Tuesday, May 31, 2011

cooking for 100 on a four burner stove

i don't think it's an overstatement that i have been cooking in heavens for two days. here's what happens. i am involved in making lunches for one hundred plus people two days in a row. the lunch comes right after a fire ritual that is conducted by an esteemed brahmin priest in a sprawling garden. how can i do justice to the brahmin's chanting? according to the chinese way i would say the resonance soars to the immortals land and wrap around the jade emperor's palatial columns for three days. one day in immortals land transpires to a thousand years where i live.

back to cooking. i am part of this great team of yogis that has only one goal in mind. provide chai during pauses and feed everyone. all done on a four burner stove in a basement apartment. the devotion and dedication that are poured into the dal are beyond measure. for instance. at one point i realize i make an error in judgment during chopping the previous day. i put chopped broccoli stalk and asparagus stems in one bag. now i realize they take different times to cook. shall we let them go mushy or undercooked? neither. a yogi steps up to the challenge. i'll separate them. just like that. he rolls up his sleeves, and o yes he's in a suit, and sits down at the table in the living room area and works at it. he doesn't make a fuss over it. he does it with a quiet focus and calm manner. i show him a sample of each. he examines it and says lightheartedly, i see.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

duck under. ride it out.

it is magical to meditate predawn. yet it still is not always easy to get up predawn after all these years. no wonder mahatma gandhi says as much, it is easier to endure a bullet in the chest than to do the same thing day after day over a long period of time. something as simple as get out of bed. just when i am congratulating myself and say, suk wah, you've arrived, you have no problem getting up three am, and then, boom, in recent weeks i have been coming to awake only to find this pull to hold the body hostage in the warm and snug cocoon under the quilt. the mind is adrift. randomly crisscrossing mental currents collide with each other generating splashes in awareness, shaking up focus, tearing at the will to stay connected with the voice from the inner self. but, at the same time, i can clearly see that's all these mental swirls and twirls no longer cripple me the way they used to be able to. i am now better at gauging their momentum and be smart about picking a fight. sometimes, as sun tzu, our chinese military strategist, says, retreat is advance. and this is how i assess these mental tornadoes. sure they are weather. nonetheless they are ferocious. so i keep surrendering to the inner message that says, duck under into the breath, ride it out.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

mental tornadoes

the mind has been in a kind of tornado state in the last couple of few days. i see these horrific devastation in oklahoma and missouri. i send prayers and blessings. apparently medical records from a hospital are being found in chaotic debris piles sixty miles from where they are filed originally. go figure. it dawns on me that in a bizarre way this is kind of what's going on in me. one wave after another is created because of resistance, lack of understanding and the inability to surrender. i am being struck by each wave. may i be washed clean. let there be breakthrough at the peak of such intense experience. let me recognize the fingerprints of fierce grace.  a young boy in missouri, sitting on the bare foundation of what used to be his home, says, we'll rebuild, it'll be better. such shining optimism.

this morning in meditation i watch the swirling funnels of energy hitting me again and again with thoughts, emotions, trying to suck me in. blah blah blah. at the same time i realize i am not caught up in it. it's like i am in deep outer space looking at some inter-planetary kung fu action against the backdrop of the vast, serene cosmos. the theater of action is just a dust particle in the limitless cosmic palace. i realize my inner being has the space and strength to hold all the tornadoes that were, are and will be, and a lot more. i am so awesome. really. while in this state i hear a message from the depths of the inner self. surrender into the present moment, surrender into your own greatness. indeed as long as i can fully plunge into the present moment in a sustained manner my own greatness can shine forth. on a practical level i know what this inner weather is about. i am hitting a snag in organizing the book. this round i am not writing in a sort of free flow, stream of consciousness manner as i did before. this time around it has to be, to a certain point, deliberate and purposeful while preserving the playfulness and spontaneity. i have to bring together two worlds, that of the chinese immortals and humans living here and now. moreover i realize i am not writing literature as i know it. i am really writing, for the lack of a better category, a teaching story. bottom line is the mind has to shift gear. part of me is really in fear, still not letting go of the entrenched writing habits.

