Authentic Hummus

 

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I just made hummus for the first time! Recently I ordered some tahini after searching for a non-bitter product, and after reading reviews, bought Soom Organic Tahini, and it is great! Now I felt ready to try making hummus.

There are countless recipes out there for hummus, and I’m sure most are very good, but this one at Vegangela got my attention. Angela writes that the secret to silky smooth hummus is peeling the chickpeas first. I would have moved on to the next recipe but then I read how she couched peeling the peas as a Zen, mindful experience, and I’m so down with that approach. Truly, peeling the whole can took me less than 10 minutes, so what’s the big deal?

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When I finished slipping the chickpeas out of their skins, which is easy once you learn how to keep the peeled peas in the bowl and not bouncing around the kitchen, I added the skins to my freezer bag of vegetable scraps destined for my next homemade veggie broth. We’ve been enjoying a lot of fresh vegetables this summer, from our garden as well as farmers markets and the generosity of friends with green thumbs, so it only takes me about three weeks to fill up a gallon bag of veggie scraps to make my broth. To make my broth, I empty the bag into a large soup pot, cover the veggies with water, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour and a half or two, usually with plenty of herbs and peppercorns because I always strain it. I figured the chickpea skins would add some nutrition and flavor to the broth.

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I adapted Vegangela’s Basic Hummus recipe, making a  few additions after my husband and I tasted it:

  • 1 15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and peeled
  • 3 tbsp Soom Organic tahini
  • 1 small lemon, juiced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp water, plus more if needed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Braggs Liquid Aminos to taste, for extra umami (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Smoked paprika, olive oil and pinenuts to garnish (optional)

I put everything except the garnish items in the food processor and blended it all on high speed, scraping the sides often until very smooth. After tasting I added more salt, the Bragg’s, and more cumin. Totally yum!

After turning the hummus into a glass bowl and swirling the top, I drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled on some pinenuts, and dusted it all with smoked paprika.

Voila!

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If you make this awesome hummus, please let me know how yours turns out!

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 26

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Welcome to Week 26 of our circus. Our monkeys have been swinging wildly from tree to tree, spinning, obfuscating, flirting, lying, blaming, chattering about nonsense, and it all makes my eyes roll in my head.

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I need diversions, and I’m sure you do as well so here we go. First, we need cake! Yes, we do, and we need confetti cake, with or without Elmo and friends.

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Or maybe we need Iced Lemon Pound Cake (vegan). I’m not sure which I’ll make first.

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Now that we’re drooling, I have good news and bad news for us. The bad news: Cheese is addicting. Dr. Neal Barnard has been exploding our craving with facts we don’t want to hear. Apparently certain aspects of cheese are transformed into a morphine-like chemical that reinforces our desire to have more cheese. The advertising world and restaurants know this. Witness the oozy, cheesy ads for pizza and other foods. As a vegan who began eating cheese again, and I feel guilty about it because I do know about the pseudomorphine stuff, and I know dairy is inherently cruel. A calf has to be taken from his mother so humans can have the milk. There’s a lot of suffering in that unnatural separation. The good news:  Miyoko’s Kitchen. She’s making cultured Buffalo Style Mozzarella we need to try.

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We can also enjoy Field Roast Chao cheeses that are produced  in Greece from coconut milk and tofu. I know it sounds weird, but it’s the tastiest, meltiest, sliced vegan cheese available in most supermarkets. It makes great grilled cheese sandwiches, especially when the bread is slathered with Just Mayo egg-free mayonnaise before grilling. And I totally trust this product which we use exclusively at home.

Who knew this would be another food blog? Well, it is what it is, and food is a great diversion, isn’t it? Yummy food isn’t called comfort food for nothing. So, we have to eat, so why not eat healthy and eat happy, too!

