Manifest Infinity

July 25, 2014

“Stop acting so small.  You are the Universe in ecstatic motion.
~ Rumi

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I teach a morning yoga class at a lovely swim club in the nearby foothills.  Every week I like to introduce the students to a new mudra.  Mudras are what I like to call “hand yoga”.  They are gestures of the hands, often used as a part of yogic meditation, that symbolize and encourage various mental, spiritual and energetic states and are said to help manifest these states into physical reality.

The verb manifest, defined as “to make evident”, probably originated as a combination of manus, the Latin for “hand”, combined with festus, for “struck”.  So, striking a pose with your hand, as in forming the gesture of a mudra, is the physical expression of the etymological roots of a word that describes bringing an idea into being.

This week I demonstrated the Kubera mudra, which symbolizes the manifestation of abundance.  Google “Kubera mudra” and you will see that most people use this gesture to attain wealth or other personal desires.  However, I believe this mudra is most effectively and beneficially used to acknowledge the seemingly limitless abundance already present in our lives.

I like to form the Kubera Mudra by holding one hand with the fingers pointing up and one with the fingers aiming downward, to symbolize both giving and receiving abundance.  We must be willing to both give and receive in order to make ourselves a conduit of the ecstatic plenty that is the Universe.

Abundance is all around us.  According to a 2011 study published in the journal PLOS Biology, Earth is home to 8.7 million species of plants, animals and fungi.  Of those 8.7 million, 86% of the earthbound species and 91% of those living in the ocean have yet to be classified.  In addition, there are even more species of bacteria and archaea, possibly 5 x 10 to the 30th power.  To give you an idea of how big that number is, imagine a stack of pennies a trillion light years high.

And that is just the forms of life found on our own planet.

According to astronomers, our Milky Way galaxy alone contains up to 400 billion stars and 8.8 billion habitable, Earth-sized planets.  There are probably more than 170 billion galaxies in the observable Universe.  Multiply the number of stars in our galaxy by the number of galaxies in the Universe and you get one septillion stars.  That is a 1 followed by 24 zeros.  And that does not include the part of the Universe we cannot see.

Abundance is also within us.  A 2013 study estimates that our bodies each contain about 37.2 trillion human cells.  In addition, each of us is home to trillions more microbial cells.

So, both within you and around you are seemingly infinite expressions of life.

Meditate on this endless bounty the next time you feel a sense of limitation.

~~~~~~~~~

Exotic flavors bring an abundance of deliciousness to Tandoori-spiced Chicken Burgers with Turmeric-Ginger Slaw.

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Tandoori-spiced Chicken Burgers with Turmeric Ginger Slaw
Fresh turmeric is my new fave spice.  Look for it in your produce section.

1 lb ground organic free-range chicken
7-8 saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon of water
2 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 clove of fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
Seeds from one cardamom pod, smashed
1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Turmeric Ginger Slaw (recipe follows)

Warm naan bread

 

Combine ingredients (including saffron water) in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes.  Form into patties and fry in a bit of oil over medium-high heat or cook on an outdoor grill until cooked through.  Alternatively, you can skip forming the meat into patties and cook the chicken in a pan as you would for taco meat.

Serve over warm naan bread and top with Turmeric Ginger Slaw (recipe follows).

Serves 3 to 4

 

Turmeric Ginger Slaw
This spicy and refreshing slaw is yummy all by itself.

Two 2-inch pieces of fresh ginger
Two 2 & 1/2 -inch pieces of fresh turmeric
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 green onions, trimmed and chopped
2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons organic sugar
1/4 cups chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper to taste

Peel and slice ginger and turmeric into very thin matchstick-sized slices.  Combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Mix well and serve.  You can also serve this salad chilled, as a side.

Serves 4

Begin with Me

July 17, 2014

“Make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light…”
~From the Prayer of St. Francis

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In the 1987 movie, Roxanne, the lead character is taking an evening walk and stops to buy the newspaper.  He takes one look at the news of the day, screams in horror and then deposits another coin in order to put the newspaper he has just purchased back inside the vending machine.

There are some days when the news makes one want to hide away from the world like a religious hermit, contemplating nothing but his own navel.

With all of the good there is in the world, with all the compassion that can be found within the human heart, with all of the progress that continues to be made toward human rights and healing, there are some days when events threaten to overwhelm us with anger or sadness or hopelessness.

Unlike the hermit, who prefers solitude over pain and experience, some choose to dive head first into conflict with weapons or with words.  It can be tempting, when the loudest voices are preaching anger and hate, sometimes understandably, sometimes unjustifiably, to lash out in response or defense.  But hate cannot be vanquished with further hate and anger added to anger produces only more anger.

Adding your voice to an argument merely increases the volume, and running away from the world does nothing to help those left behind.  Are these the only choices for one who wishes, at the risk of sounding cliché, to “change the world”?

The definition of the word neutralize is given by the Oxford English Dictionary as:
“To render something ineffective or harmless by applying an opposite force or effect.”

As difficult as it can be some days to answer hate with love, anger with compassion, despair with hope and darkness with light, as tough as it is to focus on solutions in the midst of strife, to do so is the only way to heal our own hearts and, in doing so, begin to heal the heart of the world.

Let it begin with you.  Make yourself an instrument of peace.

