Category Archives: Relationships

Dive in Deep

“When the smells from the kitchen
Overtake the awareness,
Reading the menu loses its appeal.”
Wu Hsin

Since I started sharing some food snaps on Facebook, several of my friends have been complaining.  They say I should be giving them samples of the dishes I prepare.  Simply tempting them with attractive photographs is unfair.  Providing recipes is not enough either.  They want the real thing.

There is no substitute for the experience. 

Because food is such a sensory experience, it is easy to understand their point of view.  From the sizzling sounds of a saute, the aromas of a curry, the vision of a decorated dessert, the texture of a perfect paratha to the overwhelming satiation of the taste buds by a delicacy – food leaves you no choice.  You are seduced into wanting to ‘know it’ and will not settle for less.  You will not settle for poetic descriptions or well captured photographs.  That is the power of our senses and their hold on us.

But there are matters of deep importance that do not present themselves as loudly, and yet remain a persistent voice in the background.  The  fundamental questions that lurk in every heart.  Such as:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?  
  • What does all this mean?  
  • Is there a purpose?  
  • If so, what is it?  
  • If not, then what?

Your list may vary a little, but I am sure you get the gist.
More than looking to arrive at conclusions, exploring these in itself has great merit.
And as you pay attention, your answers will change over time.  As will you.

Most of us tend to park our inquiry aside for another day, but I choose to question this Retirement plan.  

The above quote from a non-dualistic teacher had me remembering how I used to feel that fully engaging with life and non-duality cannot go hand in hand.  But my experience has taught me otherwise.  It seems it is time to live from an awareness of the simultaneity of wave and ocean.  And for that, we cannot remain with intellectual discussion alone.

We read the books, we listen to the talks, we evaluate the newer teachers and choose our favorite points of view.
We debate for and against.  Succumb to the lure of captivating concepts.
And never test the waters.

Life is best understood in the living.
As Wu Hsin goes on to say,

“[Likewise,] one cannot learn to swim
While remaining dry.”

The nuts and bolts of everyday living test us and remind us throughout the day.  And if we are honest with ourselves, most of us on the path would find places we are still working on.  Its not as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.Where ‘awareness’, ‘unconditional love’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘letting go’, ‘allowing’, ‘accepting,’ and ‘Oneness’ are not simply intellectually and emotionally appealing concepts – but something you attempt to live in every moment.

When we fail to apply it, we become victims of our own jargon, reducing the wisdom to cliches that end up resulting in self sabotage.

So the invitation is to dive in deep – test the waters for yourself.
Theory only helps us  know about it.
To know it, we have to jump right in.

Whether hot or cold, calm or still, obscure or clear – I would like to experience this wave-ocean rather than simply talk(or write) about it.

How about you?  Wouldn’t you rather eat than look at the pictures?

🙂

ithaaundersearestaurant2_hr

Image Source: BoardingPass.Gr

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9 Buffet Tips That Can Be Applied To Life

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Even if the menu says ‘All you can eat‘, what you get out of the meal is largely up to you.  Much as is the case with life. Like the generous spread on offer at a lavish buffet, we are offered a wide variety of experiences.  And just as we can navigate the meal in different ways with varying consequences, so it is with life.  It has taken me a while to learn the ‘art of eating at buffets’ and I felt many things understood there are equally relevant to the way we move through life.  So here are 9 parallels one could draw between enjoying such meals and life:

  1.  Run a quick survey first:  Instead of loading up the plate from the start, an observant glance around the table will give a good idea of what is on offer.  While it may be tempting to think one can sample it all, going by the number of dishes put out on the average buffet these days, it would be wise to be more discerning.  Similarly, there are number of interests and experiences available out there, but realistically, we cannot sample them all.  Having a general sense of what you would definitely like towards the top of your list and what you can live without is a useful place to start.
  2. Decide what you don’t want:  The older ideas of sampling a spoonful of everything before deciding on the mains is now simply impractical.  You will either end up overeating or be too full to really dive deep into the flavors that appeal to you.  The body knows what it would like and what is good for it.  Those inclined can learn muscle testing to quickly and discretely discover what would work for them.  In life, mindfulness can just as easily guide us as to what would be appropriate for us.  The thoughtful pause is extremely useful in making conscious choice a way of being.
  3. All that glitters is not gold:  Attractive looking dishes may not make for the healthiest of food.  Artificial colors, additives and unhealthy ingredients can often look appealing but prove costly in the long run.  Which one of us has not had difficulty in resisting temptations in life?  But here too, short term indulgences can lead to expensive, long term consequences.  Sometimes the best things appear simple and you may miss their true merit if you go by appearance alone.  Weigh the pros and cons carefully.
  4. Don’t be afraid to explore: Bearing in mind the above, you can still experiment with the unfamiliar and unknown.  We tend to stick to old favorites, even checking the spread with an intention of finding what we liked the last time.  Be open to discovering something new.  If you never ask ‘What is good and new?‘, something fresh and wonderful may be under your nose, but you wouldn’t see it.  We often need to unlearn our old ideas in order to see radical shifts in our lives.
  5. Choose quality over quantity:  Anything in excess can prove detrimental to one’s health.  Selective portions of pleasing items can appease the taste buds and yet not be excessive.  We can practice the same discernment in life, displaying a wise moderation in our choice of activities and behaviors.
  6.  Make room for your favorites:  I have no qualms about having a sweet tooth.  So I ensure that I have a look at the desserts section at the very beginning and adjust my other intake accordingly.  I feel the same way about making room for sweetness in life.  There is no point in filling our hours with activities (or the lack of it) and depriving ourselves of whatever it is that really makes us come alive.
  7. Remember tastes differ:  One man’s meat is another man’s poison.  The beauty of having so much diversity on offer is that everyone is free to enjoy what suits them.  This is also true about diets, religion, philosophy, healing techniques and so on.  So live and let live.
  8. Value everything:  People seem to believe that the only way to get value for an expensive meal is to overeat.  Which implies that the only thing you are valuing is the quantity.  Whereas you are actually also availing of taste, ambiance, space, comfort, pampering and so on.  So don’t worry about stuffing yourself, but do make sure you appreciate the finer nuances of the dining experience.  Ever seen the modern day, typical tourist?  They seem so busy clicking pictures to take home ‘memories’ (or demonstrable evidence of their travels), that they forget to actually experience memorable moments.  Don’t pass through life blind to all the gifts it offers you.  The moment you widen the scope of what you value, you will find yourself appreciating each experience with a new depth and sincerity.
  9. Appreciate generously:  A lot of painstaking effort goes on behind the scenes, to make possible your heavenly dining experience.  If you like something in particular, do make it a point to pass on your compliments.  Look around you and notice how many people have contributed towards whatever joy you are experiencing today.  Have you thanked them for it?

What insights have you gained from your own buffet outings?  Do share your comments below.

 

Image Kind Courtesy: Marylou Falstreau (all rights reserved)

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Don’t Get Caught In A Pickle

Caught in a pickle

Every family has their secrets. Some are the pink elephants of traumas, tragedies or other unspeakable tales. Some are the revered ones, such as traditional knowledge or crafts, that are guarded like the family jewels, passed carefully from one generation to the next. In the rich depository of such ancestral inheritance, what I considered exceptionally valuable, was a recipe for mango pickle.

Sounds innocuous, but if you had ever tasted this delicious sun-dried, spicy mango delight at my grandmother’s, you would understand. It seemed unlikely that any other preparation could ever match that taste.  After her demise, my uncle took over. As he got older, the preparation became my sister’s responsibility. An essential requirement is the stark, dry heat of Nagpur or Nasik. In my mind, this is how I rationalized the difference in taste from the other Maharashtrian pickles available in Mumbai. That and of course, the exceptional ‘family recipe‘. To me it was as precious as the traditional medicine for jaundice that is passed on in a cousin’s family. Or as notable as the anecdotes about another ancestor’s medical prowess. It was unique, and our own special inheritance.

A couple of years ago, I happened to be in Hyderabad for some work. Our hosts were kind enough to take us out for a sampling of the local thali meal.  I cannot describe my shock at finding ‘my’ pickle in my plate.  I was even more stunned to discover that this was the popular Aavakaya pickle.  Every Andhra household prepares this and my friends were confused and surprised at my excited reaction.  A couple of them offered to bring me homemade bottles, as most of them had it at their homes.  I was humbled and delighted, all at the same time.  I now had easy and limitless access to this delicacy.

But the irony was not lost on me. Despite having a liking for spicy food and having sampled many pickles, I had not ‘discovered’ that what the younger family had assumed ownership over was actually a given in a far larger collective. The rich variety and diversity of food and culture in India does make familiarity with all foods near impossible to the lay person.  (I have no idea how a South Indian recipe became a staple part of my centrally located grandmother’s recipes.)

But how easily we become proud and possessive of something that actually belongs to the whole world.
Just because of our ignorance.  Because of our limited knowledge and experience.

