Heart Centered Living’s Fall Fermentation Workshop 2016

Taught by Erick Clasen and Bonnie Pecka

The workshop will be held on November 7th 6:00-8:00 PM at the First

Congregational Church, 30 Main Street Binghamton, New York. Class will be held downstairs in the church kitchen.

The focus of this workshop will be on the basics of fermenting foods. Fermented foods are not only healthy (full of probiotics, vitamins and minerals), they are easy to make and also extremely tasty.

Sauerkraut, fermented ginger and carrots and beet kvass, a delicious drink for the fall season, will be the stars of this workshop. Sauerkraut is an old favorite that many people are familiar with and is a good starting point for trying to ferment your own foods. Fermented carrots and ginger are a zesty combination that introduces a bit of experimental flavoring into the fermentation process.

You will have the opportunity to taste these at the workshop. Besides samples of sauerkraut and carrot / ginger ferment, there will be kombucha, water kefir, and a few varieties of beet kvass.

Workshop attendees will participate in making their own sauerkraut and carrot / ginger fermentations to take home.

Beet Kvass

Beet kvass is a fermented tonic and a snap to make. It’s a delicious choice to incorporate into your health and wellness tool belt any time of the year. Because it is packed full of probiotics, vitamins and enzymes, it is not only tasty, but healthy and nourishing. In addition to beets, other things can be added to flavor (and further fortify) the beet kvass, such as ginger, garlic, citrus, etc.


The workshop cost is $20 per person. Seating is limited. Please register for this workshop by Friday November 4th.

Registration is as simple as responding via email to hclny@oils-of-life.com or call Erick at 607-226-6943 and make a commitment to attend.

Call or email today to join us for this fun and informative workshop.

Homemade Pickles

Pickles are one of foods that appears on plates in summer and sliced up and used on a condiment on a burger. They are good with many meals and ones made the old fashioned way can help you digest the rich food that might be on your plate at that outing or harvest party you might be attending or throwing.

One thing that I learned recently while watching A Chef’s Life Season 3, Episode 4 is that cucumber pickles are a big crop in Eastern North Carolina. They are graded into various sizes and a rule of thumb ( literally in this case ) is that if you can reach around one and touch your index finger to your thumb, it is a good one for pickling whole. Bigger than that and you might want to slice it into quarters or slabs.


Recently I was planning a class for the local Lyme disease group in my area,  Southern Tier Lyme Support . I was searching for some seasonal vegetables to bring along for tasting and I came into an abundance of late season pickling cucumbers at the local farm stand near me, Country Wagon Produce.

Old School Pickling and Quick Pickling, there is a difference

When it comes to abundance and preserving it, nothing beats fermentation, old-school pickling as it is also called. Not to be confused with the type of pickling where one uses boiling hot vinegar, also know as quick pickling. This is more or less a type of canning, which creates a sterile environment, preserving the pickles by killing off all the microbes present on the them.

Lactofermention is what we are after

It is lactofermentation that we are after when we want to produce old-fashioned pickles.  This is when lactic acid producing bacteria, which are already present on everything and everywhere, are allowed to take over. Take over in the sense of, they become the ruling bacteria and help stomp out the others that might be hazardous to our health.

All we have to do is provide the environment that will allow them to multiply fast and get ahead of the other bacteria and fungi present on the vegetables that is trying to rot them away to mush.

How Do We Get it Going?

We give the lactic acid producing bacteria the right environment to thrive.

The lactic acid producing bacteria, known as lactobaccilus can live in a salty brine with no problems, other bacteria are less tolerant of salty brines. This allows it to thrive and the others, not so much. Once the lactobaccilus starts growing it produces, you guessed it, lactic acid. This raises the acid level in the brine, gives pickles the tartness that we expect and provides an environment that excludes other bacteria that would be harmful to us.

It goes without saying that the pickles have to be submerged in the brine. The process of lactofermentation is anaerobic, meaning without air. If some cucumbers are not submerged, most likely the ends sticking out will get moldy.

My Recipe for Pickling Cucumbers

A quart jar will hold roughly a pound of pickling cucumbers. In my case, I measured 400 grams, just a bit less than a pound ( 454 grams ).

