Monday, February 8, 2016

On Quiet

My dearly beloved friend, Betsy, no longer in the physical world, understood quiet and silence. Many were drawn to her because she seemed so at peace with quiet. Last month she came to me in a dream. She told me to be quiet.

I have trouble with quiet. Even when I am not speaking, my mind is chattering away. Early on, I learned that I could direct my scattered mind by talking to myself. If I managed and directed the inner-dialogue, as if in an interview, I could steer my mind away from the stories I didn’t like –the stories that made me feel sad, or angry, or worried, or incomplete. I got very good at this tactic, believing I was managing my monkey mind.

Lately, I’ve been rethinking the whole thing. Why not stop and allow my thoughts to actually go to the worrisome places. This terrifies me. But what will I do with the thoughts once they appear? Perhaps they will require action, action I’m afraid of. Or more profoundly, if I stay with the thought I may get a glimpse of what it is like to simply sit with it and not feel propelled to fix it. Witness and release it like a fluffy cloud moving slowly and gracefully across the sky. If I can be present with the thought, see it for what it really is perhaps I can come to a peaceful acceptance that it is just another story.

Silence, Listening
the art of cultivating solitude

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”

Some suggested reading/viewing:

Explore these questions:

·       What distracts you from quiet/solitude?
·       Write about any or all of the following, silence, listening, & solitude. What is your relationship with the words and your understanding of them?
·       How do silence, listening, and solitude affect your relationship with your creative process?

Suggested activities:

Select one or more of these “quiet spaces” activities for the next month

·       If you always turn the radio or music on in your car – try at least one trip per day without any sound. Tune in to your environment and yourself.
·       If you often turn the TV on at night – try one evening without any screen time. What did you do?
·       Plan one 10-minute (minimum time) tune out time per day. Lie on your bed or on the floor, go for a walk, sit on a chair outdoors, No cellphones, no computers.
·       Go somewhere or stay home. LISTEN to your pet, someone else’s pet, your house sounds, REALLY listen…JUST LISTEN -- what do you hear?
·       Go to a piece of creative work and take some time to look. Just look, don’t respond. What do you see? Listen to what it is trying to tell you.
·       Try being quiet (no words) for one hour, one morning, afternoon or evening, or one whole day. How was it?
·      Try this activity with one or more of your friends or family members – we like to call it Solider of Love. Create a space for anyone in the group to call a one hour Soldier of Love. This means the person who called it can have the floor for one hour to share, rant , discuss, ask questions about anything that is troubling them. COMPLETE listening from the group –complete support.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Child's Play

Quinn's art journaling entry ( age 3)
Anytime you want to be reminded of absolute freedom, just invite a small child over. It is remarkable how playful and unconcerned with the logic of time they are.
Lately, I have been trying to tap into my granddaughter Quinn’s sense of time and her obsession with play. Prior to this, I found myself getting frustrated with her inability to focus on one thing for more than 5 minutes. I would ask her if she wanted to draw, and then 5 minutes after I got out all the materials she would want to do something else. Instead of me, the know it all adult, managing her time or directing her day; I began simply following her lead and directive. There’s a whole lot of wisdom in her time management and her expression of play. For her, play is serious business. When allowed to flow in and out of what interests her -- and this seems to change often -- she is learning invaluable lessons about herself and the worlds she inhabits.

When taking this wisdom into my own experience (sans child) I find that by moving through the day with a sense of playfulness and allowing my day to unfold based on what is truly interesting to me- ideas come more freely -- a sense of discovery comes from following your own intuition about what is needed in any daily task. Once I started following an inner directive, I learned that I do my best “work” when I allow myself relief time, break it up time, for me that usually means focusing on one thing for around 30 minutes to an hour then getting up to do something opposite of that activity. I find that when I go back to the previous task I have more clarity and a fresh look at it. Now, to some linear thinking folks, that looks like chaos, or procrastination, or undisciplined. But, it is how my body, mind,& spirit likes to roll. Truth is, I get just as much done as the next person. The key is to find your own rhythm, syntax, and play-work balance and trust it.

The rest is child’s play.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


I was in the kitchen, baking banana cupcakes and preparing food for a family meal. The thought, I have learned how to be happy in this world, floated above the usual static in my brain and perhaps because the computer was close by -- I posted it on Facebook. I was surprised at the reaction, several people wanted to know why and how.
I feel that turning 60 has been a turning point for me. Somehow the magic number 60 released me from some very old and worn out thoughts. Thoughts like – am I smart enough, thin enough and good enough don’t seem to have as tight a grasp on me anymore. I feel free(r) – free from the male gaze, free from my mother’s expectations, and finally free from my own judging mind. I realize this freedom has not come by easily. I’ve done a lot of homework to get this point.
So, here are my top 3 mantras in pursuit of personal freedom. The glorious result is being happy in this world no matter what it brings forth.

·      Show up. Pay Attention. Tell the Truth. Don’t worry about the outcome

·      Learning the art of loving what is. Not what you wish it to be.

·      Be a Loving Witness. Don’t try to fix it for others. LISTEN, LOVE , & SUPPORT. It’s not your job to fix it….really it isn’t. Release yourself from the burden of other people’s pain and suffering. That’s their job. Be a loving witness is all you have to do.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fondle & Release

The concept of letting go is slowly creeping into the every day vernacular of the 21st century. It is a natural response to the over stressed, over scheduled and consumer driven society we live in. If you aren’t familiar with the song Let It Go from the recent Disney film, Frozen, then you are definitely not a parent or grandparent of a youngster under the age of 12. What I love about the song, besides the fact that my adorable 3-year-old grandchild can belt out the tune verbatim, is that it is teaching a very important practice.

