Sunday, November 18, 2012

Remembering My First Experience with Meditation

For many of us who practice meditation, the discipline was adopted during a very difficult period in our lives.  Meditation, especially vipassana or mindful awareness, eventually shows us where disharmony exists in our lives, and gives us tools to pull us up and out of our personal mess.

Here is a brief background on my "personal mess".  My mother raised my sister and I by herself until she remarried when I was in high school.  We never had a lot of money and she did not value education.  She declared one day in my Senior year of high school that I couldn't go to college because she couldn't afford it (without looking into financial aid options or anything else that could help me).  I felt this was so unfair and sad because I loved to learn and had so much potential.  She figured I was self-sufficient and she focused instead on her job, her new marriage, and my younger siblings. So after high school, I sought out part-time jobs to pay for my community college education while I continued to live at home with my family.

After completing my lower division courses, I transferred to the local State University.  Around the same time, I found a full-time job, moved into a studio apartment, and started using financial aid to help pay for my tuition (also incurring major credit card debt).

It was extremely difficult to balance work and university studies.  It did not help, of course, that I chose a very difficult major.  I trudged along trying to complete my Biology degree without really enjoying the advanced coursework.  I had to get through this!  Most of my grades were very average.  Some were really bad (Calculus).  I gained ~ 20 lbs.  I drank massive amounts of coffee to stay awake and smoked cigarettes as a way to cope emotionally.  It was difficult to have meaningful romantic relationships.

Somehow, I was doing really well in my new position at this environmental testing laboratory I was working at.  That is where I placed my energy, and where I received the most help.

My supervisor was the angel who suggested that I attend an "Intro to Meditation" workshop they were having at my company after hours.  I sat among my co-workers, all at least 10 years older than I, and wondered why I had been asked to join the group.

One of the exercises made quite an impression on me.  The instructor asked us to pick up a single raisin from many that she had on the tray.  First we described the raisin to each other.  We noted it's size, it's texture, it's color, and it's smell.  Then we didn't just "eat" the raisin.  We salivated, chewed it, tasted it, felt the change in the raisin's structure as it turned to liquid, and swallowed the syrupy goodness.  Our senses were alive and these simple details became important as we put them in the foreground of our awareness.

I was able to experience a raisin as I never had before!  And I appreciated my body for the pleasure of it's sweet taste.  It occurred to me that if I had overlooked the simple details of eating, what else was I missing?  And I noted that as I "meditated" on eating the raisin, I was calm and focused.

This was the seed that was planted in my consciousness so long ago.  It took much more hardship and many mindfulness experiences to really understand how meditation could help me.  After several years, it become part of my life.

I immersed myself in the practice and found my teachers.  At that point, compassion, patience, and understanding replaced the desperation, self-loathing, and worry that I clung to as a young adult.  And with fine-tuned awareness, I was able to make choices that placed me on this life path that feels most authentic.


Comments are welcome!  I would love to hear how YOU discovered meditation and made it a priority in your life.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nutritional Healing With Pumpkin

Pumpkin Custard, Hold the Dairy by llsimon53 

I wrote earlier about my love of Autumn and how it's necessary to change our activity level, diet, and lifestyle in order to stay healthy through the seasonal transition.  When it comes to diet, I think most everyone in the US would agree that pumpkin is THE food of Autumn.

Pumpkin is also a valuable remedy in Traditional Chinese Medicine dietetics.  According to the Tao of Nutrition by Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., C.A., pumpkin has a cool and sweet nature.  Therefore, it can help with many "heat" or inflammatory conditions such as dysentery, diabetes, eczema, and stomachaches.

Our family is fond of roasting sugar pie pumpkins and using the pureé for loads of recipes we've collected over the years.  While canned pumpkin is affordable and very convenient, we try to avoid canned foods due to BPA in the lining.

Here is a super easy way to roast & pureé a pumpkin.  Use the pureé in you favorite pie, custard or pancake recipe.  Or better yet, add it to yogurt, oatmeal, or simply season it with cinnamon & honey and eat it as is!

Roasted Pumpkin
1) Heat oven to 400°F.
2) Cut out a hole at the top of the pumpkin and just like you're going to carve it, go ahead and scoop out the insides, placing the seeds into a bowl of water if choosing to save them for roasting separately.
3) Place pumpkin on baking sheet and cook for 40 minutes.
4) Fit top back on pumpkin and bake for another 20 minutes or until tender.
5) Remove top again and cool until easy to handle.
6) Scoop out the pumpkin and either mash, run it through a food mill, or pureé in a blender/food processor.