to tend or to dog paddle

I am dog paddling.  A softer way to put it may be to say I am running in place. Either way, I can attribute it to two things when I start to feel like this:

1) Charged emotion is present.

2) Most likely, fear is involved.

As I mentioned in December’s post, identifying charged events can be helpful in releasing some of the power within them.  Similarly, identifying the charged emotion(s) beneath those events is also helpful in loosening up the stronghold emotion sometimes seems to have in our lives.

January Orchid

Of course, emotions are a part of being human.  Though some may be more difficult than others to handle, both positive and negative emotions can lead us to areas of our life that may need a little tending, if you will.  They need a little care and thought.

I’ve come to think of those aspects of my life simply as being a bit neglected.  Neglected because unprocessed emotions will typically stick around.  And, they are, in effect, neglected because had they been tended to they most likely wouldn’t be sticking around weighing on us, causing us to repeat behavior patterns that we just can’t seem to shake.

January Orchids

I very well may be making this too simplistic, but I think of a main character in a children’s book, a girl about eight years old.  Perhaps this little girl is a sullen friendless child moping around from day to day.  She sees other children playing outside and gets very angry that she does not have a friend.  She experiences jealousy while peering out her bedroom window at the trio of girls playing hopscotch in front of her home.  This goes on for months.

White Rose

But, soon she begins to venture out of her home.  She introduces herself to the group of hopscotcher’s and befriends them.

This little girl was running in place as she moped around from day to day in her home.  She was feeling charged emotion and, possibly, fear was present.  Acknowledging the desire for change, she stepped outside to introduce herself to the group of girls playing outside her home.  Now, she no longer feels anger or jealousy when she sees a group of kids playing together.  She (inadvertently) tended to her emotions.   Seeing the same situation now draws a different response from her.

We too can dissolve tightly held emotions around certain situations in our lives and begin to experience the same situations differently.  Where charged emotion is present if we bring time and attention to it, rather then busy ourselves with whatever method we use for distraction, it may loosen up and begin to dissolve.  The edges of those emotions may begin to soften.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Curry

A friend of mine often reminds me to look under and around emotion.  To soften, loosen up, and eventually dissolve strong emotional reactions, we may ask ourselves what underlies a particular event or situation?  If we are angry, why are we angry?  Might fear be hiding under that anger?  If it is fear, what are we afraid of and is it a realistic fear?

These are just some simple ways to address charged emotion in our lives.  I know I have areas in my life I’d like to tend to a bit more.  If I can, I’ll gently bring time and attention to them.  Maybe, then, the future will find me dog paddling just a little bit less.

Some of my favorite dishes lately have involved curry, coconut milk, and coconut oil.  I found combining many of these traditional curry elements with sweet potatoes, quinoa, and black beans makes for an enjoyable, substantial meal.  The potatoes lend sweetness, the curry is pleasantly pungent, and the quinoa soaks up all of the flavors of the sauce.

Black Bean, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Curry

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, rinsed, cut into bite-sized pieces, and roasted
  • 1 c. quinoa (white or “regular”), rinsed, cooked according to package directions, set aside
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed, drained, set aside
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed, drained, set aside
  • 2 T. coconut oil
  • 1 thick slice (about 1/2″ thick) yellow or sweet onion, diced
  • 2 scallions, rinsed, diced, reserving a handful of green tops for garnish, if desired
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1″ knob fresh ginger, skin removed, minced or 1 T. jarred minced ginger
  • 1/2 c. full-fat coconut milk, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine or good quality *vegetable broth
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 1/2 t. turmeric
  • 1/2 t. coriander
  • salt

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Clean and cut the sweet potatoes (leaving the skin on) into bite-size pieces.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.  Bake until they are fork tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa according to the package directions.  Cook until the translucent ring around the seed becomes visible, about 15 minutes.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, add 2 T. coconut oil, warm gently over medium heat, add onion and scallions with a pinch of salt, cook until soft, 3 – 5 min.

Add the spices, stirring constantly until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the garlic and ginger stirring constantly until fragrant, about one minute.

Add the wine or broth.  Deglaze the pan and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Add the coconut milk, black beans, 1/2 of the cooked quinoa, and a pinch of salt.  Stir and warm through for a few minutes.

Add the roasted sweet potatoes and the pinto beans to desired bean to grain ratio (I used almost all of the pintos.) If desired, add more quinoa.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more coconut milk for a looser consistency.

Once warmed through, about 3 – 5 minutes, serve.  To reheat, add a splash or two of coconut milk before warming.

Serves 2 – 3 generously.

a gift idea

For the new year, a mental and emotional housecleaning with the aid of recapitulation.  Who’s on board?

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Sally Kempton, author of Meditation for the Love of It, introduced me to a new topic, recapitulation. It is a lovely combination of reflection at year’s end and a mental and emotional housecleaning.  Recapitulation is a ritual of release in which the practitioner writes down his or her emotionally charged events over the past year and releases them.

This practice offers us a chance to sweep out some of those imprints, or samskaras, that have been left in our subconscious.  Whether or not we realize they are hanging around… they are.  Have you ever noticed a reaction you have over and over (and over) to a certain situation? Or, a recurring thought pattern summoned after doing something you feel you “shouldn’t have.”  Those are well imprinted samskaras.

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Once we begin or continue the process of letting go and releasing that which no longer serves us,  we are clearing room for the new.  It is the mental equivalent of getting rid of junk we’ve kept in our house or the garage for years.  By cleaning out old habits and thought patterns, our new intentions and goals may become clearer for the upcoming year; as well as, I’d argue, easier to reach.

In her article, Sally describes the process of recapitulation in four steps, “recalling a charged event, bringing it to consciousness, feeling remorse if appropriate, and then letting it go.”  I used a simple, modified version of what she recommends for this exercise.  From a place of general acceptance, I 1) wrote down my most charged events over the last twelve months, and 2) next to each event, off to the side, I wrote its corresponding feeling or emotion. I found my most emotionally charged events brought up feelings of shame, frustration, anxiety, anger, and fear.  3) I then spent a few minutes setting an intention to change my reactions and do my best if confronted with the same or a similar situation in the future.  Finally, 4) I mindfully cut up and disposed of my sheet of paper repeating a few times as Sally recommends, “May these negative events, feelings, and actions dissolve.”

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Try not to become overwhelmed with the idea of recalling the year’s emotional events.  In other words, try not to over analyze this process.  My sense for this practice is letting those charged events pop into conscious memory when asked and write them down. Then, review the list with the intention of doing what we can differently if we find ourselves in a similar situation.  Finally, letting it all dissolve by disposing of the list.  It can be burned in a fire or torn up.  Most importantly it is an act of release, not a malicious intent of ripping up what we do not want.  Rather, it is a gentle goodbye to that which no longer serves us.

Sally goes on to describe in the article how brain science explains that when we want to change it is important to, “consciously create a different neural pathway.”  The act of recapitulation helps us create different neural pathways because it is a way of physically doing something that demonstrates our desire to change.

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I see this process as one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.  A shot at unloading some old baggage and freeing us up to function in healthier ways.  It doesn’t cost anything.  And, it is something we will most likely benefit from for the rest of our lives.