This week we sold all the CDs that Decluttr.com would buy and donated the rest. We listen to satellite radio at home and in our cars, and Amazon Music via iPad and Bluetooth speaker, so they’ve just gathered dust. I saved one out to give a friend. It was “Shteyt Oyf (Rise Up)” by the  Klezmatics, and I’m going to share now “I Ain’t Afraid” in English and Yiddish, originally written by Holly Near, that I’ve loved since I first heard it. Don’t you think the world needs to hear this? Please share!!!

Namasté 

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Getting to Cloud Nine

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I’m not sure where to start with this. So I’ll start where I think it begins. We moved from New York City to rural Pennsylvania last summer. We eventually got a new MD locally. Then in May I was hospitalized with diverticulitis, a very painful intestinal infection. I was given excellent treatment in our local hospital and I was out the next day.   My primary doctor had been concerned about a serious abdominal condition other than diverticulitis, so in the ER they did a CT scan with contrast and found a couple of possible problems while confirming the diverticulitis diagnosis. I was discharged with referrals to cardiologist, colorectal surgeon, and pulmonologist. The pulmonologist referred me to a neurologist due to migraines. I saw them all.

I was off asthma meds for the first time in many years while in the hospital. I imagine they were waiting for me to complain of breathing problems to give them to me, but I didn’t have any, even with the gorgeous, big floral arrangement my colleagues at work sent me. Time was when I would have been sneezing and wheezing with flowers in the room.

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When I went to the pulmonologist and told him I hadn’t used any steroids or rescue inhaler, or even any allergy meds, in a week, he was impressed, but he also ordered pulmonary function tests and a CT scan of the lungs. I went to see him yesterday for the results. He brought out copies of the tests and said to me, “You do not have asthma!” and he explained the numbers. He said I no longer need any asthma meds, not even a rescue inhaler.

I’ve taken a lot of medications, many very expensive, for asthma and respiratory allergies over the past 35 years, which is over half my life: albuterol and its newer spinoff ProAir HFA, Advair (at the highest strength), Breo, and Symbicort (also at the highest strength), Singulair, Zyrtec, and Flonase, and others both over the counter and prescribed. I’ve been to the ER with asthma attacks, although thankfully not for decades. I’ve been on inhaled steroids and courses of prednisone for about 15 years and other asthma meds since my son was in grade school. I have the skin of an 80-year-old, in that it tears and gets purple bruises incredibly easily, and about five years ago I sustained a spontaneous fracture of the femur at the knee, all probable side effects from long term corticosteroid use for asthma.

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So I’m on Cloud Nine that I’m so much healthier than I used to be, and I credit this to several factors:

  • Being vegetarian for the past 8 years and almost totally vegan for 5 ( two of my new doctors are vegetarians, so I have solid support to continue a plant-based lifestyle).
  • Meditating almost every day for the past 6 years, a practice known to boost immunity and improve health.
  • Following the spiritual practice of Buddhism that helps me cope with stress and keep life’s challenges and changes in perspective.
  • Having wonderful and supportive friends, many of whom like myself are healthcare providers who have stressed to me the importance of self care and getting answers.
  • Working out regularly in the gym and taking more walks over the past year.
  • Meeting a holistic New York medical doctor before we moved, who urged a healthier diet, exercise and supplements over prescriptions whenever possible.
  • Moving out of the city and into a less stressful, more rural life.
  • Closing my solitary New York psychology office and opening one in East Stroudsburg, PA where amidst wonderful colleagues and staff I thrive.
  • Getting a whole new look into my health with all new medical providers, including the very thorough medical work up I was given at our local hospital.
  • Having access to good healthcare, thanks to Medicare and before that employer-provided health insurance. At this time of uncertainty over affordable health coverage for millions of Americans, I am most grateful for this and hope that goodness and compassion for those in need will prevail.

So I do like to end some of my posts with a good tune. This one feels just right, and I choose it in part in memory of a good and soulful man I treated for nearly 20 years, a man who grooved to the Motown Sound and whose passing I sadly learned of today. Danny, this one’s for you.

