Sunday, November 08, 2009

learning how to breathe

When I was first told of this 10 day meditation course in Vipassana Meditation I had visions of mellow long-hairs with Peter, Paul, and Mary accompaniment sitting calmly facing a gold-leafed statue of The Buddha. The children's tent featured Sharon, Lois, and Bram and an all-you-can-eat raw vegetable stand up bar. Everything was flowing. The clothing was loose, the speech was liquid and tempered, and everything in between was certified organic. Rod had a bit of convincing to do, but I decided to join him.

We arrived on a Sunday late afternoon to register. We were again asked if we were willing participants and that we would seriously commit to the precepts laid down by the course. I also had to agree that I would not leave FOR ANY REASON (barring family emergency). At this point I became very hesitant. Sure, I new they would be requiring this of said so right in the application form, but now it seemed very creepy. Next you'll be asking me if I'd like some Kool-Aid, and it's off to bed for a nice LONG nap. Longish mental hesitation (which really is only a few seconds in real time)...and I signed the agreement.

We were allowed to talk during the first meal...and sit on the female side of the dining room. I sat with a man whom I later found out was a real gem. Unselfish living to the extreme. Non-conforming, initiative-taking, earth and family-loving, spreader of real joy. This was his third course. I wondered at the time if he was a bit daft. I wondered if he was trying to escape like Dave whom I met at a summer tree planting job in 1986. We all thought he was hiding from the cops up there in Northern B.C...killed his wife, maybe. Slip out the back, Jack.

The meeting before entering the meditation hall for the first time was the last time that we were allowed to speak. We were given our final instructions and again had to agree to the precepts. When the bell rang, we moved to the outside of the hall. We were called in one by one and given our place on the floor where we would be returning every day for the meditation times. I was the last one to be let in...punctured to the core by Manitoba mosquitoes remembering precept # 1 - no killing. Since when is H at the end of the alphabet?

The hall was very quiet and inviting. We left our shoes by the door. The lighting was low and the colours were soft. There were three distinct areas. Men on the left and women on the right, teachers at the front facing the students. Made me think of the Old Colony Mennonite Church I attended my first 10 years of life. "Strike one", I thought.

Everyone had their place and all that they brought with them to sit. Mats, cushions, foam, chairs, benches, and braces. I was excited to see how things would turn out with my new cushion. There was an air of anticipation as we were ready to begin...we sat waiting for the start...legs crossed, back straight, arms at rest, and eyes closed. The Lotuses at the Green Spot would have taken a second glance...or at least half of them, anyways.

Focus on the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Concentrate on the area just inside the nostrils and the area just on the outer edge of the nostrils. Notice if there are any sensations in that area...but just observe. Do not react to them...just observe. Just Observe.

Three days later...

We will now be moving from the area immediately surrounding the nostrils and the area just above the upper lip, to the rest of the body. Start at the top of the head and slowly move throughout the body passing through each part. Start at the top of the head and move through each part of the body, piece by piece...part by part. Passing through each part of the body separately. When you come to a part of the body where you notice a certain sensation, just stop and observe...just observe. Do not react with any kind of aversion or craving towards that sensation...just observe. Observe the truth as it is. Do not try to change anything...just observe. Sensations rise and they pass, rise and they pass. Everything is impermanent. Just observe them as they rise, and observe them until they pass. Do not react to them...just observe.

For 6 days we observed.

Strike two was pitched on day 8. A slider. Too much of what I didn't anticipate. The quiet bullpen was a good place to work it through and shake it off. It's too late in the game to slip out the back.

Day 9.

Tomorrow after the morning group sitting we will be allowed to speak once again. It's been good not to speak...takes the pressure off of managing the social with the work. Leaves more time for the work. The work has been difficult, but tomorrow I get to talk to Rod. I'm going to ask him if he knew it was me who left the rock in his shoe at the end of day 3. I'm going to ask if the refried bean burritos on day 6 wasn't the best thing ever, or if the homemade chocolate chip cookies on day 5 made anyone else just about cry, or if I could please get the recipe for the sunflower-tamari dressing.

Rod said he knew it must have been me who put the rock in his shoe. I saw how he was looking around when he noticed it. I tried not to communicate a smile. It was all I could do to not bust out. One becomes a little giddy after not talking for so many days.

At lunch on day 10 we were all pretty chatty. It felt a little strange looking into the face of the person across from you at the table. We had become accustomed to averting our eyes. Lunch took much more time now that there wasn't just chewing and swallowing. We could also finally put a voice to the face, and find out that many of our assumptions about our observations of people were dead wrong. Like the guy I sat with on the first Sunday at lunch. He was a pleasure to know. And the guy who I thought looked like a pretty rough individual, turned out to be a film director with a sensitive heart. And the woman who seemed to look like she knew me, did in fact live across the street from me in Brandon 10 years ago...and this is her 7th course!

There were many other strong connections made that last day, but I think they were as strong as they were because of all the days before that last one. We had an immediate bond. Old with young, male with female, privileged with marginalized, alike with same. We had all arrived as individuals and we would be leaving as a community. A community that set 10 precious days aside to learn how to breathe.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

dad's latest thing

I can't help it.

