Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sanity for Humanity

What's your slogan for 2015?  Mine is Sanity for Humanity.  I love a good slogan and keep a small revolving plethora of sticky notes around the house reminding me of them.  They serve the much needed purpose of turning the mind towards what is important.  The mascot for my slogan has yet to reveal itself.  Is it a butterfly, a rainbow, a lioness, a monkey?  Only time will tell.

Actually, perhaps the best mascot for Sanity for Humanity is the human heart.  The helical human heart, which by the way is not a pump but a dam.  Dam the heart.  Yes, this perfect and powerful dam of the human heart shall be the mascot to champion sanity throughout the expanding, multicentric universe. 

To accompany the mascot, I shall add a mudra.  A mudra is a gesture that serves to influence the body, mind and emotions.  The sanity mudra is to place your hand over your heart tenderly and feel its beat at least ten times a day.  And the anthem that you sing to yourself while performing the mudra is the mantra of silence.  

Altogether this is the yoga of sanity and I call it THE BIG HEART PAUSE.  Try it now won't you? 

Stop what your doing. Put a hand over your heart.  Breathe into your deep belly and exhale saying Ahhhh.  Sing the mantra of silence.  And oh yes, the smile.  The smile is the secret handshake of those who are in the know of the slogan of sanity.  Pause, breathe, smile, feel your heart.  

And why not dedicate ourselves to THE BIG HEART PAUSE?  Let's try it for a year and see what happens.  It is free, infinite, requires no special training, and supports inner peace, which after all is world peace, is it not?  

Raise your hand if like world peace.  Raise your other hand if you spend part of each day cultivating inner peace to the best of your ability.  If both your hands are now in the air, give yourself a high five. 

Perhaps sanity will catch on.  We will see each other at stop lights practicing THE BIG HEART PAUSE.  We will smile at each other knowingly when stuck in a long line at the store.  We will touch our hearts and sing silently.  We will look for ways to help one another.   And when world peace dawns, we will know our work is done.  High five for that!

Recently I had the great good fortune to do a private in-home semi-retreat for almost one month!  I emerged from the experience with an overwhelming sense of what it means to lead a sane life.  And how to do it.  It mainly involves slowing down and being present.  As it turns out, life is enough.  When we pay attention to each moment, life becomes the ultimate staycation.  We don't need so much entertainment and distraction.  Sanity blossoms from just being and doing life's simple chores which easily fill up a day.  Eat, sleep, meditate, exercise.  

Because of my injuries, I cannot be in total seclusion as these muscles and bones need the therapy pool and the AlterG and the various other modalities that keep me running at a somewhat mediocre level.  So I devised the semi-retreat which turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to oscillate between being inward and outward and keeping practice mind all day long, to let the bodymindfulness of intense home practice weave its way into worldly activities.  I highly recommend it!

To unplug from the phone, the computer, the logistical maze of trying to meet friends, creates a healing space for presence, compassion, humor, and joy.  Life slows down to a reasonable speed, the brain rests, the body relaxes, and the heart opens, effortlessly.  How lovely to connect with the present moment more often.  When the mind and body are in the same place doing the same thing this is ambrosia for the consciousness.  

I like to add recipes to my posts so here is the recipe for Sanity Ambrosia:

1. Be nobody.

2. Go nowhere.
3. Accomplish nothing.

For those of you wanting to devise a little semi-retreat of your own, get out your Sharpies and your Post-Its.  These are the slogans currently adorning my walls and cupboards:

  • Let the soft animal of your body loves what it loves.
    This is a quote from a Mary Oliver poem.  We are mammals.  It is so easy to forget.  We are not machines hooked to a brain computer center.  Embrace your inner mammal, it is the source of bonding and nurturing and playfulness.  Let the thinking brain rest and the feeling body feel.
  • Come back to the Basic I
    The Basic I is simple and sweet.  It is content and relaxed and confident.  Because it needs little, it has so much to give.  
  • Space is the nature of matter.
    Keep repeating that.  But then stop and just experience it in the space between your own atoms. And if you need a little encouragement, read Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything."  Solidity is an illusion, useful to be sure, but not to be taken too seriously.
  • Inward. Quiet. Content.
    If you're an extrovert, I don't know if this is useful.  For us introverts, it is a permission slip to honor and delight in that part of our being as much as we like. I keep this one on my datebook.
  • Cultivate love no matter what.
    This is the real kicker in terms of slogans and is a quote from Anam Thubten..  Perhaps this is a good time to say that slogans are not whips that we use to beat ourselves into being more holy or spiritual.  Slogans are cheerleaders on the path to enlightenment.  They are reminders and aspirations.  I have this slogan up near my bed and every day my intention is to do it more and more.  And every day I inevitably fail at it a little bit or a lot, and then every day I reset my intention.  Like that.  Cultivate love no matter what. 
I wish you a Happy New Year.  It's always nice to have a fresh start.  May the turning of the solar calendar bring you inner peace and sanity.  If you feel inspired to explore the HeartMind Method as a means to that end, please click on the "Classes" tab.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Love, Tupten

PS...a friend took the lovely photo above.  A recent sunset in Santa Barbara.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Trusty Sidekicks

Happy Thanksgiving Week!  I write from a meditation retreat in Santa Barbara.  As I explore inner space and the heartmind, I can't help but ponder giving thanks.  What a joy to celebrate the harvest, farmers, family, friends, food, and being at home together.  This year I will enjoy a silent and solitary celebration.  However, the culinary wheels of my monkey mind are turning and from there I offer you this simple and delicious menu.

Everyone needs a trusty sidekick, even Tom Turkey.  This menu focuses on the accompaniments rather than the main star.  Do the turkey however you like, roasted, brined, dry rubbed, grilled, fried, stuffed, and for some of you perhaps turducken.  We all know the turkey is really for sandwiches anyway.

If you are one of those people who doesn't normally cook very much and then drives yourself cuckoo on Thanksgiving making up for lost time, then this is the menu for you.  Or if you would rather enjoy a small handful of dishes with superior flavor rather than a gut-bomb buffet, then this is the menu for you.  Or if you want to get started prepping today and enjoy the big day with family and friends and not feel stuck in the kitchen, then this is also the menu for you.