  1. Take the cucumbers and let them soak at least 30 minutes in some salty water to help loosen up any dirt. The quantity of slat for this step is not critical, use what you would normally for boiling pasta for an example.
  2. Clean them with a sponge or an abrasive vegetable cleaner. Don’t use any soap or chemicals.
  3. Clip off the ends. According the NPR Article of 3 Secrets to Crispy Pickles there is an enzyme present on the blooming end of a cucumber that can make it go soft after a while. If you are not a pro at identifying the blooming end of a cucumber, clip off both ends to be sure. They have a few other suggestions as well, it is worth reading the article. One suggestion is adding leaves such as oak and cherry which have a lot of tannins to your jar, this can keep pickles crisp longer.
  4. Measure the weight of the cucumbers that will fit into the jar, I had 400 grams for a quart jar.
  5. Pack the cucumbers in the jar. Most likely for the second time as you would have had to put them in once and pulled them back out to weigh them.
  6. Add 5% by weight of natural salt. By natural salt, I mean salt that is just salt nothing else added. For me it was 20 grams of salt. A tablespoon is slightly less than 20g of salt, so make it a heaping tablespoon, or go by weight by putting the jar on the scale and pouring in salt until you hit the mark.
  7. Add pickling spice. ( I bought some locally at Country Wagon Produce ) About 2-3 tablespoons is good enough for a pound of cucumbers. I like to bring an ounce or two of water to a boil in a pan and steep the pickling spice in it, allowing the whole thing to cool off and then I add it all in. The steeping process hydrates the spices and creates a tea. The spices quickly infuse into the water and this gives the spicing process a head start over just adding the dry spices.
  8. Top off with water, making sure the cucumbers are submerged and leaving a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of air space and put on the lid.
  9. Place in a cool ( 55-70 deg is best), dark place and wait.
  10. Loosen the lid every few days to relieve the pressure. More often in warmer weather as the process of fermentation moves faster.
  11. After about 3-4 days, pull one out and taste test, if it’s not ready give it a few more days. When it tastes right to you, put them in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process and enjoy.

How Long Will They Stay Crisp?

They will last a while in the fridge, the first month is the best. But eventually the enzymes produced by the microbes will start to soften the pickles. They are basically being cooked, or more like digested slowly at the temperature of the refrigerator. This happens much  slower than at room temperature as the biological and chemical process are slowed down by the cold temperature. It all happens at a very slow rate by the enzymes and acidity present in the solution. It can take months but eventually they will get soft.


Upcoming Workshop Flyer

November 7th 2016:Fall Fermentation Workshop

NPR Recipe


An outline of fermentation basics from a presentation that I did a few years ago.


A few more posts on fermentation…

Sweet Potato Fly Recipe

Kombucha SCOBY Timelapse Video


Sauerkraut Timelapse Video


The Elements of Cooking

I recently finished reading the book Cooked by Michael Pollan. The book is divided into four sections, one for each classical element. In the book he points out something that I really had not thought much about in terms of cooking in relation to the elements of fire,water,air and earth. It was an excellent read, I got a lot out of it in terms of widening my perspective on how food impacts our lives. The relation to the elements was an interesting way to put different “lens” on and view the process of cooking through them. In the book there is a lot of eye opening information of how food impacts our health. The fact that we have become a nation of outsourcing the bulk of our cooking to corporations that don’t have our health as their top priority is something to consider. When one comes intimately in contact with food, from the raw ingredients to the final product there is a natural awareness and inclination to know more about what is going into our bodies.

Cooked also got me thinking a bit deeper of the trans-formative power of food ( on us and cultures of the world ) and the energy used to transform food. External energy of one source or another must be applied to food to “cook” it. Mostly we think of this in the form of applying heat to food, but it can also happen “cold” in the case of fermentation and slow chemical reactions that occur due to enzymes breaking down food.

A Stomach Outside the Body

At the most basic level cooking food is a type of digestion, a pre-digestion of food, that takes place outside of the body. According to the book Cooked, there is a theory out there that actually says that human evolution is tied to cooking. We humans have a small stomach relative to other primates who live on a diet of mostly raw vegetables and some raw meats. Our jaw is also smaller as we have evolved to mostly eat softer cooked food. Our brain is larger than other primates and there is a chance that it got that way because we learned to cook. The brain for it’s size consumes a lot of calories, energy required from food. By cooking food humans can extract the maximum amount of calories from it, helping us develop the way we did over evolutionary time. Other than carrying weapons and making tools, cooking gives us an edge over the other animals. Cooking also has the ability to make things that would be indigestible or even hazardous, this makes me think of tapioca, toxic before it is cooked. Cooking have opened up a new range of foods that were previously unavailable to humans in their raw form. Effectively humans learned how to build a stomach outside the body by using fire to cook and predigest meat and vegetables.

A Boost to Culture

Cooking also makes sense in the development of human culture. If we don’t have to forage all day, it leaves time for a culture to develop and frees some people up to specialize in activities, such as making more tools, value added products and other things that make life even easier. Eventually enough free time is left over for the arts, philosophy and etc. to develop, then we have a real culture, that starts to draw, illustrate it’s life and write down it’s ideas. At that point we go from pre-history to a history that has been passed on. The torch gets past from the archaeologist to the historian.

Culture within a Culture

There also would also be a culture that develops around food, as people would have gathered not only by the warmth of the fire, but for some warm food cooked over the fire. I am speculating here but, it is even possible that domesticated animals such as dogs and cats were at first attracted to the smell of food around our social gatherings, being less fearful of us and fire and were tamable enough to become our friends. Who knows, but it is a possibility.

Fire, Water, Air, Earth ( Grilling Chicken, Braising Pork, Irish Soda Bread and Fermenting Chaga)

Classical Elements

A cooking transformation is involved with all of the classical elements and I will  briefly look at each of them here and cover each element in more detail in forthcoming posts of this series.

