Saturday, May 17, 2008

Today is Brought to You By the Letter F

Not only did I drop the f-bomb at my meeting, with a blurted "F*** that!" but on our way home we noticed something wrong with the car . . .

We made it safely home, so that is the good news. Now we need to put the spare on the car, go to buy a new tire, and all this while I am still ungainfully unemployed. Lovely.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Puppy Bling

Snowdoll is growing by leaps and bounds. We had to get her a new collar. So Rob went without me to make sure I didn't buy something with pretty flowers or something like that. And he came home with this:

It's purple with pretty rhinestones.
(Yes, that is my engagement ring in the pic!)

And now she has another heart on her collar,
this one with rhinestones.

So Rob came home with all sorts of puppy bling for Snowdoll. She feels like a princess and looks like one. However, she eats like a pig. If there is food present, she will eat it. The good news is that we can fill her bowl and she will eat her fill and leave what she doesn't want to finish now for later when she feels hungry again. However, this will not stop her from eating Romanov's food or any scraps that fall while I am cooking any more than it will stop her from digging into the garbage to retrieve egg shells or pear cores. Still, she is managing to keep her girlish figure. She's lost her puppy fat and has slinked her way into Siberian Husky adolescence. When Romanov went through this phase, he looked "too thin" but we'd read enough about the breed to know that this is normal for them. His coat was thick and shiny, his eyes clear, etc. And eventually he outgrew his adolescence and now he is as solid as he was when he was a puppy. Only he's bigger. So Snowdoll, in spite of her piggy ways, still looks downright skinny. I am a wee bit jealous.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quote of the Week
From The Zen Path Through Depression by Philip Martin

Two monks were arguing over a philosophical question as their teacher passed by. They stopped him and asked him to settle their disagreement. The first monk explained his understanding, to which their teacher replied, “You’re right.” The second monk protested, and made his argument, which was the complete opposite of what the first monk had said. The teacher then answered the second monk, saying, “You’re right.” A third monk who had been listening asked in frustration, “But, Master, you tell both of these monks that they are right, when their explanations are contradictory and couldn’t possibly both be correct.” The teacher replied, “You’re right.”—Zen Story (80)
There is a lovely thought in A Course in Miracles which asks would you rather be right or have peace? Sadly, I have lost a few friendships along my life's path due to one or the other of us wanting to be right. Each loss became easier not because I became harder but because I held each person more loosely. More importantly, I held my need to be right more loosely. I still fall into the misbelief that I am Right, with all that implies, but I voice my self-righteousness less often than before and there are pages and pages in my journal in which I surprise myself with "I was wrong."

Life was so much easier when I was right and knew what was right. But easy is not always better and I am happier now than I was before.

It is a rare thing I can find a recipe that Joe likes so when I find one I simply have to share it with others. (BTW, the image is not of the dinner I made but taken from a website. I forgot to take a picture of what I actually cooked but will do so from now one when I am trying new reciepes.)

New Chicken Parmesan
(from Bon Appétit, June 2008)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
½ teaspoon salt
1 12-ounce container grape tomatoes
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
Large pinch of dried crushed red pepper
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each)
1-1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese in water, drained, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 500° F. Whisk first 3 ingredients in large bowl. Place tomatoes in medium bowl; mix in 2 tablespoons garlic oil, then oregano and crushed red pepper. Add chicken to large bowl with remaining garlic oil and turn to coat.

Place 1 cup Parmesan in pie dish. Dip 1 side of each chicken piece into cheese to coat; arrange chicken, cheese side up, on 1 half of large rimmed baking sheet. Scatter tomatoes on other half of sheet.

Roast chicken until just cooked through and firm to touch, about 10 minutes. Arrange mozzarella slices atop chicken. Return to over; roast until cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer chicken and tomatoes to 4 plates. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.

I am not much into labels and I certainly couldn't care less about designer labels but I adore this Dolce & Gabanna belt. You can't see but the little chain that dangles from this creation has a tiny little key for the lock. Rawr!

Aries Horoscope for week of May 15, 2008

I hope you've been trying to bolster your stick-to-it-iveness, Aries. I trust you've been pumping up your follow-through and supercharging your determination. If you haven't been attending to this unglamorous yet heroic work, play catch-up. Your final exam will be administered no later than May 24. Here's a sneak preview of some of the material you'll be tested on. If a teammate drops the ball, do you: a. quit the game; b. throw the ball in your teammate's face; c. pick up the ball and start running in the direction your teammate was supposed to?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Zen Path Through Depression by Philip Martin

If I had read Philip Martin’s Zen Path Through Depression when I was actually in the depths of a depression I would have found it too frustrating to finish it. Why? Because I would have found myself saying, “I know this already. Why am I reading this? I have other things to do.” And the fact is, the advice here parallels how I have had to approach my own depression at times.

Contrary to the usual suggestions to either medicate or work through and move on the emotion, Martin encourages the reader to sit with the darkness, neither embracing it nor resisting it. And this is where I would have missed out on the powerful significance of this slender volume. It is not enough to allow yourself to be with the depression but to also know that there is a danger to this, an implication that can conflict with the Buddhist message of ahimsa. When someone who is struggling with depression stops fighting it and allows the emotion to be present, there is always the awareness that this is, in some way, an invitation for self-destructive thoughts, including suicide, to take hold. However, ahimsa, the precept of non-violence which includes not harming one’s self, is underpinning the person’s meditative practice then the danger is lessened, albeit not fully removed.