 

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Capers, Good and Good for You

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I love capers! I bought some for a delish pasta recipe a few weeks ago and now that I have them in the house, I’ve put them in other things. Last night I dolled up a bottle of organic Muir Glen tomato basil pasta sauce with a generous dose of capers, plus some chopped olives, and sautéed onion, garlic and whole package of mixed mushrooms with all sorts of interesting types along with the sliced buttons and portobellos. What a yummy mix!

In the 2006 article, “Importance of functional foods in the Mediterranean diet” (Public Health Nutrition: 9(8A), 1136–1140 DOI: 10.1017/S1368980007668530) available here, we learn that capers are good for you, too (emphasis mine):

Garlic, onions, herbs and spices are used as condiments in the [Mediterranean Diet], and may increase the nutritional value of food. Some also contain large quantities of flavonoids (fennel, chives, etc.) or allicin (raw garlic and onion); the latter may have cardiovascular benefits and help improve cognitive function3. The caper, Capparis spinosa L., which is found all over the Mediterranean basin and is consumed in salads or on pizzas, etc. has been used in traditional medicine for its diuretic and anti- hypertensive effects, and to treat certain conditions related to uncontrolled lipid peroxidation15. Caper extract contains flavonoids (kaempferol and quercetin derivatives) and hydrocinnamic acids with known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Panico et al.15 concluded capers to have a chondroprotective effect; they might therefore be of use in the management of cartilage damage during the inflammatory phase (p. 1137).

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If you want some great recipes exploring the flavor and versatility of capers, check out this HuffPost article. That yummy-looking photo is from Recipe Number 18! The article credits this one to Cafe Johnsonia.

And I predict that capers might just feature in a tasty meal on your table very soon!

Buon Appetito!

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For the Daily Post

Potato and Beet Salad with Navy Beans

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Photo courtesy of and recipe adapted from Naturally Ella

Hungry?

This isn’t a recipe blog, but sometimes I just have to share something great! Since I’m a vegetarian eating mostly vegan, plus my recent hospital stay and admonition to eat more high fiber foods, and my husband enjoying loaded summer salads for dinner, this recipe was promising. The recipe I used is here.

I made a lot of changes due to what was available. I couldn’t find white or yellow beets. Red ones were discouraged for how they’d look in this recipe. So I swapped in a can of artichoke bottoms in water, cut up and roasted with the potatoes. My dill, bought two weeks ago, went bad so I used dried dill. I didn’t feel like spending the money for shallots when I still had half a bag of small boiling onions, so I used some of those instead. They were great! I didn’t have champagne vinegar and probably wouldn’t buy it, so I swapped in some light red wine vinegar. I would have used my Bragg’s apple cider vinegar but it’s getting low and the mother is pretty thick. Time to buy a new bottle!

This was so good it was all we had for dinner, served with a crusty, seeded whole grain bread and some organic extra virgin olive oil for dipping. The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to add roasted pine nuts.

Bon Appetít!

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Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian

As a Buddhist and imperfect vegan who more accurately fits the definition of vegetarian, this post offers much food for thought, if you’ll pardon the unfortunate cliché, and the comments that follow are every bit as thought provoking and helpful in their way as the author’s most excellent writing on the subject. Let us all reason together, explore, discuss, evolve and change for the better. May we try each day to live Metta, or loving kindness, to the very best of our imperfect ability. Namasté, Sonnische/Shielagh

Sujato’s Blog

The Buddha ate meat. This is a fairly well attested fact. The issue of vegetarianism is addressed a few times in the Suttas, notably the Jivaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. The Buddha consistently affirmed that monastics were permitted to eat meat, as long as it was not killed intentionally for them. There are numerous passages in the Vinaya that refer to the Buddha or the monastics eating meat, and meat is regularly mentioned as one of the standard foods.