afraid that i have set too tall an order. afraid that i can't pull it off. all this and all this have to go. the process is frightening. and yet i know in the end i will see that all this is grace, all this is grace and all this is grace. and so i keep going and staying put in my inner self as mental tornadoes ferociously strike me. i must finish what i have started.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

nephew and niece. needs and wants.

my cousin says, we have to go to the outlets. i know my cousin. he is shopping for the kids. sure enough, it's my nephew who needs shirts and shoes. i say, yeah, he is growing like by the minute. my cousin says, no, the school has these events and they have to dress in a certain way. o, i see. i begin to digress with questions like, what's wrong with how they are dressing. anyhow, my cousin says to his daughter, do you want anything? guess what this ten-year-old says? without missing a beat she says clearly and calmly, no, i don't need anything. well, well, well, i am really impressed. this bright sparkle knows the difference between needs and wants. as a matter of fact, when we are in the outlets, the three females, my cousin's wife, niece and me, are all dizzed out after swirling through a couple of stores. turns out we are all into needs, not wants. i know exactly what i need. i acquire $19.99 levi skinny jeans to go with the armani and ferragamo jackets. i don't know how else i can wear them and look good. so, okay, i don't exactly need it. and it's another blog post to go into it. anyway my cousin's wife needs 'uniform' for her corporate job. her daughter plays the role of a portable rack holding her mother's selections. we hang out around the accessories while her mother is in the fitting room. she glosses her eyes over the pretty trinkets. half an hour is all we need and it just about maxes out our shopping tolerance.

now i really digress. anyhoo, of course everybody asks how hwubby is doing. by the way, the kids love, love uncle ben. i say, he is coming along, but he's still got ways to go, and changes in weather really bring on pain and discomforts. my niece asks, why does change in weather make uncle ben have pain? wowow. a mindstopper. right away i realize i am just on auto-play mode repeating what has been repeated generations, actually millenia. for a moment i have the urge to act like a knowledgeable aunt. but i feel a strong msg from within. be honest.  so i turn to my niece and say, this is a great question, and i don't know, i don't know the mechanism and biology involved.

i still don't know the answer to my niece's thoughtful and spot on question. but i do know this. i could not have asked such a question at her age. talk about not just taking things as they are but examining with a clear and strong mind. now, this is hope i can believe in. o, yes, to you parents, doing a great job, contributing big to humanity. without a doubt, my nephew and niece are big boons to humankind.

Monday, May 23, 2011

chinese bar mitzvah

it is an extraordinarily sparkling meal. not just because of the meal. what could it be. how about this. watching wonderful, thoughtful parents, who happen to be my cousins, raising wonderful, thoughtful children. so happy to see their dedicated sacrifices bearing fruits. check this out. every weekday six thirty am my cousin tommy cooks and packs lunch for his two kids. i am not talking about those semi-processed packets. i'm talking about stir fry sirloin steak. no wonder the kids' classmates want to have a taste of their food. can't blame them. i would too. the impact on the child as a person in terms of character, in terms of what truly matters, is beyond measure. priceless. it's so heartwarming to see the kids discussing their lunch menu with their father. being raised in america they have no problem criticking their father's cooking all done in a good nature way. see, it turns out to be an opportunity to practice speaking honestly with respect and love. their mother, holding a high power job in a big corporation, makes sure she groceries not once a week but every couple of days, so that the kids have fresh food. how cool is that.

i kind of digress. so why are we having a meal all the way out in napa on this sunday? as hwubby says, this is a chinese bar mitzvah moment. my nephew is turning thirteen. see, the way i look at it, a kid's birthday is the time to celebrate the parents as well. and good for my nephew, he makes a speech and thanks his dad and mom. now, that's the sign of a mensch.

