Year of The Fire Rooster: Little Awakenings Become Big With Practice

Year of The Fire Rooster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losar Tashi Delek!

Happy Tibetan New Year!

In this video message, The Venerable Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoceh tells us that The Year of The Fire Rooster is an opportunity for awakening. Roosters crow to wake everyone up, and the fire rooster does it rather urgently. These are dark times, no doubt about it, but we can awaken to a more harmonious reality by practicing meditation, by practicing the paramitas, by focusing on our own thoughts, words, and actions. In fact, that is, according to the Dharma, the only way we can truly find peace and happiness.

He reminds us that progress is our friend. We don’t have to go for perfection right away. That will only lead to disappointment. If we practice, we can enjoy little moments of awakening that grow like the moon at Losar, the Tibetan new year. It starts as a new moon with no light. Gradually, step by step, it blossoms into a radiant full moon, illuminating the world and everyone in it.

So practice, my friends! Let’s use this year to practice and awaken.

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Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Cake

apple cinnamon breakfast cakeApple Cinnamon Breakfast Cake

While I try to obey most of my nutritional guidelines most of the time, I find it nearly impossible to resist enjoying a cappuccino and some pastry for breakfast. If you have the same proclivity, here is a recipe for a delicious, healthy, and easy breakfast cake.

I make mine in a round 9″ springform pan, but it works just as well in an 8″ square cake pan.

I have created a shopping list on Amazon with all the dry goods and equipment you will need. I like to give you a list of equipment with each recipe so if you’re just starting out on your all natural culinary adventure, you can buy a manageable amount of supplies for each recipe, gradually collecting essential equipment over time. You’ll have a collection of tasty, healthy recipes, and everything you need to make them again and again. And you’ll find other uses for these things as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 good organic cooking apple, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
  • 1 stick butter or the equivalent of ghee
  • 1 cup apple cider or juice (the cloudy kind)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup organic spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup organic all purpose flour (Organic is especially important with wheat).
  • 1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coarse Himalayan Pink Salt

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. While the butter is melting, chop the apple into 1/2″ chunks, leaving the skin on. (Be sure to scrub the apple first if it is not organic). Turn off the burner under the butter to let it cool a bit. Crack the 3 eggs into a small-medium mixing bowl and beat with a whisk. Then beat in the cider or juice. Take a pastry brush or folded paper towel and dip it into the melted butter. Use this to grease the cake pan. Then pour the rest of the butter into the egg and juice mixture and whisk until incorporated. In a separate, larger mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until smooth. Then get your silicone spatula (or large spoon) and stir in the apple chunks. The batter should be sort of fluffy. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan, scraping it all out of the bowl with the spatula. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is somewhat firm and springy. You can also test it by sticking a sharp knife or toothpick into the center to see if there is still any wet batter in there. It should come out clean or with a few little crumbs on it. Let the cake sit in its pan to cool for a while, and then take it out and slice it. This cake will keep for a couple of days out on the counter, and longer in the fridge. It is best served warmed up in the toaster oven, especially if it has been refrigerated. Enjoy!

Notes: You can make a gluten-free version of this with any of your favorite flours. Just make sure at least 1/2 cup is a very fine flour. Also, if you make almond milk, save the ground almonds and dry them in a food dehydrator or a very low oven. Then whiz them in a blender until a fine powder. The maple syrup powder will seem expensive, but you will be so happy to have it. I substitute it for the sugar in almost all of my baking, including pancakes. It’s chock full of trace minerals and low on the glycemic index.

Variations:

Almond Raspberry Breakfast Cake: Leave out the apples and only use 1 tsp cinnamon. Add 1 tbsp almond extract and a pint of fresh or a bag of frozen raspberries. Don’t thaw the berries or they’ll make a mess.

Blueberry Lemon Breakfast Cake: Leave out the apples and the cinnamon. Add the grated zest of one lemon and a pint of fresh or a bag of frozen blueberries.

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A Conversation About Emotions

Anonymous: How do I completely and utterly kill and remove all my emotions forever, never to exist again, without losing my mind or intelligence?

Don’t give me any advice about why I shouldn’t. Don’t tell me shit like, “I wouldn’t want to do this.” I know what I want and why I want it, even if it will turn me into a social freak. I don’t care one bit. I want them all out forever. The colder the better, and the lesser the more perfect it is.

Me: Nothing exi79-waning-gibbous1sts in a vacuum, including emotions. They are an integral part of life. However, what we usually think of as our emotions is actually our thoughts about our emotions. The emotions, themselves, are a somatic response. It’s our thinking that gives them names like “sad” or “happy.” Emotions are a form of wisdom that we need in order to stay safe and sane, find fulfillment, and know what we need. Emotions are the basis of compassion, without which we would be sociopaths. Compassion is necessary to the development of a peaceful society.