The point is less is more.

I have included some recipes, however, other dishes merely provide an outline that you can tweak depending on number of guests, what's in season near you, and what you like.  Have fun and enjoy your yummy day!

Smoked or cured salmon with creme fraiche on cucumber rounds ~ garnished with dill and lemon zest
1. Wild Rice Stuffing-style ~ cook one cup of wild rice for every three guests, you can do that any day now, store in fridge; when the turkey is almost done, saute celery, carrot, onion in plenty of butter; add chopped thyme and parsley and a teeny bit of sage; toss in the wild rice until warm; transfer to a casserole serving dish; cover with foil and place in oven to keep warm while turkey is being carved; you can vary the flavor by adding chorizo or duck prosciutto or whatever yummy things you like.
2. Cranberry Sauce ~ please don't eat canned cranberry sauce.  Homemade is really easy and good.  Take a bag of fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries, dump into small soup pot, add sweetener of choice, add some apple cider, let boil hard until berries burst and sauce thickens.  Taste and adjust seasoning. Variations: add chopped ginger, orange zest, dried cherries.  Make extra so you can mix with mayo for your sammies the next day.
3. Celery Root Puree ~ this is a wonderful take on the usual mashed potatoes, which some of us don't eat because they are a nightshade.  You can make this while sauteeing the veggies for the wild rice. Peel and chop a few celery root bulbs (about 3 pounds), simmer in a bit of water until tender (about 30 minutes), drain, put into food processor with butter, warm cream, salt, and pepper.  Yum!
4. Green Beans ~ everybody loves a vegetable that you can eat with your hands.  Keep these simple and tasty to brighten up the plate.  When you pull the turkey out of the oven, lightly steam green beans until crisp tender, toss with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  For a variation you can add crushed red pepper flakes or sauteed shiitakes or caramelized shallots.
5. Escarole Salad ~ the salad is best served as a separate course after you have enjoyed all of the above.  It is meant to aid digestion and cleanse the palate in preparation for dessert!  I am having an autumn love affair with escarole.  It is toothsome and hearty and good for your liver.  Chop, wash, and dry the leaves today, roll in a kitchen towel, put in a bag, and store in fridge.  You'll be happy you did.  Toss the chopped leaves with julienned granny smith apple, pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans, shaved parmesan and thinly sliced fennel.  Dress simply with a vinegar/oil/dijon/honey/salt and pepper vinaigrette.
6. Punkin Custard ~ you basically have to serve a gluten-free dessert these days.  This is like pumpkin pie without the crust.  It is best made at least the day before.  Serve some speculoos or ginger bread cookies on the side.  And for those of us who have to have chocolate in order for it to be called dessert, buy several unique and expensive organic chocolate bars and scatter on table.  They also make for good conversation.

So that's pretty much the whole meal.  You might say "We have to have mashed potatoes or we have to have sweet potatoes or we have to have brussels sprouts or this or that."  Which are all really good ideas and delicious additions.  And perhaps we can all start to cook a little more at home and commune more often with our loved ones.  Save those favorite dishes for the next week and the week after that.  Let us live sanely and simply and savor the moment.

Okay, that said, I'm going back to retreatland.  Where I can contemplate some of life's bigger questions, like "Why does pecorino taste so darned good with black pepper?"  Cheers and love to you.

serves 8 ~ make at least a day ahead

1 quart half-n-half (you could probably sub coconut milk for dairy free folks)
1 vanilla bean, split open lengthwise
2 cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
1 inch piece of ginger roughly chopped
generous pinch of salt
8 yolks (save the whites for macaroons or meringues)
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 pint whipped cream, for garnish
freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 275 (300 at altitude).  Place 8 six-ounce ramekins in large roasting pan.
2. Meanwhile, put half-n-half, vanilla bean, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt into a heavy bottomed pot; bring to a boil over medium heat.  Keep an eye on it do it doesn't boil over. Turn off heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and set aside.
3. Put on a tea kettle to boil water for the water bath.  In a large mixing bowl, combine yolks, eggs, sugar and pumpkin.  Whisk to combine but don't incorporate too much air.  Slowly add the dairy mixture while stirring constantly.
4. Pour mixture into ramekins.  Place roasting pan in oven, slowly and carefully add the hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of ramekins.  Bake 20 minutes or until just set but jiggly in middle.  Chill in fridge over night.
5. Whip the cream with a touch of sugar and vanilla until medium peaks form.  Dollop the top of each custard with some cream and grate a small bit of the nutmeg over each.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Buddhist Household in SB

hello friends, i am forming a dharma house and am looking for others to join.  please feel free to forward the information.
thank you, ani thupten

Santa Barbara, CA

Ani Thupten Tsondru is looking for other nuns and/or yoginis to form a practice, semi-retreat household in Santa Barbara, CA.  
2015 Start Date TBD
Depends on women and house.

Dharmakasa will be a place of refuge and quiet to study and practice and serve.  
All organic food.  All expenses and household tasks shared.

Ani Thupten is a student of Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Anam Thubten.  
If interested, contact me ASAP at 805.698.4712.
Please read the above tab marked "DHARMAKASA".

Thank you and bee well!

You've Been Chopped!

Long time no blog.  There's really no good reason for it except that I've been spending a lot of time with my two best friends, pain and exhaustion.  They are fun but super high-maintenance.  Really, I'm blogging all the time in my head.  Too bad they haven't invented an app yet that reads our thoughts and then types them here.  Although, as any meditator knows, it's slightly repulsive and weird to start seeing your thoughts - so repetitive and self-centered and meaningless.  On and on they go all day long.

I like to spend most of my thinking hours focusing on what I would make if I were a contestant on Chopped.  Which is an effective and useful way to spend my time because I will NEVER EVER EVER be on the show.  I was thinking (see, there it is again) that I might write a little guide for chefs who are actually going on the show.  Or maybe set up a small consulting business for contestants, and I get a portion of their winnings.  Which by the way is 10,000 DOLLARS.  For cooking food that no one would actually ever eat because of the strange ingredients in the mystery baskets.