it's japanese food. i love, love, love japanese food. but it's hard to decide which maki to get when they all look so good. not so with my niece. her father assigns her the task to pick a couple of maki her bright, sparkling eyes go down the options. obviously she is carefully considering. in moments she raises her head and says, with great clarity and conviction, eelskin avocado and salmon skin. i am impressed. on the spot she is presented with an opportunity to make a decision that has immediate consequence, and she steps up to the plate beautifully. her choices turn out to be one of my top fave in the sumputuous meal. eelskin and salmon skin are difficult to pull off. more often than not they are chewy, rubbery or utterly dry. this is none of either. the texture is a fine balance between crispiness and al dente. the unique taste and aroma of fish skin is held intact. evidently top quality oil is used and fantastic deep fry skill is involved here. there's nothing like the distinct taste and smell of deep fry oil that can spoil the taste buds. even half a drop of excess oil can drag the composition down. none of that here.

i can't recall who picks the beef carpaccio. that's my personal top fave. veil thin slices of ruby color wagyu beef marinated in a ginger sauce. the whole experience of it is fresh and alive. never imagine i would use these two words to describe beef. there is barely any marble in the meat. but it is incredibly juicy and creamy while showing tender texture. there is chewing involved as beef should be but it's effortless. in fact the chewing creates some alchemy drawing out a subtle sweetness that keeps intensifying.

for my entree i decide on a rice bowl. check this out. i can't see the rice because the entire surface is covered by edible gemstones. bite-size superb quality sashimi. a dazzling array of saffron hues mingled with alabaster, soft gold, ruby. the ocean and jewels have become one. i don't know why i choose chirashi over sushi but, boy, am i glad i do. dare i say it's an 'inner self moment.' wait a sec. how can i forget the crown jewel. uni. every one is a pearl drop of ocean essence.

the birthday boy chooses potstickers as his pick of appetizer. i am skeptical about that until i eat it. but before i can eat it i look at the plate and says, where are the potstickers? all i can see is a amber dome around the bottom which are clusters of foam. the waiter says, the potstickers are under this bacon cream on a bed of sundried tomato puree. boom. this is off the charts creative. often i think the traditional red vinegar dipping works well for pork potstickers but too overpowering for chicken potstickers. sundried tomato puree? absolutely change i can believe in.

my cousin picks a different kind of rice bowl. the shimmering yellowtail slices are cooked at the table. the stone rice bowl is four hundred fifty degrees. couldn't be more straight off the wok than this. given the superlative quality of the fish this is the best way to showcase the quality of the key ingredient. this is clarified butter and ocean deep all in one.

my cousin says, you've got to try this tempura sauce. it's not the conventional tamari-based one. creamy white. it has a tiny tint of heat and citrus. i can place the yoghurt. that's how far i can get. turns out it's a japanese citrus, yuzu, and there is wasabi. talk about restraint. this is it. just a teeny wheeny bit to make the right amount of difference without  taking over the delicate veggi.

i lose count of how many wonderful japanese meals that are spoiled by one thing. pickled ginger. so often i stay away from the vinegary attacks. too bad because i really like a nice pile of good pickled ginger. this time something tells me this is different. it definitely looks different. ivory. not hard pink. i gingerly take one bite. and in short order my cousin transfers all the piles in front of everybody to my custody.

all in all i have a blissed out time. so much so that i completely forget to follow up with the waiter about what cut of the beef that is. at least i know it's australian. a huge spiritual teaching is not to compare. but i can't help but judge that this down-under stuff trumps kobe. and i 'll compare one more thing. comparing my nephew with his father. dare i say the son is on track to outdo his father. what a good thing that is. happy birthday, nephew. thanks for being born. may you continue to make the world a better place the way you do.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

ultimate measure of ability to surrender

i would be the first one to admit i am not tech savvy. nope. not a nerd, nor geek. i just kind of know enough to use the web in a limited way for own little purpose. so when hwubby says, my booksite is down the first emotion that erupts in me is helplessness. the first thought that hits me is this. we have to pay at least seventy-five dollars to the web person to fix this.

hwubby is very tolerant and kind. he says, why don't you poke around. so i do. honestly i don't know what to look for. i mean, i have no idea why the screen is all blank. have i or hwubby done something wrong? bingo. there's an old, old residual tendency. i take in one deep breath after another, slowly. then a thought comes up. i'm sure this is not the first time this has happened to anybody in internet history. then one thought pulls out another like pulling silk from cocoon. this could be a common thing. there's probably something about this in 'frequently asked questions.' i start to feel more settled and go down the list of headings on the support page. where to begin? so i do the obvious. from the beginning. 'browser issues.' i have no idea what this means. but there is something soothing when i see a list of instructions. i love following rules. what can i say. i grow up singing 'god save the queen.' it's still my fave tune. but i digress.

