Monthly Archives: August 2010

Cookin’ Up Kale

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kale day washed
I love greens — spinach, mustard, beet greens, and collard greens — but I’ve never cooked kale.  So when Monika uploaded a wonderful video at her blog, Sustainability City, on how to make a dish with kale and potatoes, I could not help but try it.   Monika asked me to let her know how it came out.    Well, here it is — with some variations.

First,  I did not have any russet baking potatoes.  I did have five small white rose potatoes.  So instead of making little boats out of the baked potatoes, as in the video, I boiled the potatoes and simply made the dish as a casserole.

While the potatoes were boiling, I carmelized the onions in bacon fat, another deviation from the recipe.  Don’t faint, anyone.  Yes, I know you must wondering why I would post a recipe on this “healthy living” blog that would have bacon in it.   My opinion is if we all followed the rule of “everything in moderation”, we’re can cook with food items as problematic as bacon.  Please note that I rendered the fat from ONE slice of bacon. I added the onion and cooked it over low heat until the onion was sweet and brown.  I added the chopped kale without the stems and the stout beer, per the recipe.

While the onions and kale were braising in the stout, I pre-heated the oven to about 400 degrees F, drained the potatoes, and mashed them with butter, a dollop of plain yogurt since I did not have buttermilk, pepper, a tiny bit of salt, and dry mustard.  I folded in the onion and kale mixture and then dumped it all into a greased glass casserole.  I sprinkled grated sharp cheddar on top of it and popped it into the oven for 20 minutes.

And here’s what came out — magic!

kale day en casserole

The kale was mild and the onions sweet.  The stout gave the whole dish a wonderful body and richness.  And the cheese was crusty and bubbly.  True comfort food.

Also, I had some of that stout left over so…. well, it was a perfect accompaniment.

kale day plated 2

Yumm-o!  Please check out the video and the link to the original recipe at Monika’s blog.

Lori G.

 

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Mind Body Class #7

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We are coming up on the end of our course with last night’s session being the seventh of eight.  All the past weeks’ material on correct thinking and breaking the tyranny of negative core beliefs came together for us in a discussion of compassion — compassion towards others and to ourselves.  

The facilitators instructed us that letting anger, resentment, and guilt have hold over us results in real and dangerous effects on the body:  muscle tension, headaches, high blood pressure and heart problems, to name a few.   The way to overcome these feelings is to apply compassion to others and to ourselves.  The facilitators defined compassion as “a way of thinking that allows for understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness in response to disappointing or upsetting situations.”

I would never have thought of compassion as a skill to be learned. 

Understanding, one component in compassionate thinking, is merely for one to be aware of why something may have happened the way it did.   For example, that person who snapped at you this morning may have done so because of something that has happened to him or her.  Having this insight may help take some of the sting out how that person’s behavior affected you.

The next component is acceptance.  This is the acknowledgement “of the facts of a situation without judgement.”   After becoming aware of the reasons why that person snapped at you this morning, you can reach a point of acceptance which results in your being able to move beyond the hurt that person caused you.  

The final and most important component of compassionate thinking is forgiveness.   Forgiveness is the continual release of all anger and resentment towards a person who has injured us in some way.  I use the word “continual” because forgiveness is a process that may need to be repeated.  

Forgiveness is also releasing any guilt or regret that you may have towards something you have done to yourself or others.   If you have hurt another, you may need to make amends to that person before you can release that guilt.

One thing to remember about the act of forgiveness is in forgiving someone, you are not condoning, nor forgetting, what that person has done.   When you forgive, you are doing it for yourself.   You are releasing the negative emotions so that those emotions have no more control over you.  You gain peace of mind and empowerment.

This last part resonated with me.   When someone hurts me, I feel like a victim and that I have lost some control over my life.  I have the perception that if I hold on to my anger and resentment, I have somehow maintained a bit of control over my life.   This is a misperception.  I am actually exercising real power and autonomy when I choose to let go.    This is true freedom.  

Someone made a statement last night that sums up the concept of forgiveness:  “Forgiveness is freeing ourselves from the past we should have had.”