Still, I can't help watching and enjoying such silliness.  And then thinking about it and planning lots of menus and strategies for when I won't be on the show.

For instance, I made a great dessert (in my mind) and the judges said, "We don't get what you were thinking when you paired the pickled herring gelato with the coco cola gummy bear ganache. Although it tastes great, it doesn't read dessert on the palate."  And I was missing the all-important crunch element.

If you, or one of your Facebook friends, are going to be a cheftestant on Chopped, then here is a sneak peek at the vital information I will pass along to you should you choose to hire me as your cheftestant consultant.

1. Don't use the white truffle oil.  EVER.  Put it down and walk away.
2. Heat up the grill pan, whether you think you will use it or not.
3. Don't make pasta when Scott Conant is one of your judges.
4. Salt your food.  Duh.
5. Don't use Sriracha as a decorative garnish to add color to the plate.
6. The bacon in the Chopped pantry needs to have the rind cut off before using.

Don't you feel better already knowing you have my expertise behind you?  What a relief I haven't wasted countless hours on my meditation cushion codifying this extremely important information.

When my Inner Typist isn't busy narrating a Chopped episode through my neural networks, she is usually writing a biography on my behalf.  She is very talented.  She can type about the past, as well as the future.  She can perseverate on themes year after year without getting bored.  She is always willing to work, especially if the typing involves hope, fear, disappointment, or something like that.

In meditation, we are big on dropping the thinking mind.  What does this mean?  It means give the typist a break, already.  Poor thing has been typing your whole life.  Take your fingers off the keyboard and put your mind in your heart.  Free your Inner Typist!

Our Western culture is big on thinking.  We are highly trained thinkers and praised for this ability.  But it comes with a loss. We have forgotten how to feel, we have forgotten that thinking is a tool, not a way of life.

In HeartMind, I teach a practice called the Heart Pause meditation.  It lasts a few seconds to a few minutes and is the reset button for your brain and body.  It is free and infinite.  We all need a little time out, a break from thinking and talking.  Push pause.  Place your mind in your heart.  Breathe long and slow.  Ahhhhhhhhh.  Smile.  Repeat.

This is a practice for a lifetime.  A practice to be done dozens of times each day.  A practice to teach young people.  We don't need to think all the time.  We can hang out in our hearts and bodies, we can swim in our cells, we can enjoy just being.  Imagine that!

When you hear your inner typist clicking away, retyping the same old story you've heard again and again, see if you can do a little Heart Pause.  Feel and be.

And if you think you'll be going on the Food Network soon, give me a call.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Soba Space

Soba Space.  That sounds like a pop-up twelve seater soba joint in Brooklyn.  But it's not.  But if it were there would be a secret hidden 4 stool location in the back called Ramen Room.  Where you get mind blowing bowls of steaming ramen.  And just like a place I saw on a show about noodles in Japan, you have to enter and eat silently.  Soon silence will be the new noise.  Or at least I hope so.

But this is not a post about noodles per se.  It is a post about space and the soba part comes at the end.

Given the last post, it's easy to say, "OH NO!" and freak out a little bit.  Even for me.  But I remind myself that there's no emergency, there's no pathology, there's not even a problem.

Although it's INCREDIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE, actually nothing has gone wrong.  And in fact I have a pretty good life.  A much better life than the majority of people in the world probably.  Sure sometimes I feel like my brain has hoodwinked and hijacked me, but it's workable.  It's the whole chrysalis thing.

The minute I say or you say, "Oh no, I can't bear this any longer!" then we've lost touch with compassion.  And what's the root of compassion?  It's compass.  It points us in the direction we need to go.

The Buddha of compassion is named Chenrezig which can be translated as "eyes kept open".  Eyes kept open to witness the suffering of the world with tenderness.  Can I keep my eyes and heart open to this experience in its totality?

Can I bear witness to and not exacerbate my own and others' pain?  Can I look on it tenderly with empathy and spaciousness?  Can I allow it to dissolve and release?

All the Buddhist and HeartMind practices are about dissolving and releasing.  Loving and letting go.  They all bring inner space.  And space is love.

And as Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche said, "How far do you have to move your finger to touch space?".

When the experience gets so constricted and tight and dark that we can't find space on our own, then it helps to have a kind friend who touches us gently, picks up our dirty compass, washes it off, and puts it back in our pocket.

That's enough.  And it's a lot.

If nothing else, I pray this journey transforms me into that type of friend, a kind friend who radiates space and keeps her eyes open.

Here's the soba part...another way to be a great friend is to deliver homemade organic food to housebound folks.  Soba is lovely because it cooks in 5 minutes and it's good hot, cold, or warm.  Just remember: after draining, rinse the noodles well or you'll end up with a gloppy, sticky mess.

Compassion Soba Salad
4 servings - all ingredients are organic

1 pkg Koyo brand organic soba noodles (8 oz)
2 medium carrots from your favorite farmstand, julienned
2 handfuls sugar snap peas, string removed
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 bunch cilantro, chopped 
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp mellow white miso (leave out if your friend doesn't eat soy)
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger root
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
juice of one lime

1. Place a big bowl of ice water in your sink; line two baking sheets with big floursack kitchen towels.
2. Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil; drop in the veggies and cook for 3 minutes; remove with strainer or big slotted spoon.  Place veggies in the ice water to stop the cooking.  
3. Bring the big pot of water back to the boil; add the soba bundles (take their little wrappers off first); stir gently; cook for 4 minutes then check; keep checking every minute; don't overcook
4. When done quickly remove from heat and drain into colander; rinse well with cold water; lay on one of the towels to dry; take the veggies out of their ice bath and lay on the other towel
5. Then immediately pick up the noodles and place into big mixing bowl; drizzle liberally with the toasted sesame oil; toss gently with your hands
6. Place all dressing ingredients in wide mouth quart canning jar; blitz with immersion blender; taste and reseason to your liking with more tamari or vinegar or sesame oil
7. Take all the snap peas and slice them lengthwise on the bias (don't be tempted to do this before you blanch them or they will get too watery), then add the veg and the dressing to the noodles; toss well; top with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro.  ENJOY!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Holy Mole & Oh My Gado Gado

OMG times infinity this has been a rough two weeks.  Ugh!  Here is the story and if you read to the end, you'll be rewarded with three delightful and delicious new recipes.  But first...