by the time i come to the end of the instruction list i see some discouragement needling me. so far nothing works. where do i go from here? what ought i do? i take a pause, and i see something. there is a paragraph at the very bottom of the section. i read it, try to comprehend it and get nowhere. it's something to do with service provider's cache. it's greek to me.

meanwhile i've been communicating with hwubby while he's in between meetings. in the spirit of transparency, and maybe just to show that i am doing something, i sent him the paragraph. he comes right back. he says, i think this is it. i say, what do you mean? turns out the booksite goes through some internet service provider. another phone call later. voila. the site is back up.

the whole point of this experience, for me, is this. stay calm. stay connected to the inner self. stay open. stay in the present moment. as a matter of fact it dawns on me that the ultimate measure of the ability to surrender is the ability to surrender fully into the present moment the way i am able to follow through the instructions one by one, step by step.

hwubby says, yeah, you don't want to save seventy-five dollars. i say, there's nothing wrong with that. besides, whatever works to get me connected with the inner self, it's cool. and if it happens to save money, more power to suk wah. yay.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

excellent credit score. spiritual progress

there i am logging on to inbox. usually i don't pay attention to the ads that run on the right side of the window. but this time something catches my eye. the numerals 814 ornately framed. i know exactly what it is. credit score. i have no interest to find out what the ad is about. i am just thrilled that what a nice way this is to describe our credit scores. good enough to be framed. this is surely a ego-massage moment. and, guess what, we have worked hard to earn it. really. it takes a lot of work and vigilance to have and maintain a fantastic credit score. the mental circuitry has to be wired such that i pay bills on time. i have to apply discrimination to use resources wisely, smartly, prudently. i have to say no, with detachment, to all these phenomenally good deals that keep popping up everywhere, like some msg signed off by a facebook friend. for instance, a free ipad. seriously. i'm not saying i don't have spurts of impulse to click. i actually go as far as clicking it. but then i discover i have to keep giving out my personal info and keep clicking. after a couple of screens it strikes me that i don't need an ipad and this is not worth it. i'm still paying the price. i am still getting soliciting emails. but, i digress. the point is an excellent credit score is truly, in a way, a measure of spiritual progress.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

no crispy noodle, not chinese food

since pastrami to me is different from pastrami to hwubby it stirs me to recall something fascinating and funny. the first time we took my father-in-law, may he rest in peace, to chinese food, he kindly says, suk wah, we love chinese food, you order. so i do. when food begin to arrive my father-in-law says, where's crispy noodle? keep in mind i take the jewish family to a chinese restaurant where no fortune cookies are served unless you specifically ask for it and when hwubby does, the first time we were there, i swear - and hwubby assures me i am just paranoid - i see the owner/maitre'd, mrs chow, roll her eyes ever so subtly as she turns towards me and say, in cantonese, we don't have crispy noodle here. anyway after a little bit of explaining, mrs chow, the owner, totally gets it. it is the daughter-in-law's sacred duty to please the father-in-law. so in no time a big plate of fresh, crispy noodle miraculously appear in front of my father-in-law. he beams and says to mrs chow, i want mongolian beef. i pray quietly, please do not order lobster in black bean sauce, or else mrs chow will tease me the rest of my life. i recall hwubby tell me several times that this is one of their top fave when they go for chinese food. my prayer is answered. and, listen to this, i don't have to ask for fortune cookies. without them i don't think my american family think they have had chinese food.

o yes, here's another good one. over a passover meal a distinguished jew shares this, we travel in china, they bring us food, we look at them and we say, this is not chinese food. well, i'm so glad there is my pastrami moment and here are crispy noodle, fortune cookie, mongolian beef and lobster in black bean sauce times. all are fantastic. i realize they show beautifully that beyond these flavorful and yummy diversity we share fundamental commonalities. we love having great food with family and friends. aren't we one or what?!