  • Fire: Fire was the first element used by humans to cook. Humans most likely encountered fires set by lightning long before they learned to domesticate fire itself, then they captured it keeping it alive for a while and then finally figured out just how to start it whenever needed. Cooking anything, meat or plant, helps it become softer and it also breaks down the food on a microscopic level in a way that makes it nutritionally more available. Cooking with fire, especially slow cooking of meat, brings out the sweetness and mingles the smoke with the fat to create something sublime and irresistible. New flavors that were not there before come to full development.
  • Water: Cooking in water allows the molecules of the food to mingle and reactions to occur between the varied ingredients. This brings out a whole new set of flavors that is not possible by putting a hunk of meat on a fire. Water conducts heat well and allows for all the ingredients to be uniformly cooked. Finally because water can hold certain combinations of ingredients, it has place. Different dishes from all over the world stand out from each other by the fact that they have there unique combinations of ingredients and spices.
  • Air: Air as carbon dioxide in bread, produced as a metabolic waste of bread yeast, transforms something like dough, a ball of mud basically into a light fluffy bread with a hard crust. What a difference this made to people. Before bread there was only a type of gruel, grains cooked in water. With bread, you had a radically different thing, something dry. Something you could take with you, something you could put other food on, thanks to the Earl of Sandwich. It must have felt like magic. In fact, it still does, even though we know what makes it work today, the ins and out of microbes and all the reactions that make the browning of the crust just so good, it is still magic when a loaf comes out right.
  • Earth: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, all returns to the earth. The power of this transformation, of decay, harnessed and semi-controlled is what allows us to ferment foods. From beer and wine to sauerkraut, it all depends on these microbes that come from everywhere…“Everything is Everywhere”. This is a statement from the book that reminds us that the microbes are ready and waiting for something to feast on. Humans just have to provide the right conditions and care and feeding of the microbes and they will do their job. Helping to predigest to food that we will eat or produce the alcohol for our drinks that will preserve them for years. Recently I drank a long forgotten stout, that was still drinkable after 5-6 years, well preserved.


Sweet Potato Fly Recipe

A Soft Drink from Guyana

Sweet Potato Fly is a soft drink recipe that originally comes from Guyana, a small country on the northern coast of South America. I read about it in The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It is the kind of drink sold in the street markets at stalls, bottled in large plastic bottles and dispensed to customers. It is a good example of a local-made substitute for soda that is shipped in from elsewhere.

Elevating the Sweet Potato

The drink itself, elevates the sweet potato to another level. The fermentation process seems to bring out some of the subtle flavors in a raw sweet potato that get lost in the translation of cooking it. According to Sandor Ellix Katz, the best seasonings to accompany the sweet potato in this drink are the so-called “Christmas spices” – cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

Sweet PotatoWhen the fermentation has gone a few days in it’s primary fermentation vessel it is moved into a sealed container where carbonation can develop. The carbonation makes it a soft drink and therefore an alternative to store bought soda. The carbonation also seems to bring out more flavor as well as it imparts a sharp note of acidity that can counterbalance the sweetness. Much in the same way that salt can bring out the flavor in foods, even sweet ones. Carbonation can do the same thing for beverages.

The Recipe

In the Art of Fermentation book it calls for 2 large sweet potatoes per gallon. When I think of large sweet potatoes, I think of those monster ones. So for a half gallon use one monster one or two medium ( think of the size of a regular Russet potato ) sweet potatoes.

Makes one half gallon
  • 1 very large or 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into small pieces, shredding them works well. This might be a good job for a food processor if you have one.
  • 1 cup of sugar. You have choices here, brown sugar imparts more flavor and is what I generally go with, white if you want to keep it mild. Don’t use honey as the antimicrobial agents present naturally in honey will retard fermentation.
  • A cinnamon stick, or the equivalent amount of powdered cinnamon. The benefit of the stick is that it stays in one piece and is not a bunch of small particles floating around, in other words, better aesthetics in the final product.
  • Other spices to your liking. Ginger works well either powdered or in it’s raw form. Nutmeg and allspice work well also. Start out with a teaspoon or so of each and then adjust up to taste.
  • A  starter culture. 1-2 ounces. A live culture to start the fermentation. I use water kefir, which I have plenty of if anyone needs some, just reach out to me. Other things that would be worth trying that have a similar biological spectrum of microbes would be whey, which can be obtained from yogurt. It’s the liquid that forms on top of yogurt when it sits around for a while. Yogurt itself, or dairy kefir would be a good choice, but it will make the product cloudy as it introduces milk solids.

The Process

Take the sliced/grated sweet potatoes and put them in a vessel that will hold them, give them several rinsing of water to remove the surface starches that have developed from the cutting process. I stir them and then let them sit and soak for 30 minutes and stir occasionally. Then I repeat this again for a second rinse.