~~~~~~~~~

Transform powdered green tea into something sweet with Matcha Latte Ice Cream.

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Matcha Latte Ice Cream
A tablespoon of matcha green tea powder added to a basic ice cream recipe turns fine green tea into a sweet summer treat.

1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder
2 cups cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat milk in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat.  Do not boil.

Whisk together sugar and eggs in a medium-sized heatproof bowl.  Slowly pour the hot milk into the bowl with the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly as you pour, until all the milk is poured and mixture is combined.

Return mixture to pan and heat slowly, over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens (consistency will be like runny pudding).  Do not boil.  Let cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk matcha powder into cream until completely blended.  Add matcha cream and vanilla to cooled custard mixture and stir to combine well.

Chill in refrigerator overnight.

Process in an ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes about one quart.

Philosophia Ritornata

July 9, 2014

“The effort of art is to keep what is interesting in existence, to recreate it in the eternal.”
~  George Santayana

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Welcome to the first post on the new home for The Philosopher’s Spoon Blog!

If you have been following the blog recently, you know that a few weeks ago I discovered that the hosting service I had been using since the start of The Philosopher’s Spoon Blog in 2010 would soon be discontinued.  I had to quickly find a new host and rebuild the blog at its new home.  I know the appearance of the blog is slightly different and will take some getting used to, but I think this new look is a good reminder that, although change can be uncomfortable at times, it can also be inspirational.  The road-blocks life puts in our way often guide us down a path not traveled, offering us new perspectives, opportunities and ideas.  And, on that note…

If something old is no longer working, don’t discard it, make something new out of it!

When Compact Disc (CD) audio recordings came on the scene in the 80s, they quickly took over as the format of choice for the music industry and most of the listening public.  The die-hard fans of vinyl were reduced to record collectors, club DJs and turntable artists.  “Vinyl is dead” proclaimed the media and the public proceeded to repurchase their entire record collections on CD.

Skip ahead to today.  Digital downloads, like those offered by iTunes, have taken over as the format of choice.  CDs have been declared “dead”, as more and more music listeners are streaming and downloading music to their smartphones and computers.

Enter London musician Alexander Kolkowski.  In a beautiful example of karmic irony, he is re-engineering old CDs so that they play like 45 rpm vinyl records.  Using a modified version of  a 1950s home recording device called the Wilcox-Gay Recordette, Kolkowski cuts grooves into the CD’s surface, making it playable on a turntable.  By connecting an input device to the Recordette, such as a microphone, Kolkowski can record any sound or voice onto the CD.

The recording process works via an electronic signal that the modified Wilcox-Gay Recordette sends from the input device to a needle at the end of an arm, which then cuts sound grooves onto the CD.  It’s like an old-fashioned record player in reverse: the arm and needle of the turntable are carving the sounds into the record, instead of playing it back (however, the original content of the CD becomes unreadable in the process).

This makes discarded CDs into blank canvases on which to create and preserve sound art.  Kolkowski has been touring Europe, recording spontaneous spoken word, music and electronic performances using his new technique.  Said the musician, “It’s transforming a disposable media storage device made for cloned copying into a one-of-a-kind cult object.”

Kolkowski’s CD-Recycled 45 rpm project is repurposing CDs into records for free while on the road.  He has even recorded marriage proposals: “People bring a CD and I give them one in return.”  The CD project is one of many the musician/artist is doing on retooling, recycling and recreating sound devices, including installations at the Science Museum and the Royal College of Music in London.

So don’t be so quick to throw out something that seems obsolete.  At some point, everything old becomes new again.

~~~~~~~~~

Put a new spin on your usual pie with Sunny Side Up Pizza.

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Sunny Side Up Pizza
Fried eggs, cheese and chives dress up a ready-to-top pizza crust for a delicious brunch, lunch or dinner.

1 (10-inch) ready to top packaged pizza crust
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup shredded organic mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
3 to 4 organic eggs
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional: 2 to 3 pieces of crispy-cooked bacon, crumbled

Preheat oven (according to package directions for crust)

Rub olive oil over surface of pizza crust.  Sprinkle cheeses over surface evenly.  Sprinkle chives over surface evenly.

Bake according to package directions for crust.

While pizza cooks, fry eggs sunny side up (runny), over medium or over hard, according to your taste.  Season with pepper.

Pull pizza from oven when cheese is browned and bubbly and crust is golden (I like to cook mine halfway on a tray and then move directly to rack to crisp the crust).

Top pizza with cooked egg and, if desired, crumbled bacon.  Serve hot.

Serves one person as a meal, two as an appetizer.