mindstopper. mindfiller.

on the way to doing practices in shivaa's house shri says, can you share with me something from the poem 'breakthrough?' you bet. so i recite it up to where i am working on. something astonishing happens. i realize, after i finish, that i have completely forgotten one particular verse. why? what happens within me? gazing into the low hanging, dark gray clouds that forcast thundershowers at least i know it has to do with what this verse is talking about. all that which create one wave after another and they strike me and wash me clean. i say to shri, what do you think is the difference between 'resistance' and 'the inability to surrender?' after a momentary pause shri says, this is a mindstopper. bingo. voila. she nails it. these words, pregnant with the master's intention, have the power to stop the mindfillers, all that which take me out of the present moment, disconnect me from being in the joy and love of the inner self. at the end of the day whatever the contents of the mental clouds are they have nothing to do with my own true nature. they may be thundershowers, even thunderstorms. they come. and they go. it's just a matter of time that they will go. unless i hold onto them.

and so it is i immerse myself into the chanting and meditation with fellow yogis. by the time we sing aum all this fantastic electricity spark within me as the choir of sound and resonance strike me and wash me clean.

i emerge hungry, all ready for shivaa's sublime food. i can't have enough of her new creation. check this out. scoop a nice mound of her spring salad of pea shoots, mango, cabbage and carrots, sprinkled with roasted sesame and lemon verbena onto fresh lettuce leaves direct from her veggie garden. generously dollop balinese peanut butter sauce. wrap it up. take a bite. an explosion of freshness and aliveness. this is juicy and crisp love in a wrapper. for soup she puts together adjuki bean, butternut squash, coconut milk and dried mushroom. it's nourishing beyond measure. i have two big bowls.

i have to confess i am not a big fan of rhubarb and i don't eat honey that has been cooked. so very reluctantly i have to almost pass on the gluten-free rhubarb, strawberry dessert. but it looks so good, like, to die for. i say 'almost' because i can't help but have a little bit with vanilla cream. what can i say. to die for, almost:)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

musings on i b s

i am reading i b s, as in issac bashevis singer. by the way i have a sort of second degree relationship with i b s. for a while i was getting regular rides from an israeli guy for chinese martial arts classes. this is long before i begin studying torah with my rabbi. so one day this guy says, my grandfather is isaac bashevis singer. what do i say? well, what do i know. i say, singer, as in the sewing machine? as i recall now there might have been a pause coming from him. then he says, no. then, i think, another pause. a question comes to me because this guy's last name is zamir. i say, this is the grandfather from your mother's side? he says, no, he's my father's father. i have more questions but it is obvious he doesn't wnat to clarify any further. so i swallow my burning question. how come your father's last name is not singer?

anyhow, anyway, as i read singer's writing i feel, in a way, we are doing something similar in very broad strokes. he is incredible in integrating the internal and external worlds, the mundane and mystical. his writing voice is conversational, lively, directly speaking to the reader. i don't have his masterly level of writing skills. not yet. but in my own way this is what i want to do. to bring together the immortal and mortal worlds into a seamless whole.

Monday, May 16, 2011

soul gas. karmic fart.

hwubby awakes and says, many bad dreams. i say, do you remember any of it? he says, nooooh. i say, the yogic scriptures say that we put up less resistance in sleep than during waking state, these dreams could and may be stuff that have to come up in order to go. i can see something going through hwubby's mind. he says, i see, the soul passing gas. i chuckle and say, that's right, karmic fart. what a relief. gas come. gas go. no need to get into it like going through the garbage bin contents.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

