Earlier this week, I mentioned that I’d been a little out of sorts. “Crabby” is actually the word I used to describe it to a friend, which in this case meant irritable, negative, and a little judgy.
I’ve learned that these qualities tend to gather around me when I’m actually feeling more vulnerable things at the core: insecurity, perhaps, or vulnerability, or worry. I retreat to a bulwark of negativity to help defend myself against uncertainty and self-doubt. Not the best strategy.
I think that’s what was up on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I’m a little burnt out on graduate school, in part because of the sheer duration of the process and also because this is simultaneously one of my less captivating and more demanding semesters. I was feeling “stuck” with a couple of work projects, unsure of which direction to take and not at all confident I was qualified to take any of them. There were interpersonal things, too, moments that had made me doubt myself and my instincts.
I’m so glad I found Judith Lasater’s wise and lovely meditation on santosha. Santosha is generally translated as contentment, or satisfaction. It’s one of the niyamas in Patanjali’s yoga sutra; these are presented as approaches or attitudes that help to cultivate happiness (or at least that’s how they were taught to me).
“Contentment is a paradox,” Lasater writes. “If we seek it, it evades us. If we give up on it, it evades us. It is like a shy cat that hides under the bed. If we try to catch it, we never will. But if we sit still and wait in patience, the cat will come to us.”
I smiled as I read these words, recognizing how much time I’ve spent seeking and trying to cultivate more contentment in my life, when of course by definition to be content is simply to accept things as they are.
At the same time, Patanjali doesn’t simply enjoin us to be content. He compassionately encourages us to cultivate contentment through mindfulness. By his telling, contentment is “presented as a practice to be undertaken—Patanjali exhorts us not to just be content, but rather to practice contentment,” Lasater writes. “We are to live it.”
How to do that? I have to imagine it’s like any other practice, big or small, in that it takes patience and a willingness to keep showing up. But I think much of it has to do with suspending that negativity and judgment and itchy dissatisfaction that I was feeling earlier this week. Lasater seems to agree. She writes,
Fierce indeed. I hear so much about how much more energy it demands to be negative than positive, loving rather than guarded or closed. But I have to wonder if the opposite is also, or equally true, because sometimes it feels so much easier to slip into crabbiness and judgment than to practice acceptance.
No matter what, Lasater’s humane words have been a reminder for me to keep softening and settling into things, checking my tendency to evaluate, label, or judge. They encourage me to show up honestly, professionally and personally, cognizant of the fact that I’m doing the best I can. We all are.
I’m wishing you all presence and softness as you greet the week ahead. Here are some of my favorite bits of reading material and food gazing from the last few days.
Sylvia’s roasted cauliflower pasta makes for a beautiful dinner with simple, everyday ingredients. Use your favorite homemade or store-bought vegan parm, and swirl away with your fork.
I love this brightly colored, hearty lentil stew from fellow Food52-er EmilyC. It’s got tons of smoky flavor, and it’s topped with green swirls of a piquant almond and parsley piccata.
Adding this one to my holiday recipe list! Thomas’ creamy carrot and parsnip bake is beautiful to look at and would be such a pretty addition to any Thanksgiving table, but it’s really easy to make.
Few things make me happier than toast for dinner, and I’m just loving this garlicky, buttery, tomato-y medley from Beth over at Budget Bytes. Again, use a favorite vegan parm, or try dollops of my go-to cashew cheese instead.
Leave it to Abby to create the perfect vegan pumpkin doughnut for fall, enriched with some whole grain flour and topped with a simple glaze.
2. The milkweed plant can be a bane for farmers, but a few Canadian clothing companies are thinking of ways to take it off their hands and put it to use in insulation for parkas and outerwear. They just so happen to be creating a plant-based alternative to down! I was excited to read about yet another vegan-friendly fashion material in this article, which Maria sent my way. The Quartz coat mentioned is super pricey, but hopefully if the insulation technology becomes commonplace, it’ll become a bit more accessible, too.
3. An unusual perspective on the idea of a sixth extinction, as articulated by biologist Chris Thomas of the University of York, in England. Thomas’ perspective is not to deny that many species have entered into extinction as a result of climate change and the imprint of human beings on the environment; rather, he suggests that humans have also enabled many new species to flourish, too, thanks to travel and transportation.
As I went through the interview, I felt no less worried for the many species now facing extinction, but I did find it hopeful to think that evolution is ticking along in spite of the dangers now facing the planet. An interesting read.
4. Major kudos, gratitude, and love to Andrea Jarrell for having the guts to speak honestly and plainly about the lingering attachment to eating disorders and their shadows through every phase of life, and especially when we come up against stress or anxiety. Her essay, “My Eating Disorder at 55,” is so raw, at once a testament to the very human experience of flirting with old compulsions and also the possibility of learning to resist them.
5. Some nice news in my hometown: 15 schools in Brooklyn will now be participating in Meatless Mondays, as part of an effort to incite more public consciousness about the link between diet and health and also the impact of meat-eating on the environment. Inviting kids to be more thoughtful about their meals is a great place to start.
As always, thanks for stopping by this Sunday. This week, I have exciting news to share about what I think will be a whole new chapter in my life as a passionate home baker—and a book giveaway and recipe to go with it! Till then, be well.
You may have heard that Google Maps just pulled an experimental feature that told users how many calories they’d burn if they walked to a destination instead of driving. The feature was intended to promote exercise and greater awareness of energy balance, but pushback from eating disorder treatment professionals—as well as troubled consumers—turned the tide. The app not only showed the caloric deficits associated with walking, but it also framed these deficits in terms of food: for example, it would inform users that…
Happy Sunday, friends, and happy Easter to those of you who are celebrating. It was a long and busy week here, but the weekend has brought a lot of happiness–namely, Steven’s and my two year anniversary yesterday. It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since we met, both in such different places in our lives and living in DC. One move, two grad school programs, one career shift, and four semesters later, we’re still relishing the experience of living together and learning…
Happy Sunday, all. It’s a cold and rainy day here in Northampton, MA, where I’m currently visiting for the weekend. I hope you all took some time to read Claire’s moving green recovery post from Friday. Once you’re finished with that, you can get immersed in the following recipes and reads. This cauliflower salad with chickpeas, kale, cumin, lemon, and toasted buckwheat is so full of textural contrast! Love it. I want to drink a vat of this kale and potato soup…
I was chatting with a friend—a new friend, but she already feels like an old friend—a few days ago, and it became clear that we’ve visited some similar emotional and psychological territory in the last few years. “There’s so much goodness right now,” she exclaimed (and I think I’m paraphrasing a little). “But at the same time, all of this stuff is coming up that I need to reckon with.” She paused, and said, “I guess that’s life?” We laughed. I’ve been thinking…