It all started when I went for an MRI and they said "We're going to just stick a really long needle into your shoulder joint and then...".  Excuse me?  I am afraid to have my teeth cleaned, because after months of torturous PT and oh yeah, a truck hitting me, I can't allow people to inflict pain on me, let alone have a long needle injected into the most inflamed and tender joint in my body.  Okay, it's not really the most inflamed and tender joint, but it's close.  It's the second.  

Inside I start panicking but don't tell them.  I say, "Just to clarify, there's no iodine, right?  I'm allergic to that." They say, "Oh yes, there's iodine.  What will happen?"  "Maybe anaphylactic shock," I say.  "Well we will monitor you closely and be prepared for that".

Now I am panicking more and I don't have to tell them because I am trembling and crying.  I say, "Well, I have PTSD so I don't think it's such a good idea if I experiment with anaphylactic shock.  I'm going home. Thanks though."  They say, "Are you sure?".  

Somehow I dress and walk out to the parking lot.  I did make time to call the police to inform them that a non-handicapped car was parked in a handicapped spot.  That's sort of a new hobby.  If you ever get a ticket for that, it was probably me who reported you.  

Needless to say, I came home and applied the 1001 antidotes to being triggered.  I have a whole pantheon of tricks and skills and whatnot to keep my autonomic nervous system functioning at some sort of reasonable level.  

Too bad that a couple days later a car starts swerving into my lane and almost my car.  I see them coming at me and I almost black out.  I'm pretty sure I could have powered a small appliance with all the adrenaline pumping through my system.  Now I am in full blown shock.  Darn it.  But I have to drive home.  In fact I feel I must bee-line it home where I will be safe.  I start applying the antidotes and they are not working so well.  System overload.  I apply more at home.  It seems okay.  But I can tell there's a revved up engine still going for days in the center of my brain.  My hippocampus decaying from all the cortisol.  

The thing about trauma is I know the anatomy and physiology of it, I understand how it happens from a neuroscience point of view, from the Buddhist point of view, from the somatic psychology point of view.  And still it happens.  Because just like enlightenment, trauma isn't a point of view, it isn't cognitive, it is beyond concept.  

Anyway, a couple days later I have a verbal altercation with a man in a grocery store parking lot.  He is driving the wrong way down a one-way area and nearly hits me as I'm backing out of my space.  Good grief.  I stop my car so he can't pass.  I roll down the window and say, "You're driving the wrong way down a one-way path."  He says, "I know, but I want to park there."  I say, "I don't care.  Back up and drive around the right way.  I'm not moving."  He ends up calling me a fucking fuckhead, which really I thought "Is that the best you can come up with?"

A few moments later on my way to my friend's I say to myself, "Viejita,".  Perhaps I should let you know that is what I call myself inside my head.  It is a throwback from when I was the pastry chef at Mateo's.  The three Mexican primos gave me the nickname and it just stuck.  It means little old lady.  So I said, "Viejita, perhaps that was not the best way to practice the path of nonviolence."  So true.  Not very skillful.  

So I am confessing this whole story because I want to give a small glimpse into the world of unresolved trauma and PTSD.  I think it causes a lot of violence in the world.  I am a fairly resourced and mindful person and it can bring me to my knees.  Well, not really, but you know what I mean.  

Things did not get so much better.  Even though I have my pantheon of tricks and they really work and I am healing, it is a long and not comfortable road.  And setbacks are part of the recovery process.  Yesterday and today I arrived at appointments in tears from driving and being scared.  I was afraid to go get groceries because of the bright lights and loud music.  Ugh.  

I want to live in an organic safehouse where we get massage every day and there is no music and the lights are soft and the food is from the garden.  And there are cute dogs and cats and bunnies emanating fields of positive limbic resonance.  

Not possible!  Shantideva said if you want to walk around on a soft earth, rather than cover the whole earth in leather, better to just cover the soles of your own feet.  That is what practice is.  That is what the pantheon is about.

Anyhoo, because some of you are dealing with the same and I want you to know you are not alone and because some of you don't have a personal experience with the same and I want you to know what it's like, i have compiled a list of symptoms that I have been experiencing the last several days (this used to be ongoing every day all the time, phew!).  If you would like to know more about healing from trauma, anxiety, shock, and stress, please stay tuned to the blog.  

I must say briefly, that I bow in gratitude to my teachers, Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Anam Thubten Rinpoche, who have given me such wonderful wisdom about how to help myself in these tough times.  Here is one pith instruction from Anam Thubten Rinpoche: Chill out and witness. 

And let's all remember to slow down a bit on the road and drive on the right side of the path, please!

  • Sensitive to lights and sounds
  • Easily startled, like jumping when my laptop cord moved, thinking it was a snake.  Really.
  • Emotionally labile
  • Easily irritated, angered
  • Dizzy and nauseous
  • Hard to breathe
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Feel faint
  • Fear of driving, fear of crossing the street
  • Migraines
  • Loss of appetite; hard to digest food
  • Social withdrawal
  • Afraid of public places
  • Wish to die in my sleep (longing for an escape)
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Dry mouth, extreme thirst
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Helpless, hopeless, worthless
  • Lack of attention, focus
  • Memory problems
  • Flashbacks
  • Fatigue, exhaustion
  • Nihilistic point of view, nothing matters
  • Minor tetony 
  • Frequent and urgent need to pee
When you’re on self-prescribed house arrest for the weekend like I am, why not make Holy Molé?  As in, Holy Molé this is quite an experience I’m having.  Or if you like, Oh My Gado Gado this is intense.  And in the end, you can eat your own suffering by making a big jar of Dukkha. 

