This past weekend I visited my guru.
She’s actually my Jewish friend from Long Island who I met through my ex-husband and got custody of after our divorce. The minute Jody and I met we recognized we were kindred spirits, each trying to find our way in a material world that doesn’t necessarily reflect that which we most value. Like contemplating ambiguous clues on a lengthy treasure hunt, we’re searching for a deeper understanding of what constitutes happiness, health and success. She helps me clarify my experience and validate that what I see is real.
To me, Jody has it figured out although she wouldn’t agree. In Buddhism it’s said, “If on the path to enlightenment you meet the Buddha, kill him,” reinforcing that wisdom is an ongoing process. There is no “there” to get to. Every moment is an opportunity to learn and grow no matter what you’ve experienced or achieved. This is Jody’s attitude, but she’s so centered and grounded that to me, she’s light years beyond anyone else I know. To be sure, she has worked hard for this, has fearlessly stripped away every layer of obscurity she has met. She would sacrifice any practice that she loves if it made her more whole. Peace and happiness are her ambitions.
We planned this weekend months ago and mystically, it came at a perfect time. For various reasons, I needed solace and quiet. Her home, on a vast property in Northern Massachusetts was the perfect haven. I went to sleep on an organic mattress as soft as a cloud with the sounds of monastery chimes outside my bedroom, and woke to the sight of wild turkey’s trekking through the backyard at sunrise. In between it was like visiting Mother Earth herself.
In addition to being a very successful businesswoman, Jody is an acupuncturist, so naturally we talked shop. I shared with her my quest to tonify my yin and got a whole lot of insight as to what the challenge really is.
Yin is the feminine, passive, cooling energy that ideally lives in balance with Yang, the masculine, aggressive and heat producing energy of the natural world. Yin is the moon and Yang is the Sun. In our youth, with hormones ablaze, each gender is in alignment with their respective energies but as we age, waning hormones makes the duality of male-female forces less distinct. For example, menopause is often a time when women become more assertive, finding their voice and asking for what they want. It is also a time of declining fertility and rising heat, as seen with hot flashes. Men on the other hand often become less aggressive, softer, kinder in their andropausal years, and less potent.
To strengthen Yin, Jody explained, it’s not only important that I eat the right foods and take the right herbs, I also need to determine and embrace what is nurturing while leaving behind all that depletes me. This includes the people I choose to spend time with, the exercises I do and the responsibilities I take on.
For example, I love to run but running is fundamentally Yang. The aggressive, thumping nature of running is hard on the joints and demands a lot from the system. But in my urgency to rid myself of stress, I find running the fastest way to get there. Sure, I’d get the same clarity from a Yin-tonifying Yoga class, but it would take 90 minutes (in addition to travel time) to get the same result that I do with a 30-minute run right outside my door. That’s not the point though. The question is; which is more nourishing? Yoga, hands down.
Another inescapable yin depleting aspect of my life? Running a business in Manhattan! New York City is inherently aggressive, fast paced and let’s face it, sometimes hostile. Not the most nurturing environment to cultivate a sense of peace. And operating a business comes with it’s own set of challenges that can deplete any sense of calm.
The greatest obstacle to a balanced life is life itself. You can set an intention and work towards it, but there are always curve balls. A day doesn’t unfold linearly and neatly. Unexpected events can throw us off our game. The challenge then, is getting back on the path, continuing to cultivate a life that feels gratifying, comforting, peaceful and whole. While that may not be easy, it is certainly satisfying.
There is little I can do to change New York City, nor am I prepared to give up running or my business, yet there is a lot I can do to cultivate balance in ways that extend beyond my diet. Making more time for Yoga is a start as is spending time in nature. Rather than brush aside something that feels time consuming, like clearing my closets, I can prioritize it because having it done feels inherently better to my spirit. In my haste to tackle all that is most pressing, I am overlooking that which would bring the most joy, like framing the spectacular pictures I took in Nepal. I had a bunch blown up but have yet to finish that project although imagining them hanging in my apartment makes me happy.
Spending time with my friends is always time well spent, and my weekend with Jody was peaceful, educational and timely.
We cooked, hiked, visited herb shops and drank tea. We even took a class in Zentangles, a meditative art form. By the time I left I felt rested, relaxed and nurtured. I also had a list of ways to balance my yin. Although I think having a list of things to do is inherently yang…. Oh-oh, this may get confusing 🙂
How do you find balance in your life? Are there foods you turn to, practices you embrace or people you seek out when you need to get grounded? I’d love to hear what works particularly for you! Share your nurturing habits with me in the comments below.
Have a great week and stay well! I hope the weather continues to improve wherever you are in the world 🙂
Granola Porridge with Strawberry Compote
One of my favorite breakfasts, particularly in warm weather, is my raw granola recipe. It’s easy to assemble, highly nutritious and delicious. It never occurred to me that I could easily turn this into a warm breakfast with just two easy steps until I was hanging out with Jody.
She got the idea from Elana’s Pantry. By placing all the ingredients in a blender or food processor for a minute and adding hot water, you can turn a cold cereal into a warm one in minutes. I don’t even like hot cereal but I loved this porridge!
The compote is Jody’s recipe. While I was there she made a delicious strawberry-rhubarb version but I couldn’t find organic rhubarb once I was home so I made mine with apple instead. Her version and the adjustments I made are below. Play around with what works for you.
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
- 2 tbsp coconut flakes
- Cinnamon… as much as you like. I use about ½ teaspoon
Blend in a food processor and place in a bowl. Add hot water and mix well. Cover with a plate for a few minutes then top with compote or fruit and enjoy.
- 1 quart organic strawberries, rinsed well and chopped
- 1 rhubarb stalk, cleaned and chopped (I used an apple, peeled, cored and chopped)
- 1 tbsp organic, no sugar added, all-fruit jam (I used Grade B Maple Syrup)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- (I also added a dash of vanilla extract)
- A couple of ounces of water
Place in a pot and simmer ingredients together, stirring occasionally, mashing the fruit with a spoon. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until fruit is blended together to a chunky consistency. Top the porridge with a couple of tablespoons of compote and enjoy!