Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goodbye to Two Friggin' Thousand and Ten

As I say good-bye to another year, I want to consider what was gained and what was lost.  I think this kind of reflection is good to do since I don't really do resolutions, but taking stock of the closing year is a good way to see where we are.

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to loose 
Nothing, I mean nothing honey if it ain't free, no no
This past year brought all kinds of freedom.  From domestication, from unfulfilled expectations, from external conventions, from parental supervision, from being treated like a child.  Perhaps freedom feels real, it is also an illusion.  We have obligations, rules, laws, and other conveniences that force us to be partnered or tethered to one another.   

Looking back at 2010, I have to be extremely thankful for the exceptional privileges and resources in my life.  I have food, shelter, clean water, access to medicine, technology, a job, and money in the bank.  I have dear friends and family who give me love, support, and care.  

Yet, the freedom that I took, and gave, did not come easy.  There were plenty of  tears and fears throughout the past year.  In Buddhism it is taught that the idea of absolute freedom of choice (i.e. that any human being could be completely free to make any choice) is foolish, because it denies the reality of one's physical needs and circumstances.  

I consciously chose to give M freedom based on a set of criteria that was gleamed at the moment. I also consciously chose to take my freedom, based a set of criteria that took account of my physical needs and circumstances as well.  Weighing both the pros and cons is a factor in taking and giving freedom.  Sometimes the cons are multiple, persistent and numerous, but to withhold freedom is worse. 

So to bulk up my luck account, I will eat black-eyed peas on New Year's day.  Eating them is thought to bring prosperity.  While this is associated with Southern traditions, they were also a good luck tradition at Rosh Hashana and were recorded in the Talmud (around 500 CE) sans the pork for flavor.

In the United States, the first Sephardi Jews arrived in Georgia in the 1730s, and have lived there continuously since. The Jewish practice was apparently adopted by non-Jews around the time of the American Civil War and pork and greens were added.

The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion.

New Year’s Black-Eyed Peas Salad

For the beans:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound black-eyed peas, washed and picked over
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste 

For the dressing and salad:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons lightly toasted cumin, ground (to taste)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup broth from the beans
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro 

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add half the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the black-eyed peas and the water and bring to a simmer. Skim off any foam from the surface of the water. Add the bay leaf and salt to taste (1 to 2 teaspoons). Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt if desired. Add the remaining garlic, cover and simmer until the beans are tender but intact. Taste and adjust salt. Remove from the heat and carefully drain through a colander or strainer set over a bowl. Transfer the beans to a large salad bowl.

2. In a glass measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and mustard. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the bean broth, then the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a little more vinegar if you wish. Stir the dressing into the warm beans. Stir in the red pepper and cilantro, and serve, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature. 

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Advance preparation: The beans will keep for five days in the refrigerator; toss them with the vinaigrette, but if you aren’t serving them right away, wait and add the cilantro just before serving.

Mindfulness & Solitude

Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car, or cook in the kitchen.

Real solitude comes from a stable heart that does not get carried away by the crowd nor by our sorrows about the past, our worries about the future, and our excitement about the present. We do not lose ourselves; we do not lose our mindfulness. 

While we may live with many disruptions, we must also create safe havens for the self.  For some it is a walk, therapy, art--but for me it is the time alone in a place that I feel at most home.  It is the place where I first felt centered, rooted, and where I belonged.  It is a place that I can run away to and still find magic, beauty, and meaning. Where I can exhale deeply and inhale the tastes, smells, and sounds.  It is where I feel the most present and alive.


Need I say anymore? I admit it, I am a gleek (and proud of it).

Happy 2011.  May you feel free, mindful, and full of glee.

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