I know, I know.
There are worse things in life than a healthy diet.
But good eating can go bad.
“Perfection” is man’s ultimate illusion. It simply doesn’t exist in the universe. There is no perfection. It’s really the world’s greatest con game; it promises riches and delivers misery. The harder you strive for perfection, the worse your disappointment will become because it’s only an abstraction, a concept that doesn’t fit reality. Everything can be improved if you look at it closely and critically enough – every person, every idea, every work of art, every experience, everything. So if you are a perfectionist you are guaranteed to be a loser in whatever you do.
“Averageness” is another kind of illusion, but it’s a benign deception, a useful construct. It’s like a slot machine that pays a dollar fifty for every dollar you put in. It makes you rich – on all levels.
(From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D.)
Not convinced? Try this:
Pick a few activities each day that hold value to you (e.g., career or exercise goals). Instead of aiming for 100% performance, aim for 80%, 60% or even 40%. In other words, aim towards average. This doesn’t mean you actually have to confine yourself to an average performance; just aim for average and see what happens.
Go on, now. And come back here when you’re done…
* * *
Notice how much you enjoyed these activities and how productive and efficient you actually were? Write it all down if you can. Three columns:
How Effectively You Performed (0-100%)
How Satisfying the Experience Was (0-100%)
Now I know this may sound overly simplistic, but if you tend to have perfectionistic tendencies that result in procrastination or paralysis, doing this exercise is surprisingly effective in removing rigid thought patterns. Rigidity and creative thinking cannot co-exist. When you let go of fear – the fear of making mistakes and not “doing it right” – you’re open to experience the freedom and joy of being inspired. You become accessible as a conduit for Creative Consciousness. This is the space where flow happens. Experiencing flow is experiencing greatness. This is anything but “average”. See how that works?
Reminds me of a short verse from the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient spiritual text that has impacted the work of many great minds (Emerson, Thoreau, T.S. Eliot to name a few):
You have a right to the work alone, not to its fruits.
In other words, do the job you set out to do, and then let go. It doesn’t belong to you any more. Easier said, I know, but if this idea is kept in your awareness and practiced consistently, it will help release you from performance anxiety and the unbearable sensation of being “stuck”.
So why did I write this post? For myself, actually. I had been experiencing writer’s block and frustration for a few months. I felt frozen and uninspired. Yesterday, I did the exercise above while keeping the Gita in mind. I wrote an article for an online publication. Then I wrote this blog post. I aimed for average.
My results: I felt 98% effective and 100% satisfied by the experience. Amazing.
I then moved forward with my day, on to other tasks with this same method. I was surprised by how much joy, creativity and productivity I experienced by simply taking pressure and expectation out of the equation. I felt light and liberated. Got me thinking:
Maybe everything I had achieved in my life thus far was in spite of my perfectionism, not because of it.
Hmmm…an equally disturbing and exhilarating thought!
Now excuse me while I go burn those panties.
We went ’round the mulberry bush last weekend. Well, actually, that’s inaccurate (as is the children’s song – mulberries don’t grow on bushes). It’s a tree that we circled, not a bush. In case you don’t know what a mulberry is, have a look:
I know, I know. They look a bit wormy and alien-like. And unfortunately, these were the most attractive of the batch. They’re also hairy, as berries tend to be, with an elongated, slightly shriveled appearance. Now the latter could just be because the tree from which these were plucked sits on my in-laws’ property in a dark corner where very little sun filters through. Still, this bush – I mean, tree – is a prolific producer and it was heartbreaking to watch these uglies just drop to the ground and rot year after year, no one wanting anything to do with them because of their droopy, limp, shriveldom. That all changed last year when I looked up into the sky, into the arching, berry-weeping branches of this humble tree and thought – pie. Pie in the sky. Mulberry Rhubarb Pie to be specific.
Now this isn’t a “healthy” recipe per se, but what I do believe is healthy is following a “90/10″ diet: eating clean 90% of the time; optionally dirty the other 10% (dabbling/cheating/indulging). Possibly a good formula for life in general. Food for thought.
