Recently, I was grooming our two pups. We were outside. It was at least 90 degrees with 85% humidity. Mosquitoes were using us as their breakfast. Ollie was wiggling. Simon wanted nothing to do with any kind of grooming tool being placed on his body. Hair, sweat, and fur were combined in a slurry on my face. (Oh yeah, there may have also been some blood in the slurry due to the mosquito that bit me on the forehead.)
Did I have a feeling of spaciousness in these moments? Ah, no. In fact, I didn’t have a feeling of anything other than… oh my goodness, let’s get this done! Between those thoughts and trying to keep the fur out of my mouth, I became sucked into the process. I did not maintain presence of mind; and, I didn’t realize it until I got them both inside and got myself cleaned up. Isn’t that how living in today’s world is? Modern society sucks us into it’s process of being. And, dare I say, we allow it to happen.
Well, ok. So this is not new news. Modern life is busy. But, how do we deal with it in relation to spaciousness? Do our minds have an openness such that we can rest in the midst of everything? What about our ability (my dwindling ability) to reside on an open platform with fewer encumbrances? Don’t we want that?
When I think of spaciousness, I see myself physically pushing away life’s stuff. Gently clearing a room with one sweep of the arm. Why? Because the external qualities of openness to me look and feel like an empty room with beautifully colored walls and gracefully arched doorways. (To another, it may be the vastness of a mountain range.) It is inviting. It draws me in. It’s space is silent. It has no expectations. It has no agenda. It is just there, open and waiting.
The internal qualities of spaciousness are quite similar. Within this space, the fluctuations of our minds are calmed. We drop our discordant selves. The mind rests. Even if only for a moment or two, it rests. My sense for it is during that pause, we become suspended in awareness. Simple momentary awareness.
How do we hit the pause button in everyday life? Try sitting quietly for a few minutes each day and breathe. We may notice our breath or the airplane that is flying overhead. Notice and breathe. This gracious space awaits all of us and is always accessible. I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep trying to bring my mind back to a resting place for a breath or two, choosing a little bit of spaciousness over slurry.
Before we reach enlightenment, we need to eat. Below are a few ideas for a meal and side dishes followed by a recipe for Fig + Date Bread:
Laura Calder introduced me to the idea that cauliflower, sliced olives, and julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes are a very nice combination indeed.
Inspired by Giada DeLaurentiis, I made a dish combining cooked lentils and rice, corn, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, celery, carrot, garlic, topped with tomato slices, italian style panko bread crumbs and cheese. In the oven at 350° for about 20 – 30 minutes melds the flavors and bakes the top layer of tomatoes and cheese.
My twist on a raw mushroom salad. It may not be for everyone, but if you like mushrooms it is interesting to try. Thinly sliced mushrooms and green summer squash, tossed with a vinaigrette of lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Finish the salad with chopped parsley.
Fig + Date Bread
I was trolling Heidi Swanson’s site and came upon a recipe by Melissa Clark, Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread. The bread looked wonderful. It had huge chunks of chocolate, lots of bananas, and a glaze. But, I wanted something different. I love sweetening foods with dates lately, and I had figs in the frig. So, I adapted Melissa’s recipe…
Fig + Date Bread
8 oz., fresh mission figs, rinsed, stems removed, and quartered, set aside
10 dried and pitted dates, thinly sliced, set aside
1 ripe banana, mashed, set aside
2 c. whole wheat flour (spelt flour would also work well)
1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1/3 c. vegetable or canola oil
1 T. lemon juice, (juice from 1/2 lemon)
zest of one lemon
1 t. vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter a standard size loaf pan. Set aside. Prepare banana, dates, and figs. Set aside.
- Combine and mix dry ingredients.
- Combine and mix wet ingredients. Add the mashed banana to the wet. Mix well.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined. Gently fold in the dates and figs.
- Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake 40 – 50 minutes or until loaf becomes golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let loaf rest on a wire rack 15 minutes before turning out.