abundantlifevegan

Spiritual Musings, Creative Inspiration, and Simple Vegan Recipes


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Radical Honesty: I am a Piece of Work!

Time for some radical honesty here folks. Honesty with myself, with friends, with those I love. Some of this is hard to say, but somehow sharing makes it better, taking it out of the dark and into the light.

So what’s my big secret? Sometimes it’s all just an act. The positive, upbeat, healthy vibrant woman you see at work and in the community, yep—there are days when it’s all a show. There are days that I am just pretending like it is all okay, everything is good and wonderful—because I am supposed to, right? I am a therapist, a yoga teacher, all about mediation, and mental balance, and go get sunshine and eat some fresh fruit!

But guess what? The truth, the real truth, is that some days I feel so stuck in the ruts of my samskaras (mental and emotional patterns), stuck in habits that do not serve me, stuck in ways of being that serve only to bring me down, that I feel I can never change even though they are incongruent with my true self.

Yep, you heard right. I have a lot of mess, regret and frustration in my life. I have fears about my future, my health, my finances, and my spiritual progress.  Mainly, I worry a lot about getting it all right—having control, grasping for some solid ground to stand on.

More and more I realize that my fear comes from a deep seated belief that maybe I am not enough. More and more I realize that all my clinging to security, stability and permanence is just that—clinging, attachment—and that the only way to deal with the fear is to embrace it. To sit with the knowledge that there is no permanence, security or conformation in the external world.

Pema Chodron said it in best in her book When Things Fall Apart. She writes:

“We think that if we just meditated enough, or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who is awake, that’s death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self-contained and comfortable, is some kind of death…we are killing the moment by controlling our experience.”

And that is the trap I fall into again and again and again. My samskara is to work just a little harder—eat more perfectly vegan food, meditate more, exercise more, smile more, try harder and keep striving the fears away.

If I control enough, my mind habits tell me, I won’t have to feel the loss, or experience this fear, or feel insecure about how I am. I won’t have to miss my family, wonder about the bills, doubt my competence, feel afraid or alone.

In those moments I am forgetting that feeling, experiencing and going through the loss, the fear, and the anxiety is what it means to be human. To experience life fully, is to know the depths of despair and the joy of freedom. AHHHH! So here I am trying to escape from the very things that makes us awake and alive!

And this is where it gets tricky for me. How do I change the habits that I know do not serve me, if it means I have to experience some form of suffering as I go through the change? It’s not that I want to embrace suffering with open arms, but I don’t want to run away from it either. That denies me the very thing that makes me, and all of us, human.

I believe the answer can be found in our willingness to step into the unknown. If the mental habits and patterns that I have formed have kept me in a place that is unhealthy for me, I have to be brave enough to go forward into a strange “in-between space” before developing new, healthier habits and patterns.

I have resisted changing some of my ways of being, because I have become utterly convinced that these patterns make me WHO I AM! When I accept that these patterns, are simply that—patterns—and nothing more—I can step into an even more evolved version of myself—no longer dependent on these habits and ways of thinking to define myself.  Exciting Stuff!

As we let go of the old habits and patterns, new ones will form—but luckily the new ones can be positive, and can help us to chip away at the habits we once believed defined us, and come a little closer to knowing our True Self.

What can you let go of in your life right now? What patterns, beliefs and habits do you hold on to because you’re comfortable with them, identify with them, or don’t know how to function without them?

I promise you, you will never get it right. You will never have it all under control. But have faith that when you embrace the chaos that emerges, we can illuminate that part of yourself that is solid, unchangeable and Divine.


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Kindness to all, myself included. Let this be your mantra.

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
― Dalai Lama XIV


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Embracing the Transformative Power of Change

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On this first day of Fall (also called the Autumnal Equinox) we begin to observe the change from Summer to Fall. At first the outward changes are subtle. The sun rises later, night comes more quickly. My morning walks have been darker; I have started to watch the sunset on my evening strolls.

