Posts tagged ‘stillness’

May 18, 2017

Healthy is Beautiful

Why can’t we see that healthy is beautiful? This week there were radishes in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. I immediately thought of my grandmother. As the host of all of our Sunday family dinners, birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving meals, and Christmas lunch, she never molded, garnished, piped or styled anything. She didn’t take the time to weave a lattice top over her apple pie, she just rolled a second crust and put a few slits in the top. Her one nod to beautifying her food was the radish rose. Even those she kept simple, using a few rudimentary cuts. Then she placed them on a china plate – sometimes her pattern and sometimes her mother’s.
radishes
If this leaves you thinking the table was bland or ugly, think again. A simple white on white table cloth held pristine china, real silverware, cloth napkins, and a row of serving bowls down the center brimming with food from the garden — bright yellow corn, red tomato slices, green okra or string beans with new potatoes. Even the stuffed peppers were home grown, and the dark red Bing cherries were picked fresh from a tree in her yard. Gran may not have used the silver service that sat in her china cabinet next to the dining table or made room for flowers and candles on the table, but her table was elegant, inviting and filled with colorful, fragrant, delicious, fresh food.
peppers
What would Gran think of styling or plating food? I don’t know if she’d object. She wasn’t particularly rough around the edges. Her grammar was impeccable, her nails were always perfectly manicured and painted bright red, and she never gave up her high heels. She just had her own sense of priorities and a limited amount of time. That led to practical decisions. Gran was able to discern that fresh ingredients and skilled preparation would trump appearance in the long run so that’s how she allotted her time.

She also shopped and delivered groceries to a disabled man on a regular basis, made regular nursing home rounds to visit old friends, was church clerk and worked 40 hours a week. If you had suggested she style her food rather than perform these tasks, I’m pretty sure she would have stomped her foot and sent you out of the room. That sort of prioritizing just made her mad.

Maybe it’s my grandmother’s influence, or perhaps I’ve just hit that age when lots of things don’t make sense, but our current priorities leave me frequently feeling out of sync. We spend lots of time, energy, and money making things look good on the surface when doing so means sacrificing quality, health, resilience, accomplishment, character, learning, and deep connection. You can see this in play in many areas:
Relationships – Dump this imperfect person for the next imperfect person instead of examining our contribution to the problem
Parenting – Help the child with his homework so he gets a good grade rather than allowing him to learn from failure
Education – Teach to the test instead of teaching how to learn and process knowledge, i.e. think critically
Finances – Spend and borrow so we appear affluent now rather than plan and save for later
Beauty – Starve, cover, augment, inject, fill, and color instead of appreciating the beauty of our natural attributes
Psychological & Emotional Health – Numb with drugs, alcohol, video games, excessive spending, and overworking rather than feeling and healing
Politics – Say what appeals to constituents right now no matter how a policy will affect the country in the future
Nutrition – Substitute packaged, processed, fortified and convenient for fresh, whole, nutrient-rich, minimally processed and variety
Medicine – Treat symptoms with meds in instances when lifestyle changes can be equally effective

The shift in priorities from Gran’s era to now is rarely questioned, but it doesn’t seem to be serving us well. In my city, the homicide total to date is more than double last year’s rate as of this date. The number of nonfatal gunfire injuries has increased 92 percent. Opioid addiction is at an all-time high. Chronic disease is increasing across all age groups. Political divisiveness and hostility now frequently erupt into contentious confrontations. Rudeness abounds. Bad behavior is presented as the norm of the reality TV star. The US barely makes it into the top 20 list of countries with the highest standard of living as measured by the Social Progress Imperative.
flatbread
How many of these problems could we reverse simply by prioritizing basic healthy practices-
Getting enough sleep
Eating fresh, minimally processed food
Finding a way to be active 5-6 days per week
Making time for stillness
Forgiving ourselves
Owning our decisions
Setting boundaries
Showing appreciation
Practicing gratitude
Listening to each other
Showing compassion

Of course, there’s no way to know, but I believe we have the ability to improve anything on which we focus our energy. If we simply viewed healthy as beautiful, it’s clear we’d throw lots of time, money, and energy into achieving a healthy state. Perhaps we can start by pausing a moment to see the beauty in colorful fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs, and listening to each other over a bowl of homemade soup.

With her energy focused on growing and preparing vegetables, making pickles and tomato juice, and keeping the cookie jar full, Gran may not have had time for frilly or fancy, but she certainly provided a beautiful spread. She’s been gone for more than 20 years and we still talk about those meals. We miss them. On Gran’s table, healthy food had lasting beauty.

The lasting beauty of healthy food that contributes to healing – that’s a priority I can get behind!

References:
http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/ADHD-Nation/Alan-Schwarz/9781501105913
http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/apr/29/meeting-to-address-lr-crime-20170429/
http://www.arkansasnews.com/news/arkansas/doctor-warns-epidemic-opioid-addiction-arkansas
http://www.fightchronicdisease.org/sites/default/files/docs/GrowingCrisisofChronicDiseaseintheUSfactsheet_81009.pdf
http://www.businessinsider.com/19-countries-with-the-highest-standard-of-life-according-to-the-social-progress-report-2016-6

Resources:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/69402.The_Essential_55
https://traumahealing.org/
https://www.onsiteworkshops.com/
https://fearlessliving.org/

April 18, 2016

Strategic Patience

formulaThis morning I ran across the term strategic patience. It wasn’t used in the context of foreign policy with Russia. This strategic patience was used to describe a technique employed by teachers in which students are asked to remove themselves from electronics and quietly observe a math formula, graph, or painting. Sometimes the duration of the assignment was only 1.5 minutes, but that time had a positive learning result.