Once the sweet potatoes are rinsed, add sugar, spices, starter culture and add a few ounces less than a half gallon of water, 58-59 ounces would be perfect. Stir well and cover lightly. I used a stainless steel cooking pot, the pot lid keeps it covered but will not allow pressure to build. Always use a vessel that is non-reactive to acids as the fermentation process will acidify the liquid and you don’t want anything to leach into the liquid.

Let the mixture sit for 2-3 days at room temperature. If it is in an opaque container it is fine to sit out on a counter top. If it is clear or translucent, it is best to keep it covered or in a dark place. UV light from the sun and even florescent lighting can interact with the biochemistry that is occurring in the container and cause “off flavors” to develop.

Foam will develop on top which indicates that fermentation is occurring. It is OK to stir it occasionally and taste it to check the progress by using a clean utensil. The flavor of it will also shift with time and it is interesting to see how this develops.

Ready to Bottle
Ready to Bottle

After 2-3 days it should have some small foam bubbles on top and will be ready to bottle. Strain the liquid out of the container and put that into a seal-able container, leaving an inch or two of air space at the top. Just like soda bottles have from the store. I highly recommend plastic, a recycled soda or at least a juice container is a good idea. This drink can carbonate so vigorously that I would not trust a glass container to bottle it in.

Bottle Conditioning

Once bottled in the sealed bottle, let it sit at room temperature for 1-2 days until it gets hard from the pressure that has built up in it. It now can be drank and stored in the refrigerator, which will greatly slow the fermentation down. The one nice thing about a drink like sweet potato fly is that it will ferment slowly in the refrigerator, so it will re carbonate itself after the bottle is opened. This pretty much happens overnight, if you use some one day the next morning it will have built up enough pressure to re-carbonate, at least this is what I have observed.

Bottled Sweet Potato Fly - Half Gallon
Bottled Sweet Potato Fly – Half Gallon

What to do – Leftover Sweet Potato Pieces

Almost 1 Quart of Leftover Sweet Potato Pieces
Almost 1 Quart of Leftover Sweet Potato Pieces

I have used the leftover pieces of sweet potatoes in pancakes. I use a high ratio of sweet potatoes to batter. Basically the batter is just a binder to hold the pieces of sweet potato together.

The sweet potatoes are softer than in their raw state as they have been predigested by the fermentation process. On top of this they have absorbed some of the flavor of the spices from the liquid that they have been sitting in for several days. If you like, you can even fortify the batter with the same spices that were used in the sweet potato fly recipe and make the flavor stand out even more. I have even made them a bit savory with salt, cumin and coriander, giving it a curried type of flavor profile.





March 2016 and the Solar Eclipse by Numerologist Peter Shell


We are being encouraged and guided by celestial energies. This statement may sound quite dubious or even “new agey” to you. Let me add some additional information before you pass judgement.

First of all I unwittingly sat down to write this post on 3/6/2016. (3+6+2+0+1+6=18, 1+8=9)  or   (3+6=9)   (2+0+1+6=9)    99

Famous Numerologists of the past such as Pythagoras, Plato and St. Augustine believed that numbers could explain every occurrence. Galileo is quoted as saying, “Nature is written in the language of mathematics”.

During the solar eclipse of March 8-9 2016 the sun and moon will be found at 18 degrees in Pisces.

2016 is carrying the energy of 9. (2016 – 2+0+1+6=9) 18 degrees is also conveying 9 energies. (1+8=9) In addition, there is a celestial event (solar eclipse) occurring on March 9th. Realize if you will, the impact of these energies of 9 energy that is being ushered in.

We are talking about 3 distinct factors all radiating 9 energies into our lives. Three 9’s written as 999 is a powerful indicator that the time is right for taking notice of the meanings encoded within this 999 event triad.

So why all the fuss about 9? Nine symbolizes the ending of a phase or cycle. Every number can be reduced to the numbers of 1-9. Since 1-9 represent the purest distillation of every number, this resulting sequence becomes apparent. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,1,2,3 etc.

As I stated in my Jan. 2016 post,” 9 represents completion and preparation for the new beginnings that will be ushered in with the next calendar year”. If 2016 is a Universal Year 9, then 2017 is the Universal Year Number 1. So we find ourselves in a 9 year, anticipating the approach of new 1 year.  1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, (9 , 1) ,2,3 etc. As you see we are in the early stages of the transition contained within the parentheses of the above sequence.

Triple 9 energy is a strong reminder to get your life in order. Evaluate your beliefs. Do they still work for you? Sift through your clutter. What still serves you? Examine your belongings. What can you recycle, gift or re-purpose? Think about each of your relationships. Are they mutually beneficial or hopelessly one sided. Are your relationships stale and withered or vital ingredients for furthering your growth?

Nine is all about being flexible and allowing. We are being prompted to be open to new possibilities, new ideas, new circumstances, new people and new opportunities. However, nothing new can flow into a vessel that is already full!

You must create space for anything new to arrive in your life. It is said that, “Nature abhors a vacuum”. What is empty will be quickly filled. Use your discretion and decide what you will accept and what you can release. Make arrangements, so you can fully enjoy and benefit during the next nine year cycle.