Until next week…..

Lori

Mind Body Class #6

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Last night, we discussed how to be assertive.  Now I know what you’re thinking:  Assertiveness training is the last thing that I need.  But what I discovered is that my level of assertiveness varies according to the situation and the people involved.   It also helps to know what assertiveness is and what it is not.

Let’s define the terms.

  • To be passive, one tries to pacify others and avoid conflict.  This person is often treated as a door-mat by aggressive individuals.
  • An aggressive person directly communicates in a one-sided manner with the aim to win the situation no matter the cost.   The aggressive person typically won’t compromise, and the feelings of the other person do not matter.
  • The passive-aggressive person is indirect and attempts to manipulate, deceive, and often sabotages others to get what she or he wants.   
  • An assertive person is direct, honest, respects others by listening and attempting to resolve a problem to the satisfaction of both parties.  The positive benefits of being assertive is that one develops healthy self-esteem, can handle difficult situations and learns to connect and form new relationships with other.

We spent the rest of the class working on ways to be properly assertive.  One technique we explored was the use of the “I” statement.    This technique helps the individual clarify a situation by describing it in objective terms,  identify the emotions brought up by the situation, the reason for those feelings,  and how to articulate the needs and desires that will resolve the situation in a positive way.  We were instructed to try this technique during the coming week.

Our final activity was to engage in a role play with another person in the class.  I was given a card that instructed me not to give in to the request of the other person no matter what she said.   The other person was given a card that instructed her to make a specific request and to be persistent on the matter and not take no for an answer.  I did very well,  according to the facilitator, in standing my ground, yet still being kind and compassionate to the person making the request; however, when we reversed the roles, I found myself using guilt and manipulation to try to get the person to do what I wanted.  That was an eye-opener for me.  I never saw myself as the passive-aggressive type.  

As I explained to the group in our discussion, I couldn’t classify myself into one distinct style of communicating.  In some situations and with certain people, I may be properly assertive and in other cases and with different people, I may interact in one of the other manners.  This is not good because I realize that in the cases where I am being passive or passive-aggressive I will eventually get fed up and over-react in an aggressive manner.  This is typically with those people in my life who are themselves aggressive and walk all over me.

Not only did I learn about my own ways of communicating, I also learned how to recognize these modes of communication in other people.    Already today I noticed that an individual was trying to maneuver me into doing something for her without her having to ask me directly. Very passive-aggressive.   I will be on the lookout for more of this manipulation in the future.  

I have much to explore and think about in terms of my own communication style and need more practice at being properly assertive in all situations and with all people.

Mind Body Class #5

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lotus pond 2Last night’s class rocked!  I walked away feeling like there is nothing that I could not handle, no problem that I cannot resolve, no emotional turmoil that I could not banish away with a single thought.  No, I’m not yet able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  But I’m getting there.

We talked about Core Beliefs and Positive Affirmations.

Now, I’ve heard of these both before:  core beliefs are all those horrible things we believe about ourselves like “I’m backwards,  I’m worthless, I will never do anything worthwhile in my whole life ever.”  And then there are the positive affirmations we say to reverse these core beliefs:   “I’m smart, I’m valued, I do amazing things that will leave my mark on society.”

Like I said, I am not unfamiliar with the concept of positive affirmations.  Sometimes when I encounter a somewhat stressful situation in the company of others, I’ll try to break the tension by mimicking the classic meditation pose — pinching my fingers together and closing my eyes — and saying “I am calm, I am serene, breeeeathe!”

However, when the class facilitator started explaining how affirmations actual reroute and create new neural pathways in our brains and bring about new ways of thinking, desired behaviors, and physical conditions in the body,   I put aside my preconceived notions and really listened.

Affirmations are short, articulated in the present tense, and stated only in positive terms.

We did a couple of exercises and I developed a short list of affirmations off the cuff.  They are:  “I am totally healthy.  I embrace only positive thoughts.  I like all people.  My attitude is optimistic.  I sleep soundly through the night.”

