Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Home-made vegan Sports gel: success

I want to thank Matt Frazier for the vegan Sports Gel recipe in his great book, "No Meat Athlete" which I made over the weekend and used on a long run for the first time this morning. 

Not only was the gel REALLY easy to make (I used a hand blender but any blender will do), but it was also tastier than ANY other sports gel I've tried. That is not an exaggeration either. Usually sports gels make me gag a bit, so I'm sure it helps that you can make this gel to a consistency that suits you.

I followed the recipe exactly, except as I didn't have any molasses I swapped this out for golden syrup (which has been in my pantry for ages, so really just needs to be used up). When I finish that I'll definitely go looking for some molasses which will increase the health value of the gel even more.

Usually I am NOT a fan of medjool dates either (the key flavour ingredient of the gel), however apparently when you mix the dates with salt and lemon juice then this makes the dates not just palatable, but downright delicious! When I returned from my run I diluted the remaining gel with water to drink the rest - I didn't want to lose any of it.

The recipe made the perfect amount to fit in my 6oz. Fuel Belt gel flask; originally I was a bit stumped by how to get the gel into the flask, but a home-made piping bag (made out of baking paper) fixed that.

Thanks Matt! :-)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thank you travelling Sangha

On Friday night I travelled to my local Buddhist Temple to attend chanting, meditation and a dhamma talk. It was the first time in over a decade I had attended a 'formal' group meditation session and it was as though I had never left! (Although I did feel increased sensation in my legs due to sitting on a different style cushion than I use at home).

Despite the fact that expectations can lead to dhukka, I fully expected to leave the temple many times more relaxed than how I entered, and thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. Quite the opposite!

My previous experiences in a buddhist temple were in Darwin, Northern Territory and this was my first visit to the Buddhist Society of WA temple in Perth. The guest nun who lead the meditation and dhamma talk was the sweetest thing, who spoke gentle and humourous truths.

I will definitely be making the Friday night meditation a regular occurrence. I won't be able to attend this coming weekend due to our travelling to the Nannup Music Festival. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that tai chi and meditation are part of the programme each morning during this year's festival!

Now I can even do my group meditation there. I just want to send out my gratitude to the universe for supplying such a wonderful and supportive sangha, who are even happy to travel with me! I am so blessed.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Challenge of Chit-chat

When things are hard in life; when dealing with issues of grief, loss or other hardship it can seem extremely difficult to keep up the chit-chat. The constant pleasantries that are part of the social contract, such as "how was your weekend?", "nice weather we're having!" etc.

I've recently been avoiding the lunch-room at busy times because I find the idle chatter about normal lives too tedious when I'm grappling with thoughts of old age, sickness and death, in relation to my ailing father.

A scene in a book I read recently called "The Name of the World" by Denis Johnson, describes one character, Tiberius Soames, who is assumed insane because he has given up on small-talk. When addressed by someone at a party he replies, "my mother died and her corpse was eaten by dogs". (I'm paraphrasing as I don't have the book in front of me).

How wonderful to be able to say exactly what you were thinking! And how obvious that this would appear crazy. The character even refers to the amount of chit-chat required as part of the social contract, and how he had better talk some nonsense for a while to make everyone happy.

I definitely recommend the book to anyone, even though it is off-beat! And although I haven't taken Tiberius' lead in talking quite so openly, I have spent more time this week engaging other people in honest conversation. I found that answering questions honestly (although with some editing) allows other people to drop the facade and engage in honest conversation too, if they want too.

Who knows? Maybe we are all walking around wishing we could talk more honestly with each other? I know I'm guilty of asking some of those tedious questions to other people in order to make small-talk.

What do you think?
"I don't want to be an ant, you know?" Waking Life

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Depth of Doubt

I remember my bhante (buddhist teacher) telling me once that doubt is a useful tool, but also the last hurdle to leap on the path to enlightenment - it is there till the end. 

Using doubt as a tool to question your thoughts, feelings and beliefs is something I have learnt to do with practise; however some times the doubt travels so deeply - to my core, and it's hard to think about anything else.

Am I in the right job? Should I become ordained? Should I sell everything? Should I stay or should I go? What will happen to my loving partner and our dogs?

I try to use these experiences to open my awareness to the various opportunities available to me, however searching for the other, the better somewhere else, is just a form of chasing, of grasping at the future.

It is a bit like being an alcoholic; taking one day at a time - I don't need to figure out all the answers now, I just need to do the best I can in this moment, and the next moment, and the next moment.

Unfortunately at times like this my ability to remain in the moment is reduced, and my awareness of how short and fleeting our lives are increases, so I have an overwhelming urge to change SOMETHING. Something that will take me one step closer to the end of samsara; this never-ending wheel of birth, life and death.

It must be time to contemplate The Noble Eightfold Path. Perhaps my monthly challenges could instead be focused on the precepts instead of habits?! Although it might be more appropriate to contemplate the path during my morning meditations...

How deep is your doubt? 

Monday, February 3, 2014

January: success! February, let's get started!

You may recall that, inspired by Leo Babauta, Mike and I are doing "one habit changing practice each month", which started with no alcohol for the month of January. For complete honesty, we did not start this challenge until January 4th, however we completed the month PLUS some. 

So to round-up January before moving onto Feb's challenge, drinking no alcohol for the month has gone remarkably well! In fact, I still haven't had an alcoholic drink since I started this challenge.

There was only one day where I felt like having a 'drink' after work so I went and bought myself a bottle of ginger beer (non-alcoholic) as a treat, which was so lovely I didn't have the urge for alcohol after that. One of my friends also tried to push me into breaking the challenge because she wanted a drink and didn't want to drink alone (she did not prevail). 

I definitely think that the challenge went so well because we had mentally prepared ourselves and had been drinking less and less before January anyway. The obstacles I had foreseen were:
1. Friday afternoon drinks at work
2. Pressure from friends and family to drink during certain occasions

I prepared for Friday afternoons at work by putting a reminder in my calendar for each lunch time Friday; this reminded me to go and get something nice to drink for after works 'drinks'. That way I had something nice to look forward to drinking (such as coconut water, lemon lime and bitters) instead of just having water as my only option.

Friends and family were managed in a similar manner - the best way to prepare family and friends that you aren't drinking with them, is to give them advance notice and a reason. As expected, everyone I spoke to took this well (even my mum who was also forced to drink alone on Australia Day!) apart from the one friend mentioned above.

So what's our plan for February? Reading one hour per day. This one sounds easy but we have already missed the opportunity to do this both on February 1st and 2nd, so not the greatest start. However now it is Monday and we will start this habit afresh this evening. I'll let you know how we go!