For these reasons, the standard position in Theravada Buddhism is that there is no ethical problem with eating meat. If you want to be vegetarian, that is a purely optional choice. Most Theravadins, whether lay or monastic, eat meat, and claim to be acting within the ethical guidelines of the Buddha’s teachings.

This position sits squarely within a straightforward application of the law of kamma, understood as intention. Eating meat…

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Savoring the Bounty of Summer

This has been an interesting summer here on the Pocono Plateau of northeastern Pennsylvania. The first few weekends were washouts, dashing hopes for long awaited tennis events and swimming plans. The woods became more dense with lush leafy growth of shrubs and trees. I have read this is due to higher levels of carbon dioxide produced by warmer climate. In previous summers one could see through the trees in the back yard to streetlights beyond but not so this year.

Our garden Buddha sits atop the remains of an old stone foundation wall, and it has been necessary to cut back the berry canes and other shrubs around it several times this year.

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We also have seen no fireflies here or in New York this summer. I haven’t seen any news stories to address this in 2015, but apparently light pollution is a major factor. When the night is bright, fireflies fail to see one another in their usual mating courtship and therefore produce no offspring the following year.

In addition to the lush vegetation we see all around us, our small plot in the community garden is a tangle of tomato abundance and exuberant Italian parsley and fragrant basil. The parsley is an essential for summer green smoothies, offset nicely by ginger root, fruit and other healthy additions, depending on one’s tastes and what is available. We’ve made piña colada mojito smoothies, minus the spirits but tangy and delicious all the same.

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These Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are ready to pick when the bottom is purply-red and the top still green, and frequently cracked as well.

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Sliced, these Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are dark red with a purple tinge. They are delicious!

Savoring summer’s bounty has been a very happy experience this year, as has casting our meditative eyes on our lovely Buddha, surrounded by the lush woodsy growth, ferns, clover and the potted begonia that has flourished without any care as it celebrates its honored place.

A lotus for you,

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

 

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Thanksgiving is one of those conduits through this life I’ve been living since 1951. No, I don’t remember each and every one of them, but I do remember many. Here are some of those:

  • The turkey dinners ordered from Zucky’s kosher deli with all the trimmings
  • Mom learning from Gracie how to stuff and truss a turkey, with needle and button thread
  • The lentil loaf we had one year instead of turkey when Mom was a vegetarian
  • Thanksgiving dinner with Granny at the Santa Ynez Inn
  • The year when Lucille put her turkey on the counter and our cat and hers dragged it onto the floor and gnawed on it
  • Making my first pumpkin pie in high school from canned pie filling and a store-bought crust
  • Learning to make pumpkin pie from canned pumpkin and scratch crust
  • Jumping up on down on a scratch crust that refused to turn out, and starting all over again
  • Finally making pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin and a frozen crust
  • Getting the Betty Crocker Cookbook and making the turkey and everything for the family
  • Discovering the ubiquitous green bean casserole with French fried onions on top
  • Spending Thanksgivings during boarding school with my aunt and uncle in New Jersey
  • Discovering the ease of the disposable foil roasting pan, learning to put a cookie sheet under it
  • Adding a roasting bag and making the whole thing so much easier
  • Wanting to go to Dysart’s (inspired by Tim Sample) but new friends insisted we join them
  • Spending more than one Thanksgiving serving turkey at a church covered dish supper
  • Realizing there are many different Jell-o salads and Ambrosias, all with lots of whipped topping
  • Becoming a vegetarian briefly and actually making a lentil loaf for our Thanksgiving one year
  • Going on Atkins and eating way more turkey than anyone else at the table, and not much else
  • Watching a Mercy for Animals video on factory farm cruelty to turkeys, cows and other beings
  • Becoming a vegetarian again and eventually going vegan and remaining so
  • Making my first vegan Tofurky Feast, lots of work but good, especially the stuffing and gravy
  • Enjoying the Gardein Holiday Roast, a tasty turkey substitute