An abundance of new possibilities will be approaching with the arrival of the Universal Year 1. 2017 should provide hope, abundance and prosperity too all who have made an effort to be prepared for the wondrous new year!

Evaluate, prepare and prosper! – Peter



March 2016 Calendar of Events

Heart Centered Living Calendar of Events for March

All classes are held at 30 Main Street at the First Congregational
Church in Binghamton unless otherwise noted.

Monday March 7th 6:30-8:30 PM

Energy Night with Debbie Matsushima

Join us for our popular first Monday of the month energy night. Whether you are a firs time receiver of energy, or a seasoned practitioner; everyone walks away feeling peaceful, energized and connected to the universal energy. $6 Love offering appreciated.

Tuesday March 8th 6:00-8:30 PM @ SUNY Broome

Embracing the Divine Feminine Class w/ Renee Guidelli

Discover and learn unique meditations and techniques that help you with centeredness and serenity in your home and workplace. Love, protection, gratitude, trust, creativity, courage, community and patience are just some of the bodacious Goddess self aspects that need to be expressed in your life. To register and learn more

Wednesday March 9th 2:00-3:30 PM

Soul Sanctuary

Looking for a place where you can connect with your inner knowing? Your deep inner wisdom and the seed and seat of your soul Every inspirational and fun session brings forth new information from your soul for you to explore and apply to your daily life.  This session: Meeting your soul in the temple of the enlightened ones. We also incorporate coloring, crafting and intentional body and breath work. This is an open series. $12 Each session.  Check out the details here

Wednesday March 9th 6:00-7:30 PM

Music and Meditation Service w/ Rev. Renee Guidelli (The Gospel of Mary Madelene)

We are familiar with the Gospel of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, But what about Mary Magdalene? The devoted disciple and confident that was always seen with Jesus? Witness scenes taken from the book , Anna , Grandmother of Jesus, as well as other findings that sheds light on this mysterious woman who plays a pivotal part of our lives today as women in society.  Soup supper at 6:00 and 6:45 is the service.

Wednesday March 9th 6:00-8:00 PM @ SUNY Broome

Sacred Geometry Workshop with Peter Shell

Understand why patterns & numbers can be seen as predictable elements of nature. Increase your understanding of our world. This course is based upon a simple series of easy to follow diagrams & 3D models that allow you to see the relationships first hand. Have fun & unlock secrets revealing how everything in our world is intertwined. Call SUNY Broome at 778-5012 to register

Monday March 14th 6:00-8:00 PM

Fermentation class Taught by Erick Clasen and Bonnie Pecka

Class will be held downstairs in the church kitchen.

Sourdough bread and beet kvass will be the stars of this workshop. There will be samples of both sourdough bread and beet kvass to taste. Additionally, there will be samples of fermented foods such as kimchi, hot pepper sauce and garlic dill pickles. These samples are all made by traditional fermentation methods. Samples of beverages such as kombucha and water kefir will be available as well.

For more information read the  Fermentation Post

Tuesday March 15th, 22nd & 29th 6:00-8:00 PM

Your Life is all About Numbers Numerology Course with Peter Shell

This is an intensive training on how to apply the  ancient science of numerology to your life & the lives of your family. Understand what is important to you and why you react to situations differently than others. This is a realistic system that helps you make sense of who you are & why you are so unique. We will meet for 3 evenings. Course fee includes a workbook & textbook written by Peter. Please pre-register by March 8th. Class limited to 6 students. $70

Wednesday March 16th 2:00-3:30 PM

Class has been rescheduled to next Wednesday the 23rd.

Soul Sanctuary

Looking for a place where you can connect with your inner knowing? Your deep inner wisdom and the seed and seat of your soul? Every inspirational and fun session brings forth new information from your soul for you to explore and apply to your daily life.  This session: Blending with your soul  We also incorporate coloring, crafting and intentional body and breath work. $12 Each session.  Check out the details here

Monday March 21st  6:00-8:00 PM

Spring Equinox Celebration at the Heart Light Center for Healing and Creativity in Maine, NY

Gather with heart centered friends as we celebrate and welcome Spring together through ritual, ceremony, intention and sacred crafts. Please bring a notebook and something to write with,  a chair or blanket to sit on,  instruments for sound and sacred items for the altar to program with elemental energy. Love offerings appreciated.

Tuesday March 22nd 6:00-8:00 PM

Your Life is all About Numbers Numerology Course with Peter Shell

See information listed above on March 15th.

Wednesday March 23rd 2:00-3:30 PM

 Soul Sanctuary

Looking for a place where you can connect with your inner knowing? Your deep inner wisdom and the seed and seat of your soul? Every inspirational and fun session brings forth new information from your soul for you to explore and apply to your daily life.  This session: Living as your soul. We also incorporate coloring, crafting and intentional body and breath work. $12 Each session.  Check out the details here

Monday March 28th  6:00-8:00 PM

Program to be announced (watch for details)

Tuesday March 29th 6:00-8:00 PM

Your Life is all About Numbers Numerology Course with Peter Shell

See information listed above on March 15th.