the ability to surrender

here are my three new baskets. resistance. lack of understanding. the inability to surrender. and here's my new practice. whenever i catch some mental activity, it doesn't matter what it is. thought. emotion. thought, emotion triggered by something i do or say. thought, emotion triggered by something other people do or say, or don't do, or don't say. thought and emotion triggered by memory. whatever. the point is to see which basket i can throw it into. so here's my next question. what is the difference between resistance and the inability to surrender? the mind is kind of confused. i ask hwubby, what do you think? he says, first of all, this is a very powerful progression. well, i can't really take credit for it. they come from my guru's poem 'breakthrough'. as a matter of fact this is the core of the verse i am memorizing this week. anyhow, anyhoo, hwubby says, resistance is simply fighting, like, rejecting outright. i say, i see, it's like, i can't meditate everyday. he says, not really, that's more 'inability to surrender,' can't let go. i say, ouch. i pause a moment and say, what about this, meditation makes me tired, i don't want to meditate. hwubby says, that's lack of understanding. oy, now i feel a little discouraged. he says, resistance is, i think, shutting down, closing off. i jump on it and say, so it's really raw ignorance. he says, no, lack of understanding is ignorance. he pauses. i can tell something is going through his big brain. he says, inability to surrender is you know what you should do and.. and i finish the sentence, you don't do it. now that's kind of like not enough spiritual strength to tip you over to the beneficial direction, right. he says, yeah, maybe. o me o my, i can see this search for crystal clear meanings of the three baskets is, in and of itself, is a practice in a class of its own. on a conscious level i don't feel any clearer now before i started. yet i am pumped up with the desire and determination to get to the bottom of it. or is there a bottom?

okay, my friend clara is calling. she is going to do grocery at my favorite store. gotta go.

on the way to the store i tell her what i am contemplating about. she says, this morning i walk my dog and lose one earring. i say, how does that happen? she says, the wind blows back my hoodie, i pull it back over because it is chilly, the wind blows it right back, i guess it's somewhere in there. i say, your fave earring. she says, yeah. immediately it comes to both of us. that's a great case of checking in the ability to surrender.

i can see this is going to a fun contemplation to be continued.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

it's not new york pastrami.

i come across in new york times that there's this place in portland, oregon that home smokes and hand makes pastrami. i know all pastramis in new york delis are commercially produced. and i know hwubby loves, loves, loves pastrami. pastrami on rye. reuben. you name it. he loves it. whenever he's in new york he has to have it. so i bring this to his attention. and there we are tasting this. to me, it is fantastic. not greasy. not salted to the tilt. nice texture but doesn't stick between teeth. i look to hwubby and say, with great anticipation, this is great, isn't it? a pause ensues. my heart and stomach sink. hesitantly he says, it's....good, it's not new york pastrami. indeed this is not the pastrami as he knows it. this is not the pastrami that is a part of his childhood. this is not the pastrami in his world. whereas i don't carry all this emotional memory of pastrami.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

children are creditors. grandchildren are profits.

i am munching lox while i overhear two ladies catching up. it's all about their grandchildren. they are animated. their eyes sparkle. without a doubt they are thoroughly enjoying being bubbe, bubbeleh. it's a total delight to behold. something comes to me. i think to myself, should i share this with them since jews don't really believe in reincarnation the way chinese do. a couple of mouthfuls of lox later i can't help myself and i says, listen, children are creditors from previous lifetimes to collect their debt. the lady who is doing the talking pauses in mid-sentence and turns her bright eyes toward me. i keep going and say, with a light tap on her shoulder, grandchildren are profits. she bursts into a ring of laughter, beams and says, in her bell-and-chime voice, grandchildren are profits, i like that. guess what happens next? more splendid experiences affirming that grandchildren are indeed delicious profits.

Monday, May 9, 2011

she hit it out of the ball park.

i know quite a few awesome yoginis. nonetheless shivaa is in a class of her own. how amazing is she? let me see. she gets up before dawn, sings om for half an hour, meditate. she surrounds her house with two hundred roses. she takes care of them mostly by herself. her devoted and fantastic husband norm does compost and mango mulching and grows veggies. every two weeks sivaa hosts a meditation and chanting group in her house. we gather, chant, meditate and then shivaa feeds us with a heavenly meal. on friday mornings she goes to the ashram to offer service. sundays she goes to the six am chant in the ashram. regularly she puts on a sari and performs worship. as a matter of fact when i do worship shivaa is the one who comes in at five am and wraps me up. she is funny, witty. she says, gee, i don't't know you have a body. i say, i do have boobs and butt. we have such good laughs. hwubby loves her. he says, shivaa is sharp and perceptive.

