Lemon Speak


lemons 002What’s your first thought when you see these lemons? It’s interesting that we recognize these objects as lemons even though they don’t accord with our normal expectation that a lemon be oval. Our initial reaction might be to call them “deformed” or “misshapen.” But these words have a negative connotation implying that something is ugly. And are these lemons really ugly? There’s nothing complicated about the meaning of “ugly.” It means unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance. But did you know that “ugly” has its origins in Old Norse uggr, meaning fear or dread. If you’ve ever been frightened, perhaps as a child, by a witch or a monster, this word derivation makes sense to you. But you’ve probably all also heard the expression, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and are likely to agree that judging something beautiful or ugly in many instances can be quite a subjective matter. Did you know that this expression was first used by 19th century Irish novelist Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 novel Molly Bawn? I didn’t, and it doesn’t matter – the expression has taken on an existence of its own, independent of its original context. So that we use it regularly especially to express mock surprise in someone’s questionable (in our opinion) personal taste.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reminds me of several other similar expressions, lemons 008which have taken on a life of their own. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” says Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven,” says Satan to Beelzebub in Milton’s Paradise Lost. All three of these quotations point to the immense power of our thoughts to create, or at least shape, our world. And, quite naturally, and too often unconsciously, our words and actions follow our thoughts, and thus we affect the world, people, animals, plants, rocks, waters and all else around us.

Getting back to our lemons, most of us are familiar with the use of the word lemon to describe a product that is not well made or that doesn’t work the way it should. And we probably also know the expression “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” which encourages an optimistic attitude in turning something negative into something positive – sour lemons into sweet lemonade.

So these lemons, and the thoughts, images, and other mental and emotional stuff they trigger, remind us that how we see things, react to them and think and talk about them are all highly influenced by our tidbits of knowledge, prejudices, and assumptions, our likes and dislikes, all of which are themselves the products of cultural, societal, familial and individual cues, contexts, and pressures. They also remind us of the power we wield with our thoughts, words and actions. We can choose to think, speak and act skillfully, i.e., in a way that is at the very least not harmful and at the very best helpful. Or we can choose to think, speak and act unskillfully, which would be deliberately to cause harm. We can also think, speak and act unconsciously, without paying attention, without forming conscious intentions, without noticing our interdependence with all beings and with all that is.lemons 011

Our differently shaped lemons suggest, too, that just because something doesn’t meet our immediate expectations doesn’t mean it’s “bad” or “worthless.” “Don’t judge a book by its cover” right? It turns out that these wondrously sculpted lemons are the way they are because citrus bud mites entered the flower buds and sucked out the sap. This causes the ovary of the flower to be misshapen causing the fruit to look different.  Apparently, the citrus bud mites don’t affect the lemon juice.

It’s possible that some of us sometimes look at ourselves and see physical, emotional, moral or spiritual deformations. Next time you catch yourself doing this, pause, breathe and remember the lemons that were not oval. Set an intention to react skillfully. Accept yourself exactly the way you are – your weaknesses as well as your strengths, the things you like about yourself as well as the things you don’t. In other words, “the good, the bad, and the ugly” – another well-worn expression taken from the 1966 Italian Spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. And then and only then, figure out where to go from there, allowing yourself to be guided by as much kindness, compassion and wisdom as you can muster. Just see if you can approach every moment with kindness, compassion and wisdom. What would it mean to live every moment with kindness, compassion and wisdom? It would mean you live in a world of kindness, compassion and wisdom.

Candied Lemon and Orange Slices candied  lemon & orange slices 2





lemon coconut cake 009Coconut Lemon Cake

Yoga, Sacher Torte and Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

The_Thinker,_Auguste_RodinYoga thought for the day: Tapas, variously translated as “self-discipline,” “effort,” or “internal fire,” is one of the five niyamas (internal disciplines) explored by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras.  “Tapas is the willingness to do the work, which means developing discipline, enthusiasm, and a burning desire to learn. You can apply tapas to anything you want to see happen in your life: playing an instrument, changing your diet, cultivating an attitude of loving kindness, contentment, or nonjudgment. In yoga, it’s often seen as a commitment to the practice. You figure out what you can do, and do it every day. If it’s only ten minutes, fine – but make that time sacrosanct.” Charlotte Bell, Iyengar Yoga teacher, Buddhist meditation practitioner, and author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life

Tapas connects you to your own will and determination directed toward healthful or skillful ways of being, speaking, thinking, and acting. Clearly it takes discipline, effort and practice to excel at algebra or improve your serve in tennis, but these qualities also are required as we work to become ever more kind, patient, compassionate, generous to all beings at every moment of our lives. I have found that for me, it’s only by truly putting my best foot forward over and over again that I feel and observe myself making progress toward reaching my fullest potential as a spiritual being having a human experience. “I tell you today and I’ll tell you tomorrow and I’ll tell you every day: you have only one friend – you and your discipline, which will give you all that you need.” – Yogi Bhajan, spiritual leader and Master of Kundalini Yoga who introduced Kundalini Yoga to the West and inspired thousands of people to live in their excellence.

sacher torte 008So whether I am trying for the first time to make a vegan Sacher Torte (Austria’s signature dessert) for a new friend, a New Yorker originally from Austria, or practicing again and again to enter into eka pada koundinyasana I, effort and discipline fueled by breath help to make the experience a joyous and satisfying one.