I call this the solace of food.  Some people are emotional eaters, but I am an emotional cooker.  For almost my whole life, my mind has found refuge in writing recipes, reading cookbooks, planning menus, and cooking good food. 

I dedicated this weekend to soothing my nerves and avoiding the road.  Spending time in the kitchen is good medicine.  And I hope you and your families will benefit!

I offer you these three recipes which are so easy and tasty – and they give me a chance to poke a little fun at my situation.  Plus, it’s great to have some seasoning sauces or spice mixes on hand in the summer.  Makes dinner on a hot evening a cinch – just grill up your favorite meats or veg, toss a big salad, and add some Holy Mole, Oh My Gado Gado, and even a sprinkling of good ol’ Dukkha.  (That’s the Sanskrit word for suffering.)  As with all my recipes, the ingredients are organic.

Makes 1 ½ quarts

This is an adaptation of a recipe by David Lebovitz, one of my favorite pastry chefs.  You can follow his eponymous blog on life in Paris.  Use the sauce to top burgers, tacos, carnitas, or enchiladas.  You could also mix it with sour cream for a nacho dip.  YUM!

7 dried guajillo peppers
¾ cup raisins
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 ¼ cups water or chile soaking liquid
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
¾ cup toasted whole raw almonds
1 14 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with juices
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¾ tsp oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground anise
1 tsp ancho chile powder
2 tsp kosher salt
Black pepper to taste
1/8 to ¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp honey

1.        Remove stems from chiles, cut open lengthwise with scissors, scrape out seeds.  Put chiles in soup pot and cover with water.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  To keep them submerged, put a small plate or small pot lid on top of them.  Turn off heat and allow them to sit in liquid.
2.       Put raisins and chocolate in blender or food processor.  Add 1 cup of warm chile soaking liquid.  Allow to sit for 1 minute then blitz until smooth.  Hint: you may want to cover the machine with a kitchen towel to avoid any splattering.
3.       Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a skillet on medium.  Add the onion and cook until totally translucent, about 13 minutes.  Stir frequently.
4.      With tongs, transfer the chiles to the blender or processor.  Add the onion and the remaining ingredients.  Pulse at first then let the machine run until the mixture is very smooth. 
5.       Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 
6.      Use a canning funnel to put in glass jars.  Let cool on counter a bit then transfer to fridge.  Cover when cool.  You can also freeze the mixture until ready to use.  Or it makes a wonderful hostess or thank you gift.  Buen provecho! 

6 servings

This is a super tasty Indonesian sauce that is handy to have in the fridge.  It goes well on top of veggies, rice, pasta, grilled meats, or you can thin for a salad dressing – garnish with cilantro and chopped peanuts if you like.  You will love the light and tangy flavor.  Make a big jar and use it all week to perk up your meals and your mood.  ENJOY!

1 cup creamy peanut butter or almond butter (natural kind, no added sugar or oils)
4 Tbsp ginger root, minced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup hot water – or more if you like
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste

1.        Combine all ingredients in a wide mouth quart canning jar
2.       Blitz with immersion blender
3.       Taste and re-season as you like
4.      Keep in fridge for 7-10 days

Dukkha Spice Mix
One 8 ounce jar

Dukkha is an Egyptian spice blend and also the Sanskrit word for suffering.  You can enjoy the mix sprinkled over salads or as a topping for artisan bread spread with goat cheese and drizzled with olive oil – the possibilities are endless.  Have fun exploring these ancient flavors!  You can quadruple the spice recipe to keep some handy for enlivening all sorts of dishes.  Or put in cute little jars for thank you gifts.  Yum!

¼ cup roasted pistachios or pumpkin seeds
¼ cup roasted almonds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp black pepper
Sprinkle of cinnamon

1.    Toast the sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, and fennel in a dry skillet over medium heat until quite fragrant.  Careful not to burn!
2.       Let cool slightly.
3.    Put all the ingredients into bowl of food processor.  Blitz or pulse until coarse.  Do not overmix or it will become a paste.

4.      Taste and add more salt or pepper if you like.  Keep in a jar in the fridge.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Measure Up

Here I am in Summerland with a couple of friends.  As soon as Santa Barbara County gets an AlterG I am moving there to start an inspirational tee shirt and tattoo business.  I will call it Ani TNT.  Actually, now that I write that it sounds like a monster truck mashing festival.  Do they still have those?  Remember that guy's voice?  It's kind of fun to say it like him.  Monster truck mashers.

What in the world is the purpose of mashing big trucks with even bigger trucks?  Which brings me to my main point.  And something I have been pondering the last few weeks, months, decades, lifetimes.  What does it mean to be human and how can we fulfill our purpose?  Surely it doesn't have anything to do with monster truck mashing.

What is the measure of our days and thus our lives?  When we get in bed at night and reflect on the day, how do we feel?

When I was about 10 years old, I remember feeling so jealous of animals who seemed to know how to be themselves without any confusion.  Especially I was fond of the lioness, who on black and white public television, looked so comfortable in her skin.  In contrast, it seemed a bit complex to be a human. What is it we are supposed to be doing?

As I've gotten stronger and more capable this past year, I find myself easily caught up in the sense of confidence that comes from accomplishing things.  Oh wow! I unloaded the dishwasher AND took a shower AND grocery shopped AND did PT all in one day.  Hooray.  Which is true when one is healing and yet I feel how that kind of success can be strangely addictive, a confidence built on how many tasks and errands and projects that as a human being I did in one day.

Some small version of monster truck mashing, isn't it?

What then is a meaningful way to measure the day?  Taking a cue from Buddha, I realize that when I look back at the day, or when I set my intention in the morning, the best measure of being a complete human being is:

1. How often was I in the present moment?

2.  How many other sentient beings did I help, either directly or indirectly?

Ta da! This is how a human gets comfortable in her own skin.  How often was my mind united with my body in whatever I was doing or not doing in the moment?  That is something to ask ourselves.  Because what else do we have except a continuum of present moments.  The mind easily flits away to the past, the future, the other side of the world.

