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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)

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

Aphids (and limitations)

Even though we had real, hard frosts this winter, there are already aphids on my roses.  I went out this morning and picked the aphids off of the new buds — yes, my roses are budding.  It was too cold to stay out long, but I did a little weeding and planted a couple of pots of pansies.

I was thinking about how I garden in my tiny space — using my fingers to take the aphids off of each rose bud, pulling up individual weeds between new plants in containers, choosing to let some volunteers come up between bricks because it expands my planting area.  How different it would be if I even had a small yard by suburban standards.  It would not be possible to attend to all the detail that I see, unless I were to spend every waking hour in the garden.  If I had an acre, it would take three full-time gardeners to attend without tools and sprays the small things I touch by hand.

It seems we make our world as big or as small as we want it.  My tiny garden is as much a universe for me as a gardener as would be an acre garden — though of course I cannot grow sprawling things like melons and potatoes and fruit trees.

But the fullness of how much I see and experience, how much calls out for love and attention, how much I am enriched by tending and observing what is there,  is not diminished by what I do not have.  Rather, I am called to expand to the greatest what I have within my limits.  This is true, too, in our yoga and meditation practice, and our lives.  We can choose to live expansively no matter what our limits or we can choose to feel bound and diminished by our limits.  The garden, this morning, helped me remind myself of that choice.  It helped me turn towards possibilities for growth instead of towards constriction.

Be Careful

what you wish for.  Or at least enjoy it when you get it.  I’ve been praying for rain.  It was supposed to come yesterday afternoon, then last night.  And it did not, and I worried about another storm passing to the northwest or southeast of us again.  (We are, in fact, getting alot less rain from this storm than originally predicted).

Now, this morning, when it is time for me to walk the ten blocks to the metro to teach class at Willow Street, it is pouring.  It has been so dry I am grateful for the rain.  So I’ll have to dress right and enjoy the wetness for its nourishment and not whine about the cold, damp discomfort.  Darn!  Sometimes it is more fun to whine.

Green

greensThe haze of pink on the flowering trees is turning to green, and the maples and oaks are starting to leaf.  I love the pale green of new leaves before they have gotten dusty from smog and heat.  I hope this time we will get the promised rain (last storm we only got a fourth of what was forecast).

Another green:  in the garden, my spinach is coming up, as is the new chard, kale, cilantro, and salad greens.   I have been eating the romaine that seeded in the fall and the chard plants that weathered winter.  Delicious!