Quiet observation, stillness, contemplation, and mindfulness are words I hear fairly often. I know a few people who practice yoga and many who claim to pray, but most everyone I know is also running as fast as they can most of the time. It is rare that anyone sits still or savors a moment alone.

I know that’s probably true of the people around you as well. In fact, University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and his colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard found in a series of 11 studies that participants generally did not enjoy even six to 15 minutes alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder, or daydream.

We become so accustomed to filling every moment, we schedule more and more and more and then start to rush to get it all done. And we convince ourselves that everything we’re doing is important whether or not we appreciate the value it adds to our lives. We have an idea that through this overabundance we are living more fully,varms but are we, or would strategic patience serve us better?

That’s a big question to answer in a blog post. It’s the kind of big question people write whole books about. I’m in too much of a hurry to write a book. I just need to get this post finished so I can move on to the rest of my over-scheduled day. As a result, I’ll limit the rest of this space to sharing what I’ve learned the past few years…by being still.

Being still matters. It’s important. No, it’s CRITICAL.

I don’t know why exactly except that without stillness there is no motion. Contrasts in life are the way we make sense of things. We can’t know sweet unless we know sour. We can’t know fast unless we know slow. We can’t know happiness unless we know sadness. We can’t know success unless we know failure.

Until we are able to sit still with ourselves, we cannot know ourselves fully and not knowing ourselves frightens us. It leaves us susceptible to criticism because we’re not really sure if the criticism is deserved. It leaves us unable to apologize sincerely because we’re not really sure how we feel. It causes us to bristle quickly because each time someone doesn’t follow their prescribed role in our necessarily narrow script, we feel threatened. It causes us to posture rather than stand confidently tall. It keeps us divorced from our vulnerability without which we cannot receive love. And we all want to be loved.

Now, how does any of this relate to cooking? It doesn’t, but strategic patience is ingredient number one for thriving.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/to-get-students-to-focus-some-professors-are-asking-them-to-close-their-eyes/2016/04/06/b2b019e8-e6ef-11e5-bc08-3e03a5b41910_story.html

https://news.virginia.edu/content/doing-something-better-doing-nothing-most-people-study-shows

January 5, 2016

Forget the Resolutions and Pick a New Year’s Theme

Most of us make New Year’s Resolutions that we won’t keep for more than a few weeks, so maybe it’s time to forget the Resolutions and pick a New Year’s Theme. If we’re to believe media reports, most resolutions involve improved personal appearance or health like losing weight, working out more, eating healthy, or stopping some bad habit. Other common resolutions seek to improve our lifestyle by saving money for the future or ridding ourselves of clutter.

I’m not sure anyone really takes New Year’s Resolutions seriously. Maybe that’s the reason we fail so often. It does seem like a good idea to approach each new year as a new beginning in which we can improve our lives. In fact, I’m a big fan of setting intentions for pretty much anything. Unlike goals, intentions simply require that I be mindful, aware, and follow a process rather than achieve a certain outcome. It’s much harder to fail that way! But when it comes to creating a big picture path for the year, creating a theme can be much more fun! And adding more fun to our lives is always an improvement!

What are some possible themes and how could I implement them?

curiosityCuriosity would be a good theme for the year. It’s a choice that could lead me to watch documentary movies, spend time learning programming on Codecademy, attend lectures, try an escape room game, join a meetup group, try online dating, or read science fiction. It would also be a chance to step back and get curious rather than angry in any confrontational interaction.

peacePeace is a good theme for any year. For me, it usually begins with being mindful of spending my time with people who exude calm and kindness. It also means making a choice to curb my impatience when communicating with tech support and customer service reps.

comfortComfort sounds like a possibility. If I choose it, I’ll be mindful each day when I get dressed to choose fabrics that feel good on my skin, shoes that do not hurt my feet (no matter how cute they are), and waistbands that allow me to breathe. I’ll sleep on sheets that feel good. I’ll eat food that doesn’t hurt my tummy. I’ll choose furniture that fits me well.

yogaStillness is one of my favorites. Being able to sit still did not come easy to me, but has given me some of the biggest improvements in quality of life. Stillness can include a practice of meditation or yoga or can just be simply turning off the TV, computer, or phone, and spending time with yourself.

boundariesAfter some thought, I think my theme for 2016 will be boundaries. It’s an oldie, but a goody. Good boundaries are essential for healthy relationships and give me a guilt-free space in which to say, “no”. Lots of things remind me to be conscious of my boundaries: fences, curbs, ropes, hula hoops, parking spaces, walls, cubicles, carrels, plates, placemats, elevators, swimming pools, basketball courts, tennis courts, porch rails, squares, circles, and doors. Lucky for me, the reminders are everywhere.

Are you ready to forget the resolutions and find a theme that will help you focus on improvement all year long? If so, join me and share your theme!

https://www.codecademy.com/

http://www.meetup.com/