What if we began to try on purpose to measure our days by how often we were paying attention to the present moment without thinking, analyzing, strategizing, judging, planning, obsessing.  Just being in our bodies and aware.  Hmmm.

And then add to that, how many beings did I help?

Maybe it's just me but I feel a little excited about this paradigm.  How often was I in the present moment and how many other beings did I help today?  It's fun right?  It lets you off the hook for accomplishing all the things on your to do list.  They become fluff - which they actually are.

Because after 14 billion years of evolution, surely we can come up with something better than errands, paying the bills, organizing the house, and mashing trucks.  Not that those things aren't necessary, but let's not define ourselves with that.  Let's not feel successful because we got the most done.

Let's pat each other on the back for just being and helping.  That's enough.  And it's a lot.

See you in Summerland!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Holidays & Health

Heavens to Betsy! I meant to write this on April 17th which is International Stop for Pedestrians Day.  Did you celebrate it?

As long as we're on the subject of new and exciting holidays, I am always dumbfounded that August 15th is not a national holiday in honor of Julia Child's birthday.  Raise your hand if you agree that we should be celebrating this gastronomic maven mid-August.  Let's all go on a picnic with a Provencal theme and spend hours eating and gazing up at the sky and putting our feet in a river.

Periodically throughout the year we can honor the work our gadgets do with Appliance Appreciation Week.  Honestly, I bow in gratitude to my dishwasher, fridge, oven, stove, washer, dryer, vacuum.  Phew.  They do so much hard work.  Take a moment to thank them.

My personal favorite is Universal Photosynthesis Month.  Maybe it is in June.  Yes, it starts on the solstice.  How crazy is photosynthesis?  We couldn't survive without it.  Let's all go on a picnic...oh, wait, we already did that.  Let's do it again! In the Canaries.  We will launch it this year on El Hierro with a month of picnicking and sky gazing and seaside fun.  Everyone will go home with their own goat.

Even if you missed April's International Stop for Pedestrians Day, you get another chance to honor those on foot this July 4th.  For those of you I haven't told yet, last July 4th I was crossing the street and was hit by a Prius - the silent killer.  A word of caution to those of you who drive a Prius, don't back around corners quickly on the wrong side of the street into handicapped people with PTSD.  That's all I'm going to say about that.  I'm still in shock.

Many of you kindly inquire into my current recovery status and I thought I would write a little update here.  I am still a professional rehab patient, my days are shaped by appointments and home exercises, resting, and icing, and focusing on healing.  I would say I am half person and half patient, at this point.

~ Brain and PTSD: having a brain injury is an on-going learning experience.  It is a little bit like being a new person.  I often feel drunk and developmentally delayed.  The best thing is just to laugh a lot about the cognitive difficulties.  Because of my background in Somatic Psychology and Meditation and Neuroscience, I am making a good recovery with the PTSD.  It is a daily challenge yet less so now than before; i often feel attacked by the external world, lots of quiet and solitude are good for me.  My main triggers are loud noises, bright lights, cars, intersections, hunger/thirst, feeling cold, exhaustion, ambulances, to name a few.  I spend hours a day practicing tools and skills to rewire my nervous system and resolve the inner constrictions. It works!

~ Neck: i still marvel that I broke C2 in three places and lived to tell about it.  Mainly I have lack of range of motion, vertigo, and some pain/headaches with this.  I do exercises and get bodywork.  I think in time I will regain the mobility.

~ Knee/Leg: other than the brain/ptsd thing, this continues to be my biggest hurdle in terms of living a "normal" life.  I long to walk and run and move spontaneously.  I am like a 90-year-old a little bit with my leg.  I just started a new therapy, pictured above, called the Alter-G.  That is not me in the photo!  I am in love with the machine.  It allows me to walk with only 50% of my body weight and thus pain free.  I use it twice a week for 20 minutes and it is heavenly.  I am almost up to a normal pace and it feels so good to move!  Our bodies love walking.  It is such good therapy.  I do pool therapy and restorative yoga and bodywork and acupuncture and essential oils.  Each is working in its own way and it is slower than I would ideally like.  But i am determined and dedicated to keep healing.

~ Arm/Shoulder: i hurt my arm in the Prius incident.  It is painful and weak.  This is a huge bummer of course.  But I am doing various things and hope it will heal so I can one day carry stuff and bake as much as I would like and, hey, brush my teeth with my right arm!

The spiritual lessons are manifold and rich and profound.  Mostly it is about learning how to be happy without physical comfort which we love so much.  Learning how to be in the present moment intimately without any barriers, to slow way, way down, be gentle.  Opening my heart to all the joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains.  Remembering how fortunate and blessed I am and not imploding with self-cherishing.  Being tenderized by my suffering so that I can empathize deeply with others.  And that is just scratching the surface.  Most of what I am learning can't be put into words.

However, I have coined a few new terms I will share with you here...

SADITUDE: feeling grateful and sad at the same time.

REJEALOUS: rejoicing for someone and being jealous of them at the same time.

PARADOXYMORON: embracing life's complexities, bearing witness to everything.

RIDICULOPATHY: when the pain gets so bad it's just ridiculous.

My biggest refuge is the Buddha's teachings.  This accident has propelled me deeper into the profundity of the path.  And that is the blessing of obstacles.  When life is going great and everything is hunky-dory, then there's not much motivation to practice or transform.  But when everything falls apart, then we have a choice about what to do with the pieces.  It's my aspiration not to put the pieces back together, really.  I don't even know what that means.  I am still a gooey, messy chrysalis.  The butterfly is yet to come.

One thing I know for sure, though.  I can relate to so many more people on the planet, to the fringes.  In my cells I know something about what it is to be chronically ill, physically impaired, to be feeble and housebound, to be poor and afraid, to be painfully tortured, to be dependent, to give up personal privacy, to be mentally unstable.  I pray we all invite the fringes  into our lives more and more.  Seek out an elder, a neighbor, a sick person, an injured person, a person on food stamps, a housebound person, a disabled person, a grieving person - notice who is living on the edges and invite them into the middle just a bit.  It is really easy and it makes a huge difference.  Let us live more with our eyes wide open.  Who and how can we help today?  Who might we be overlooking or ignoring?