every year she gives a garden party at the peak of rose blooming. people stream in from eight on. why eight? shivaa says, rose scent is best in early mornings. she serves guests with chai, siddha coffee, scones, filo dough with hazelnuts and chard, fruits. this year she makes gluten-free apricot bread as well. this is how thoughtful she is. she takes interested people on rose tours. every one is labeled. i say, even fools can meditate here. this year, so many people come. two swamis. people from ashram. people from the neighborhood. rose lovers that have come to be friends with her through rose societies. somehow yummy food keep coming out of the kitchen and shivaa keep giving rose tours. i say shivaa this year really hit it out of the ball park.

o, yes, i have forgotten to mention that shivaa has been living with parkinson's for more than a decade. apparently she was the first 'guinea pig' to have something put in her brain. later they found out that that's the wrong place. but it works for shivaa leaving the doctors scratching their heads. this is how much grace shivaa has. boundless.

Friday, May 6, 2011

train is not destination

there i am reciting the first verse of the poem 'breakthrough.' it goes smoothly without a hitch. sound flows out of the windpipe and through the lips effortlessly. then something happens. the last word of the verse emerges and subsides. silence reigns. a space before and beyond words. i watch my awareness suspended in this utterly anxiety-free state. at the same time i notice a thought drift through the mental horizon. shouldn't i be worried about forgetting the words, losing my mind? the thought drifts in and soon drifts out. i don't feel any urge to follow it, act on it or even think more thought about it. i just let it come and go on its own. a little while goes by. the first word of the second verse of the poem comes to me. and the second word. and the first line. and i just get on with it. there was a long time when i am all worked up about what should i do if i lose the mantra during meditation, what will happen if i lose track of the meditation instruction...blah blah blah.

it's kind of like this. i want to go a certain place by train. i get the ticket, pack up, hop on the train, find a seat, sit through the train ride. as the train moves closer to where i want to go i don't want to get off the train. well, the train is what takes me to the destination. the train is not the destination. thank the train for taking me there. move on.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

a simple chinese home meal

i go to my cousins' house for, in cousin daisy's words, 'a simple meal at home.' check this out. two dishes out of an eight pound snow flower fish - which americans call, i think, ring cod. braised fish head with shittake and bean curd bamboo. and steamed fish tail. by the way, our american friends would wonder, what happens with the fish body? well, according to our chinese taste, that part of the fish is a little too fibrous. so as i savor the creamy fish cheek and buttery fish tail i realize this works out perfectly in the global village. americans love fillets. chinese love head and tail. everybody is happy and nothing goes to waste. fantastic. another by the way is this. for me the yummiest part of the braised head dish is...bean curd bamboo. they soak up the essence of the dish. so i quietly chopstick one piece after another into my mouth. unfortunately midway thru the meal cousin tommy announces, wow, this bean curd bamboo is the best part of the dish. so there goes my monopoly. an opportunity for me to learn to share.

the veggi dish stir fry chinese summer squash with dried scallop and green onion sounds and looks simple. it is actually not easy to pull off. either squash gets overcooked or scallop is tough and chewy. here, the biased cut squash pieces look refreshingly misty jade green and crispy. scallop is tender. the unique briny oceany aroma of dried scallop is not overbearing. the gentle squashy flavor shines through beautifully. needless to say i am the one to clean out the dish.

the classic steamed chicken with ginger sauce is fabulous although i forget to leave room for it what with the fish head and all that.

o yes, the soup. tah-dah. american ginseng and black bamboo silk chicken. i down two big bowls. not so much because of the highly acclaimed nutritional and medicinal values of these two ingredients. but because it's simply heavenly flavorful.

while i am preoccupied with cleaning out fish bones cousin kar wai tells us about his work. he is doing amazing things in human rights. really helping people, touching their lives, one at a time. and he does it in such a sweet and gentle way with quiet dedication. we are so proud of him.

speaking of pride, our real dessert, while spooning out lemon sorbet and vanilla ice cream, is a power point presentation from byron, our twelve year old nephew. he dedicated spring break to create a power point on a renaissance painter. his dad says, i could not have done what you do when i was your age and it's not because of technology. true. the little big guy has obviously put in a lot of work and thought into it. he presents it with poise and clarity. now, that's hope we can believe in. bravo, byron.

