Author Archive: Elizabeth

Change of View (and the tree rebate program)

In October through early November, I have autumnal color right outside my bedroom window as the red maple in my front garden and the sugar maple in the tree box right in front of it, blaze into glorious color.  Through the winter, the view is decidedly urban.  I look right out at the apartment building across the street and must keep the venetian blinds down for privacy even during the day.  If we get snow or an ice storm, I look out at branches gilded-jewel like with winter frost.

Only two weeks ago, there was only a hint of red and green on the two maples.  Now they are in fresh, full leaf.  Not only is my yard shaded, but my view is changed and my privacy veiled by a curtain of leaves.

These trees cool my house and the street, help make the air more breathable, provide needed habitat for birds, and give me the pleasure of their beauty.  If you have space, consider planting a tree.  Extra bonus, the District has extended its rebate program for planting trees on private property.

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Healing (and the Garden)

After sitting for meditation and writing in my journal this morning, I went out in the garden in my slippers to see what opened after yesterday’s juicy rains.  My journal-writing is feeling lonely because that was one of the times Becky (and Henrietta before her) and I always sat together.  Once I was in the garden, though, my heart lightened.  The beans and snow peas I planted a couple of weeks ago finally have started germinating.  Some of the seedlings I planted on Saturday have already doubled in size.  There are a few buds on the peppers that were not there Sunday and twice as many leaves on the basil.  The clematis seems to be a foot taller; is that possible?  (The okra still has not germinated; will it ever appear?  I do not know, not having tried okra from seed in a container in my yard before.)

Though, as my sister said to me on Sunday, I will always miss Becky and Henrietta, I appreciate that my grieving is in the time of renewal, new life, and expanding light, and that I can spend the morning time that I used to devote to Becky and Henrietta nurturing the garden and myself in the process.

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Early Morning Rain

This morning I stayed in bed after the alarm sounded and listened to the rain.  It was peaceful and pleasant, but it was not meditation.

Listening to the rain made me extra glad to have spent so much of the weekend in the garden.  The new plants are drinking up the fresh water and will almost soar when the warm sun returns at the end of the week.

Thinking about how the garden will flourish because I laid the ground to enable it to get the best of the rain and the sun inspired me to get up and take my meditation seat, even though I was late.  It is practicing consistently that lays the ground for us to be ready to have the fullest, most joyous, and most optimal experience of ourselves, the world, and our spirit whatever comes and whenever it comes.

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What I’ll Be Reading This Session

You may have noticed that I do not say what I will be teaching.  In my blogs and classes, when referring to the philosophy that inspires me, I speak of what I will be reading, what I will be contemplating, and what I will be exploring.  It is not false humility.  It is a recognition that reading and contemplating a work even several times over a few years is not enough to be “teaching” it.  My teaching can, however, authentically be inspired by that level of exploration.  I make offerings of what sparks me to think, to practice, and to want to continue to delve ever more deeply into the yoga practices.

This session, I will be reading, contemplating, and inspiring my own practices and my class plans from the Pratyabhijnahrdayam.

Pratyabhijnahrdayam:  The Secret of Self-Recognition, J. Singh (Motalal Banarsidass Publishers, Reprinted 2008)

The Splendor of Recognition:  An Exploration of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, Swami Shantananda with Peggy Bendet (SYDA Foundation, 2003)

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Nasturtium dilemma (seeds v. seedlings)

It has been too cold for the nasturtium seeds I sowed a few weeks ago to germinate.  By the time they germinate and grow, it will be too hot for the plants to thrive.  (As a landscaper neighbor and friend of mine said of this dilemma this morning:  “welcome to spring in Washington”).  Nasturtiums love cool weather and really only do well in my garden until June.

The solution:  I bought a few seedlings.  I planted the seedlings where I sowed the seeds.  By the time the seedlings have long since flowered and are starting to get leggy, the seeds will have germinated, and I’ll get nasturtiums for an extra few weeks at the end when it starts to get hot.

This combination of sowing seeds and planting seedlings also works well for me with annual herbs such as basil, dill,  and parsley.  The seedlings give me a few weeks head start; the seeds give me plentiful, inexpensive new plants when the plants that started in my garden as seedlings are starting to bolt.

I do only seeds for greens — kale, chard, mache, arugula, spinach, cilantro and beets.  I can sow them in March and by now they are starting to feed me.  I do only seedlings for tomatoes and peppers (I don’t have the facilities to get strong seedlings and starting with seedlings extends my growing season up 6-8 weeks).

It would be wonderful to garden entirely from seeds (swapped or harvested from last year), but the reality is that I am not a full-time gardener, but want to have a garden full-time.

