Live Well
contemplations-on-meditation-part-II
February 2015

Contemplations on Meditation…Part II

In spite of the fact that I really don’t like to make New Year’s resolutions, I did end 2014 resolving to work on learning the art of meditation. Following my blog posting, a friend e-mailed me and mentioned that she uses an app to help her meditate. I noticed, while searching for the said app, that there are actually many apps out there to help you meditate (I am curious: what is there not an app for?). I downloaded the app my friend mentioned and off I went on my adventure in meditation-land.

I sat down every day and clicked on the 10-minute program. It was simple enough, put your earbuds in and press “start program” and off you went. One thing I found about my app-led meditation sessions was that it wasn’t meditation so much as relaxation. Is relaxation the same thing as meditation? From my understanding of meditation (and based on the description I outlined in the previous blog post), it is not. The way I see it, meditation may equal relaxation but relaxation does not equal meditation.

The other problem was that I couldn’t stop the mental chatter. On the contrary, it almost got worse! I heard absolutely every noise around me and that begot questions such as: why is the man sitting next to me on the plane crinkling his bag of chips? Oh, I have to remember to call so-and-so to come and repair this. Why is my daughter watching that TV show when she should be doing her homework? Blablablabla… I felt like I was the smart-alec at the back of the class making snide comments every time the teacher said something. If I wasn’t chattering with myself, I was dozing off. The best part was that my app congratulated me every time I completed another 10-minute session! I decided to try listening to guided meditations (one that I like is by Jack Kornfeld) and was slightly more successful but not really.

Finally, I decided that I needed a bit more help than my app and my guided meditation CD. So I turned to Pema Chodron and her book, How to Meditate. Chodron is an American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun who has written and taught extensively about meditation and Buddhism. In her book, Chodron explains the why and how of meditation in great detail. She writes, at one point, “…there are three words – three concepts – that might be a support for you in your meditation in terms of allowing yourself to relax around your thoughts. The first word is “gentleness,” which I have already discussed. Have gentleness around the fact that you can’t avoid thoughts; you can’t control the fact that you’ll be distracted, and you can’t control how long you’ll be distracted for. The second word is “patience.” Patience brings relaxation into your meditation, into your practice, into your life…The third word I’d like you to hold when it comes to your thoughts is “humor.” Gentleness, patience, and a sense of humor. Have a sense of humor about the fact that your mind is like a wild monkey.” (How to Meditate, p. 66-68) I found this particularly helpful because I realized that I had to change my approach to meditation. I was being too aggressive and impatient (and arrogant) in thinking that I could get the “perfect meditation” in a week. Much like many other things in our lives, meditation is a work in progress and there is no “perfect” meditation. So, whether I am riding my horse, walking my dog, or preparing a meal and tuning out the stampede of wild horses in my mind and being fully in the moment, or listening to an app or CD, and having a few moments of a clear mind, it all counts and it’s all good.

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Cook Well

winter-kale-salad

Winter Kale Salad

Serves 6-8

FOR DRESSING
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
6-8 Tbsp. cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
FOR SALAD
1-2 large bunches of kale, stalks removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced into thin wedges
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup cranberries
MAKE THE DRESSING
  1. 1. Combine dressing ingredients and mix well.
MAKE THE SALAD
  1. 1. Wash kale and dry in a salad spinner.
  2. 2. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. 3. Add dressing and mix well.
  4. 4. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

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Worthwhile

sous-chef-cover

Sous Chef

24 Hours of the Line
BY MICHAEL GIBNEY


I just finished reading Sous Chef: 24 Hours of the Line, the account of a day in Michael Gibney’s life as a sous-chef in a New York restaurant. Whether you’re a foodie or love eating out at restaurants, this is a book for you. Gibney aptly describes what restaurant life is all about – the good, the bad, the ugly – while also imparting the amount of thought, dedication and hard work that go into preparing a meal. He does a great job of conveying the camaraderie among the cooks, the adrenaline rush during service, and the satisfaction when the night is over.

Sous Chef took me back to the days I was in culinary school and had to complete my externship in a restaurant. I felt like I was back in the restaurant kitchen on a busy night. As an extern, however, most of my tasks included prep work for the evening meal or later in the week. I recall spending hours on the same task, such as peeling chestnuts by dropping them in very hot oil, or peeling quarts and quarts of sunchokes. In spite of this, I also recall the feeling of satisfaction at the end of a busy night, and knowing how in some small way, my efforts had gone into making someone’s evening special. I think the highlight of my experience was when I got to make beet and celery root chips that were going to be served at a dinner which Prince Charles was attending! Ultimately, I think there is something deeply satisfying in the preparation of food for oneself or others because food isn’t just about physical nourishment but also about emotional nourishment.