Unbelievably, it’s fall. Again. I swear we just had Memorial Day yesterday and Christmas the month prior.
In a rush-rush world, we often don’t give ourselves the time to sit back and contemplate on what’s going on around us, that is, life. Before you know it, the 3-month old turns 6, white hairs start reproducing like rabbits, and bartenders stop carding you. The speed at which we go about our business is one of the reasons why we as a society have gravitated towards overly processed and fast food. We somehow think that going through the drive-through or ordering pizza is always going to be faster than cooking with our own hands and ingredients we know.
I admit I am guilty of go-go-go that I don’t always stand still. Which is why I have tried to meditate. Really, really tried.
Here are some methods to incorporate meditation into our lives – they work for most people (perhaps it’s just me….):
Yoga. I’ve done yoga for years, and when you think yoga, you think, quiet, serene, contemplative. Nope. I love yoga because it makes me sweat, build muscle, and increase flexibility. I get energy from the other folks in the class. I look over to the mat next to me to see if I can stretch just a little bit further (don’t pretend you’ve never been a bit competitive on a mat – I know, defeats purpose of yoga, right?) After a hard workout, it’s time for Shavasana, where you lie still and just relax. I love this moment. I love it so that I relax a little too much and promptly fall asleep. Literally, except I don’t drool (I don’t think). I take a nice little nap until the instructor’s voice wakes me up, and I pretend I was meditating.
Sitting meditation. I have a few friends who meditate every day. 30 minutes on the floor or chair, and they swear it makes them more mentally acute and calm. I admit, I have seen a difference in them. I read a wonderful book, the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which not only includes techniques for meditation, but a Buddhist philosophy and approach to life. Warning, though, it is thick and can put you in such a meditative mood that if you try to read before bedtime, you might slip into what doctors call a REM state. After I read this book, I tried to sit down every day and meditate in the early mornings. See above example of what happens to me during Shavasana, and you get the picture of what happens when I try to do sitting meditations.
Guided meditation. I bought an iPhone app to help guide me. The man’s voice was so calming that he lulled me to Nevernever Land…are you seeing a trend here? I even attended a workshop of a famed teacher of Western Buddhism in Bethesda, Maryland. I was so proud of myself that I did not fall asleep during her session, but not because I was deep in meditation. Rather, I was deep in fascination watching other people meditate and sway and do all these quirky things when they don’t think other people like me are watching. I downloaded her Podcasts, which are lovely, but sometimes her stories have me laughing so hard that I skip her meditation part so I can get to the next story.
Mindful eating. There has long been a practice of being more conscious as we eat. Take each bite slowly, chew and contemplate, then swallow. Apparently, it helps not only to be more mindful of what we eat (which we should be), but it also helps to increase the pleasure of eating by experiencing each flavor as well as to moderate intake so as not to overeat. I try and be mindful of my food – from whom and where I get my food – but trying to take 1 full minute to chew before I swallow is as successful as getting glue back into its bottle (unless of course it’s bitter vegetables, which I can – and have – keep in my mouth for hours hoping not to ever swallow them).
Exercise. When I walked the Camino de Santiago last year, I think I meditated almost the whole way through 800km. I think, though I can’t be sure. When I walked by myself, which I did for hours, I was totally happy, at peace, and content. Nothing went through my brain, except for the not-so-occasional thoughts of “should I have my cookie or later?” and “what should we eat for dinner tonight?” and “wouldn’t it be cool if a dinosaur popped its head over that hill?” I realized that as long as I was physically moving, my brain could quiet and just be. I also realized that much of this moving requires me to be outdoors. I can go cross-country skiing for hours, and my mind is still like the fresh snow. I can go hiking for hours in the woods, and my mind is open and quiet like the trees. I even have started running (jogging is more like it), which I have never ever been a fan of or good at, but beginning to enjoy this time to pause. I do listen to music when I run (mostly to drown out the desperate gasps of air – thank you, Brit Brit and Rhi Rhi – don’t judge, yo), and my mind is just present. There are other benefits to jogging: the American Cancer Society reported that jogging can help suppress nicotine urges, which in turn, helps with weight loss.
Cooking. When I am indoors and not needing to sweat, I have found that one of my best meditative states is when I am cooking. I don’t know what it is, but there is something very real and calming about cooking. When I get “in the zone,” I’m just doing my thing, and while not everything turns out edible, I am very present and in the moment when cooking. My brain isn’t racing to get to the next project or somewhere else. I pause, and cook. And usually, it takes me faster to cook than to go outside, drive to a fast food restaurant, wait behind ten other cars, get my food (which some of it isn’t really “food”), spill something, wipe up, eat, and drive back.
Taking time in your day to meditate is wonderful for your mind, body, and soul. Sounds cliche, but there is truth to this, which is probably why it became a cliche in the first place. The key is to find ways that work for you, and not anybody else.
If you want to give it a go, try meditating while you make or eat this simple tart. It looks far more complicated than it is, and is far more delicious than it looks.
Onion and Leek Tart
Pie dough ingredients
You can make this ahead of time.
1 1/2 cups flour
8 TB cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6 TB ice water
1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar – if you are using a KitchenAid, put on low.
2. Add butter and combine until dough is in pea-size pieces.
3. Add ice water slowly and combine again – add more water if necessary.
4. Roll dough into a disc and wrap in plastic.
You can saute the onions and leeks a day ahead.
3 TB butter
2 white onions, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white part thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tsp thyme, finely chopped
2 tsp marjoram, finely chopped
2 TB fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp cold water
1. Melt 1 TB of butter in a large skillet.
2. Add 1/3 of the onions and leeks. Add salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown and caramelized (8-10 minutes).
4. Remove from skillet. Repeat steps 1 and 2 twice more until all are cooked.
5. Add herbs and crème fraîche to onion-leek mixture. Add salt and pepper if needed.
6. Let mixture cool.
7. Preheat oven to 425°F.
8. Roll out pie dough on floured surface to about 1/8 inches thick into whatever shape you want.
9. Cover dough with onion-leek filling, leaving a small border and flute the edges.
10. Whisk egg yolk with water and brush edge.
11. Put sheet on middle rack. Bake until bottom is golden (about 20-25 minutes).