Weekend Reading, 1.28.18
January 28, 2018

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

First, a heartfelt thank you for the kind, supportive words about Power Plates this week. I’m so grateful for them, and to those of you who have been cooking and sharing on Instagram, I can’t tell you how much joy it gives me to see the recipes take life in other peoples’ kitchens.

It’s been interesting to observe the feelings that have come up since the book came out. I felt a little jittery before the release, which is probably normal, but the flow of support I’ve received in the last few days has brought up some different and interesting fears. Specifically, it has invited me to think about my relationship with abundance and celebration—with letting goodness flow.

This brings to mind a broader internal dialog I’ve been having lately about my relationship with hope and gladness. I’ve noticed that it’s often easier for me to write or speak up about strife than it is for me to articulate things I’m happy or expectant about. It’s not that I don’t welcome good things with open arms; I do. I try to, anyway. It’s just that receiving them is a process complicated by fear, which of course seems unreasonable or even ungrateful when I write it down.

I think it’s fear of a loss, of becoming attached to goodness or love lest they slip away or change shape. I tend to develop outsized expectations and hopes easily, which leaves me vulnerable to equally outsized disappointment. I wonder if this tendency is rooted in childhood, when my wants and desires were often problematized if they didn’t align with what those around me wanted or liked for me. I learned to become protective of my hopes, to hold them closely and privately, which may have been fertile ground for my amplifying them too much.

I’ve spent much of the last year learning to focus in on the present, on small pleasures and daily rituals, to stop grasping at lofty goals or expectations. I’ve recognized the ways in which grandiosity crept into my thinking in the past and to soften this tendency. I’ve found a humbler and more grounded way of being.

Still, I don’t want to let go of hope, or excitement, or the capacity to visualize a bright future. What I want is to develop hopes that are tempered by the ability to be open-minded and flexible and un-clingy, so that when and if things do change—or turn out differently than I’d hoped for—I can adapt.

I’m very far from knowing what all of this will feel or look like, but I’m trying to cultivate the balance in small ways. My therapist encouraged me recently to share positive events or small hopes with friends more often than I do, and I’m trying that, even when I’m nervous about jinxing things by verbalizing them. I’m trying not to catastrophize loss or the unexpected, trusting that when one thing doesn’t materialize, something different will.

Most of all, I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll accept and receive sweetness without questioning it or darkly imagining its disappearance (which makes me think back to this post, right before the new year). Anything less is such a shame. In the last few days I’ve been doing more gratitude journaling than usual and stopping very often to savor the good stuff.

If any of you has a practice or source of inspiration in the realm of accepting happiness without fear, or a tempered experience of hope, I welcome sharing. In the meantime, here’s something that stuck with me.

I recently asked my mom about her own experience of hope. Like my late grandmother, my mom has a profoundly optimistic outlook on life, which doesn’t prevent her from acknowledging hardship honestly. When I asked her how she maintains this perspective without tending toward attachment (or retreating into discouragement when hardship strikes), she said, “I wake up each day, and there’s the sun and the air, and I’m alive. I’m alive.”

There are certain things loved ones say to us that we know right away will always be with us. For me, my mom’s bright-eyed, animated utterance of “I’m alive“—her capacity to practice hope through the simple fact of being present at the start of a new day—is one of them.

Wishing you all a bright start to a fresh week. And I hope you’ll enjoy the recipe roundup and reads.


First, Kimberly’s easy vegan cauliflower curry is a perfect, flavor-packed meal for a weeknight schedule. I love the crunchy cashew garnish, too.

Comfort food cravings? Jess’ hearty lentil bolognese, which features umami-packed mushrooms along with the lentils, is winter dream-come-true food.

Traci always has the most wonderful sandwich ideas (seriously), and I’m loving her latest, which is a mashup of sweet roasted beets and tangy sauerkraut, and grainy mustard. Yum!

I use barley all the time in salads and pilafs, but I love the idea of piling it on top of a hummus for a textured dip. Sasha also adds roasted squash wedges and pomegranate seeds to this colorful creation.

Finally, Emily’s black bean sweet potato grain bowls with herbed tahini dressing is exactly the kind of balanced, nourishing meal I love. Can’t wait to make it soon.


1. This is a short video—almost a fragment, especially given all of the long-form stuff on Aeon—but I was so touched by it. A nine-year-old boy recalls taking in a wounded bird, illustrating what it’s like to learn the art of letting go.

2. It’s so important to ensure that teens get enough Vitamin D in their diets as their bone matrix develops. This article reports on the potential injury hazards of D deficiency in high school athletes. I’ve seen similar coverage of the deficiency among track runners, but this is the first I’ve seen that pertains to football players, and I’m glad it’s out there.