Thank you to all of you who continue to support me through this big experience.  May my recovery be shared with all those who need it.  And may my pain relieve the suffering of others.

I hope you are well and happy.  See you in June! Love, Thupten

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Announcing the arrival of Godgoat.  No, godgoat is not a heavy metal band or a trendy cult.  Godgoat is a teeny tiny pygmy baby goat, pictured here on the right.  Nanny is his adoring mother, pictured here on the left.  They live in Salt Lake City, the home of my birth.  I am his fairy godmother, thus he is my godgoat.

I am thinking about moving back to Salt Lake so I can properly guide his moral and spiritual development. Just kidding.  Everyone knows I am moving to the Canary Islands, where by the way there are at times more goats than people.  Do you sense a cloven hoofed theme?  Cloven Hoof is actually a heavy metal band.  You can Google it if you don't believe me.

I digress.  My point is: do you see the unconditional love between Nanny and Chico El Rey?  I am not sure what the parents are calling godgoat, but I, his fairy godmother, call him Chico El Rey.  From the moment I first saw him, I loved him deeply and all-pervasively.  This is the power of the heart.  Nanny feels it too.

Speaking of cults, I am going to make t-shirts that say "I [heart] Chico El Rey".  In time it will become a cult classic to own one of these shirts.  People will dig around at yard sales and the Goodwill hoping and praying they find one.  And why?  Because everyone longs for the unconditional love which Chico El Rey represents. Everyone longs to merge with their true nature, the matrix of the universe, which is love.  The problem is we are always forgetting.  So we need t-shirts with pictures of small goats to remind us.

One of my teachers recently said "Love is the guru".  This statement might make us feel a little uncomfortable. It sounds like something an unreliable hippie might say while staring at the sky and picking dandelions for a head wreath.  Guru means wisdom guide.  Love means love.  We can let it be our guide, let it be our compass, our GPS, our mission in life.  I will also make a t-shirt for this.  Or maybe those free pens you get at banks.  Everyone will want to find a "Love is the guru" pen.  It will have a phone number printed on it which you can call and hear an interesting quote or maybe a website where you can watch the Chico El Rey cam.

My point is: we are always forgetting that which is fundamental and more true than truth itself.  We are miracles living in a miraculous universe.  In Buddhism we have some tools to keep reminding us of this bigger picture.  They are called "The Four Reminders".  And I urge everyone to incorporate them into their daily practice.

Wake up, put on your Chico El Rey tee, plop your butt on the cushion and reflect on The Four Reminders:
1. I have a precious human life with all the riches and freedoms needed for practice.  I can use my life to help others.
2. Everything compounded is impermanent, even this very life.  Death can come at anytime unannounced.  I will not waste this opportunity called "my life".
3. The laws of karma are infallible.  Every action has a consequence.  I will be more mindful of my motivation and behavior.
4. The defects of samsara are innumerable.  Therefore, I will focus on liberating myself and all beings from cyclic existence brought on by ego-clinging.

Aren't these useful thoughts? Even if you are not Buddhist, I think you can benefit, no?  And if nothing else, we could all just wake up and recite the mantra "I heart Chico El Rey".  After all, waking up is the most important point.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pregnant & In Love

Today is Losar - the Tibetan Lunar New Year.  I figure New Year's Day is as good as time as any to let everyone know I'm pregnant and in love.  That's right.  Me.  A celibate nun.  I'm pregnant with an unborn Buddha.  And so are you.  I'm in love with a canary.  Island.  I hope to give birth there on my little island in the sea.

There's an unborn Buddha in every sentient being.  Just like water is wet and and fire is hot, our nature is Buddhanature.  Unfortunately, it's covered up by lots of messy stuff.  Meditation practice purifies the dirt and nurtures our unborn babe.  Then one day, we give birth to that which was there all along.

Buddha means awakened one.  We wake up to the truth.  We give birth to infinite compassion fused with supreme wisdom.  Buddha is not a god but the very matrix of the universe.  How would it be if we all began honoring and cultivating the unborn Buddha in ourselves and each other?  If we develop devotion and discipline towards giving birth to our true nature?  How lovely and amazing that would be!

As for me, I'm intent on healing this body so I can go give birth on El Hierro.  As of yet, I can't sit that long and I can't go places where the pavement isn't smooth.  Who knew I'd one day love the idea of miles and miles of tarmac and newly made suburban sidewalks?  No cracks, no bumps, no potholes for me.

El Hierro.  You know when magazines print "The top 10 best kept secret incredible places" and you resent them for disclosing the places you used to love which will now be ruined by a mad exodus of people seeking their own little secret?  I hesitate to tell you about my island.  About how it's a bastion of sustainable living and spring-like weather.  How it used to be considered the end of the earth.  How it highlights the superlative qualities of an arid Mediterranean ocean.

Although I have never been there, even close friends have started calling it "my island".  How's your island, they ask.  What's going on with the weather on your island?  Won't it be strange when I finally get there and none of the actual inhabitants even know who I am?  Little do they know they are living on my island.


I imagine myself on my island in long term silent retreat.  My little strawbale hut, a dog, and two goats, maybe a cat who visits periodically.  Quietly passing the days in meditative equipose, walking down to the sea, picking fresh veg in the garden.  For the weekly market, I leave solitude behind for the chance to stock up on necessities and island gossip.  From time to time, I host other retreatants.  People who long to slow down, look inward, and stop talking.

We tend to think for some reason that everyone is like us, no?  I believe that everyone wants to go to an isolated place where they barely speak the language and don't know anyone else and there is nothing going on.  Sound like heaven to you?

At some point I realized that I am often either subconsciously or consciously or unconsciously planning my El Hierro life.  I need to learn restorative yoga so when I get to my island I can release my own fascia.  I need to learn how to grow vegetables so I can grow my own food.  I need to fix my knee so I can live completely alone.  I need to get my strength back so I can carry more than a gallon of water.  On and on like that my brain weighs decisions and plans against how it will be when i get to my island.  Funny!