On the day of the equinox, day and night are almost of equal length. This only happens twice a year, when the Earth’s axis and Earth’s orbit around the sun combine so that the axis is neither inclined away from or toward the sun.

For many of us, the change in the season invites inward symbolic change as well. The equinox arrived at a momentous time in my personal and spiritual life, as the yoga school where I have been teaching and practicing yoga is now closing its doors for the foreseeable future.

I am saddened not only for the shala, but I am also grieving the loss of community. The friendships that developed there kept me grounded and grateful since moving to Durham, in a new place and in a new city—yoga was the connection to others and what has made this city feel like home.

Just as the seasons change and invite a time of reflection, I have reflected on how this change in our yoga community is an opportunity for inward change. Personally, I can reflect on what my intentions are in teaching, embrace the joys of being a student, and even embrace stillness. Often I find a busy teaching schedule, in addition to full time work, leaves little time for personal practice, which is a MUST (for me) in order to be grounded enough to teach.

Teaching yoga is truly my greatest joy in life, as I connect with others on a transformative level—in a unique place where body, mind and spirit can be changed from the inside on the journey to discover who we truly are. The outward change is subtle—just like the shift from summer to fall—but when we embrace change, we can allow ourselves to be carried by the flow of the universe, which is our true-self, never changing and always free.


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Black Bean Burgers, Cool Cabbage Slaw and Southern Style Cornbread

Burgers, Slaw and Cornbread have all gone vegan in this week’s recipe post. Not to mention gluten free, sugar free, and of course delicious.

Recipe # 1: Black Bean Burgers

I ran across this basic recipe for homemade black bean burgers at Whole Foods last week, and I am hooked—the recipe reminds of the Vegan Magic Loaf, where you can substitute different beans and grains to make a different vegan burger each time. The recipe that follows is from the Engine-2 Challenge (Plant Based Diet).

Here’s the basic recipe, slightly adapted:

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked beans (black, white, kidney, chickpea, lentil, etc.)

1 cup starch (uncooked oats, cooked quinoa, cooked brown rice)

1 cup diced vegetables (carrot, onion, mushroom, tomato paste)

½ tsp spices (garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, cumin)

¼-1/2 cup liquid (veggie broth, liquid from beans, water, or non dairy milk)

2 tbs ground flax combined with 3 tbs of warm water

Method:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Put cooked beans in a big mixing bowl, mash with a fork—or if you have one—try an immersion blender.
  3. Add the starch and mix really well.
  4. Add vegetables, cooked or raw. (I prefer cooked, but this is more time consuming)
  5. Add spices, liquid, flax and mix well.
  6. Form patties, and place them onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.  You can make 4-5 large burgers, or 8- 10 smaller burgers.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Aim for the lower end of the time range if you made the smaller version, the longer end if you made the bigger burger.

 

We served ours with Cool Cabbage Slaw (Remix), you can serve like a regular burger, or for a twist—make them in a muffin tin and you can have bean muffins!

Recipe #2: Cool Cabbage Slaw (Remix)

We were lucky enough to get an enormous local cabbage in our Produce Box last week, and I immediately thought of one of my favorite recipes from growing up, a Cool Cabbage Slaw, which is a tangier and sweeter twist on coleslaw. My Mom’s original version calls for white sugar and white vinegar—both of which are very acidic, and not so good for the body. My version amps up the veggies, and subs refined sugar for lemon zest, and instead of canola oil and vinegar, uses apple cider and rice vinegars blended with sesame oil. Yum!

Ingredients:

1 small green cabbage (about 6 cups) shredded

3 medium carrots, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 large red pepper, chopped

3 small cucumbers, chopped

1 large bunch radishes, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

Dressing:

½ cup rice vinegar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup lemon juice

½ cup sesame oil

½ tsp. pepper

Method:

  1. Wash all vegetables, and either use a food processor or a large amount of patience to chop all vegetables and combine in a large bowl.
  2. Combine dressing ingredients in a mason jar with a lid and shake.
  3. Pour dressing over the vegetables, mix well and chill several hours before serving.

