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

 

 

Graceful Yoga and Haute Vegan Cuisine

Yoga thought for the day: “I trust that if I do my yoga practice, I’m going to get stronger and more flexible. If I stay in alignment, if I don’t push, if I don’t force, then my body will organically open in time. I know that if I breathe deeply, I’ll oxygenate my body. It has an influence on my nervous system. These things are fixed and I know to be true.  But I also recognize that it’s a mystical practice, and you can use your body as an expression of your devotion. So the way that you place your hands, the ways that you step a foot forward or back, everything is done as an offering. I offer the movements to someone I love or to the healing of the planet. And so if I’m moving from a state of love and my heart is open to that connection between myself and another person or myself and the universe, it becomes an active form of prayer, of meditation, of grace.” – Seane Corn, “Yoga. Meditation in Action,” www.onbeing.org  with Krista Tippett (March 3, 2011).

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “grace” lately.  Not grace as it appears in the first four or so definitions listed in the dictionary, but grace as a spiritual and theological term. To me, grace is the ability to give with no expectation of reward and to receive without questioning our worthiness – and to do both with gratitude. Grace is the embodiment of the attitude that to give and to receive are essentially the same act. Grace is compassion freely given to all beings, regardless of conditions, with wisdom and equanimity. Grace is a deep sense of not just our connection to but our oneness with all beings and our environment.

While researching “grace” on the Internet, I came across what looks to be a very special yoga studio in North Kingstown, Rhode Island called Grace Yoga. This studio’s epigraph is “Be Receptive to the Grace of God,” and its website explicitly conveys its commitment to the teachings of yoga beyond the physical practice. A remarkable and lovely website:  http://www.graceyoga.org/home.html.

I also came across a magical and inspirational website dedicated to the exploration of grace as a healing power and the means to creating  “spiritual freedom.”  I have not finished exploring this rich site: http://www.artofgrace.org/index.html, but have already found much to reflect on, including this statement: “Grace is the experience of unconditional love when you are in harmony with yourself, with others and with the cosmos.”

Even as I’ve been thinking about “grace,” I’ve also been working at creating vegan recipes that would be suitable for a special occasion. Elegant dishes that would bring together meticulous preparation and careful presentation with refined and precise flavors that demand to be savored rather than devoured. Pictured here are my Roasted Vegetable Weave and Spanish Roasted Portobello Mushroom.

I plan to continue experimenting in the direction of elegant and delicious dishes, and to continue also to explore and abide in grace.

May all beings have enough to eat. Namaste.