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Sprouted Lentil and Cucumber Salad

I brought sprouted lentil and cucumber salad to a potluck dinner at a neighbor’s house last night. The host had spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen. I commented that perhaps it wasn’t right that I’d brought a salad that only took about ten minutes to prepare. Then I thought about what went into my preparations. First, I grew the cucumber. Then – sprouted the lentils. One of my friends said in response to my saying I’d sprouted the lentils, “Elizabeth, you know there are the Whole Foods and The Harris Teeter. You don’t have to make your own sprouts.”
(Oh, you can just imagine, dear reader, my initial unspoken response in my head.)
“Yes, I do know that,” I responded, but there are so many reasons to do your own sprouting.”
1. Especially in winter, home sprouts are the freshest greens you will get.
2. No salmonella with home sprouts. (This got an enthusiastic back up from a fellow guest who was now thinking maybe she should start sprouting.)
3. Cuts way down on plastic waste. Consider how sprouts are packaged for supermarket sale.
4. Cost savings–a very inexpensive food instead of one marketed as a high-cost gourmet specialty food. (The conversation took on a life of its own; I no longer needed to be the advocate).

The Recipe:

Peel and seed a cucumber or two. Cut into 1/2″ or slightly larger dice. Mince about 1/6 cup sweet onion or white and pale green part scallion (or more or less to taste). Add a couple of generous handfuls of lentil sprouts. Use more sprouts than cucumbers if serving as the main feature of a cool summer light meal instead of as a side salad. Splash with olive oil and then toss to coat. Add a little balsamic, red wine, or sherry vinegar. Toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also added minced cilantro and jalapeno because the main course was enchiladas. For an Italian version, try with fresh basil and a little green or red bell pepper. For a Spanish style salad, use parsley and replace the vinegar with lemon juice. Think of your own variations and don’t be shy about sharing.

What a Good Murder Mystery Can Teach Us About Sadhana

Surely that’s what life was all about?  Opening doors and peering through them–perhaps even finding the rose gardens there… (Colin Dexter, The Dead of Jericho)

The good murder mysteries — the ones that teach much about human nature and do not dwell graphically on gore and violence — can teach us much about the power of sadhana (yoga practice).  The best mysteries are ones in which the protagonist teaches us by his or her investigation into the mystery that with careful, steady discipline, the application of well-developed technique and study, consistent effort, and an openness to trust intuition tempered by discrimination, we can reveal to ourselves the truth of the matter.  The truth revealed is not just the identity, means, and motive of the murderer (mystery solved), but the knowledge of the extraordinariness of human being in all of its manifestations, both good and evil.

Breathing Exercises to Aid Sleep

A regular brought a friend to this week’s group house practice.  When I asked whether there was anything about her health or practice I should know to enhance her experience in the class, she advised me that she had been having trouble sleeping for the past few months in response to an event in her life.  I did not ask about the event, but offered some of my favorite practices when I am not easily falling asleep:

1.  gentle ujayi breathing with the exhale twice the length of the inhale.  We were sitting up, but this is great to do in vipariti karani (legs up the wall pose).

2.  chandra bhedana (the moon breath).  This is similar to nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) except that for every breath, the inhale is through the left (ida or chandra nostril and the exhale through the right (pinga or surya) nostril.

3.  This one I learned from work place yoga teacher Kathy Rowley with whom I took lunch time classes at the Department of Labor for a couple of years.  I am not sure I remember it exactly the way she taught it, but it works:

Start lying on one side.  Take sixteen deep breaths, keeping count of the breaths, with the exhales longer than the inhales.  Quietly roll to your other side and take another sixteen breaths.  Continue switching sides, slowly and without disturbing growing sleepiness, each set of two doubling the number of breaths you take.  After 16 on both sides, then 32 on both sides, then 64, and so on (though so on is unlikely).  Let the breaths get slower and deeper and when you get to the point where it does not seem right to switch sides, then you let yourself sink into deep relaxed sleep.

I Was Browsing Looking for a Poem

I was browsing; I was looking for a poem to read to a friend because I was not ready to write one myself.  I found several that were right for me to read, but not to share, and this one I wanted to share more widely because of the delight it is bringing me to read it:

Karma Repair Kit:  Items 1-4

1.  Get enough food to eat,

and eat it.

2.  Find a place to sleep where it is quiet and sleep there.

3.  Reduce intellectual and emotional noise

until you arrive at the silence of yourself,

and listen to it.

4.

Richard Brautigan, The Pill v. the Springhill Mine Disaster

I had a real fondness for Brautigan when I was a teenager.  Every once and a while, I will pick up one of his books and remember why.  If you enjoyed reading this poem, please go buy a book by Brautigan to thank him.

A Key to a Steady Home Practice (Letting Go of Preconceived Notions)

One of the things most likely to keep us from having a steady home practice (whether asana or meditation or both) is being unable to live up to our own expectations or preconceived notions of what is a proper or good home practice.  If we think that we need to do a certain amount for an established length of time or that we have to feel fit enough to do a particular range or poses than inevitably we will be challenged in practicing regularly in a busy life.