The Soul Knows

Since the beginning of the year, I have been really taking the time to tune into all that is around me, inside me and that which is waiting to come forth.

What has been truly fascinating to me though, is how disciplined and on task I have been while also going with the flow and just simply allowing my soul to speak to me in other ways.

It all started on December 31st when I did my releasing ceremony.  (getting rid of what does not serve me) meaning thoughts, habits, patterns, beliefs and of course even old and worn out things.

This is usually done through meditation or visualization and many times writing as well. But always with some sort of intention and desired result.

I used to think that the releasing was the hardest part-but really the hardest part is the allowing the good to come in next, creating the space in your life for something new and wonderful to take its place.

I used to think that intention was everything, that if you saw it in your mind’s eye it would appear,-sort of like how that movie The Secret would have you believe.  Oh just pray hard and it will happen, or wish it into being and it will appear before your very eyes.

I know that is not the case, and I made that known back in 2007 when I was interviewed for a local magazine. I know that it takes hard work for the things that you WANT to happen to happen. I know it takes hard work to keep the things away that you DON”T WANT  to have happen  in order to make room for what you do.

The  secret is not really a secret anymore, and since then there have been countless  new programs, books, classes, and tools out there that try and show us the way, and many all very good in their own way. (pun intended)

But in my experience it all comes back to us not only FINDING OUR OWN WAY-BUT REALLY KNOWING THE WAY DEEP DOWN INSIDE, that when given the proper tools, instruction and time to work on ourselves, and be with ourselves, that we FIND OUR OWN WAY ( I am hearing Stevie Nicks) singing “You can go your own way” and yet I feel it is a play on words saying “Sure you can go your own way-but how does that make you feel? Are you tired? Are you scared? Are you happy? Do you feel free? Hows it working for you?

Going your own way takes a lot of effort, standing up for what you believe and know is right does too, breaking free from the habits, patterns and beliefs that keep you stuck or make you feel helpless is just a distraction for you to not go you own way. (Beware of the distractions they will get you every time)

I’m not saying to sell your house and move to the country and be a recluse for the rest of your life, I’m not saying to walk into work some day and tell the boss that you quit, and I’m certainly not saying to go up to your partner of 20 years and say we’re through.

What I am saying is that as you FIND YOUR OWN WAY, you integrate that into who you are and what you do, as you KNOW YOUR OWN WAY, all else changes around you, you are born anew, and you are who you have always wanted to be and knew  deep down inside.

Seat of the soul

I believe that not only comes from following your heart, but listening to your souls promptings. The SOUL KNOWS. But how often do we find time to listen to our soul?

A couple of months ago during meditation I was told the following:

“The Seat of the Soul is the Seed of the Soul which rests and takes root in the heart. This is where the answers come for your life’s purpose hence your soul’s purpose. The seed is life itself but you give birth to it.”

Little did I know how much of a hold that message was going to have on me and how I was going to bring that into expression. Or maybe I should say birth that into expression.

That message was indeed my Soul’s Promptings to create the
Sanctuary of the Soul-

A place where we explore some of our deepest longing questions, a place where we not only give birth to our own seeds but nurture them so they take root.

To understand that for true peace, love, happiness, and heart centered living to take hold, we need to pay attention to the promptings of the soul, which resides in the heart center.

I invite you to awaken your heart center and seed your soul’s promptings in our Soul Sanctuary.

*Please note that I will be making an audio recording of these teachings that will be available for download*

To sign up and learn more, go here


In love, service and gratitude


Renee Pic 2013



The spectacular ride for 2016 starts this month

As we were planning our Monday night Heart Centered Living calendar of events, I noticed that all four major phases of the moon fell on Monday evenings in February. Hmmm, how interesting! I’ve never taken note of this occurring before, so I breezed through 2016’s calendar and did not find this happening for the rest of the year. I grabbed some old calendars and searched further.  This happened in May 2015 and also in July 2014.

With a little web surfing I found a very cool website. www.moongiant.com. Four consecutive moon phases aligned on one weekday apparently occurs once in a calendar year.  Occasionally, it can happen more than once during a calendar year. Moving forward, we will wait 17 months for this occurrence to be repeated. The moon influences our emotions to an extent that most people are not aware. Think of the moon’s power over the rising and lowering tides here on earth. Then realize its vast potential to influence your moods and how you feel.

So, the moon places a special spotlight of attention and influence on February 2016. Interestingly, February is also a leap year.  This month is distinguished, by having 29 days instead of the standard 28. Numerology points out that since 2+9=11, February is going to experience the energy influences of number 11 throughout the month.

Number 11 can be seen as double 1’s. One is the number of high energy, individuality, independence, hard work and new beginnings. 11 is all about knowing without thinking. In other words it bolsters your sensitive nature and encourages you to use your intuition. Symbolically 11 looks like a door frame with an opened door, offering up an invitation for all to enter. 11 can be reduced by adding 1+1 to equal 2. Accept the invitation, enter through the doorway of 11, express the gentle qualities of receptivity, sensitivity, tact, cooperation and harmony that Number 2 embraces.