So I share this with you, because maybe you too have a secret life you are planning.  And it helps to bring it out of the shadows and into the light.  Then we can do something about it.  After all, when the unconscious speaks to us, it's probably the unborn Buddha.  Trying to tell us something important.

Which brings me to my last item of New Year's Day news: I think I should get a tattoo.  A big pause symbol.  Maybe between my eyebrows or just over the "Sea of Tranquility" acupressure point on the sternum.  Or maybe on the back of my hand so I see it more often.

The big pause.  This is when our unborn Buddha speaks to us. But not in words.  So we better slow down and create a space so we can listen.

Pausing has become one of my favorite all time events of the day.  It is free and abundant and healing.  Where would we be without these gaps?  Actually, sometimes our daily lives resemble run on sentences without any commas, semicolons, or periods.  From time to time we need a FULL STOP.

Try it now.  In the HeartMind Method, I call this the Heart Pause practice.
1. Stop what you're doing.
2. Bring your hand, your breath, and your mind to your heart.
3. Smile.  And breathe in and out of your heart space for 3 to 3000 seconds.

There are plenty of moments that call for a natural pause.  Try some out lights, before a meal, while peeing, between activities, waiting for the coffee to brew, right before you get angry, when the phone rings, when your watch beeps, waiting in line at the store.  Add your own list here:

With lots of little gaps, we give birth to the Buddha.  We hear the language of our hearts.  Mine is saying "Go to your island.  It's waiting for you."

With that thought, I bid you Happy New Year! May you enjoy lots of pauses, secrets, and being pregnant.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Virgo Supercluster

I love the universe.  I love cosmology.  I love dates and chocolate and almonds and coconut.  So why not bring them together for one of the tastiest bites on earth?  That's right the Virgo Supercluster.  It's gluten free, vegan, and if you like, raw.  Everyone loves the Virgo Supercluster.  It will blow your mind, just like the real Virgo Supercluster or Local Supercluster as some like to call it.

I love reading about and pondering the cosmos.  I highly recommend it.  A good place to start is "Journey of the Universe" by Brian Swimme, my favorite mathematical cosmologist.  In fact if I have the honor of meeting him one day, I will prepare a batch of these awesome treats.  We can sit around and sip espresso, nibbling on healthy confections and talk about how crazy and mindbending the universe is.

It's so easy to become myopic and self-involved in our teeny tiny lives, isn't it?  But here we are in this gigantic ginormous miracle of a multicentric expanding universe and our particular corner might be referred to as the Virgo Supercluster, which in itself is so big that you just can't believe it.  So the mind stops and if you're like me you just laugh at the immensity of it all.

Whether you're blue, overwhelmed, confused, or just have the winter blahs, I encourage you to Google the Virgo Supercluster, double the recipe, and amaze your friends with the cosmos and some little treats.


Virgo Superclusters 
makes about 10

Ingredients (all organic)
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
1 tsp coconut oil
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
3 tbsp dried coconut
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cinnamon

Toasted whole raw almonds
Toasted pistachios, chopped finely

1. In a food processor blitz all the first 6 ingredients until smooth
2. Using a 1 tbsp scoop, make ten balls
3. Stuff a raw almond into the middle and shape
4. Roll in the pistachios
5. Chill and serve

You can vary the flavoring and combinations; add any spices you like; roll in whatever you like; you could even stuff with almond or peanut butter.  YUM!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Thinking Fast

Recently I had the fantastical joy of 12 days of mostly silent, solitary retreat at home.  I called it a Thinking Fast.  Which sort of sounds like a quick cognitive contest.  Alas, it is not.  Rather it is a time to stop thinking altogether.  A thinking cleanse.  For me that is heaven on earth.

A Buddhist retreat is not a vacation or hideout.  It is a break from the 8 worldly concerns; a rest from involvement in the grandiose minutiae of life.  Wordsworth hinted at this when he wrote "The world is too much with us; late and soon, all this getting and spending, we lay waste our powers".  So following the supreme example of the historical Buddha, we retreat from attraction, aversion, and ignorance; we gaze inward to our hearts and bodies; we witness the funny and complicated ways of the egoic mind.  And yes it is literally a re-treat, as we get treated again and again to the sweet mystery of our true nature.  If even for only a millisecond at a time.  I feel retreat is my home.

If Eskimos have 100 words for snow, then I have 100 words for silence and solitude.  Of course, how silly, as who will I tell them to?  They are silent words.  Words that point to the essence of things.  Words that help us remember there is no boundary to the universe or the human heart.  Words that dissolve resistance and restore peace.  For in solitary silence, we remember our connection to all things.

When I am alone and silent, I do everything just as it is.  Eat just eat.  Wash just wash.  Life becomes totally ordinary and holy all at once.  Of course, the mind can still be chattering away like a TV left on in some back room.  So I walk in that room, and I listen a bit to the program.  Oh it's a rerun.  If you start to pay attention, you hear that it's mostly reruns in fact.

On a Thinking Fast, I like a practice called "Don't Snack on Your Mind".  It means when my mind starts nibbling away on the reruns, I just turn it off or change the channel.  Junk food might taste good but it has no nutrition.  Those old conversations from the late '80s, the list of disappointments, getting lost in nostalgia.  Oh a Thinking Fast feels so good! Just turn off the TV, put down the junk food.  Turn towards the heart, the sensations in the body, inner smile, remember the space between my atoms.  Yum.

So anyway, that went pretty well.  And I share in the hopes that you might create a little Thinking Fast of your own.  We all need some time to just be, and pause, and rest.  And come back home to our inner space.

Before my retreat ended, I asked my heart "What are my words for 2014?" And my heart said, SOFT, GENTLE, WARM, KIND.  May we all radiate and magnetize a planet that is more soft, gentle, warm, and kind. I made the bunny above one of the mascots for the year.  A sweet, silent, cute rabbit to lead the way!

Cheers to you and much love, Thupten