― Victor Hugo
― Victor Hugo
December is a month of stress for most of the people I talk to, and, let me guess, it might be for you too. In addition to the other end of year deadlines, add in frigid temperatures, and shoveling the driveway before you can go anywhere. Then there are the holidays, extra shopping, extra cooking, parties, gatherings and celebrations – all with lots of expectations. Throughout the month, do you catch yourself feeling tension in your stomach, and literally holding your breath while trying to get more done. Sound familiar?
Yes. And it is unacceptable. A little research and a few listens to helpful podcasts later, I have developed a strategy: “Pause. Breathe. Center. Ahh.” So simple, yet surprisingly effective!
Pause. Stop for a moment, just one solid moment.
Breathe. Take several deep, feed the bottom of your lungs, full breaths. Repeat until you feel that rush of calm, as oxygen feeds the deep recesses.
Center. Become aware of your whole body. First your breath, then become aware of your head, supported by your neck, then each of your shoulders, arms, finger tips. Move down through your diaphragm, legs, feet. Wiggle your toes in those boots.
Let out an Inner ‘Ahhhhhhh’.
Try this the next time you are tense or feel bombarded with activity. Let me know if it helps!
I had been searching the markets for a jar of Preserved Lemon, one of the ingredients in Moroccan Chicken Tagine. Unable to locate any, I remembered the Jerusalem Market, and ran in. I scanned the shelves quickly, couldn’t locate any, and was about to dash out. The proprietor, a gentleman in white with a big smile, asked what I was looking for. When I told him, he shook his head, and said it came from Egypt, and he hadn’t been able to get anything from Egypt in a couple of years because of the troubles there. “Are you using it for cooking?” He walked over to a shelf and took down a plastic container. “Dried, Preserved Lemons.” He popped off the top, and let me look and smell. Yes, they smelled like the juicy jar of preserved lemons that I used in this recipe. Their aroma was salty, sharp and tart. “I’ll try them.” Now I was interested in this shop.
“My shelves are really bare because of the end of Ramadan, I am so sorry. But I do have something I want to share with you.” He walked over to a display of fruit. Long elegant strands with tiny gold oblong fruit attached along its length, I had never seen anything like this before. “Have you ever had fresh dates? I only get them 3 weeks out of the year. Try one?” I agreed. He snapped one off and handed it to me. The flavor with the first bite was not special, but within moments, the sweet date flavor shone through, and it was wonderful!
This was turning out to be a wonderful little grocery store, tucked away behind a busy street. “I’ll take the lemons, and I want to look around for a moment.” Two kinds of lentils, some cumin and cardamom tea went into my basket. And I had to buy some of those special dates. As I went to the counter, the owner chatted some more. A woman working there, threw some candy into my bag. “You come in hungry, you leave full”, she said.
As I walked to my car, I felt a buoyancy that their friendly generosity imparted. Did I get what I came in for? Not exactly. But I got so much more.
I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. When on the road driving or waiting in airports, it’s hard to find fresh healthy food. Hungry and weary travelers are at the mercy of what’s available.
During one of my travels, I read the book, “Eating: A Memoir” by Jason Epstein. The author writes vividly about the experience of food. As a former book editor, he was lucky enough to work with some great chefs on cookbooks and notable writers in conversation over dinner. He also had a childhood full of interesting food. Epstein enjoys creating meals prepared with the dual purpose of nourishment and increasing the pleasures of life. Nourish to Flourish.
When you’re hungry and busy, sometimes you grab for whatever is available. When I set aside time for the Farmer’s Market, I’m inspired by the fresh produce. On those occasions, I spend an hour in the kitchen, happily creating a meal that provides complete contentment.
I think the difference is intention. We’re hungry, we reach for the nearest thing, for instant gratification, but the results are less satisfying. With different intention, the results nourish both our bodies and our spirits.
This story isn’t just about food, of course, but of being aware of our choices. Do we choose the easiest thing, even when it isn’t satisfying? Or do we choose that which increases the fullness of life, that makes life better, bigger, more satisfying. What is your hunger to nourishment ratio?
What is joy? For many of my clients, this is a difficult question. It is so long since they have had this experience, that it takes awhile to recall what might bring them joy. Are you working too hard? Engaged in some kind of struggle; financial, emotional, relationships? Stuck in decision making or general overwhelm? Have you forgotten to include JOY on your to-do list?
When we find time for something that engages our senses and our heart, the experience miraculously restores our well being and gifts us with the energy to do the more difficult work. What if you included “joy” on your to do list?
What brings you joy? I would love to hear………….
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