Weekend Reading, 2.11.18
February 11, 2018

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

In February, it’s not unusual for yoga classes and studios to place an emphasis on the 4th chakra, or anahata chakra. My studio is no exception, and even if Valentine’s Day weren’t around the corner, the heart chakra would be on my mind.

I’m going to try not to quote from Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart (which I mentioned last week) every single Sunday, since I don’t want to spoil its surprises for those who haven’t read it. But I was moved enough by a recent affirmation that I can’t help but share. The day is February 9th, and the entry is titled “Keep Your Heart Open”:

“Keep your heart open,” Beattie writes, “even when you can’t have what you want.”

She goes on to say:

It’s easy to keep our heart open to life’s magic and all of its possibilities when we have what we want. It’s more of a challenge, and more necessary than ever, to keep our hearts open when we can’t have what we want.
Even on the best journey, things happen. Plans change. Things shift and move around. This shifting and moving causes doors to close, relationships to end, blocks and frustrations to appear on our path…
Keep your heart open anyway. Consciously choose to do that. Yes, you can go away, you can leave, you can shut down, but you don’t need to. Now is a turning point. If you choose to open your heart, even when you can’t have what you want, miracles will unfold.

As I read these words, I was surprised to find them bringing tears to my eyes. I thought about how much more likely I am to give thanks, practice gratitude, stay open, and share my love when things are “going well,” or when I’m getting my way. My default when life doesn’t take the course I’d like it to is often—more often than I’d like to admit—gloom, sadness, frustration, or resentment. Sometimes a combination of them all.

It feels so constricted to practice loving, giving, and receiving only from the safe environs of things being just so, the pieces falling into place exactly how we’d imagined. But it’s something I do, and Beattie’s short meditation made me aware of it.

For a long time I assumed that the word “anahata” must refer to physiology, and that it was probably translated as “heart” or “chest.” Not so; anahata is translated as “unstuck,” “unhurt,” or “unbeaten.” I love this. Rather than referring to the heart as a biological entity, it refers to the essence of what the heart can do: love and keep loving, boundlessly, no matter what hurts come its way. It’s an amazingly resilient organ that way.

In the last few days, when my impulse to shut down and lick my wounds and feel sore at the world around me was the strongest, I practiced staying open and loving instead. I won’t pretend it felt like instinct, but I was actually surprised at how good it did feel, once I’d made the choice to do it.

I think I’ve always feared a soft, open, and loving posture when I’m in pain; consciously or not, it’s easier for me to connect and share myself when I feel composed and strong. Now I wonder how much more readily healing and resilience might find me if I could practice lovingkindness when I’m broken open, whether giving love when I’m at my most vulnerable could be a source of strength, rather than a liability. My experience in the last few days suggests that it is.

With all of this in mind, I’m sending you all my most loving, warm, and grateful thoughts. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, but know that thoughts will extend well beyond February 14th. And in the meantime, here’s my roundup of recent recipe discoveries and reads.


First up, all the heart eyes for Lauren’s scrumptious looking hemp crusted tofu cobb. And I’m equally excited about her new cookbook, which is packed with creative, yet classic vegan comfort food dishes.

I can never get enough simple, wholesome vegan grain dishes, and so much the better if they’re also loaded with leafy greens. I’m bookmarking Alex’s easy, nutritious Swiss chard and ancient grains salad.

I’ve never tried my hand at a vegan tuna noodle casserole, but Ameera and Robin have inspired me with this recipe.

It’s only appropriate to share a heart-shaped dessert today, and what better pick than Kathy’s sweet and pretty vegan sugar cookies?

Double desserts today. I’m sharing a dark chocolate pear cake in a couple days, so I smiled to see that my friend Hetty is on a similar wavelength. Her sticky date olive oil cake with chai poached pears looks spectacular.


1. Karen, who wrote a lovely green recovery post some years ago, shares humble and loving thoughts on honoring the body, eating intuitively, and finding peace.

2. I’m a big fan of Danielle Ofri’s books, and I was interested to read her thoughtful (and practical) primer on how to make the most of a doctor’s office visit.

3. Also via the New York Times, new research implicating the role of gut microbiota in the pathogenesis of colon cancer.

4. Sasha Chapman probes deeply into rope entanglement, which is a leading cause of whale deaths, and the politics surrounding efforts to address the problem. I was glad to be made conscious of this, though my heart ached not only for the whales, but for all of the other ocean creatures who are targeted by fishing ropes in the first place.

5. Sham surgery is incredibly rare in the U.S., because incisions or invasive procedures without delivery of medical treatment are regarded as ethically problematic. This article looks at the potential benefit of sham surgery as a means of uncovering the futility of costly, risky, and often ineffective treatments. It’s an interesting controversy, especially for healthcare practitioners who take interest in the placebo effect.

Alright, friends. Happy Sunday. I’ll be back on Tuesday, with chocolate!


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  1. Thanks for your post for this weekend. Your insights on the fourth chakra and loving even when we are hurting or vulnerable really spoke to me as I continue to to recover from AN.

  2. Hi Gena,
    Long time reader, first time poster here.
    I had to write to thank you so, so much for highlighting Sasha Chapman’s piece on the whale entanglement issue. I work at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown and our disentanglement responders are the most passionate, dedicated people you could ever hope to meet. It’s tough to let folks outside the whale research and rescue community know about their work, so we’re hugely grateful for every single share, especially by folks like you who have a broad readership.
    Last year was absolutely horrific, but we’re all – rescuers, researchers, educators and fundraisers – ready to fight even harder for the whales this year.
    If you’re interested, you can keep up with our work on our website (coastalstudies (dot) org) and on facebook (coastalstudies), twitter (@ccsptown) and instagram (@coastalstudiesptown).
    Let’s hope our newsfeeds are filled with good news this year!
    Thanks again Gena.
    Best wishes to you from all of us here at CCS.

  3. Gena, thank you for this post. It’s such a lovely and very profound truth that the test of our open hearts is keeping them open even when it’s hard to, especially when it’s hard to! The food line up, especially the cob salad and then that cake with the whole pears–wow!! I look forward to your chocolate pear cake. Many years ago I made one with pears from my tree on Asbury Street that I still think about from time to time. I also really appreciated Jen’s post–it speaks to the terrain I am traveling as I grapple with memoir. xoxo

  4. This is so lovely & true, thank you. Your writing is always so heartfelt and compassionate, its why I come back to your blog again & again 🙂

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