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This morning I’m experimenting with a white bean & pear pancake, listening to Sunday Edition and simply soaking up home: the way the light trickles and dashes through windows and prisms creating pools of light where white, black and red dogs soak up their colors; the one wall we have yet to paint in the front room (which is famlivchen: family room, living room, kitchen, dining room) that has become familiar from neglect; the knitting that’s come undone in my box of rose petals; the dog snout on my lap, a gentle breakfast bell; my orange tennies beckoning a walk for the starving dogs, and the scent of pear sugar caramelizing as the “cakes” take form.
I started with one can of white beans & 2 whole pears, blended in a food processor. That tasted wonderful, sprinkled with nutmeg while on the griddle. But it wouldn’t bind and became mashed white beans when I tried to flip it (I already make mashed white beans with onions & roasted garlic for breakfast, and recommend them highly: lots of fibre and heft to start the day, but still light enough for brain brightness. Here, though, I’m hoping for a sweet, fruity pancake experience). So I tried just thinning it & going toward crepe… no go. The addition of half a banana & some baking powder (thank you vegan cooking site) made some progress toward unity: A bit more cakey, but no flippy. So another can of beans, the other half of the banana & 2/3 package Mori Nu silken tofu. Ahhhhh. This one would have flipped if I hadn’t covered the entire bottom of the 9 inch skillet. Lovely golden brown color, smooth and consistent enough to flip and serve!
I’m not sure why or how I get obsessed with creating yummy you’d never guess vegan goodies. I’m not vegan. I’m not even vegetarian. I still eat cow. I drink wine. I eat shrimp and crab and sometimes even cheese. True, not daily or even weekly, but I do eat eggs almost every day and fresh wild fish every week. Why do I not just crack an egg into this blissful pear & bean concoction, flip the cakes and call it a breakfast?
I’m fascinated by the chemistry of food, of how it goes together, how it puts us together, how it feeds and binds and loosens and extracts, and of how my moods and feelings of wellbeing are so intimately connected to it. I’m fascinated by vegan recipes, simultaneously convinced that I am lighter, healthier and freer when I eat this way, while equally persuaded by lightheadedness and animal craving that I’m best off when I occasionally eat meat. True, the lightheadedness doesn’t really start for a couple of weeks and the near criminal lust for blood and flesh doesn’t hit til near the third month. (That’s even combining foods, watching my nutrient balance, not relying on processed cheesey subs or even vegan burgers, but rather eating fruits & veg & nuts & legumes by the boatload… or so it seems to me.)
And so I am content with my little bit of this, little bit of that, tailor made for me, thank you very much diet. I may secretly hope and desire that my forays into vegan culinary miracles (they really are miraculous, you have to make these things to believe the yummy goodness) are a sign and a method of my gradual transformation into vegan lightness.
The smaller cakes are in process right now; I’ve also reduced the temp for slower cooking. Et voila! More crepe like now, I simply lifted with my fingertips the delicately curled, caramel hued edge and turned. At which time I realized that the dogs, who are used to being walked and fed by this time, were languishing and naughtyizing by turns in their upendedness. The second side took precisely the amount of time I used to feed three dogs, complete with fish oil caps (I have to bite the one for Oso open, or he won’t eat it) and kisses. The second batch proved that size really does matter – no more than ¼ cup on the griddle. And you really don’t even have to turn.
These were so yummy even Oso wanted seconds! For a dog who won’t eat his food with a gelcap full of stinky fish oil in it, unless you pop and drizzle the oil for him, that’s an endorsement.
So, having persisted so long, you may wonder, “What has any of this to do with yoga?” Just this: so often, too often, maybe every class and every day, we think we will be “real” yogis (growups, people, mommies and daddies, artists, writers…) when…. We compare ourselves, we improve ourselves, we grasp for the perfect expression of urdva baddha trikonasana (yes, I made that one up). What if all it’s really about, all it really takes is responding to the calls of the moment – the dogs naughtyizing, the light caressing, the cans of beans and the surfeit of pears. That’s all. Just respond to what is, and your response and reflection and desire and creativity will transform you like eddying currents of an oxbowed stream toward… yourself. No goal, no destiny, no fantasy – Only method in the moment, the highest form of experimentation: a jazz riff in the key of om.
OmCakes
1 can white canelli beans, rinsed nutmeg for sprinkling
1 pear
½ large banana
¾ t. baking powder
1/3 package of Mori Nu silken tofu
¼ – ½ cup of water: the batter should pour lightly

Whirl in food processor til smooth, nearly the consistency of loose pudding.

Warm griddle to medium, lightly dress with your favorite nonstick cooking treatment (grapeseed oil is my fave) and drop by the tablespoonful (no more than 2 at a time). Sprinkle with nutmeg as it begins to bubble and cook through. ~4 minutes, lift off and enjoy!

