Thursday, July 26, 2012

Challenge Accepted

This week, I want to share a TEDx (self-organized TED event) talk that I really enjoyed for a few reasons:
  1.  This guy is a brilliant public speaker.I challenge you NOT to laugh at least once
  2. What he's talking about is really cool and thought-provoking
  3. He gives you some tricks to try at home (which I am trying--who doesn't want to make their brain 30% more efficient?!)

And in case you run into technical difficulties, here's the link:

I've issued myself a 21-day challenge: I'm trying to three things to be grateful for and the one positive experience journaling exercises as well as meditation. Care to join me in any or all? We'll report back in 3 weeks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What to Grow in Your Garden

Recently, I spent a lovely summer evening sipping white wine out on the deck with my friend Meredith. In between catching up on riveting details on our respective puppies (I don't need to remind you of Pelu's adorableness...or maybe I do; she just started fostering puppies for her friend's rescue mission at kill shelters--I know, I know! SO awesome!!), she regarded my garden dubiously.

Finally, after a courage-building sip, she said, "I've always wanted to try having a garden, but I need to start slowly. What do you recommend?"

No question: HERBS! Herbs are hearty, easy to grow, and most rewarding to all gardeners, are easily incorporated into dinner.

This summer, I'm growing parsley, rosemary, oregano, dill, and pots and pots of basil. In fact, I'm growing three sorts of basil just to compare them: traditional Genovese basil that you'd use in Italian dishes, Thai basil that you'd presumably use in Thai cooking (I'm a novice there, stay tuned), and Aussie sweet basil. I have no idea what that means or should be used for--consider yourself forewarned.

This weekend, two Australian friends stayed with us and we spent Friday night cooking dinner, drinking wine, listening to music, and laughing. (Note: these activities should be thoroughly mixed at all times.) On the menu: pesto fresh from the garden. The three of us headed out there (Pelu supervised) and picked a colander full of Genovese basil which I then whipped into a batch of pesto and served with a side of sauteed collard greens (also from the garden) and roasted beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes (also organic but not from my garden).

So easy. So healthy. So delicious!

Pesto basics:
Nuts (traditional recipes call for pine nuts, I like almonds instead. Can also use walnuts). About 1/3 cup.
Parmesan cheese (freshly grated). 1/2-1 cup.
Basil! 2 cups.
Garlic - 2+ cloves depending on your taste
Olive oil. Traditional recipes call for 2/3 cup. I like to substitute pasta water to make it healthier.
Salt and pepper to taste. I like it salty and peppery.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta of your choice. Sometimes I use fun shapes of traditional pasta. Sometimes I use brown rice pasta for a gluten-free option if a guest needs it or I just want to change it up.

As it's cooking, hand grate the cheese or run it through your food processor with the shredder attachment. Put aside in a big bowl. Change to the blade option and throw the basil, garlic, and nut in. Blend until pureed. Add the cheese and drizzle olive oil in to keep the pesto from sticking to the sides. Remember that you can do this with pasta water as a substitute to cut calories and keep it healthier. Add salt and pepper.

When the pasta's done, RESERVE AT LEAST 1 cup of PASTA WATER!! Then drain the pasta and throw in a big bowl. Add the pasta water into the food processor to thin it out (you want it soupy but not too thin), then pour it over the pasta. Voila! Healthy easy dinner in less than 20 minutes!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stillness and the Super-Fit Dude

There has been an influx of new students in my classes recently. Some are new to yoga, others are just new to my class, but the bottom line is the new students have been outnumbering the regulars.

This always happens in the beginning of January with "The New Year Resolutioners." I expect it in January. But it's the middle of July! What gives? (Besides the fact that word of my awesomeness is obviously spreading, natch).

Anyway, an influx of newbies usually means disaster that it won't be the best class. The newness of students (both new to yoga and new to me) often means they'll struggle in my class: alignment will be crappy, mindfulness noticeably absent, and frustrations (theirs) high. (More on this another day.)

But last night, for some reason (I could delve into my yoga theories on why but I'm feeling merciful today so I'll spare you), this particular class was amazing. Amazing! The kind of mindful, hardworking, beautiful class that makes teaching feel vital and joyful and worthwhile.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one to notice. Two new students came up to me after class, dizzy with their yoga buzz, and gushed about how awesome they felt. I wonder if they'll ever come back. Then two regulars came up, yoga buzzed and somewhat puzzled, and said, "That was an especially awesome class!"

We talked about why there were so many new people (a mystery) and why the class had been so mellow (also mysterious). Then one of them, a super-fit dude (who I'll call Super-Fit Dude) who looks like he'd be more at home busting out a triathalon than triangle pose, hesitated. "I actually had a vision tonight in savasana," he finally confided, looking a little uncomfortable. He looked like he's usually more comfortable debating the merits of muscle milk vs. protein shakes.

I tried to lift my jaw off the floor. "Really? Uh...I mean that's great."

"Yeah, it was like my mind went totally blank and I had no thoughts and just peace at the end." He tried to sound like it was no big thing but his face said, What the heck happened to me??!!

I could barely contain my glee/amazement. "That's awesome!! That's what yoga's all about! That's what everyone's trying to get to!!"

I stared at him. Didn't he know? This what monks and meditators and yogis and Buddhists and Hindus and seekers of all kinds are trying to get to: mental stillness! peace!no more monkey chatter!

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which is like the yoga bible, maps out an eight-limb system. Its first lines, in Sanskrit, obv, are: "Atha yoganusasanam. Yogas chitta vritti nerodaha." Which, as I learned it, translate to: "And now the continuation of yoga (teachings). The goal of yoga is to still the fluctuations of the mind."

Holy crap. Super-Fit Dude chitta (mind) vritti (restless fluctuations) nerodahah'd (ceased/stilled)? That's amazing!!

"Well, only for like a few minutes," he demurred modestly.

OK, this bears repeating: Super-Fit Dude chitta vritti nerodahah'd! That's freaking awesome. I'm not sure who was more surprised: Super-Fit Dude or Super Fit-Dude's teacher!