When one applies this across other subjects, the gravity of the repercussion is self evident and significant.  We debate over ideas and beliefs, one region against another, one religion against another, one nation against another.  Vociferously, righteously clinging to our claim over what are often universal truths and planetary gifts that we mistakenly believe we own exclusively.  Only because we view them from some historical, blinkered perspective, often relying on mythical memories to back our version of things. Makes me wonder, how much of the rigidity and conflict would dissolve – if we began to respect how much we all have in common and that  we have simply failed to see – nothing is ours alone.

The same also applies to what we consider our unique failings and challenges. In Marathi, we have a saying, “Gharo Ghari matichya chuli“.  What it implies is that every household that you visit, essentially faces the same challenges.

In a conversation about plagiarism,  I heard that some people deliberately do not attribute credit to the original source whose quotes or teaching they share.  Because if they have subsequently lived it,  they feel that they can now ‘own’ it.

Perhaps eventually, we will come to realize that all roads lead home and far enough down these roads – all paths are one.

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What Are Your ‘Memories’ Costing You?

Do we really tell ourselves the stories as they actually happened?

Our cherished memories are often retold in great detail, evoking the same emotions with intensity and recent familiarity. We also listen to the frequent narratives within our families, communities and so on, and with each retelling, the story seems to become more vivid for us.  This occasionally works to our advantage. So remembering a walk at the beach,  replaying the details of the sunset colors, the feel of the sand under your feet, the smell of the ocean breeze and the soothing sound of waves – returns one to a peaceful place.

Similarly, for years, I have associated the cinnamon smell of freshly baked apple pie, with warmth, motherly love and a sunny kitchen.  Whenever I ate apple pie, it gave me opportunity to discuss delicious recollections with whoever happened to be with me at that time.  A beautiful association with pampered, cared-for childhood days.  Sweet and nostalgic, isn’t it?

Only problem is, it never happened.  My mother made a lot of wonderful dishes, but I now know, Apple Pie was not one of them.  How do I know?  Because when I recently had the urge to make one, I tried to find a favored recipe.  There is no such recipe in her collection.  That led me to question my thoughts on the subject. As Byron Katie says, “You don’t have to believe everything your thoughts tell you.” And I was most amused when I realized that I learnt to make and eat apple pie in my friend’s kitchen, from her mother, well into college.  Prior to that, my extensive reading (including the delicious details from Enid Blyton books) in my early childhood had immersed me in worlds I had not really lived in.  Leading me to believe, that apple pie was a favorite childhood memory.

Now before you dismiss all this as one of my eccentricities, you may want to look up ‘False Memories’ or ‘Inaccurate Memories’ on the net.  Contrary to what most of us think, our memories are not accurate, factual accounts of things as they happened.  They are plastic and malleable, subject to suggestion, sometimes unknowingly borrowed from others through frequent discussion and so on.  There are serious implications to this when you add in the finding that ‘Remembering negative events can stimulate high levels of false memory, relative to remembering neutral events.‘ (~ see Source).

Further consider the following: “Marianne Hirsch (“The Generation of Postmemory”) writes, ‘Postmemory describes the relationship that the generation after those who witnessed cultural or collective trauma bears to the experience of those who came before, experiences that they “remember” only by means of the stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up. But these experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and affectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right. Postmemory‟s connection to the past is thus not actually mediated by recall but by imaginative investment, projection, and creation.’ (106/107)”  (~ see Source)

The implications of this are huge, both at an individual and collective level.

We often cling to our version of what we think happened and it can continue to cause a great deal of pain, anger and many other negative emotions, affecting our well being and relationships for a significant period of time.  It is not uncommon for the wounds and grudges to persist in individuals, families or collectives, without ever questioning the possibility that something in the story may have got a little different along the way.

Consider for a moment,

  • What if it did not happen the way you remember it?
  • Would you be willing to question your beliefs about this event/person/collective?
  • Would this help you be willing to let it go?
  • Would you rather be right, or free?

For those who struggle with forgiveness, starting afresh and seeing anew, if this article prompts you to look for means to be less rigid in the defense of your memory – there are plenty of tools that can help you.  Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Emotion Code can both help in releasing the trapped emotions that keep our narratives locked in place. Ho ‘oponopono is also a wonderful way to correct the errors in our perception.

Fortunately for me, in this instance, I only had to laugh at my own fabrications, and happily enjoy the Apple Pie that inspired this post.   But, I hope this article helps someone question and release a troubling memory and also laugh at the tricks our mind plays with us, and how we buy into the drama all too seriously.

Apple Pie

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Celebrating Life + Recipe Pineapple Upside-down Cake

Everyone has a different way of coping with loss.