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And that brings me to this Thanksgiving. It was supposed to snow all over the northeast but in New York it only rained yesterday, and Wednesday is a very bad day to try to drive from New York to Pennsylvania, a Gridlock Alert Day, because everyone wants to get out of town at once. So this morning we drove to PA and once we hit New Jersey it snowed the rest of the way. There was about a foot of snow on the back deck, and although our driveway had been plowed this morning, there was another inch or two of fresh snow on our walk and driveway. The house warmed up fast with the fireplace and heat pump working beautifully. I put on my apron and started cooking. I roasted a turkey leg for my husband according to a recipe with rave reviews (it was disappointing), and I made stuffing in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans, and a wonderful Field Roast Celebration Roast as my vegan main dish. We had a lovely loaf of cranberry bread, cranberry sauce and olives. I turned to Mary McDougall and the Happy Herbivore for my recipes. Last week I had made butternut squash soup in advance for today. Dessert was a three-berry crumb pie from Fairway, with decaf. Delish!

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The food was fine, but I am so thankful for my family, our health, my recovery from back pain, our cat, our friends, my Buddhist practice, our material blessings, my work, and so very much more. And this year, as my teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh lies in a hospital in France recovering from a severe brain hemorrhage, I am so thankful to have learned so many valuable lessons for my life from him. I hope and pray for his full recovery. I also understand that at 88 he may transition from this life before long.

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Namaste

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A Vegan’s Guilty Pleasures

Is being vegan boring? No way!

We who become vegan each do so for our own reasons. Some for health, as I did initially, some for ahimsa,  the principle of non-harming, and some for the environment. It takes way more water, land and feed to raise a pound of meat than an equivalently nutritious portion of vegetables, grains or fruits to be eating directly by the consumer, rather than inefficiently processed through the mastication and digestion of a animal confined for the purpose. The waste materials from factory farmed animals alone account for more water pollution than many other contaminants on the planet. The methane gases produced by ruminants raised for their meat is the single largest contributor of carbon dioxide to global climate change. So the reasons are many but all are compelling to each of us vegans at some point and we change ourselves. I am not proselytizing for veganism here, but if you want to know more, feel free to comment and ask!

That said, let’s examine the vegan lifestyle. Some people think that when someone becomes a vegan they eat nothing but tasteless leaves and twigs. Couldn’t be further from the truth! I have some criteria for vegan snacking such as no high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and naturally no eggs or dairy or any ingredients containing them or their derivatives. This is not always easy. Oreos are vegan but have HFCS so I don’t buy them anymore, but Newman’s Os are vegan. But I always read the labels because some versions of familiar products have unwanted ingredients somewhere down the list. For example, certain chili-lime flavored tortilla chips get their tanginess from a milk derivative. Who would think?

I’m not saying they are healthy, but one of my favorite snack treats are Snyder’s Buffalo Wing Pretzel Bites. Chunks of broken up pretzel pieces flavored with a zesty, spicy vegan buffalo-sauce-flavored coating. Vegan! Yummy! They are in every store around, so I won’t link to the company, but you can if you want to know the ingredients.

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I love the various meat analogs (meat substitutes) such as these (and there are many more):

  • Tofurky cold cuts, sausages and franks, and roasts with all the trimmings for special occasions p_holiday_feast195
  • Field Roast frankfurters, sausages, cold cuts, and meat loaf  sausages3-670x523
  • Gardein Beefless Burgers, Crispy Tenders (chicken-free), and everything else they make gardein_CrspyTndrsgardein_frz_BflsBrgr_US_Sm-225x238
  • Lightlife’s Fakin’ Bacon which is delicious with a tofu scramble or on a vegan Reuben sandwich tempeh_smoky_201210

I don’t miss mayonnaise when there are delicious egg-free versions such as Vegenaise, Nayonaise and more.

Who misses butter when one can use avocado, hummus, extra-virgin olive oil or Earth Balance margarine?