The 9 energies of the Universal Number for 2016 are urging you to happily release everything that is old, worn or outmoded in your life. This includes material items, personal belongings, relationships, jobs, homes or ideas whose time of service to you has elapsed. Graciously allow them to be cast off; creating a vacuum that will be quickly filled by the influx of new energies that are coming your way during 2016. Engage with the energy of the double 1’s to increase the momentum of your future manifestations. You are all being primed to reach for your brass ring, claim your power and the prizes in life that you deserve. Act now and be prepared.
Enjoy the ride throughout 2016. It’s going to be spectacular! – Peter

Paramahansa Yogananda

Long before Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and other spiritual teachers that we have invited into our living room on television , there was Paramahansa Yogananda.

Paramahansa Yogananda


A few months ago Renee and I watched the movie Awake. It is a documentary about the life of Paramahansa Yogananda. I had known of him through Tom Long, who some of you might know from his center in Greene, NY. He is a big fan of Paramahansa Yogananda and generally when Tom likes a spiritual teacher that much they are someone special. I thought that it would be good to look into Yogananda’s writings and after watching Awake, I put him in the forefront of my mind when I considered what book to read next.

Heart Centered Living will feature the movie Awake later this month on the 29th at 6PM at the First Congregational Church. 30 Main Street Binghamton,New York.

Ahead of his time

Yogananda was surprisingly ahead of his time. I’ve read a decent amount of spiritual writings over the years, but I was quite surprised how his writings are not only ahead of their time but are timeless. They can apply to then, now and certainly the future. Since watching Awake, I have been reading “Man’s Eternal Quest” by him. All of the quotes in this post are from that book and I have noted the page numbers. The book was created from a number of his lectures from the 1920’s on through the 1940’s. He conveys his teaching in a style that is understandable and readily grasped. He relates his teachings to life directly.

“Yoga is for everybody, for the people of the West as well as those of the East. One would not say that the telephone is not for the East just because it was invented in the West. Similarly, the methods of Yoga, although developed in the East, are not exclusively for the East but are useful to all mankind.” (p17)

He was also intuitive to such a degree that he predicted his own death. “I will not die in bed, but with my boots on, speaking of God and India.” After he gave a speech in 1952 and ended with a reading from his poem “My India”, he lifted his eyes upward and entered mahasamadhi, an advanced yogi’s earth exit. He had died as he had lived,exhorting man to know God. (from the Introduction of Man’s Eternal Quest)

Yogananda crossed the boundaries between Hindu beliefs and Christian beliefs in a fluid manner. His belief system included the belief in a Christ consciousness. He spoke of self realization and how it can only be learned through experience.

“Self-realization is not something one can learn from books, it comes only through personal experience. Realization of truth, experience of God – not dogma merely-is what every religion should bring to it’s followers. What Jesus Christ realized, we too must experience. He didn’t teach that his followers should worship him as a personality, but rather experience what he experience in his oneness with God. That can be attained only by meditation and bu following God’s laws. To worship Jesus because he is Jesus is not enough. Embrace the universal ideals he taught, and strive to be like him.”(p 27)

Yogananda’s Spiritual Legacy

Yogananda started his teachings in America in 1920, eventually winding up in California where in 1925 he founded the international headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship. Temples exist all over the world today, over 500. The closest one to Binghamton, New York is in Syracuse, New York.

He  founded the Self-Realization Fellowship to disseminate his teachings and to preserve their purity and integrity for future generations. In that way, no matter what material you encounter out there about Yogananda, you can be certain that material that bears the seal of the Self-Realization Foundation is pure. The seal means that it has been vetted by people that have been been trained by his closest hand picked disciples. The seal appears on the top of the Self Realization Fellowship Site and also shows up as the little favicon that shows up in the tab when you open the site.

Kriya Yoga

Yogananda was a practitioner of Kriya Yoga as a path to meditation. When many people think of yoga the first thing that comes to mind is the poses of physically directed Hatha Yoga, but there are actually quite a few different types of yoga. Kriya yoga seems to be more of a mediative self reflective type of yoga, a method of connecting with inner peace and source. It reminds me a bit of Buddhist meditations that I have participated in, in the past.


Self Realization Fellowship

I read on the Self Realization Fellowship Site that there are Self-Realization Lessons that are available as a 3.5 year mail order course where material is sent out every two weeks. Yogananda made sure that it would stay affordable in that the cost of the lessons are just to cover the cost of printing and mailings.

A blog that focuses on quotes from Paramahansa Yogananda


Heart Centered Living will feature the movie Awake

Monday, Feb 29th 6-8

(Heart Centered Movie Night)  Awake

The life of Paramanhansa Yogananda. By personalizing his own quest for enlightenment and sharing his struggles along the path, Yogananda made ancient Vedic teachings accessible to a modern audience, attracting many followers and inspiring the millions who practice yoga today. Love Offering $$

Watch the trailer for Awake





Follow your Heart with these Heart Centered Living Offerings

Heart Centered Living Calendar of Events for February

All classes are held at 30 Main Street at the First Congregational
Church in Binghamton unless otherwise noted.

