Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Forms of Meditation…

The following is an article written by my Uncle Gene about the forms and benefits of meditation. It's really very interesting! Read on...

A recent newspaper misprint: “Perhaps nothing reduces stress like the daily, persistent practice of medication.” The intent was to promote the daily practice of “meditation,” and while daily medication may indeed work, there is abundant evidence that meditation works even better, not just to reduce stress, but to increase over all levels of life-satisfaction.

There are basically three different forms of Meditation: Targeted, Religious, and Zen.

Targeted Meditation has been much in the news lately, encouraged by such figures as Dr. Daniel Amen in his book and in his PBS special, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. The basic practice of Meditation remains the same in all three forms, it is the imagery that changes. Dr. Amen says, suppose you are concerned about heart disease. Find a comfortable place, where you know you will not be disturbed for at least ten minutes, and then imagine your heart pumping blood through your system. Think of the functioning of your heart, and how your nice, clean arteries are bringing blood to your brain, to your fingers, to your toes. Sit (or lie) in a tranquil state, while you imagine the smooth functioning of your bodily systems. Targeted Meditation has many forms, and it includes The Relaxation Response taught by Dr. Herb Benson in a book of the same name. Begin with your feet, and say to yourself: “my feet are calm and relaxed,” and then work your way up to your head, all the while actually reducing your blood pressure!

The second form, and perhaps the most widely practiced form of Meditation, is Religious. Whatever your religious (or non-religious) tradition, find some event in your history, or some text from your sacred scriptures, and make that the focus of your imagination. You can imagine yourself in Mecca during the hajj, wending your way around the Kabba. You can imagine yourself at the Western Wall, with all the grandeur of Jerusalem around you. You can imagine yourself on a hillside, hearing an itinerant preacher say: “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall obtain peace.” Religious Meditation comes in many forms, has many expert practitioners, and is very effective at doing all the things Meditation is supposed to do: calming the practitioner, providing a sense of peace and tranquility, and providing the meditator with a renewed enthusiasm for the activities of daily life.

The third form is sometimes called Buddhist or Zen Meditation, and has been popularized by practitioners like Thich Nhat Han. “Breathing in, I calm myself, breathing out, I smile.” Find a comfortable place, try to empty your mind of all thoughts. You are sitting (or lying) there, tranquil as a mountain that has clouds passing by. There is no particular thought in your mind, in fact the goal of Zen Meditation is often identified as the transcendence of all thought. You reach a place where the “active” part of your Consciousness is blended with the “passive” part of your mind, and no particular thought is on the screen. A simple mantra may go through your mind, like: “I am at peace with all the world,” or “Nothing disturbs me, nothing scares me, I reach the calm center at the root of my being.”

Whatever form your Meditation assumes, evidence-based medicine asserts that setting aside 10 or 15 minutes each day for the practice of Meditation will decrease your blood pressure, help you face your everyday challenges, and make you feel better about the challenges of being alive. Of course, the secret is, not to do the Meditation in order to accomplish these things, but to meditate simply to meditate. Certain benefits are inevitable by-products, but the secret of Meditation is the doing it for its own sake. After all, it is putting you in touch with your innermost self, and what better place is there to be than that? Meditate simply to meditate, and it will produce its benefits quite generously….

Web MD, March 19th: The Three-Minute Meditation Exercise by Elisha Goldstein:
“People without formal training can learn the technique by practicing a three-minute exercise he calls ACE a few times a day:
• Awareness: Spend a minute becoming aware of what is happening right now in your thoughts and emotions.
• Collecting: Spend another minute collecting your attention on the breath. Notice where you are aware of the breath most prominently. For some people it will be the nostrils, for others the chest or belly.
• Expanding: Spend a third minute expanding your awareness into your physical body and noticing sensations like tingling, warmth, pulsing, pain, and coolness at individual sites.”
"People who practice this two or three times a day, even when they are not experiencing stress, will be more likely to be able to grab on to it during major stress triggers," he says.

Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Patrick’s Day Potato Leek Soup

In the past, I’ve always looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day. Not because of the green beer, but because of my yearly indulgence of corned beef with cabbage... You know, that over-cooked mess of brisket and vegetables that turns into mush on the plate… always smothered in butter… loaded with salt...and served with a side of mustard (probably the only healthy part). But now that I’m eating vegan, how do I celebrate? Is it a dinner limited to beer? (Hmmm...intriguing)

Well, the question is easily answered with potato leek soup, and coming up with a simple recipe omitting the cream was an excellent task for me. The following is the recipe. It’s easy and really very good. And you can still serve the green beer. Sláinte!

St. Patrick’s Day Potato Leek Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3-4 leeks, whites only, thoroughly washed, sliced
1 T olive oil
1 T Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread
5-6 C faux chicken or vegetable stock
1 veggie bouillon cube
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste
Snipped chives for garnish

In a stockpot, saute onion, celery and leeks in the olive oil and Earth Balance for at least 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except chives, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve in bowls with chives sprinkled on top.

May you live a long life
Full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold
As the least of your wealth.

Note: The photo I used was found on google images

Monday, March 15, 2010

Homemade Granola

I hate oatmeal. Absolutely hate the stuff. And really... in all honestly... you and I both know it's only good in baked goods, like cookies or granola, right? So I decided to come up with a recipe for granola that I could eat on occasion. Granola is always so fattening with all the added oil and it's usually too sweet for my taste. So when I set out to create this recipe, I reduced the oil and sweetener and used agave nectar instead of honey. Does this recipe meet all of the requirements it takes to be blog worthy? Hmmm... let's see. Is it easy to make? Yes. Does it come together quickly? Yes. Is it delicious? Yes, yes and yes. Is it low fat? Not so much... but oh what a treat.


3 C old-fashioned oats
1/2 C chopped unsalted almonds
1/2 C chopped unsalted walnuts
1/2 C raisins
1/4 C chopped dried apricots
1/8 C flax seeds
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 C organic raw blue agave nectar
3 T canola oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine the oats, nuts, raisins, apricots, flax seeds, salt and cinnamon. Mix the oil and agave nectar together and pour over the oat mixture. Stir well to combine. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn’t get too brown and stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. Let the granola cool completely and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.