bitter and pungent foods.

If you wish to balance Pitta dosha, which tends to be hot, light, and wet or oily, favor cooling, heavier and drier foods. In terms of taste favor sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and reduce pungent (spicy hot), sour, and salty foods.

Finally if you wish to balance Kapha dosha, which tends to be cold, heavy, wet, and congesting, eat foods that are light, warm and drying.  The following tastes are best: pungent, bitter and astringent.  Make sure you reduce heavy, oily, sweet and cold foods, sour and salty tastes.

Ayurveda helps us becoming whole through the process of developing our consciousness, through observation, knowledge and action.  It implies changing or creating new habits, this may not be easy and may take some time. Observe the food you choose and eat, and start taking actions to enhance your quality of life.

This article is an excerpt from the chapter on “Food as therapy” in my Ayurvedic TT: From Theory to Daily Practice. Visit this page for more info and to register to this course.

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FARMERS MARKET SPRING SALAD

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Farmers Market Spring Salad: (3-4 portions)
Preparation and cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Here is another simple recipe.  I invite you to visit a Farmers’ Market near you where you will be able to find all these ingredients.

Feel free to change the type of lettuce, greens, or protein depending on what’s available.

Kapha dosha friendly as most of the ingredients are light and cleansing, this salad will also keep your Pitta dosha cool on warmer days.

Ingredients:

1 whole green/red leaf or oak leaf lettuce washed and torn, or 3 cups of mixed greens with some arugula in it

1 cup of heirloom multicolor cherry tomatoes cut in halves

3-4 baby cucumbers cubed

1.5 cups of slightly undercooked gai lan or broccolini, cut in 3 cm pieces

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped finely

1/2 cup of fresh strawberries, cut in halves

Optional protein addition:

1 cup of shredded cooked chicken (white meat preferably)

or 1/2 cup of almonds for a vegetarian version

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Farm House grated Fermiere (parmesan style cheese)

Salt and pepper to tast

Wisk all ingredients together and set aside.  

When ready to eat, drizzle the dressing on top of salad, toss, and…

Bon appétit!

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SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH ENDIVE, ARUGULA AND APPLE SALAD

Spaghetti Squash with Endive, Arugula and Apple Salad (3-4 portions)

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour and 10 minutes (includes some free time)

This recipe is simple, has few ingredients, it’s delicious, vegan, warming, hence Vata friendly.  It can easily be adapted to pacify Kapha dosha during the Spring (switching some of the ingredients to those in parenthesis) to make a lighter and more cleansing version (during the months from March to June).

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • extra-virgin olive oil (or sunflower oil)
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound of asparagus, steamed tender
  • 1 leek finely chopped (or 2 garlic cloves, chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons of minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or local fresh goat cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted pine nuts (or sunflower seeds)

The first step takes 45-55 minutes while you can be doing something else: prepare the dressing and other ingredients for your salad, then meditate, or do some yoga …

  • First, bake your spaghetti squash, it’s the best and easiest way to cook it.
  • Preheat your oven to 375 F.
  • Wash the shell of the squash, rinse well and dry with a towel. 
  • Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scrape the seeds out of each half, and place the squash, cut-side down, in a baking pan.
  • Pierce the squash shell several times with a fork and bake for about 45-55 minutes, or until the flesh is tender.
  • Remove from the oven, and let cool for about 10 minutes.  Then use a fork to pull the strands of squash and reserve. 
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or sunflower oil) in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat
  • Slice the asparagus into 1-inch pieces and sauté them with leek (or garlic) and rosemary for one minute
  • Stir in ricotta (or goat cheese) and squash
  • Season with salt and pepper and sauté until hot and creamy 
  • Top with pine nuts (or sunflower seeds)
  • serve with: Endive, Arugula and Apple Salad

For the dressing:

  • Whisk together 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 
  • 1/2 cup olive (or sunflower) oil.  
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper (low on salt during Kapha season)
  • Mix 2-3 heads of Belgian endive, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, 
  • 1 cup arugula, and 
  • 1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • Stir in the dressing and toss all ingredients together just before serving 
  • Share and enjoy!
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VEGETABLE AND LENTIL SOUP
(8-10 PORTIONS)

This is one of my favourite soup recipes as it brings Vata dosha all it needs to be in peace. Easy to make, it will calm your body, your mind, and your environment. It has warming and grounding energy.  It is a complete meal in itself, but you can also serve it with some fresh bread. It is very nutritious, delicious, and also vegan.

  • 2 tablespoons of ghee or olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion chopped
  • 1 leek chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root
  • 1 sweet potato or yam chopped in 1cm cubes
  • 3 carrots chopped in 1cm cubes
  • 1 rutabaga chopped in 1cm cubes
  • 5-6 Roma tomatoes blanched and chopped
  • 25-30 green beans chopped or 1 chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup of split mung beans or green lentils, well rinsed
  • Herbs: 1 teaspoon of each: freshly grounded fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 liters of fresh filtered water
  • Fresh cilantro leaves to taste

Sauté the onion and leek in the ghee (or olive oil) until golden, about 4-5 minutes, add the herbs and mix well.  Add the lentils and the tomatoes, stir, and then add the vegetables: root veggies first, mix well, add half the water and bring to boil, cook for 5-10 minutes. Then add the beans or the broccoli florets and the rest of the water. Bring to boil again, then lower to simmer for 45 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add fresh cilantro, serve and enjoy!

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