Depression is a risky business and this is the first book I have ever read where the author’s experience of depression and understanding of how to work with depression to reach a deeper awareness of one’s self resonated so fully with my own experience and understanding that I found myself sighing with contentment and appreciation as I read through the book.

There are some meditation exercises which would be better explored on cd (my usual complaint about such things) but there are a lot of exercises that do not require a cd. For example, in one chapter Martin encourages the reader to think about what he/she uses to avoid experiencing the depression. For one hour or even one day, the reader is told to not give into the temptation of avoidance. The questions Martin asks the reader to consider after doing this can easily be addressed in a journal.

One of the things I am striving to do is reduce my book collection by half. This is easier said than done when I am reading books that I simply refuse to surrender by giving away. And so I confess, this book is one I will keep. I know that there will come a time when I will need to return to the pages, to work through another dark time in my life and it would be nice to walk through that valley with the words and awareness of another.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life by Susan Piver

I don’t know when I last read a book with a more inappropriate title than How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life by Susan Piver. I bought the book, with an accompanying cd, on a whim. It probably would have remained unread on my shelf for another year had I not wanted to get rid of some of the books that are cluttering my life and bookshelves. So I dragged this acquisition confident that I would breeze through it and eagerly give it away.

What Piver has done is to write a book on meditation that compares well, if not completely favorably with such authors as Thich Nhat Hanh. Sharing her personal experience, quotes from traditional Buddhist literature, and combining both in to practical advice, she reinforces and drives home the power of meditation. Not as dense as some other books on meditation, the suggestions for developing a personal practice are not so challenging that they could not be learned without the benefit of the cd. At the end of the book she offers a suggestion for a three day spiritual retreat, outlining a plan that goes from Friday evening through Sunday night.

I have often vilified meditation books for their prolonged suggestions of a guided meditation where one first visualizes this and then visualizes that, suggesting that either the practitioner would have to record the meditation for themselves or read along, breaking the flow of the meditation. I don’t see the point of it and I have to offer Piver high praise for sharing meditation practices that are practical. Not unique but without a doubt useful.

Now, before you balk saying you could never afford to get away to go on a retreat for three days, let me point out the Piver’s plan is so practical you can do it in your home. She suggests that even if you don’t live alone you can ask your roommates or family to cooperate with you as you do your spiritual retreat right there in your own home. And if that is seemingly impossible she has other suggestions including asking a friend who is going out of town if you can use their home for the weekend or even renting a cheap motel room for the three days. It is not the surroundings that determine your success in this but your intention. (I will get back to you on how successfully my experience goes sometime in late May because I will be doing a spiritual retreat in my home in a few weeks.)

For those who are not confident about their ability to shut out the world for those three days, who want a little more than constant journaling and silence, Susan Piver has created a mini-retreat kit called Bliss in a Box. I actually bought this on ebay about four or even five years ago. I have never used it and didn’t know that she was responsible for the kit I had but after reading her book I retrieved the boxed kit from my bookshelf and smiled at the ironic serendipity (and the reinforced reminder that I really do need to clean out my bookshelves because I don’t even know what’s there!). The kit comes with guided meditations and some gentle hatha yoga practices, on two cds, along with journaling exercises and even dietary suggestions. The schedule is clear, the cds and journaling prompts (on included cards) all work to support you in your retreat.

However, let me point out that this item is out of print. And since I have not used the Bliss in a Box yet I can’t actually recommend you buy it but if you think the idea of doing a weekend retreat sounds like a lovely experience then absolutely get it before you can’t.

Adding insult to the injury of this review, however, is my adoration and praise for the cd, Freedom From Fear. Apparently you can’t buy this cd except through One Spirit. You can find it used on for upwards of $40 and while I love this collection of meditations I can’t say it is worth that much. I would, however, urge you to send me the $9.99 plus whatever the shipping and handling would be and I’ll be happy to order it for you. Two of the three meditations are offered in a longer version (less than 30 minutes) and shorter versions (just over 5 and 10 minutes) while the third meditation is only 10 minutes. The Lovingkindness Meditation should be familiar to anyone who has read about Metta meditation, who have learned to pray the Four Immeasurables:

May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be peaceful.
May you live with ease.
Piver combines this meditation with the recommendation I first encountered in Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing, to think first of someone you love deeply, then of someone you like very much, then of someone you don’t know very well, and finally think of someone who has hurt or offended you. Piver leads the listener through these four levels of relationship, meditating on each one with compassion rooted in asking for their happiness, their health, their peace, and their ease. That alone is worth the price of the cd. It is unfortunate that the cd cannot be bought except through a book club but I guess that is the benefit of being a member of One Spirit because you occasionally get access to resources as wonderful as this cd.

My offer is serious. If you want a copy of this cd, I will order it and you can reimburse me for the cost and whatever One Spirit will charge me for shipping.