My photography skills could use some work, but this cake was super delicious. The cashew cream that accompanied the cake is easy to make and absolutely scrumptious. Although I made some changes to ingredients and amounts, this cake is based largely on a recipe I found at http://theberkshirevegan.blogspot.com/2012/05/vegan-sacher-torte_16.html  Yukiko’s photos will make your mouth water!Yoga Poses sculptures by Bob Clyatt



Yoga and Veganism

Join me for my workshop on Yoga and Veganism: Twin Paths to Self-Knowledge, Happiness and Liberation Saturday, August 10th, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Yoga Jai Ma (www.yogajaima.com) in Rancho Bernardo.

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” – Eckart Tolle

In this workshop we will:

  • learn more about the practice and philosophy of yoga
  • learn more about the practice and philosophy of veganism
  • explore the connection between yoga and veganism
  • gain practical information about becoming vegan, being vegan, or incorporating more vegan alternatives into our diet
  • work through a variety of vegan recipes and learn how to transform our nonvegan recipes into vegan recipes

The workshop will begin with a short yoga practice and group meditation to boost our openness and compassion (45 minutes).  Please bring your yoga mat, a writing instrument, and water, and eat a light lunch at least 1.5 hours before the workshop. Recipe handouts, paper to write on, and a list of books, web links and web resources will be provided, along with samples of vegan sauces, chutneys and cookies.

“Within us lives the most calm, serene lake of wisdom, the most beautiful, powerful pond of kindness, compassion and clarity. Let us understand and let us dive into it within ourselves.” – Yogi Bhajan



Here For The Sake Of Others

cake 002I may not have posted for awhile, but I have been busy teaching and practicing yoga, reading, and, of course, cooking and baking! Including this six-inch, double-layer chocolate cake with chocolate glaze and strawberries both between layers and on top. Vegan, organic, as nutritious as a chocolate cake can be, and super delicious!

I am working on my next post. I want it to be worth your time and effort. In the meantime, consider this lovely quote from Albert Einstein, physicist, pacifist, and humanitarian: “Strange is our situation here on earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of others.”

Have your cake and eat it too! Sat nam. Namaste.

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Going Inward

sauces 011Yoga Thought for the Day: “Become the witness of the inner landscape of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, refining your powers of awareness as the noise and distraction of the outer world come into stillness. Allow the third eye to serve as the eyes and ears of the inner world. Continue to hold the pose, attuning ever more deeply inward, finally discovering a place of absolute stillness, the essence of the true Self.” – Joseph Le Page and Lilian Le Page, Yoga Teachers’ Toolbox (Yoga Integrative Therapy, 2005)

Joseph and Lilian Le Page provide this vital and thoughtful guidance in their presentation of Rabbit Pose, or Shashangasana, but it seems to me we could – with  much benefit – apply these instructions for tuning inward to most of our poses.  For me, yoga is most essentially a profound quest for self-knowledge, a spiritual journey of self-discovery.  As we cultivate strength, flexibility, and balance in our physical body by practicing our asana (physical poses) with commitment, discipline, love, and nonjudgment, so do these qualities of strength, flexibility, and balance begin to manifest in our mental, emotional and spiritual selves, as well. We discover that yoga is not just about asana, it is about what stays with us after our asana – a growing sense of tolerance, patience, kindness, compassion, and ultimately grace.

When we feel good physically, our over-all sense of well-being increases. A healthy sauces 019diet contributes, of course, to our wellness. Over the holidays I added two new chutneys to my repertoire – blueberry mango chutney and peach and pepper chutney – and perfected my jalapeno cream sauce. My mother served my jalapeno cream sauce and cranberry tomato pistachio chutney on Christmas Eve with her signature wild rice casserole, which she has made for many guests over the years, to rave reviews and everyone’s gustatory pleasure.sauces 015

The jalapeno cream sauce is also delicious over pasta, enchiladas, rice, quinoa, couscous, or even as a topping for a sandwich. A good sauce, like a good chutney, enhances so many of our favorite dishes and adds a healthy dose of vitamins and nutrients, too!

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