Monday, May 21, 2012

Legs & Lentils

What is that strange looking thing?  That's my right leg with the new accessories installed by the orthopedic surgeon!  With all that metal you'd think I'd be bionic woman, but no, I am more like snail woman.  And I like it.  I like being slow and mindful and methodical.  

One of the blessings of this accident is moving at a slower pace.  The world now seems so frenetic to me; everyone looks rushed and busy and speedy.  Are they?  Are you?  

I write from my bed, both knees on ice, I see the garden outside, I hear the water fountain, and a sweet bird is chirping away.  I can smell soup on the stove.  Soon I'll get up and hobble to the kitchen, eat, clean-up, and hobble to the bathroom.  No quick movements or multi-tasking for this gal.  After flossing and brushing, I'll slowly get ready for bed.  I might read or watch a food show.  

The days go by like that.  Get up, drink coffee, put knee in bending machine for 2 hours, get dressed, go to physical therapy.  Come back, eat lunch, rest.  Put knee in bending machine for 2 hours.  Maybe visit with people.  Eat dinner.  Wash dishes.  Rest, go to sleep.

Because of my leg and neck limitations, I must remain aware of my body and how I'm moving through space.  Lack of mindfulness can mean an accident, pain, or just exhaustion.  

I don't have energy for anything extra, I have no desire to busy myself.  I do the bare minimum and get a lot of help.

Perhaps that is the key.  Let's slow down, live at a reasonable pace, and help each other more.  After all, in the rush we might miss the most important treasure we have - our life!

On that note, I give you a recipe for a delicious and simple soup - but it takes a delightfully long two hour simmer to bring out the flavor.  Slow down, rest, and enjoy a lentil and lamb shank soup - use local and organic ingredients.  Invite over some friends and celebrate life and health and all the small things.  Enjoy!

French Lentil and Lamb Soup
Serves 6

1 lamb shank
1 red onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
3 fat carrots, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 bunch chopped parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp curry powder
3/4 cup french lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup brown rice of choice
Spinach, chard, or arugula

Optional toppings: grated parmesan or pecorino; minced parsley

1. Heat about 1 tablespoon oil in a large soup pot over med-hi; generously salt and pepper the shank; brown in the pot on all sides until dark golden; remove from pot

2. Add the onion and turn heat down to medium, let it get soft about 4 minutes, add celery and carrot, stir well; season with salt pepper; add thyme parsley, oregano, chili, and curry; stir well to coat, add more oil if needed; let get soft about 5 minutes

3. Add lentils and rice, stir to coat with oil; return shank to pot; add 8-9 cups water to cover shank

4. Cover pot and bring to a full boil, stir, turn down heat to a rolling simmer and cook for 2 hours; add more water if necessary; after one hour taste and reseason if needed

5. Remove shank from soup, let cool enough to touch; remove meat from bone and chop into small pieces; remove thyme sprigs from soup; add lamb back to soup; just before serving add desired green to soup, let wilt but not get mushy and gray

6. Serve in bowls with desired toppings and a yummy rustic bread, a big green salad and chocolate gelato for dessert.  YUM!

NOTE: if you are vegetarian then simply skip the lamb part; add 1 tablespoon tamari for seasoning

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rubber Meets the Road

The story of where the rubber meets the road actually begins more along the lines of where flesh, blood, and bones meet the road.  A road in Santa Barbara, CA to be exact.  After enjoying a glorious morning walk/run, I was struck by a full size pick-up while crossing the street.  I awoke in the ER, such a surreal experience, people and noises and voices buzzing around me.  The pain in my body is mind-numbing.  I start to piece it together, oh yeah, I was in an accident.  I keep crying out "There's something wrong with my legs, there's something wrong with my legs," then I ask, "Am I dying?  Please tell me if I'm dying" which leads to "Are my brains coming out of my head? My head hurts".  

I wasn't dying and my brains were not escaping from their cozy home.  Yes, my neck was broken in two places and my leg in four, I had a terrible gash in my head, a sprained ankle and perhaps a sprained knee.  BUT...I am alive and all my limbs work.  I can speak and think and eat.  LUCKY.

Karma is like that.  Lucky and unlucky all at once!

I spent three days in the hospital and and two weeks in a rehab hospital.  Today, I write from a cute little studio I'm renting at a friend's house.  My rehabilitation and recovery will be in Santa Barbara, partly because I can't travel and partly because the care here is good.  AND...I want to thank all my friends and family in SB and beyond who continue to take care of me and share their lovingkindness.  I am rich with friends and caregivers.  THANK YOU FROM THE DEPTHS OF MY HEART.

Now what?

Before the accident, I planned to be in a solitary silent retreat, blissed out on meditation and study in a lovely secluded house in Crestone.  Instead, my retreat is about using this experience to strengthen and practice the Buddha's teachings on suffering, freedom from suffering, and the dissolution of ego-clinging.  This is where the rubber meets the road.

Can I refrain from cultivating ego habit thoughts of self-pity, anger, resentment, jealousy?  Can I remember impermanence and emptiness and compassion and lovingkindness?  Can I stay on the path with a vast mind aimed at liberation?

My life is not comfortable.  I am hindered by a neck brace which keeps my head in neutral and a leg brace which goes from thigh to ankle.  Sleep comes in fits and starts and always on my back.  I have pain and swelling and bumps and bruises.  Getting in a car hurts, taking a shower is exhausting, and cooking a meal requires several rest periods.

And this is what Buddha was is not comfortable.  As long as we seek happiness outside our own minds, we will be disappointed because the outside world does not exist as we see it and it is always falling apart.  It is unreliable, uncomfortable, and unstable.  

Happiness can only come from training the mind to rest in its natural state which is luminous, clear, and empty.  A vast mind that sees that all phenomena, including car accidents, are simply the display of emptiness.  Nothing exists, yet everything manifests.

I challenge myself to keep the view, to remember this is temporary, to reflect on selflessness and to cultivate an open heart.  I do not want to be bitter, depressed, and self-centered.  I want to dig deep and be a better nun, a better buddhist, and a true practitioner.

Please join me in this quest for enlightenment.  We all have suffering and yet we can all be content.  We can all train our minds.  Let's do it together.  This is where the rubber meets the road.

Thank you for your prayers and support.  May you be well!

Finally, I invite you to look at this article written by a local journalist.