Well, hello again! Sorry I was gone for so long. A few things happened in my absence…for one it’s FALL! I went on a wonderful retreat that renewed my love of a warm & nourishing breakfast. Usually I am a smoothie girl, but lately the soothing comfort of a warm bowl of seasonal oatmeal really calls to me…
I really need to slow down & take care before I burn myself out. Between jobs, classes, trainings, travels & day-to-day life, well, I’ve been spread thin, very tired, often overwhelmed & a bit uninspired. But, I have two weeks off from my school job & am trying to take this time to rest & relax, as well as catch up on many things that need attention. It seems I’ve been moving at warp speed for months just to trying to keep up with the pace of activities in my life. Of course, it’s mostly my own doing, with everything I’ve been adding to my already full plate. What happens when we are busy bees? Time blows on by… And just like that “Fall” has arrived? As I discussed with the lovely people in the yoga class I guided yesterday, that is why it is so important to try to stay anchored in the present. Time really does move so quickly, & when we are distracted or preoccupied, so much joy & beauty can be missed. I really had a dose of that reality this past weekend. I was “off the grid” & immersed in the “Mastery of Joy” retreat at the Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center with my Deep Yoga Teachers & the incredible singer/songwriter Steve Gold. You can watch a video of our weekend here.
And when I said “off the grid” I really meant it. About 20 miles outside the monastery I completely lost my cellular service. Oh boy. Close to 72 hours with no cell phone service sounded unbearable at first, but ended up being the biggest blessing. I recently recieved an article from a friend about our generation being the last to grow up without “technology.” For the first time in years, I remembered what it was like to sit around a dining table with no one taking pictures of their food & being more engaged with their devices than the people seated across from them. I realized how much time I spend being distracted, preoccupied, or disengaged with actual people. Advancements in technology have given us amazing resources & ways of “connecting,” yet we are becoming more disconnected than ever. I found it so refreshing to NOT be able to check my email, facebook, or instagram every 5 seconds. In fact, for most of the retreat my phone was powered down, & tucked away in my luggage. But even without the phone in hand…I found it so hard to truly reconnect, & disengage from the “chitta vritti” of the active mind. I took a hike up the mountain with a lovely yogi who noticed everything – from wood shaped like a dragon to a cricket camouflaged in the dirt. I realized, that even without the modern day distractions, I am either still quite pre-occupied by the chatter in my own head, or totally checked out from my surroundings. I guess that means I need to slow down, breathe, focus & deepen my meditation, spend more time in nature, practice the art of simply being, & be more mindful of the time I spend on my phone.
A year or two ago, the mountains that surround the center were ravaged by wildfires. Fortunately the monastery survived with minimal damage, but the surrounding acres were burned pretty badly. Yet, amongst the burned & brittle trees, signs of new growth & life was desperately emerging. All life begins again. I was reminded that no matter how much damage we endure, with courage, strength, & optimism we can start over, rebuild, & renew. My teacher, Bhava, sent this in an email recently & it resonated deeply…
“Our capacity to destroy ourselves and one another, is eclipsed by our capacity to heal ourselves & one another. Breath, move, touch…”
It was a really beautiful weekend, filled with connection, yoga, music & meditation. Each morning the gong rang at 6 am, beckoning us up & over to the zendo for Gayatri Mantra chanting & meditation. Followed by yoga with Laura Plumb & live music from Steve. Communal breakfast was prepared & served by the monks. We ate together, in silence, amongst the trees. Breakfast was homemade oatmeal with apples, amaranth, fruit & yogurt. There was always a large bowl of peanut butter near by. I’d make up my bowl of oats & fruits & top it with a big dollop of the nut butter, & give it a loving swirl. Oh my. It was delicious, nourishing, & the perfect fuel for the activities of the day ahead.
Since returning home, I’ve been craving oatmeal. It is a very “healing & grounding” dish for me & I need a lot of that these days. I’ve been making a simple version with cooked apples & blueberries, but it was time to get inspired & change it up. It’s a pumpkin palooza everywhere I look – from blogs, to the markets, & door steps in my neighborhood – & I don’t mind playing along!I had some leftover pumpkin puree & decided to add it to my morning oatmeal along with seasonal spices, walnuts, chopped apples & a dried berry blend.
In reminiscence of our wonderful love infused breakfast from last last weekend, I added a dollop of something really special & even better than peanut butter. Chocolate Sesame Butter. Yes, you heard me correctly. I’ll show you, it’s glorious!
A few months ago, the kind folks at Soom Foods reached out & asked if I would like to try their chocolate tahini butter. Would I ever! They sent me a generous jar that I secretly stashed away, waiting for the right moment to open it. Over the summer I’d planned to make a chocolate banana soft serve, but that didn’t happen. I suppose it still could! To be honest, I’ve been afraid to open it because I knew it would be amazing & I would find every excuse to dip a spoon in the jar & eat the whole thing in a matter of days. So I’ve been saving it. But as I was about to dive in to my breakfast I realized it was missing something! So I opened the jar & this happened…
Oh my heavens. This rich & chocolatey addition to my pumpkin spice oatmeal was out of this world. I am in trouble now, but at least I am not eating it straight off the spoon. YET. Of course, the nut butter is optional, but highly encouraged, especially if you can get your hands on the chocolate stuff! On it’s own the oatmeal is rich & creamy, with a hint of pumpkin & warming spices. Oh, fall, I am so ready for you…
- 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup almond milk, preferably homemade
- 3 Tbsp pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ginger
- dash of clove
- pinch of pink sea salt
- 2 dates, pitted & chopped
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
- handful of chopped walnuts
- handful of golden raisins or dried berries
- ¼ apple, chopped
- Combine oats, water, pumpkin, milk & spices in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
- Once oats begin to boil, turn heat down low, add the chopped dates & stir.
- Let simmer for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until oats are cooked all the way through. Remove from heat & add vanilla & maple syrup.
- Top with more almond milk, dried fruits, nuts, apple & nut butter.
It is amazing on apples! And I am already imagining a snack of this schmeared on toast & topped with bananas. I seem to lack discipline when tasty treats are around.
It’s going to take quite a bit of self control to keep myself from polishing off this entire jar. Maybe I’ll make cookies….oooohhhh….chocolate tahini butter cookies….now that’s an idea! Stay tuned!
Oh & I wanted to share one more magical nugget from last weekend. During our afternoon program on the last day of the retreat our teachers had us develop something to add to our yoga “tool kit,” a spiritual version of STOP, DROP & ROLL. If you watch the video linked above, you’ll see some clips of the unveiling of our idea. I was in a group with my dear friend Tommy & a sweet woman & together we came up with PBS ~ “PAUSE.BREATHE.SURRENDER” ~ we even have some moves to go with it! I encourage you to use it, ’cause it works. I had a very difficult time for the first day or two reintegrating into the hustle & bustle. Within 12 hours of being home I was out the door bright & early for my brother’s wedding. There were a lot of different energies swirling around & the only way I made it through the day was to pause, breathe, surrender. Instant calm.
So…fuel yourself with some delicious oatmeal, take a moment to breathe, find opportunities in your day to detach from your device & reconnect with the world around you. And if you’re in a pickle ~ PBS!!!
How will you nourish yourself this fall?