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Soul Food

For those who frequent this blog, you’ve probably noticed that skillful listening is a topic I revisit from time to time. One reason for this is that it’s a skill I’m consistently working to refine. Like playing a musical instrument or refining our postural yoga practice, fine-tuning our listening skills requires regular checking in, honest observation, and practice.

Listening fully also goes hand in hand with something else: A commitment to being as present as possible when listening to ourselves and others.

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The practice of presence is cultivated over time through honest self-confrontation, positive discipline, and belief in our potential. Practices like meditation, mindful breathing, and yogasana can be invaluable in moving us toward this more connected alignment.

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Here some FREE food for thought for today and your week ahead:

There are some people who inspire me by something very simple: they seem to easefully maintain a soft and calm expression throughout their day. Even in times of stress, they appear centered and unruffled, as if they were carrying the expression, “This soon shall pass” in their hearts.

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I am inspired by the occasional stranger on the subway who centers me because they look so content and impervious to the rush-hour crowds, and the yoga student whose soft smile never waivers as she maneuvers from pose to pose.

Ever since I read the following quote of zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh a year ago, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to gently smile throughout my day. Doing so has been powerfully grounding.

As Thich Nhat Hanh so playfully shares in his small booklet The Long Road Turns to Joy:

“As you make the effort to let go of your worries and anxieties, please smile. It may be just the beginning of a smile, but keep it there on your lips. It is very much like the Buddha’s half smile. As you learn to walk as the Buddha walked, you can smile as he smiled. Why wait until you are completely transformed, completely awakened? You can start by being a part-time Buddha right now!

“The half smile is the fruit of your awareness that you are here, alive, walking. At the same time, it nurtures more peace and joy within you. A smile refreshes your whole being and strengthens your practice. Don’t be afraid to smile.”

Something so simple can be so strong and potentially transformational.

This week, I invite you to smile more on and off the mat. Feel free to share about your experience here.

(From a vanity point, smiling more, whether subtly or overtly, is an excellent way to prevent frown lines.)

Finally, spring is arriving here in the Northeast, and crocuses are certainly a welcomed sight! I’m also so excited to experience the first of spring outside of NYC – Dan and I are moving to Connecticut tomorrow. This is what I wish I could make for supper tonight: Daikon and butternut squash soup, an excellent fix for any spring allergies settling in or winter colds still floating around.  Instead, however, I’ll be scrubbing away at the stove.

Last year, yoga practitioner, fellow life coach, acupuncturist, and Chinese herbalist Esther Hadasa suggested this excellent remedy for my pollen irritated, scratchy throat. I cooked up a batch that evening and must say, it was soothing, voice clearing, and delicious! As Esther told me, daikon releases mucus from the body and therefore helps the lymph system flow more efficiently, making it a great fix for allergies, colds, and gall bladder issues. I also added onion, ginger, garlic, bok choy, miso, a bay leaf, and thai red chili paste.
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The 5th episode of Doing It just hit the cyberwaves.  In this podcast, which you can subscribe and listen to for FREE on iTunes, Fannie Cohen and I explore the definition of attention.  We speak to a seasoned psychoanalyst named Dr. Bernstein, a humanities professor named Dr. Rebecca Painter, a cliaraudient and clairvoyant named Paul Selig, and Aikido master, author, and executive coach Wendy Palmer. One thing we really walked away with from doing this show is the notion that energy follows our attention, and our perspective on life is heavily influenced by how we focus our attention.  I believe we have a lot more say in how and what we focus on than we sometimes lets ourselves believe.  It’s a discipline… and a good and invaluable one at that.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the choice we have to be more attentive of and believing in our own self-worth and potential. I’ve also been thinking about the choice we have to cultivate a greater sense of harmony between breath, body, and mind.  It’s by taking small and tangible steps that we can begin to create a shift.  So, with that in mind, I have an invitation for you this week:

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While this is primarily a food blog, I occasionally like to cover topics that will nourish your in other ways. Developing this skill can be invaluable….

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. -Mahatma Gandhi

Recently, I was walking home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and overheard an interesting conversation amongst a group of teenagers. A boy was walking a beautiful young Vizla, or Hungarian Pointer, with two other girls. Another girl joined the group and was very excited to see the beautiful Vizla. Out of excitement, she happily said, “Good boy, good boy!” The teenage boy smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “You know, you aren’t supposed to say ‘Good boy’ or ‘Good girl’ according to the disciplinarian.”

Over-committing can devour your time! (btw - my mother made this last year for 4th of July. Pretty cool, huh?)

Over-committing can devour your time and energy! (btw – my mother made this last year for 4th of July. Pretty cool, huh?)

One of the girls said, “Oh! Is that like how parents aren’t supposed to say ‘No’ anymore at the Park Slope playground?” This led into a discussion among the teenagers about if and why such a rule actually exists. After all, isn’t it important to learn what an appropriately granted “no” means as a child? Isn’t it also necessary to learn how and when to say “no”?

The ability to say no can be one of the most essential energy savers and makers. Likewise, it’s a skill we can work to develop. Believe me, it can make a big difference. I used to be far too impulsive about saying yes when committing to events and engagements. Not only would I feel overextended, but worse, sometimes half-hearted or hesitant about the given occasion. The feeling of bringing a divided self to the table is one I particularly dislike and try to now avoid at all costs.

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My husband and I were happy to learn that the martial arts center very near to our home, Midwood Martial Arts and Family Fitness Center, offers a few nice yoga classes, including one taught by a dear friend of mine named Hunt Parr.  What luck!  Anyhow, after the 9:15 class this morning and before setting back to work we were looking forward to some good, warming grub.

I’ll be honest, I had a not so sattvic desire for eggs-over-easy served up with these all natural turkey breakfast links I bought at the local food co-op yesterday.  What better way to round out this meal than with a lovely slice of artisanal whole-wheat sourdough or rye bread?  I realized, however, I hadn’t gotten any from the farmers market this weekend.    Breadless, I decided to take matters into my own hands and prepare Tibetan skillet bread.

Back Camera

In 2005, I spent about 3 months living, teaching English to Tibetan refugees, and studying yoga in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, North India.  Every morning, as this very small city was waking up, I’d stroll up to the bus station and buy the “Times of India”.  One day, while walking back down Jogiwara Road, I noticed a tiny shack with an open door and smoke billowing out of a tiny chimney.  Inside this structure that must have been no more than 6 by 8 feet was a woman with a kind and weathered face cooking something over a wood-burning stove.   Then, a Tibetan man walked up the little plank that spanned the gutter between the road and the shack.  He gave the woman a few rupees and, in exchange, received a stack of fresh flatbreads, which the woman delicately wrapped in newspaper.

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I’ll be honest – I’ve been cooking far more food than I’ve been writing about lately! The dishes I’ve made over the past week have included white bean and Swiss chard soup, fragrant red lentils, and French style chicken roasted in a Dutch oven pot.  While I hope to share some of these recipes soon, I’ve had my hand in a few other pots.  I just completed and launched my new website www.CoachwithSophie.com. (Feel free to check it out!)  I’ve also been helping my husband with promotional materials for his new book, Love in the Time of Algorithms, which just hit the shelves on January 24.  Learn more about it at www.bydanslater.com.  And, Fannie Cohen and I are getting ready to roll out the first few episodes of our new podcast about modern faith and spirituality called “Doing It”. Stay tuned!

So, instead of sharing a recipe today, I wanted to repost a little thing I wrote on ghee and why I LOVE it so… especially when the weather is cold.

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Here you go:

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