as i type this a box of giant, aromatic mangoes sit in the coolest part of the house. somehow i think cousin daisy has read me blogging about digging mango out of compost bin and she decides if i love mango that much i deserve some more. i agree.

really, there's nothing like having great food that are prepared with so much love and enjoying them with people i love. the food, i promise you, really taste that much more deliiiiish.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

singing om everyday

everyday, as part of meditation, i sing om seventy-two rounds. that's after i recite the poems and gather attention to the lovely and soothing sound of the breath flow. why seventy two? because i use a  necklace that has thirty-six pearls. i inherited it from, may she rest in peace, my mother-in-law. i figure i don't wear it everyday but, hey, this is even better, it guides me to connect with my own true nature. can't beat that.

but why seventy-two? here's the story. as part of the yearly study focus, my guru instructs me to sing om for nine minutes a day, or twenty-nine minutes. i know some really dedicated and disciplined yogis set aside time during the day that is specifically devoted to singing om. i have the highest admiration for them. as for me, i am really not up there yet. so i just lump everything into my morning meditation. my study buddy says she does about thirty-two om in nine minutes. so i start with that and time it. somehow when i do it thirty-two om it takes me fifteen minutes. i realize it is because i'm really into the nasal reverberation at the end of the syllables. anyway, i know i need something to help me do the counting. in meditation my mother-in-law's pearl necklace comes to me. so i've been using it ever since. seventy-two oms insures at least twenty-nine minutes.

 a seasoned yogi teases me good-naturedly, well, then, you are not following the guru's command, twenty-nine minutes, not more, not less. all teasing aside, there's a point to it. the guru's command embodies vast wisdom in infinite layers. but, you know what, better singing om than not singing it. besides i have full conviction the the power of grace takes me across anything. i may be on a detour but i will get there. grace makes sure of that.

having said all this i have it in the back burner of my awareness to contemplate this. is there a trace of habitual tendency that is based in poverty consciousness in what i'm doing? like, twenty-minutes is not enough, not good enough. hmmmm.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the fear of losing myself gone

in 2010 i memorized one of my guru's poems, 'a thousand mirrors.' i love it so much that this year i'm doing another one, 'breakthrough.' here's how much i love it. every morning, i enter my meditation closet, sit down on my meditation mat, arrange the body into an upright, supported and comfortable posture, close my eyes, start gathering attention to the sound and flow of the easy breath. and then i recite 'a thousand mirrors' and 'breakthrough,' up to the verse that i'm currently memorizing.

this morning, something strange and spectacular happens. a few verses into 'a thousand mirrors' i watch the flow of words from my vocal cord disappear. just like that i am in a space and state that is beyond the linear passage of time, beyond words, beyond action. it is within my awareness and it is holding all that were, all that are and all that will be. the closest approximation that comes to me, as i type this, is deep outer space and beyond where the births and deaths of planets, stars and galaxies happen. billions upon billions of them. after i don't know how long in terms of seconds and minutes the flow of words resume in a natural manner. after another few verses again the word flow gently comes to a pause and i find myself in that realm of beautiful quiet and sweet stillness. by the time i stand up from the mat two hours have gone by.

now here's another fantastic thing. i don't feel fear. the fear of losing myself. not a trace. really, if that is where i'll dwell and how i'll live what's to be afraid of.

another thing i notice is this. the poem flows out of me effortlessly. i have no doubt i own it. that which my guru transmits to me through the river of words belongs to me. the truth of the matter is i have it all along. she is showing me what i already am. such is the power of grace.

Monday, May 2, 2011

holiness in action

yhvh says in torah, be holy. what is holy? the question reverberates in me as i tune in to the day's news. and there they are. galaxies of strangers shining in devastated places in tornado hit region. they see what happens. they are moved to come. no one forces them to do it. no one pays them to do it. they roll up their sleeves. they open their purses. their faces shine like the sun. their eyes sparkle like stars. i realize i am watching holiness in action. the sense of separateness dissolve. that which is sacred in me sees that which is sacred in each and everyone of them.