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Granola (yes, it’s basically cookies in milk without the egg and butter)

On Wednesday, reluctant to turn on the heat despite the cold, I turned on the oven instead.  I already had muffins and bread from the previous weekend in the freezer, so I decided to make granola.  I first made granola at Quaker youth camp in the 1970s in upstate New York.  It was tasty, but loaded with honey and fat, and we made it in such vast quantities that it was years before it occurred to me I could just make the same amount that would be in a cereal box for myself.  If you have never done it, or suffer from the same inhibitions I’d suffered from, give yourself a treat and make your own.

Take a few cups of multigrain flakes (or just oat flakes).  Throw in any or all of the following:  shredded coconut, chopped nuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seed nuts.  If you have them in the house, add a handful of wheat germ and/or flax seed meal, a little salt (makes it taste sweeter) and spices if you like (e.g. cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg).  Stir in enough of any of the following liquid sweeteners (my favorit is brown rice syrup because it gives the best clumping with the smallest amount), honey, maple syrup, agave, fruit juice concentrate (thaw first) and a little vegetable or nut oil (my favorite is walnut), that the mixture is a pleasing combination of coated flakes and small clusters.  (The more sweetener you use and the stickier the sweetener, the bigger the clumps).

Spread mixture on an oiled cookie sheet.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 325-350F.  Let the mixture get golden, but not brown (or to taste).  Turn and respread mixture once at about the 12-15 minute mark.

When you take the mixture out of the oven, stir in dried fruit of your choice (raisins, currents, dried blueberries or cranberries; dice larger fruits such as dried apricots or apples).

Use combinations of nuts, spices, sweeteners, and fruits that make sense:  apple, walnut, maple syrup; brazil nut, coconut, pineapple juice concentrate, nutmeg; cranberry, raisin, walnut.  You get the idea.  If you like peanuts, blend some peanut butter in with the sweetener and oil before mixing it with the grains.

Why is this recipe not exact?  Because it does not need to be exact to come out delicious.  Because breakfast cereal is best if it is the way you like it and not the way someone else likes it.  (Just like doing your own asana practice at home).

If you have never done it before and are afraid of picking your own proportions and oven temperature, find a couple of recipes on the internet or in a cookbook and then use the recipes as a basis for experimenting.

For muesli, leave out the sweetener and the oil, omit the baking, add the fruit to the flake and nut mixture and then prepare as you like your muesli (soaked or not soaked, with yoghurt or with milk, etc).

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Listening (and laryngitis)

For the past week, I have had laryngitis.  Obviously, this resulted in my being more selective about when I was going to speak and what I was going to say.  Less obvious, was that the limitations on speaking led me to listen more carefully.  Listening more carefully helped me choose what to say and when to speak.  At a surface level, this did not change whether I was analyzing or judging.  It just led me to be more discriminating.  As I pondered this issue, though, I found myself wanted to listen more freely, to try and listen first without analysis, without judgment, without any anticipated response.   This was, then, even a listening to my temporary limitation.  Not judging it, not lamenting it, not trying to change it (although I treated the cough and the sore throat), but listening to what was there.  This deep listening to the body, to events, to what comes to us (in conversation or otherwise), can lead us to the true deepness of meditation — true listening for how spirit speaks to us.

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Louise Bourgeois at the Hirshhorn

The other day, I went to see the Louise Bourgeois retrospective at the Hirshhorn.  The works are a combination of exquisite technique and in-your-face, challenging emotions.  I had a friend who raged at me once because I had created a piece that was radically, polemically feminist.  “That’s not art; art is only meant to be beautiful and aesthetic, not to be political,” said my friend.  Although he could not have questioned Bourgeois as an artist — her technique is too good — he might still have raged at it.  (The high school group being shown art on a field trip, while I was at the exhibit, was scurried through a room or two, much to my amusement).

Seeing the exhibit led me to think of the purported purpose of left-handed tantric practices, which are meant to challenge us, turn us upside-down and inside out, and question what we recognize as the divine.

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Parama Shiva Tattva (playlist from class)

Per Pam’s request, here’s the Shiva-themed (with a little Ganesha {son of Shiva} and Bhuvaneshwari {Adi Parashakti inseparable from Shiva} included)  playlist from Saturday’s class:

  • Om Shiva, Chloe Goodchild, from Sura
  • Hey Shiva Shankara, Dave Stringer, from Japa
  • Shiva Shambo, Bhagavan Das, from Now
  • Son of Shiva, MC Yogi, from Elephant Power
  • Om Mata, Ragani, from Best of Both Worlds
  • Dancing with the Goddess, Atman, from Eternal Dance
  • Namah Shivayah, Krishna Das, from Live on Earth
  • Hara Shiva Shankara, Jai Uttal, from Spirit Room

Enjoy.  Practice.  Dance.  Sing.

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