Today is Christmas and it also happens to be my parent’s wedding anniversary.  My mother passed away nearly twenty years back.  Her loss was sudden and catastrophic for us all. Several loved ones have left after that.  Its been a long journey, and over the years, I have found that what brings me peace is focusing on the gratitude that they lived.  Instead of sinking into depression, I recollect the wonderful moments we had together and how  deeply they have touched and influenced my life and continue to do so.  So birthdays and anniversaries remain days of gratitude and celebration.  One month after my husband passed away, my friends and I celebrated his birthday with a wonderful party at our regular haunt.  We played his favorite music, ate his favorite food, clinked many a glass in good cheer and laughed at his idiosyncrasies.  The attitude took some by surprise, but to their credit – they joined in with whole-hearted support.  Several of them have told me how touched they were and how it helped them cope with his loss.

I have shared this approach with my clients as well.  Emotional Freedom Techniques has improved its efficacy.  Using The Choices Method in EFT, I ask them to focus on a mental snapshot of one of their happiest times together.  We tap for the grief, helplessness, etc.. , using an affirmation like: “Even though I am overwhelmed with grief, I am grateful __ was in my life.”  We then do another round focusing on this snapshot and then a last round alternating between the two.  I cannot tell you what a transformation it has brought about in grieving clients.

In this world of duality, let us embrace both realities of life – living and moving on are two sides of the same coin.

Today – I chose to make a modified version of an upside down Pineapple Cake, because my mom enjoyed it.  For my father, I made my version of Egg Florentine.  (Don’t ask me what the rose petals and almonds are doing on the cake, that was his idea!)

Merry Christmas to you all!  Let the good cheer spread far and wide 🙂

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

pineapple cake

Ingredients

Topping
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used white)
1 medium pineapple (or 3/4th tin)
1/4  teaspoon Vanilla Bean scraping

 

 

 

Cake

1 egg
1/4 th cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean scraping
1/2 cup  milk
1/4th cup salted butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Method

Melt butter, sugar and vanilla together.  Add a little water if required.  Pour into a buttered cake dish.  Place Pineapple slices.

Beat the egg, add sugar, melted butter and milk, then the vanilla and sieved flour and baking powder.  Pour batter over the pineapple.  Bake in a preheated over (180 C) for about 40-45 minutes.  Take out and turn upside!  If you use white sugar, it will look like mine.  The more traditional one looks caramelized because of brown sugar.

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Meeting Points + Recipe Spinach Vegetable Rice

“Do not do unto others as you expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Consider this – on one occasion, I had some friends over and asked whether they would like some tea. Ended up preparing a boiled chai with ginger, one without ginger, black tea with lemon, one green tea, one black coffee without sugar, one cold coffee with full milk and a few more.  You get the idea, I am sure.

Everyone has their own tastes, preferences and priorities. Meeting of interests and a commonality in ideas and values can generate much togetherness and synergy.  The tendency can be to start expecting this similarity to spill over into most, if not all areas.  However, this need not be the case.  Everyone has their own approach, likes and dislikes and simply because there is a common agreement in some of these –  it need not extend to all areas.  

While it seems an obvious observation, in hindsight, I realize that it took me a while to remember this and to stop making any such assumptions about another, regardless of how well you feel you know them.  Such assumptions could lead to misunderstandings or differences that can be avoided.

I have also found it useful to remember that there should be no insistence to convert others to your point of view.  If someone believes he must have his meat for protein intake, so be it.  If another feels he must go vegan, so be it.  Everyone has their own reasons, understanding and compulsions.  Just as I have my own.  So live and let live.

Hence, today, while I may share what I have learnt, or how I feel about things, there is no longer any forceful attempt to convince another of my chosen ways.  As Gibran said beautifully, “Say not, I have found the truth, but rather, I have found a truth.

This post came about as I was preparing a meal for a friend.  I wanted to use spinach and mushrooms and for me, cheese goes beautifully with the two.  But my friend avoids dairy.  So I made this tasty, nutritious fried rice instead.  When I told him this, he said, “But a little cheese would have been okay.  You didn’t have to change plans.”

The point being – when you respect each other’s opinion and give the space – people are more than likely to meet you half way 🙂

Spinach, Mushroom, Broccoli fried rice

Ingredients

15-20 Spinach leaves, chopped
1 large Red Onion, thinly sliced
4 large Portabella Mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 or 3 large florets of Broccoli, sliced long
1/2 cup semi cooked green peas
1 tomato, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Red Bird’s Eye Chilly
Soy Sauce
Salt
Pepper
Sugar
1 tablespoon oil

2 cups cooked Rice

Method:

Fry onions, garlic and chilly. Add mushrooms, broccoli and seasonings. Stir a few minutes on heat. Add spinach. Once it has wilted, add rice, peas and lastly, the sliced tomato.

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December 20, 2012 · 9:16 am