A more spiritual equivalent -- detachment, also expressed as non-attachment, is a state in which a person overcomes his or her attachment to desire for things, people or concepts of the world and thus attains a heightened perspective. Many world religions have doctrines that teach this idea of letting go, including Zen Buddhism, which speaks specifically to non-attachment of our thoughts. Certainly most world religions support the concept of detaching from worldly possessions and ideas.

While I am not about to become a monk and retreat from my life, I am interested in the idea of detachment. In the secular world, letting go is a concept that teaches us that holding on too tightly to anything can result in an inability to grow and change. Even holding on to physical objects can thwart our ability to leave space for something more relevant and useful. This past month I helped an old friend liquidate a storage unit “stuffed with stuff” from the Mesa, AZ home she had lived in for over 30 years. She had retired from teaching at ASU and had decided to move to Bali, Indonesia. It was certainly over due as she had been paying on this storage unit for over 10 years, mostly because every time she thought about what to do with it, she would crawl into the world of denial and write the check for yet another month. When she finally decided that the storage unit and all her beloved objects were not going to magically disappear or arrive at her doorstep she made a decision to let them go -- but not without a struggle. I witnessed the stages of grief as she begrudgingly let go of “her life in AZ” one agonizing step at a time.  For me it was a valuable lesson on how and why we hang on to things that no longer serve us –the physical and the metaphysical.

You may not think of letting go as being related to creativity or art but I assure you it is inexorably connected to artful living. Julie Burstein’s Ted Talk articulates many aspects of how letting go is essential to the creative process.

At the LA Art Book fair, this past weekend, my friend Kate said to me, “ fondle and release” as I lusted after a particularly beautiful book that I neither needed nor could afford.  This expression is my new mantra. I would put it on a t-shirt and wear it every day but it could get me in some trouble, if you know what I mean…

Monday, January 13, 2014

Happy New Year?


The New Year is not that new but I am usually slow to step up and acknowledge change. Who is still putting 2013 on their checks? Oh wait - maybe the real question is who is still writing checks in 2014?

But I digress. Really this post is about the New Year. So, I am going on record saying that I do not have any resolutions, list of goals, or self-improvement plans, because mostly they only serve to make me look back and feel bad about myself.

Last year I had this plan-announced on this very blog that I would try a new recipe each WEEK and report back on how it went.  All you have to do is scroll to 2013 and see there are three postings-that’s it. Where did the good intentions go? Why didn’t I or couldn’t I keep up with this goal I had set for myself? I can only answer with - life showed up and I went ahead and lived it.

I actually did make some pretty awesome new dishes in the New Year. When I saw something tasty at the farmer’s market or I had too much of something growing in my backyard I came up with recipes- some failed - others were brilliant. I enjoyed it with family and friends. I learned to bake this incredible bread in Italy (thank you, Teri) and wound up making it every morning for a gang of 16. I learned how to cook with cocoa nibs, coconut oil, and goat shanks. I bought four flats of tomatoes from McClendon Farms and learned how to can the most incredible roasted tomatoes. I even made homemade tomato juice. I also decided to start making my own muesli after paying 8 bucks for a small box of it at Whole Foods.
All undocumented (except for the bread image by Saskia Jorda who went to The ItalyWorkshop with us in 2013)

What I’m trying to get around to saying is life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. (John Lennon) I read this today-from a post on Brain Pickings (which is genius) and it really resonated with me.

To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening.

I’m signing off now-to have me a big slice of my life. Hope you are digging into your own fabulous guilt free life with gusto and joy.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Week # 2 Recipe Challenge- Olive Oil Cake

Admittedly, I am not a great baker. It seems I am incapable of looking at a recipe of any kind and sticking to it. I always want to change or add something which is a good thing (mostly) in cooking but not so much in baking.
I decided to follow this recipe from Chow and see what happens when you actually follow directions.
Well folks-guess what? I would change a few things. If you decide to make it I would add more zest maybe even twice as much and also add a teaspoon of almond extract. The taste from the Amaretto is not quite enough almond flavor for me.
That being said, we really enjoyed this dense, barely sweet, rustic cake with our afternoon coffee.

BTW-the preserved lemons are looking good, happily marinating in their salty sweet juice. A few more weeks and I think they will be ready to sample.....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Week # 1-Recipe Challenge-Preserved Lemons

It's the end of the citrus season and we have been feasting on tangelos, grapefruits, and lemons from our trees in the backyard for most of the winter. I've been so lucy-goosey with the lemons, not thinking about the inevitable days of summer when I will actually have to pay dearly for one average size lemon. So, in an attempt to relish the last remaining fruits, I decided to try preserving the lemons.
I first tried preserved lemons at North in a short ribs and gnocchi dish. "What is this fabulous lemony, salty/sweet goodness nestled amidst the meat and pasta? " I asked the waiter. He had no clue so he asked the chef and I was told it was a preserved lemon. I have since become somewhat educated on the use of the lemons, particularly in tangines, which is a cooking vessel and a dish that is best known as a meaty stew with vegetables. I read over numerous recipes online trying to gather enough information to just wing it. I decided on a version of Thomas Keller's recipe that uses not only salt but sugar.
So here's what I did.....

Preserved Lemons

Fresh unwaxed lemons
sea salt
turbindao sugar

Cut the lemons into thick slices ( or quarter) mix an equal amount of salt and sugar ( I started with 1/4 cup of each) and dip the slices into the mixture. Start layering the slices and as you layer push them down-this will release the juices. The container should be filled with the liquid. If it is not, you can add extra lemon juice. Mine was filled so I didn't have to. Let sit out for 3 days, turning the jar over once in a while. Then put in the fridge for several weeks. In colder climates. I guess you can leave them out in a pantry.

They need to cure so I'll get back to you on how they taste and fare in various dishes.