That said, this pie isn’t all dirty. Mulberries are just as nutritious as any other berry (phytonutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents) while rhubarb is high in Vitamin C, K, calcium and dietary fiber. Oh, and in case you’ve never seen rhubarb, they’re much more seductive than their partner in pie – strong, stalk-y and bold with such a lovely blushing hue. Have a look:
No, that’s not an embarrassed celery (half a smile?). I find rhubarb to be quite brash in fact. I have to apply some pressure to their stalks before they finally yield to my knife. They have to be put in their place. I quite enjoy doing this.
Rhubarb is tart; mulberries are slightly sweet. Add sugar and you have a perfect balance of sweet & tart. I can’t properly express how well this marriage works. It is the only pie I will bother myself with because it really is just so incredible. Forget about Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – I’ve had both, and MRP is the ONE. Don’t have mulberries around? Sub in blackberries. Simple. Now go eat pie.
Mulberry Rhubarb Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
Adapted from: Allrecipes
|1.||Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together mulberries, rhubarb, sugar, and flour.|
|2.||Pour into unbaked 9-inch pie shell. Dot filling with butter. Add top crust and cinch top and bottom crust borders together with fingers. Make 4 slits in top crust with a sharp knife. Optional: for a shiny, glazed appearance to pie, brush egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water) over top of crust.|
|3.||Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake until pie is done, about 30 minutes longer. Crust should be a light to medium brown and filling will be bubbling.|
Excerpts from selected poems of Rumi:
The rose opens
And when it falls
“A lily or a rose never pretends, and its beauty is that it is what it is.”
(Just Kidding. This one is Jiddu Krishnamurti. Not Rumi.)
Below is what I captured while taking a walk in my neighborhood last Sunday, shortly before sunset. I decided against captions, figuring words would only distract from the formless beauty of Nature. Well, actually, I was 1) lazy and 2) didn’t know a few botanical names. BUT, most I do know, so ask away if you’re interested. Oh, and if you haven’t spent some quality time with the birds, bees, flowers & trees this season, go do it!
Note: These images were taken near downtown Houston, Texas. To enjoy more magical images of springtime flora & fauna – this time from Athens and seaside Theologos, Greece – click here and here. (http://slayermusings.wordpress.com/)
Is it possible for a cocktail to be healthful? I say yes!
This is restaurant Cuchara’s masterfully concocted “Bandido”. Botanical and refreshing, it also happens to be one of the tastiest and most potent cocktails I’ve ever drunk. Drunk, it may make me, but I can still make it to (and through!) a power yoga class the following morning which I like to attribute to the heaping teaspoon of chia seeds thrown into the mix. Yes, chia – these tiny little seeds now widely recognized as a superfood:
Chia is known for its energy-boosting properties. If you’re a runner, you’ve probably heard of the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall in which he writes about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon – aptly nicknamed the Raramuri, or the running people – and their ability to run anywhere from 50-200 miles in one session, competitively or just for fun! The Tarahumara’s “running food” is chia, which is often consumed in the form of a drink (chia, lemon or lime juice, and water) called iskiate. For those who prefer to remain sober before their runs, I’ll post a recipe for iskiate soon. Meantime, here is an excerpt from the book:
“In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they’re superpacked with omega-3s, omega-6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants. If you had to pick just one desert-island food you couldn’t do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease; after a few months on the chia diet, you could probably swim home.
Chia was once so treasured, the Aztecs used to deliver it to their king in homage. Aztec runners used to chomp chia seeds as they went into battle, and the Hopis fueled themselves on chia during their epic runs from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean.”
I can’t say drinking iskiate gave me anything close to superhuman ability, but the few times I’ve drank it before a 3-mile run, I didn’t feel like I was dying (your clue that I’m not a runner). Will experiment further and report back in my iskiate post.
Now back to El Bandido. It’s made with Sotol and a float of Pimm’s. Sotol, like tequila, is a kind of mezcal (distilled alcohol made from the agave cactus).
Sotol is similar in flavor to tequila, but with more herbal undertones; Pimm’s, as many of you already know, is an herbal and botanical liqueur.
Herbal, botanical, seedy – so good, so Spring!
Oh and speaking of seedy, I almost forget to mention this: chia seeds produce a gel-like coating around themselves after being immersed in water for a bit (you will soak them before adding), so this drink actually has texture. You can definitely feel these tiny, smooth “balls” as soon as cocktail hits tongue. I adore this! (It’s the little things.)