Cream cheese? There are several delicious vegan versions.

Hard cheese? No problem! Several great ones exist with more being introduced all the time. I love Daiya shreds and slices. There are amazing artisanal vegan cheeses, cultured and aged just as dairy cheeses are, but made with cashews instead of milk or cream, such as Kite Hill and Heido Ho and others.

Ice cream? Don’t get me started. There are several amazing soy and coconut-milk based variations that rival that pint you used to devour with a spoon at one sitting. You know what I’m talking about! I’ll leave it to you to research this one.

Where do I find all these amazing foods? Some at Whole Foods, Fairway, Wegmans and Giant. I have also found many of these products in the South at Kroger and Publix. You can order many of these products, even the perishable ones (with cold packs), at Vegan Essentials and Pangea, the Vegan Store. These and several other great online vegan resources are detailed here. Some products can be ordered directly from the producers, such as Meatless Select’s Fishless Tuna that is so good, I ordered a case. Check it out!  Product-Page_Tuna2

So why are all these yummy foods that make transitioning to a plant-based, animal-free diet so easy listed among my guilty pleasures? Because if one relies too much on them, the sodium and calories can add up and keep one heavier than one would expect a vegan to be. Ahem. I’m just sayin’ So eat more veggies and whole foods. Whole, as in big green salad, or a whole potato or bowl of brown rice, or a massaged kale salad, or a luscious mango, or a slice of whole grain bread with a little nut butter spread lightly. The possibilities are endless. If you want to know more, check out The Happy Herbivore whose bestselling cookbooks are available on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

But unquestionably, these foods are much healthier for you than their non-vegan counterparts. Just go easy and don’t have them at every meal. Even though I often do. I am a work in progress. So copping to my ways and sharing them here is one way I may get better with it all!

Bon appetit!

Namaste

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My Obsession

 

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Asked what occupies my head a great deal of the time , I have to admit it isn’t the dharma or my commitment to my vegan lifestyle, as much as I wish it were. No, it’s more often my physical being and what’s wrong with it. It’s health concerns and the aging process and weighing more vs. looking youthful, slim and enviable. Yes, thank goodness for my practice which gets me onto the meditation cushion two or three times a day, and I do contemplate the Buddha and the Noble Eightfold Path, and I practice Metta (loving kindness meditation) sincerely. But preparing for a vacation, I have been trying on colorful new clothing, as well as the summer things I’ve packed away since last fall, and feeling lumpy and uncomfortable trying to wear the size number I can accept. The reality is that I don’t look good in that number anymore. Acceptance of reality is optional, but denial and delusion are not okay with me.

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So what I have been obsessing over of late is how to look my best in two weeks despite midsection weight creep. Happily, having finished a session of meditation, I believe I know now how to handle this. The numbers, whether on the scale, on a tape measure, or on the tag of a garment, have no meaning other than to compare oneself to one’s former self, to one’s fellows, or to one’s ideal. I aspire daily in my Metta practice, “May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.”  And also, “May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.” So the delusion that I must be thin–approximating an ideal, in order to be acceptable and worthy of my own understanding and love, once I see, can be shed. This is a sexist ideal, an ageist ideal, a socially promoted ideal, and for today I let it go.

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What also informed me were experiments where children were shown dolls or cards with images of children of varying complexion from pale to very dark. Whenever shown a pair where one child was light and another dark and asked which child or doll was smarter, nicer, more honest, etc., the child, regardless of his or her race, nearly always chose the lighter-complexioned one.

This got me thinking; if I were shown images of women, thin, slightly overweight and very overweight, and if asked who was smarter, nicer, richer, or more honest, I would probably select the thinner one. How sad. But knowledge is power, and as we learn to know ourselves, we become freed from prejudice, self-denigration, low self-esteem and delusion. May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love. And may we all learn to look at all our fellow beings with the eyes of understanding and love. May it be so.

And today, this is my practice.

Namaste

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