"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Lao Tzu

“the whole world” . . .

truro 30A few weeks ago, I came across a saying online:

“When you realize there is nothing lacking,

 the whole world belongs to you.”   (Lao Tzu)

I don’t know if this quote is attributable to Lao Tzu or not, but it sounds like him, doesn’t it?

A variation that might follow along that theme is this quotation:

“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” 

I don’t know who said that, but it strikes close to home for me. Throughout many years, being out on my own from an early age, raising children during a long and unhappy first marriage, then patching together a life afterwards with a demanding career in mid-life, I’m habituated towards feeling like my glass was half empty even though my brain might tell me that it was probably more than half full, most of the time.

Yesterday, I don’t know how this happened, but I woke up from that errant dream of being vaguely unhappy. Here’s how it came about.

A ritual I’ve taken on every year after Christmas was to look for the perfect winter coat at the after-holiday discount sales: a puffy but fashionable shiny black down three-quarter length coat with a huge, luxurious coyote or fox fur hood (real) that I had glimpsed in the New York Times Style page years ago and carried the clipping around in my wallet. This hunt served as amusement (or served as withdrawal from holiday shopping,) with a succession of coats tried on, delivered and then, mostly returned to the seller. Sometimes, I would buy one, then give it away to one of my daughters when they needed one more than I did. And so, the elusive coat search continued, at least until now.

Over the weekend, I looked at Patagonia, North Face and Nordstroms before I somehow found myself looking at “vintage LL Bean” listings on Etsy yesterday. I’ve been a fan of LL Bean for their quality, classic stock, especially in decades past. On about the eighth page of listings, I came upon a 1970’s vintage duffle coat, size Medium, in a deep army green with a yoked back, hood and a blue/green woolen plaid lining. It hung gracefully on the model in the photo, not crumpled up and bedraggled like others that were also online. In any case, as soon as I saw it, I instantly felt that the grand hunt for my winter coat was over. It had no fur trim, no contemporary flourishes, just a plain woolen coat that reminded me of my youth, truth be known. I also happen to have a loden shearling hat that G. doesn’t use and a Barbour tan and forest green plaid scarf that matches the color of the coat. Turns out that I had the accessories before I found the coat.

I don’t know if I can convey the sense of home or grounding that I instinctively felt with this coat. Perhaps you know what I mean. It’s as though one goes out looking for something and it turns out to be hanging on the line in your backyard or in a wooden storage chest that you forgot about or something.The other thing that this coat has done is to bring me full circle “back to my beginning” (a la T.S. Eliot) from the extravagances of decorating, food, gifts and spending that the holidays entailed; including taking everything apart, repacking the stockings, the ornaments, replacing broken ones, saying farewell to the Frasier Fir tree that was still fragrant, its needles still fresh to the touch.

As a loner at heart, my interests have been pretty insular for the most part, which is to say that I do most things I enjoy by myself: read, play the piano, cook meals, clean the house, knit, and so on. I realized after finding that coat that I have everything that I have ever wanted (and struggled for) including the most important intangible ones that are not always just up to us. I also noticed that my former habitat of being not very happy for most of my life had shifted to being happy without my truly “getting it” until now. This is not as strange or peculiar as it may sound. In any event, I awakened from feeling unhappy, to understanding that there is nothing keeping me from being happy now, except for old habits I wasn’t that aware of.

“When you realize that there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Thanks to the Helpers of the Universe who have shielded, guided and pushed me to this place. It feels as though it has been an enormous struggle but perhaps at least half of that burden might have been of my own making and wrestled within my own head. Attitude is everything and mine has been edified by finding an old duffle coat and a quotation that floated by my screen unbeknownst from wherever.

As noted,  the Sage, Helpers and the Cosmos have helped me create a soft landing for my life. I just haven’t felt it to its fullest until now. And I am thankful more than ever.


greens . . .

washed watercress, kale, ruby lettuce and swiss chard

washed watercress, kale, ruby lettuce and swiss chard

While I was researching how people use their Vitamix machines on YouTube, I came across a fellow who took out a long plastic bin from the fridge filled with fresh Swiss chard and flat leaf kale that had been washed, dried and then stored. I thought this made sense because the greens would be handy to use, stay fresher longer and not languish in their plastic bags still full of grit. Besides, the bins stack easily in place of random bags piled on top of each other. The idea of an orderly fridge with space around things is a forever fantasy for me.