A special thanks to Ana, co-owner of Cuchara (AMAZING Mexico City Cusine) for so warmly and generously providing this recipe. xoxo
Makes 1 cocktail
Note: Soak chia seeds in water until plumped (half hour should do the trick) before adding to cocktail.
Combine first 4 ingredients in order listed and stir. Add ice. Pour Pimm’s over top (no need to mix).
Alternatively (my adaptation as shown in pics), shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (except chia seeds) with ice. Pour into glass. Add chia.
Garnish with a sprig of mint.
*To make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar into a saucepan. Boil gently and stir until sugar dissolves. Cool.
I’m always leery of quick fixes so I was a bit skeptical about this One-Minute Meditation (let’s call it OMM). But I’ve been practicing it for the last few days and it makes me feel good. So I’m sharing it.
Yes, you can meditate effectively at shorter intervals. In fact, some even advocate for shorter, more frequent bouts of meditation throughout the day rather than one longish one. I have trouble sitting still for even 10 minutes, so short, frequent, and deep works well for me.
Here’s a breakdown of the OMM:
30 seconds of breathing + 30 seconds (or more if you’d like) of stillness.
The breathing technique used here is called the Bellows Breath or Bhastrika and it is a pranayama (yogic breathing exercise) classic. The movement of breath in and out of the lungs is supposedly reminiscent of a blacksmith’s bellows, hence the name. The technique is simple. You can watch the video below for a full demonstration.
Many people breathe primarily using the upper lobe of the lungs resulting in shallow oxygen intake and release. Our upper chest contains stress receptors and when our breathing centers around this area, we activate the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system. This is how we breathe when we’re under physical and/or emotional strain. For some people, this is default mode. With this pattern of breathing, our ribcage squeezes our heart, almost like a protective mechanism (perhaps protecting the symbolic seat of our emotions).
Breathing into the lower lobes of the lungs activates a relaxation (parasympathetic nervous system) response. Ideally, you want to be in the relaxation response as often as possible. When stressful situations arise, you can then retain equanimity and act from a place of repose.
Long story, short: You don’t want your body on constant physiological guard. It’s taxing on all systems and you’ll eventually get worn out and sick. Learn how to take a complete breath and then practice it as much as possible until it becomes unconscious. In fact, a quick post about simple, “everyday” breathing might be helpful. I will do this soon.
Now back to OMM. At the end of this exercise, you should be feeling more, and thinking less. Why? Because when the brain is hyper-oxygenated, thinking ceases. At least temporarily. Do this exercise 10 times a day and you can lose your mind for 10 minutes each day. This is a good thing.
Another good thing: the free flow of prana. OMM and other breathing exercises stimulate prana, which in Sanskrit, means life force or life energy. According to yogic philosophy, prana is part of the “subtle body” or the energetic sheath of our body. When your prana is stuck or its flow inhibited, your subtle body becomes dense and your mind confused. Breathing and yoga help maintain the free flow of prana while keeping your ribcage/diaphragm elastic and allowing your “heart center” to be open. Open to Love and the flow of Life.
Here is the basic technique. Watch the video below for a demo:
1. Sit upright. Close your eyes.
2. Inhale and exhale through the nose with equal and rigorous force, using your entire diaphragm. (If you know how to do ujjayi, do so here; if not, no worries.) Do this for 30 breaths or 30 seconds.
3. Stop breathing after your last exhalation. Sit still for 30+ seconds. You can set a timer or you can just sit for as long as you’d like. Personally, I don’t like to count out 30 seconds, because this distracts me from being present! I just sit for as long as my head stays clear.
Optional: When thoughts start to return again, repeat again for 15 breaths. Sit still. Do another 15 breaths/sit still, if you’d like.
And now for the video. Let me preface it with the following:
I advise you not to:
a) watch this video with another person and/or
b) do this exercise with another person.
At least until you have the technique down. Especially b). You may end up in hysterical fits of laughter as soon as you start. Then again, laughter is good. Go for it, but don’t expect to complete the meditation.
Watch the entire video (it’s fairly short and informative) or you can skip to 3:05 to watch the demo. Yes, it looks slightly bizarre, and no he’s not hyperventilating (or insane):