I have an addictive personality.

It's something that not even my daily meditation can cure.

But now I can proudly say that I have managed to gather some disciples at my feet.

And my followers' extra sets of eyes are perfect for dad's latest thing.

9found...932 733 to go.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

the boy behind the mask

One of the first things I think about on this day is a book which I have always had good intentions of reading...but never have. All Hallows' Eve by Charles Williams. I have a memory of the cover in my mind. A woman laying on her back on a table with her head hanging over the edge and facing the reader. I have always held the thinking that she is a virgin sacrificed to satan on the unholy sacred day...I never have read the book so I really don't know what the book is about. I just assumed that it was so from what I have long held Halloween to be about.

One of my very good memories from a bank filled with good ones is from a from years ago when I started taking Sam trick-or-treating. It didn't take Sam getting treats from more than one house before he began shouting in full sprint to the next one, "I LOVE HALLOWEEN!" And he would do this after every house for the next hour and a half. I can still hear it...that's because he still does it and did it tonight. Sure he's calmed down a bit and saves the comment for every fourth or fifth house, but that's because he's too busy saying stuff to homeowners like, "Thank you very much", and, "I love your pumpkins".

Today, in the middle of my joy of the season, I became momentarily sad. There was this masked man...o.k. a masked boy, really. He needed to get something off of his chest. I know this because he said it without any usual fear as might usually be there if one were unhidden. Today, he said, I picked up the phone at three and there was a boy who asked if I was going trick-or-treating. I said yes, I was. Then he said that I hope you have fun worshipping satan. Long...astonished...but not entirely surprised...pause.
Homeschooler...probably never read the book...I said, awkwardly...hoping to comfort...for levity. We continued to go from well-lit door to welcoming smile...the dread of satan's touch always at our side.

Feet tired, we returned with our catch. Sort the loot and sigh... visions of jack o' lanterns still in our heads. Another good crop. The lord has seen fit to bless us once again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

All The Diamonds - Bruce Cockburn

I spent four years studying at Briercrest. Four year of life that I seem to tell people these days that I am not paid for. No credit to me financially in my teaching career. But I often take the time to tell people of how one evening, I was asked by a fellow student to go for a walk in the chilled autumn evening to his car in the student parking lot to listen to a song. A song that had added colour to his life.
This moment of intentional sharing has paid dividends over the last 20 years that have likely been more valuable than any monetary compensation for my years of study.
The song was All The Diamonds by Bruce Cockburn.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

while Lucifer was away

Above, Cheri's black bean dip and below, her red pepper hummous.

Brian's fish croquettes

Cheri's smoked Salmon quiche

I seem to be serving this a lot after many meals...4-year old cheddar with dark chocolate, almonds, figs and dates.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

kissed the girls and made them cry

Deep-fried breaded dates stuffed with chorizo sausage and wrapped in bacon

Ooo la-la...Karla's dip

Yoghurty goodness

chicken liver fricassee

cheese empanadas with pepperoncini and olives

asparagus wrapped in prosciutto

Saturday, February 07, 2009

nothing to see here

Garlic-rubbed, tomato and basil topped toast, with smoked salmon, fresh mozzarella ball and parmesian shaving

Cheri's smoked salmon for her salad

roasted red pepper stuffed with tuna and capers

green olives with anchovies

Saturday, January 24, 2009

sunday school material

Cheri's brie quesadillas with mango chutney

Ricotta fritters

polenta, which I served warm with creamed salt cod

a little of everything

Sunday, January 18, 2009

forget the silk, just give me the spices

My birthday was on December 16 but things didn't work out during that time for Joyce and me to go out for dinner, so we left it until after Christmas.

Last year she took me to the best Indian food restaurant in the city, and this year we thought we'd try the second best...just so that we could compare.

As far as I'm concerned, the food was the same. There was not really any way for me to tell the difference. However the decors are worlds apart. Last year's trip brought us to a place of guilded wallpaper, woven carpets and gold leaf statues. This year's outing was all painted drywall and flatscreen T.V.s blasting all of the latest Baliwood music videos. But the company was fantastic, so the decor didn't really matter. What I really went for was the food and company anyway.

A result of the outing was that I got that India cuisine on the brain...all chutneyish and Tandoorified.

Of course I had to go home and see if I could make any of this myself. And the first place I went to check for authentic recipies was my Moosewood collection. It didn't take long. Book #2: The Enchanted Broccoli Forest...and all meatless.

The dishes displayed here are all of the ones mentioned on p.222 and 223. The Yellow dish is Indian Pulao. The Hearty one just to the right of the Pulao is spiced lentils. The three sauces are date and orange chutney, parsley chutney, and yogourt sauce or "Raita". The flatbread is called Chappatis.

I've taken a photo of the recipe book if anyone is interested in making these.

Whenever I make something new Sammy asks me what it tastes like. My answer is always the same...yummy goodness, Sam. Yummy goodness.