Our homework was to expand that list and start writing them down and placing them in our environment and to frequently speak them aloud to myself.     Today I pored over some books from my personal library that I knew had some affirmations and added some more to my list:  “I am strong, I am centered, I achieve my goals.  Joy rises up in me.  There is a a divine plan of goodness for me.  I am willing to let God create through me.”

So, the next time you see me sitting there in a meditation pose and muttering to myself, I might not be joking around.

Text and image:  Lori G. (c) 2010

Mind Body Class #4

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Here is a quick summary of this week’s Mind/Body class.

We continued our discussion of thought errors, but before we got to that, one of the facilitators led us on a guided imagery meditation where we visualized a safe place to go to when we are feeling insecure.  I envisioned my safe place as a room filled with books and with a big comfortable chair.  It had a window to a garden and plenty of sunlight flooding into the room.

When we came out of the meditation, we discussed our goals we set for ourselves last week and whether we had achieved them.  I am pleased that I not only reached my goal of three 30-minute power walks this week, but I exceeded that by doing an hour and a half working in the garden on one day and several yoga sessions at home.  Furthermore, I did a meditation each day this past week with some of them reaching 30 minutes.   The point that the facilitator stressed was that we need to pick small goals that we can reach and perhaps exceed.  And I did!  Woo-hoo.

The facilitator led us on another short meditation.  We were asked to close our eyes and mentally scan our bodies in order to pinpoint any places where we had pain, discomfort, or tension.  I felt some tension in my shoulders and upper back.  Then the facilitator instructed us to ask these body parts the following questions:  Why are you here? What can I learn from you? When are you going away? and How can we live together more peacefully? Then we were asked to write down the answers that came to mind when we asked ourselves those questions.  Here is what my shoulders and back said to me:

You need to listen to us when we speak.  We’re trying to tell you to relax and let go.  We won’t go away and stop bothering you until you do.

The point of this exercise was to demonstrate that our bodies do react when we fall into erroneous thinking patterns and that we can learn from those physical reactions to determine what we can do to change.

We finally got to our discussion of thought errors which we had started last week.   The facilitator instructed us on how to use a “thought journal” to analyze and correct thought errors.  Basically, the thought journal helps one break down a stressful situation into emotional, mental and physical reactions with the result of developing a plan to overcome those reactions.   Here are the components of a journal entry:

1)  Situation and Trigger:  What triggered this?
2)  Emotions:  How did this situation nmake you feel?
3)  Physical Symptoms:  How did your body feel in this situation?
4)  Thought Errors:  What di you say to yourslef in this moment?
5)  Behaviors:  What did you do during or after this situation?
6)  Looking Back:  What evidence supports these thoughts?  What is the evidence that these thoughts may be true?  Are these thoughts helping or hurting you?
7)  Healthier Thoughts:  Healthier thoughts are true, helpful, and compassionate.  What are your healthier thoughts (for this situation)?
8)  New Plan:  What could you do differently to feel better?

The facilitator asked the group if anyone had a situation to share to which we could apply this analysis.  A woman shared a situation which was causing her to feel hopeless and helpless to change the situation.  She analyzed this situation by asking these questions and she was able to realize that she WOULD eventually overcome the problem.  Nothing we discussed changed her situation, but it did change her thinking about it and thus her adverse emotional and physical reactions.   It was pretty amazing.   The facilitator encouraged us to develop our own Thought Journal and start working in it this week.

We ended the evening with a quick overview of a mini-relaxtion called Conscious Choice which is basically taking a situation that is causing erroneous thinking and applying these steps:  Stop (an erroneous thought), Breathe (to interrupt the stress symptom cycle), Reflect (on the nature of the  erroneous thinking) and Choose (an action to deal with the stress).  We ran out of time so we really couldn’t examine this technique too closely.  We will do so next week.

All-in-all, a good meeting and I learned some useful techniques.  My goal this week is to continue with developing my discipline of walking and meditating.  I have started a Wellness journal which will include a place for recording what I eat and a place for my thought journal.

Thanks for stopping by.

Lori G.