It is good to have a set time and place for our practice and to try and practice for a length of time that will foster the growth and balance in ourselves that we seek from our practice.  To stay steady, though, we have to be flexible with our expectations.  When we are sick or injured or exhausted, it will be appropriate to do restoratives or a gentle practice rather than a more vigorous one, even if we are accustomed to doing more advanced asana.  If we are pressed for time, even if we like to spend 45 minutes to an hour in the morning, perhaps we will do 25 minutes.  If we usually meditate in a special place in the house, but we have to leave for the airport at 6am, we can find a quiet moment to breathe for three minutes before we leave the house and then meditate on the plane.

This morning, for example, I knew that the only opportunity to have a walk would be early morning because the electricians are coming for more work towards installing the solar panels.  Having a walk on days I am working at home is critical for my ability to sit at my desk and concentrate.  Instead of doing my usual 45-60 minutes of practice, which gives me time for some asana and pranayama before sitting for meditation followed by savasana, I chose to sit for 25 minutes and then go for a walk.  I will practice more this evening when I am off work.

Once we give ourselves permission to be flexible about how much to practice and what, then it will be easier to stick to practicing.  I think it is far more important to practice several times a week than to have a practice that is thorough and “by the book” but is only done sporadically.  What are your challenges in developing a steady practice?  If you have a steady practice, what has helped you stick to it?  Have your expectations about what a practice should be interfered with your practicing?

“Inspiration Cards”

I adore having a library and will rarely say no to a philosophy text or a book about anatomy, therapeutics, or yoga methodology.  I am less interested in “self help” types of books or gadgets.  Every once and a while though, I come across something that truly supports my practice and my teaching.  When I first went to Inner Harmony to study with John Friend in mid-2003, there was an altar in the corner of the practice room, just at the entrance.  On the altar was a set of cards (a little smaller than 2″x2″).  Each card had a word in English, the devanagari, and the sanskrit of the word transliterated into our alphabet.  Following the lead of others who had been to Inner Harmony for previous retreats, at the beginning of the day, I would select a card and think about how the word on the card might inform my practice and intention.

At that time, I was first starting to use Anusara’s “heart-oriented posturing language,” using a theme for class that was designed to lead the students into a deeper place in their hearts through their asana practice, and I found that the cards were an excellent source of inspiration.

Even though I first bought the cards in 2003 to serve as a basic class preparation aid, I have continued to use them regularly for my own practice and contemplation.  Often, the word that appears resonates with something that is of immediate concern.  The day after Becky (my beloved cat who lived to be 21) left her body last year, I went to the set of cards, which I’d not used in a couple of months.  The card that I selected at random (like picking a card from a deck when someone is showing you card tricks) was moksha — liberation, and in classic yoga, literally liberation from the body.  I was moved to tears.

This summer, with myself and my students, we have been working on manifesting intention.  As I’ve blogged about previously, I invited us to think about an intention.  Whether an intention is something basic with the body or mind or something more universal, whenever we seek to manifest an intention, ultimately it is because we want to be more blissful, more open, and more at peace with ourselves and others.  The question becomes how do we use our practice both to discover an intention and to seek to make it manifest.  To help me with the contemplation of this question, I have gone again to the cards as a source of inspiration.  This week, the card that turned itself up was racanatmakata — creativity.  “Perfect,” I thought, when I saw the word.  Creativity is a human reflection of the wild, pulsing, diverse and ever-extraordinary dance of all being.  When we open to our creative impulse to allow things to unfold, we can witness the fullest range of possibilities and the variety of paths to manifestation.

Waking Up in the Dark (a Hint of Autumn)

This week I have really noticed the light changing.  When I start my morning meditation, the day is just dawning, not full daylight.  The cat is not waking me up an hour before the electronic wake-up call, but is rather showing up just before it goes off (he is acting in sync with my routine rather than with the birds’).   Even though the days are still hot, there are hints of autumn in the smell of the leaves and certain breezes.  The first of the late summer fruits and vegetables are starting to come.

Are you noticing the subtle shifts?  Has it changed what you want to practice and how you are feeling when you practice?

A Memory of My Grandmother

My Grandma Rose (for whom the name of this blog is partly in tribute) was a very important part of my childhood. She had a small, but lovely apartment in Brooklyn Heights, and I spent about a weekend a month for most of my childhood with her. One day when the family was visiting and I was no more than seven or eight, I took a carton of her cigarettes and destroyed them. She was very angry, and I got in a lot of trouble with my parents for the deed. I had just learned in school about all the horrors of smoking (that was the very early years of starting to admit and warn of the hazards of smoking), and I wanted to protect her.

When my grandmother died at age 76 from her heart unexpectedly stopping, I was in 10th grade. They found she had advanced stages of emphysema. Occasionally I wonder how my life would have been different and think about how much she would have enjoyed seeing me grow up if the smoking had not shortened her life.

Although I was too young to know that we cannot change our loved ones by force or even by the force of our love, I hope she knew that my childish act of destruction was borne from love.