Without emotions, you would not know or care about the difference between proposing to kill your emotions and proposing to kill yourself. My sense is that you don’t want to go that far; that you are trying to save your life, not end it.

It is not possible to remove all of your emotions. If the vicissitudes of your emotional life are overwhelming, the best solution is to develop a daily meditation practice. I recommend the Tibetan Buddhist practice of shamatha-vipashyana. “Shamatha” means “calm abiding,” and “vipashyana” means” clear seeing.” You will develop equanimity and begin to see, to know, the true nature of all phenomena. Without the obsessive quality of the habitual disturbing narratives that we mistake for our genuine emotions, the mind is clear and stable. Experience becomes natural instead of daunting.

Because everything, without exception, is interconnected at both macro and micro levels, it is better to learn how to dance with reality instead of trying to escape it. Meditation will take you to a deeper understanding of reality and of your emotions. It’s hard, because the ego, generator of the self-narrative, will resist, but it’s not as hard as continually trying to shut down and impose an unnatural state upon yourself. I would go so far as to assert that meditation- practical, portable, and profound, is the best solution for disturbing emotions.

For support with your meditation practice, check out our two Facebook pages, The Providence Institute and 10 Minute Club.

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Sweet Kitchari Recipe

Sweet Winter KitchariSweet Winter Kitchari

Kitchari is an ayurvedic dish that acts as a tonic for the body. It is very easy to make, and can be stored in the fridge for days. This particular version is perfect for winter because it is sweet, and its simplicity aids the body in its restorative winter mode. This kitchari is best suited for vatas (you can find free tests online to help determine which dosha/type you are), but it is fine for all types. (Note to self: Write some posts about ayurveda).

I usually just put my kitchari together by eye, so today I made a fresh pot, measuring out what looked like the right amount of each ingredient. It turned out very much like the ones I’ve made sans recipe in the past, but know that you can play with the amounts as you go. The best way is probably to start by following the recipe, noticing what you’d like more or less of, and make notes for next time you make it. That way, you can also start playing with modifying it for various seasons and nutritional needs. For example, you would make the same basic recipe in the summer, but you could add zucchini and other summer vegetables and skip the raisins.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or ghee)*
  • 1 cup Gaba or Basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup Yellow Moong Dahl (lentils)
  • 2 scant tbsps Maharishi Vata Churna
  • 1 tsp black cumin seeds, whole (nigella sativa)
  • 1 tsp coarse pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 tsp Grains of Paradise or about 7 twists of the grinder (Aframomum melegueta or melegueta pepper)
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro or 1+ tsp fresh
  • 1/3 cup sultana raisins
  • 6 cups water, then 2 later

All these ingredients are available at Amazon, and I have created a shopping list there filled with organic, high quality products that are available for Prime shipping. (You will need a pepper-type grinder for the grains of paradise). Here is the link: http://a.co/eBkeyk6

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and add the coconut oil. If using coconut oil, add the ingredients in the exact order of the list. Stir all the dry ingredients with the oil in the pan until the rice is coated. This brings out the flavor and also opens up the rice and lentils so the water can permeate them easily, which helps if you’re using brown rice. Then add the 6 cups of water. It should sizzle. Stir well and turn the heat down almost to low. It will come to a simmer within a few minutes. Let it simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, add two more cups of water and stir. Cover the pot and turn off the heat to let it sit for another 1/2 hour or until whenever you’re ready to serve it. It will continue to absorb water. When reheating, you will probably need to add more water, as the rice and lentils absorb water over time. It’s sort of amazing how it keeps growing even as you deplete it over the course of a few days.

One of my favorite winter dinners is this kitchari with steamed broccoli, drizzled with apple cider vinegar, on the side.

*If using ghee, add the churna to the ghee and let it warm for a minute or so. This is how it is done in traditional ayurvedic cooking. Coconut oil gets so hot so fast that it will burn the spices, so in the coconut version we add the churna after the rice and lentils.

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Nihilism And Eternalism on The Shamanic Path

chodThis is a conversation that took place in a shamanic teachers’ group online. It started as a dialogue about the possibility of blending shamanism with other spiritual practices. It could have gone in a hundred different directions, but this is where it went:

Tracey: What I am wondering … how have people felt about their shamanic path? I am very called to this particular path – especially the newest avenue as it melds beautifully and supports a life path – but shamanism isn’t my foundational spiritual path. I am slightly conflicted about the purity of this path … do I have to keep it to itself or can I blend my other spiritual paths with it? Given the core fundamentals of shamanism, I feel that shamanism is specific. What do you think happens if we start to incorporate other paths with something as specific as this?