3. Katie Hawkins-Gaar shares open, brave reflections on how the loss of her spouse actually helped her to heal from sometimes crippling anxiety and to embrace life in a new way.

4. An interesting Q&A with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, whose most recent book is called The Strange Order of Things. It explores the intersection of mind, feeling, and body, and while I haven’t read it yet, the interview has me intrigued.

I Damasio’s thoughts on what love is for, from a neurological perspective: “[t]o protect, to cause flourishing, to give and receive pleasure, to procreate, to soothe. Endless great uses, as you can see.”

5. I know I don’t usually link to audios or podcasts, but I’m really interested in Frank Ostaseski’s work, and I so enjoyed Vox’s recent conversation with him. Ostaseski runs a Buddhist hospice in San Francisco, and he has rich and interesting thoughts on what death can teach the living.

On the cooking agenda for this week is a savory, one-skillet meal featuring seitan, bulgur, and what I hope will be a flavorful mix of seasonings. I’m trying it out tomorrow, and if all goes well, I’m excited to share. Happy Sunday.




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  1. Hello beautiful! I know this is way late (I am just catching up with your world!) but I wanted to comment on the fear of joy/trusting good things/allowing the self to enjoy what is even though we cannot guarantee it will last forever. You and I are so very similar – very analytical, thinking things through very thoroughly and having a tendency to be quite serious about life and the meaning of things. I believe this lends itself to your heart for helping others and all that you share here on this blog. Your capacity to see and perceive as you do – to take in so many factors at once and make meaning out of all of it – makes you a powerful healer in this world as you can perceive systems and root causes where others are blind – but it also makes happiness difficult because there is such a tendency to want to UNDERSTAND pleasure and how to make it last. Because you can look ahead so intently it makes being in the now more difficult and it makes enjoying things harder because again, there is the thought in the back of the mind that it is going to change. That it is fleeting. Mix this with our desire to feel amazing and we have a recipe for fearing joy because we KNOW it’s always going to pass to something else.

    What I have found to be helpful in my own journey with this is two things:

    1. Knowing that I actually DO have a choice over how things make me feel. This doesn’t mean that I can not feel sad when something sad happens or angry when I am wronged – but more that I can control my level of rejection of my experience. I have found that when I embrace these more negative emotions as a PART of joy rather than as something separate from joy – that joy is really just what we experience as beings – the pain of pain is less. I always get to choose how I RESPOND to how I feel and with this I feel less out of control or victim to my circumstances/emotions.

    2. Moving into being open to learning from my emotions. Rather than seeing them again as something that happen to me, I see them more as teachers here to guide me. Here to show me some truth I am not seeing. I allow myself to notice the thought patterns I have associated with my painful emotions, and I deeply question my perception. I have found that often times I am actually not seeing reality clearly, but am in fact making it mean something it doesn’t really mean. WE do this to try to control our pain – like when we blame our bodies for feeling inadequate – but the truth is, we must face what we REALLY think and feel and what we are making things mean in order to feel better. I am diligent to question my perceptions of things that feel terrible and always find that there was something else to see.

    Hope this resonates with you.


  2. Hi Gena – I’m new to your blog after getting totally inspired by your Power Plates images on Happy Healthly Life. I’m so happy to have discovered your site and already LOVE your weekend reading updates. Have you read the Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha? I saw him speak last year and started reading his books, which totally flipped a switch for me. With the hustle and bustle of modern day life – full of technology and instant everything – it reminded me to take a step back, be present, just breathe, look around, acknowledge the awesome moments in life no matter how small. 🙂

  3. Gena! I spent this past weekend immersed in your book and loved every single page! I’m hoping to get my post out really soon. You are so remarkably talented, and I am so thankful that you’ve shared your gifts with us. I think I can relate to your feelings on joy and celebration; I am often afraid to be too hopeful for fear of failure or disappointment. It’s something I’ve struggled with ever since I can remember, but I’ve only recently realized how deep these feelings are inside of me. Thank you so very much for including my post in your round-up- you are so kind and I am grateful!

  4. Thanks so much for including me amongst these amazing recipes Gena! I’m sitting here drooling over all of them. I also do gratitude journaling too! I’ve been using the 5-minute journal each day and I love it. It really helps to start and end my day on a positive note!:)

  5. Missed this space! Your writing is so heartfelt be it when you write about joy or pain. Thank you so much for sharing your ups and downs with us.
    Thank you too for including me in the round up. SO many gorgeous recipes, it’s a total honour!
    Wishing you a super week.

  6. You must read “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. It addresses all you’re talking about and more. It’s truly a life-altering book.

    Also, just made your pecan citrus bread and my kitchen smells divine!

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