Write & tell me how you experiment and tweak, with this recipe or with your practice and how it makes you more self and less striving.

Intent. It changes everything.

But what is it? It’s not a thing, not something added on at the beginning or end. It’s an underpinning, a condition of the act being at all. Intent, or lack thereof, is constitutive.

Intention and Attention are related, but not identical.  Attention is the conscious presence that maintains the space for things & relationships to reveal themselves. In my view, this makes it sacred: it is an ontological, or constitutive, condition for other things, relations and conditions.

Intention is specific attention. Focused Attention. Focused attention, or the lack thereof, is how we create meaning and the lack thereof. There are many different levels on which to focus your attention, and it is characteristically Western to focus it on a thing or an event: a goal.

Often, I think, we think “goal” when a teacher asks us to “set an intention”. Open hamstrings, clear heart chakra, world peace, love in my life.

When we create intention at the beginning of yoga class, we are invoking sankalpa. The usual translation is merely “intention” or “resolve”, but we are really invoking a second order of intent: conscious intention, or intention about intention. What do we want to want?

I suggest we think of intention as a clear, quiet, neutral place to stand. Imagine a platform in the deep, deep forest. Like that from which a biologist might watch. But we are scientists of ourselves. We need a clear, quiet place from which to watch the thoughts frollick. Our sankalpa is an expression of why we practice,  a touchstone to which we can return when we get lost among our thoughts and desires.

But how to find our Sankalpa? How to set an appropriate intention? Well, think of what you’d like to have. Even an old fashioned goal or egocentric desire. Be really honest. Good. Now, what conditions have to be present for this gift to manifest? And what quality would you ascribe to these conditions? It’ll take a few moments to let the mist settle and see what emerges like an island from the surf.  But that quality, the quality of the conditions which enable the manifestation of your deepest desire, that’s a good candidate for your Sankalpa.

Now that’s an intention worth your attention.

I’ve been listening to Iyengar’s Light on Life, read by Patricia Walden (yes, I’m inseperable from my iPod). I’m not an Iyengar practitioner and have always been disturbed by the stories of striking students and denigration of the body. All third (or twenty-seventh) hand, mind you, but repetitive none-the-less. His dualistic perspective seems to me evident from Light on Yoga, and is not one towards which I gravitate.

But I was listening to Lara’s last YogaPeeps show (yay Lara! see my blogroll for a link…) Light on Life was one of the books highlighted at the end. And it was one of those turns of phrase that tells you, “hey, that’s something to check out.”

So here I am, listening to a book I’ve passed over many times before. And I am not only impressed, but awash in his wisdom. These are not, to my ear, the words of a body denigrating yogi. In fact, the bath of tears I find myslef taking when Walden reads his words about loving every cell of your body, putting love into every cell of your body, tells me the shoe may have been on the wrong foot.

I’ve been engaged in a practice aimed at dissolving obstacles recently. I began with exterior obstacles. I quit smoking. I’ve created healthier routines. I’m rearranging my work life to align with my creativity. All well and good. And then I became aware of some stirrings of internal obstacles, stirrings of bonds being shaken. Old bonds. Strong bonds. And then there was fear protecting those bonds. And I was able to dissolve some of that. All the while, mind you, I’m still not sure what the bonds hold, only that it’s part of me and that the binding is keeping it hidden. Also, this is taking weeks. Slow, wordless, sometimes dubious process.  I plod on.

And slowly I am aware of a subtle rumbling, an undercurrent of unhappiness. Not with this or that. In fact this and that all are well. Slowly I find it’s with myself. It’s a secret, long hidden but ever-active seemingly endless cavern of self loathing. That’s right. Self-loathing yoga teacher. if you want to put a label on it.

And actually this is where labels are helpful. Because when I’m teaching I feel the farthest thing from self loathing. I feel transparent and powerful and awed by my students’ power all at the same time. I feel beautiful.

But when I look at myself or find myself wearing the role of yoga teacher (as in “what does your wife do for a living? Oh, how interesting! kind of role) deep feelings emerge that don’t fit with my pictures. Unsettling feelings, feelings familiar from long ago, from things and times I thought I’d processed and released. The ugly little girl (not the truth, but my picture of myself). The chubby girl. The athletic girl (not used as a compliment). They’re all here with me once more.

And Iyengar’s wisdom in Walden’s voice is helping me to care for them, to love every cell of them. To enjoy all my steps, to realize my samskara, meet it with tapas, svadyaya, surrender and find samtosha. My bonds are little by little being released, and the prisoners are escaping. They didn’t need to be locked up. Only to be acknowledged and loved.