Me: The shamanic traditions of Latin America (Heart and Feather Serpent Islands) have been blended for millennia. When Catholicism was imposed on the people, they incorporated it into their shamanic practices, to save their lives, and out of that grew a genuine sort of folk Catholicism. Many still invoke Jesus and saints as part of their practice and many go to church. I sing in a Congregational church choir and feel connected to Yeshua (Jesus) very intimately and directly, though I would not pass as a mainline Christian. I am Buddhist, more than Christian, and my shamanic lineages are mostly in Peru and Mexico. I didn’t cherry-pick from Buddhism or Shamanism. I immersed myself wholeheartedly and apprenticed with genuine masters. As I grew in my own path, a special lineage emerged through me that is fed by all that I have studied. However, when I teach shamanism, I stay close to the lineage teachings; same with Tibetan Buddhism. I have found, personally, that they are very complementary; that they provide antidotes to extremes that can be found in each tradition. Buddhist teachings on selflessness temper the eternalism that one can find in shamanism. The animistic view of the world in shamanism tempers the disconnect from Earth sometimes found in Tibetan Buddhism, etc. It’s good to be inquisitive. Doubt is good; so is devotion. Paradoxes are the closest to Truth. Walking the middle road is good.

Tasara: What do you mean by eternalism?

Me: The two extremes regarding phenomena are eternalism and nihilism. We say there is no permanent self to anything, so one could think, “well, that’s nihilism.” Yet a self appears. When we mistake it for having a separate, solid, permanent, singular existence apart from interdependence; apart from infinite causes and conditions, that’s eternalism.

In shamanism, we can learn to transmute energies and experience that lack of eternalism directly, but often, I think people can fall into a mindset of being a soul that really has permanent attributes, or of thinking that we have to get rid of certain things and attract other things instead of working with them as fluid.

David: Extraction and soul retrieval is so often the experience in shamanic healing. This can contribute to the rigidity of thinking you’re mentioning perhaps. I came across a book titled ‘Feeding Your Demons’, an ancient Tibetan healing technique, a shamanic technique. Very different approach. Working with trauma as fluid rather than something we need to extract and expel, befriending and transforming the energy from something destructive to something nurturing and affirming. Helped me to broaden my thinking.

Me: Yes! Chöd practice. It’s very powerful.

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Magical Ceremonies

60-waning-gibbous-huachuma-fireWe had another fire and Huachuma medicine ceremony last night. It was raining a bit. We could hear it. We could see it dripping from the roof onto the trash bins, but it wasn’t falling on us at all. I had bags of herbs for the fire spread out on the tables. They, just the bags, hopefully, got soaking wet, so they’re spread out to dry in the guest room. It was the only place in the house with enough space. It was magical, how the rain seemed to be everywhere but over the fire.

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11/9: Why Trump Doesn’t Trump Reality

VajradharaThis is incomplete and rough. I want to write a more coherent post for the institute, and a friend’s genuineness in asking for some hope had given me the inspiration I needed to start. It may not get any more polished than this. I don’t think any of us are feeling too polished today.

So here’s what I’ve got:

As in any personal tragedy, our focus will shift from the macro to the micro, and the little things we do today will finally seem as important as they are. My Buddhist teachers have explained that hopelessness is actually our best friend. Hopelessness is the only thing that finally gets us to give up our habitual ways of managing reality. When we are hopeless, there is space for what is ultimately nourishing and healing to come through. We stop grasping at what we think we know, because it doesn’t work anymore, and we finally have a chance to experience genuine spontaneity as part of the web of life from the rawness of our vulnerability. We will identify our true needs and our personal paths will become clearer. Once we put this sliver of reality behind us; once we unfreeze this moment, we will, by necessity, turn to what makes our lives more fulfilling. We will seek rejuvenation in the natural world, and we will experience gratitude. Out of gratitude, we will turn our energy toward the things we can do to help contribute to the health of the web of life. We will turn, more than ever, to our good friends and seek to increase our circles of friends, putting more energy into meaningful connections. We will become more fulfilled than before. The aspects of reality that we can affect will improve greatly and our little lives will be the positive force the world needs; not because we are angry or afraid, but because we are inspired and in love. Reality is so much bigger than this tragedy we are experiencing now.

This is what is helping me. In the slow-motion, vivid quality life has taken on today I felt how important it was just to feed my dog and chickens in a loving, attentive way. I feel how important it is to speak with thoughtfulness and love. I feel how important it is to appreciate this opportunity.

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