 

If you chop the vegetables in a food processor, you will get a finer product that makes a great topping for black bean burgers, if you chop by hand, it will be more of a salad. Either way is tasty!

 

Recipe #3: Southern Style Cornbread

 I have been really into cornbread lately. I have been experimenting with a number of different recipes, trying to find that perfect gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan concoction that is slightly crumbly,–still a bit cake-like—and reminiscent of the cornbread I grew up with. Thanks To Chocolate Covered Katie and Healthy, Happy Life for some great inspiration— about ½ a dozen pans of cornbread later, I have found a winner!

Ingredients:
2 cups whole grain fine or medium corn meal
4 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp cayenne
1 cup Okra: pan-toasted okra

OR

1 can corn, drained

Method:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne.
  3. Stir in remaining liquid ingredients until batter is smooth and creamy.
  4. Fold in okra or corn.
  5. Pour into 8 inch circle baking pan.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until the edges crisp up.

 

 

What I really love about this cornbread is the combination of spicy and sweet, plus the added veggies help keep it moist. The only rule for eating this cornbread is that you have to butter (or earth balance!) it while it’s hot!


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Risky Business

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

As a young therapist and yoga teacher—I often question my capability to teach or to counsel. There are moments I seem to believe I am an imposter. Not qualified!

In the context of counseling, I often get caught up in feeling the need to say the “right thing.” I get caught in a stream of doubt about what I do say—  (Maybe that wasn’t the most “therapeutic” thing to say….Did I self-disclose too much?…..what if I just made things worse by being honest….)

As a yoga teacher, a similar phenomenon happens—(what if I am not teaching this correctly? What if the students all know I am a fraud? Did I mispronounce utthita trikonasana again? Did I forget to do a half moon balance on the 2nd side…..)

I have a wonderful supervisor at my work place, and he reminded me this week that my job is never to say the right thing, but to be myself. Only when I am connecting with someone from a place of authenticity can genuine connection transpire. Truthfully, that is why I went into the field of counseling—to connect.

That’s what teaching yoga is about for me too.  If you’ve ever taken a class with me, you know I can be pretty goofy—but that’s who I am. When I am overly focused on saying the “right thing,” getting all the Sanskrit names right, taking myself too seriously— I am not being myself, not connecting, and sure to lose my flow as a teacher.

So even though some days I feel inadequate or “underqualified”— I still dive in to my therapy, yoga teaching, blog writing, and art making. I have to put it all out there, because if I wait until I feel like I am an expert, good enough, appropriately qualified, etc. etc. I will never start.  I have to take a risk, plunge in and do the things I love, that make me come alive. Otherwise I am being selfish— holding back from the world the gifts I was meant to share.

It may be easier to wait to do those things we love, but at the end of the day I would rather take a risk and mess up, than wish I had made that connection.

Are there places in your life you are holding back because of fear or being a fraud, or not being “good enough?”

Are there risks you wish you would take, but tell yourself “not yet?”

I promise you, you are already good enough. When you are genuine and operating from a place of authenticity— you are more than qualified, in fact, you are the expert in that moment.  Move away from that safe and comfortable place, let yourself make mistakes and get messy—- because that is where the magic happens.


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You are already Perfect

“When we are in trance and caught in an emotion like fear or shame or anger, our inner intelligence knows something is off kilter. For a while, perhaps even decades, we may mistakenly think that “something is wrong with me” or “something is wrong with the world,” that we need to fix our imperfections and somehow prevent ourselves from failing. Then either suddenly or gradually we recognize that it is our mistaken perception of who we are that’s causing the difficulty.” – True Refuge (Tara Brach)

There is nothing “wrong” with you, or with the world. No need to fix yourself, just awaken to your True Self.

How will you awaken to your True Self today?

Tear off the expectations of yourself, from others, and from within.

Recognize that who you truly are is already perfect, divine, and never separated from the heartbeat of the universe.