So, yesterday, I picked up medium and large size BPA-free plastic storage containers at the local grocery store; rinsed clean the fresh greens, let them drip dry and then placed them in the bins lined with clean paper towel.

I was a little apprehensive about using the Vitamix for the first time since it seemed to me like having a little black Lamborghini on my kitchen counter. For my first smoothie, I planned to make an almond kale mixture in the morning for breakfast, soaking some raw almonds in water overnight. The idea of a two-flavor smoothie appealed to me more than putting a Noah’s Ark full of fresh vegetables and fruit in all at once.

My thought was also to come up with combinations that appealed to my palate that were simple, clean tastes that I would want to have regularly for breakfast and lunches. Less is more feels like the right approach to develop my own vocabulary for how to use this machine. Otherwise, I’m afraid that it would just be a novelty for awhile, mixing together other people’s recipes for different sorts of things, but not with an intention to truly integrate new foods into our eating lifestyle. So, I’m developing my own “Zone” of concoctions, so to speak. The almond kale smoothie was light and tasty, thicker than just juicing and a lot less milk-shakey than some fruit smoothies I’ve had in the past.

Here are the ingredients if you’d like to try it yourself:

Almond-Kale Smoothie (adapted from “It’s All Good”, page 207)

a packed cup of kale leaves torn off the stem
a cup of almond/coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon soaked raw almonds (let sit in water overnight in the fridge)
1 teaspoon Xylitol (sweetener, or a pitted Medjool date which I didn’t have on hand)

For lunch, I’m going to make a smoothie with fresh fruit. I peeled each of the bananas I have on hand and froze them individually, broken into thirds. My trusty little Oster juicer has worked well and I’ll make the liquid base for my lunch smoothie by juicing a pink grapefruit and two navel oranges. Then I’ll add some fresh pineapple, hemp seeds, a frozen banana and four ice cubes.

"primp"~grapefruit & orange juice, fresh pineapple, banana, hemp seeds and ice

“primp”~grapefruit & orange juice, fresh pineapple, banana, hemp seeds and ice

I began thinking I might make up names for these concoctions if I decided to keep them on my menu. Something like “Kayla” for the almond kale breakfast smoothie and “Primp” for the pineapple/citrus/banana lunch smoothie.

For dinner, I’m making leek potato soup, a (very) small lemon-grilled center cut piece of salmon, with a light green goddess dressing served on a green salad. So for today’s meals, I’ll have had a “Kayla” smoothie for breakfast, a “Primp” smoothie for lunch and one of my favorite soups with a salad and a couple of bites of fish for dinner. For dessert, there’s still a smidge of strawberry-rhubarb compote left to eat with a dollop of plain yogurt.

While I was out grocery shopping, it occurred to me that these kinds of meals might be akin to ones that are offered at those very pricey spas in Bali, the Golden Door or Canyon Ranch out here in the Berkshires. Except that having it at home was a heck of a lot less expensive than it costs for a three-(@$3000) or a 7-(@$8000) night stay (not including travel costs!) Of course, the spa experience also includes massages of all kinds, hikes and horse-riding. But massages and a walk around the neighborhood are easy to do at home–the horses, well, are more of a stretch. With this renewed perspective, I am now definitely edging towards thinking that buying the Vitamix was a BARGAIN (LOL!) rather than an extravagance!

In any case, I’m so inspired by how glowingly healthy Julia Turshen looks after losing sixty pounds that I feel I have just taken, as Lao Tzu* says, the first step in my personal journey to more radiant health and well-being!

Footnote: *A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

fortune . . .

It was eighty-four degrees outside while I drove back from Brookline after my shiatsu treatment yesterday. It’s the third week in March and it felt like the middle of May! Since it was so warm outside, I decided to swing by one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Framingham and pick up something for dinner on the way home. I ordered three cold appetizer dishes that weren’t on the regular “take-out” menu: drunken chicken, pickled szechuan cabbage, braised bean curd skin and some brown rice.

When I arrived home, I opened my mail, and in it was a beat-up paperback translation of the “Tao te Ching” dating to the 1960’s that I had found online by chance. I browsed Read the rest of this entry »