Monday February 1 6:30-8:30

(Group Healing Work and Celebration) Energy Night honoring Candalmas and St. Brighid

Brighid is the patron saint and Goddess of healing, poetry, crafting,
home and hearth and the keeper of the eternal flame.We will be calling in her and the aspects of her which are in us to help with a current issue in life. Please bring something for the altar and a candle to program for yourself. Love Offerings $$

Tuesday February 2 6-8

(Mystical Sciences Workshop)-Intro to Pendulums w/Peter Shell

A fun hands on approach to pendulum use. Attendees will practice with a variety of intriguing exercises. Pendulums are provided if you
don’t have one of your own. $20 Each

Monday, February 8 6-8

(Informative Discussion and Intentional Work)-Celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Monkey

Join us for an informative discussion on the Year of the Fire Monkey
and how you can harness its power to create new and exciting
adventures. Especially helpful for those who are feeling like they
want to take on more creative projects in their life, or feel stuck in
their creative abilities. Love Offering

Tuesday February 9 6-8

(Mystical Sciences Workshop) Pendulums and Health w/ Peter Shell

We again are going to be using various exercises to find answers to
our most perplexing health questions. $20 Each

Wednesday Feb 10 2-3:30

 (On-going spiritual Development Program) Soul Sanctuary w/ Renee

I wanted to create a place where you could go to explore some of your deepest longing questions. It needed to be a place where you could feel safe and valued.

Where you could express your truth your feelings and your ideas. Where you could have fun and tap into your own divine guidance in a bold and fierce new way. It needed to be a Soul Sanctuary

Soul Sanctuary Facebook Event

$12 Each

Monday, Feb 15th 6-8

(Workshop) Self-Love Program w/ April Williams

Come join us for a sneak preview of a new self love series
experience. Digging deeper to your core, releasing fears, healing old
wounds, changing your mindset, learning the power of your perception, along with some sure fire ways to start building a solid foundation for your life to be fully lived from and your dreams to be supported by.

Tuesday Feb 16 6-8

(Mystical Sciences Workshop) Advanced Pendulum Techniques w/ Peter Shell

Don’t expect this to be a course on divination. We are going to
explore and practice affecting change with our pendulums. This evening is going to be a whole lot of fun! $20 Each

Saturday Feb 20 1-3

(Mystical Sciences Presentation) The God Code w/ Peter Shell

This presentation is a mind stretcher that offers a refreshing and
interesting view into accepted religious teachings that have long been a part of the American culture. Attend and gain new insights into our complex world. This fascinating information is based on the work of author Gregg Braden. $20 Each

Monday, Feb 22 6-8

(Spiritual Seekers Discussion) w/ Debbie Matsushima

Join us for an informative Spiritual Seekers Discussion on a topic
that is relevant, current and important. Love Offerings $$.

Wednesday, Feb 24th 2-3:30

(On-going spiritual Development Program) Soul Sanctuary w/ Renee

I wanted to create a place where you could go to explore some of your deepest longing questions. It needed to be a place where you could feel safe and valued.

Where you could express your truth your feelings and your ideas. Where you could have fun and tap into your own divine guidance in a bold and fierce new way. It needed to be a Soul Sanctuary

$12 Each

Soul Sanctuary Facebook Event

 Monday, Feb 29th 6-8

(Heart Centered Movie Night)  Awake

The life of Paramanhansa Yogananda. By personalizing his own quest for enlightenment and sharing his struggles along the path, Yogananda made ancient Vedic teachings accessible to a modern audience, attracting many followers and inspiring the millions who practice yoga today. Love Offering $$

Watch the trailer for Awake


Registration and Questions

The Pendulum workshops are $20 each or all 3 for $50.

If you have some pendulum experience; then you can attend Feb 9 or Feb 16 without attending Feb 2nd and be able to follow along nicely. As long as you are not a beginner, Peter has purposely did not make the information dependent on the previous workshop.

Please RSVP by email – shellpa1@yahoo.com or by calling 607-725-3788. All 3 Pendulum workshops are approaching
maximum enrollment.

The Soul Sanctuary on-going program is $12 each meeting where each time we meet you will receive a study guide to continue the soul
empowerment work.

Please RSVP by email- reneeguidelli@frontiernet.net or by calling 607-226-2354.

Or you can simply click attend on the Facebook Event Page

Soul Sanctuary Facebook Event



Now that we are well into winter. We would like to remind you that
program cancellations may occur due to hazardous weather conditions. If there are school cancellations in effect for the Binghamton district or surrounding districts, states of emergency, falling snow or freezing rain/ice that is or has the potential to accumulate within the time period of the Heart Centered Living event, the event will be canceled. When in doubt about an event cancellation please check Heart Centered Living on Facebook or call Renee at 607-226-2354.