Weekend Reading, 2.5.18
February 5, 2018

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

It’s been an unusually hectic week around here, the first in a long time that had me running around without a pause. That kind of pace was much more of a norm for me a few years ago, right before and during my post-bacc, and it’s something I took conscious steps to disentangle myself from when my anxiety got really bad.

I’m glad I’ve distanced myself from that particular craziness, but life is life, and chaotic spells are inevitable. I do my best to avoid overwhelm, but I’m still looking for a toolkit to help me stay grounded when things become unusually . . . lively.

On January 1st, I started reading Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart. I’m loving it so far; it’s not a book that’s designed to be read continuously (though you could if you wanted to). Instead, it offers a short meditation for each of the 365 days of the year. They hit a sweet spot between challenging the reader to let go of self-imprisoning habits while also offering up tremendous empathy for how and why we all sometimes choose to be—or can’t imagine not being—stuck.

On January 29th, just at the start of this demanding week, Beattie’s entry was titled “Seek Peace.” She writes,

Cultivate peace. Commit to peace. Insist on it. Don’t settle for peace based on outward circumstances or a particular arrangement in your life . . . [f]ind the peace that prevails even when the turbulent waters of the river roar through your life.

I love the idea of “insisting on” peace. Sometimes when I read about making or finding peace the suggestion seems to be that peacefulness is just beneath our feet, something that we’d unearth if only we scraped the surface a little. My experience has been that it’s a lot harder than this. Peace is something I need to fight for, something that don’t come easily unless I insist on it, as Beattie suggests.

The insistence often means making uncomfortable choices. These include saying no to some things and postponing others, even though it’s my first impulse to be a timely and efficient taskmaster. They also include learning to recognize my body’s signals of overwhelm (insomnia, dramatic highs and lows in energy, listlessness, tension headaches, irritable digestion) and bringing things to a full stop if I sense that I’m getting close to shutting down.

Sometimes committing to peace involves even more radical steps, like reexamining toxic relationships or detrimental, long-entrenched habits. Just as important, for me, is to identify and cherish the friendships and habits that evoke a sense of truth, calm, and well-being within me. I’m working really hard lately to give these the love and attention they deserve.

The most important thing, I think, is to watch for the trap Beattie points out, which is making peace contingent upon a “particular arrangement in your life.” For so long I accepted the idea that I had to passively endure frenzy and hope for pockets of peace to show up, as if by magic.

Nowadays I recognize that I can’t control what life puts in my path, but I can avoid making things more complicated than they need to be, and I can actively seek and cultivate the mindfulness that brings me peace. It’s not always a perfectly choreographed dance, but it’s in progress.

Wishing you all peace as you move into the first full week of February. Here are some tasty vegan recipe picks and reads from around the web.

Recipes

Need a last-minute bite to serve during the Super Bowl? Sophie’s BBQ cauli wings look incredible.

Another delicious vegan side dish: Elizabeth of Brooklyn Supper roasts romanesco to crispy perfection with chili powder and meyer lemon zest, then tops it in a creamy vegan sunflower seed dressing. Yum.

I love the contrast in this dish: tofu gets dredged in chickpea flour and pan-fried to crispy perfection, then served in a delicate miso broth.

I think I’ve got my next dinner-in-a-hurry bookmarked: Gina’s 30-minute stir fry with maple peanut tamari sauce.

I’m still looking for my vegan forever brownie recipe, and I think Eva’s rocky road brownies might be it. If I stare at the photo long enough, will they come to life? 😉

Reads

1. Beyond inspiring: Dani’s reflections on how she reclaimed her life after a devastating injury and overcame the stigma of being in a wheelchair.

2. A fascinating look at how cancer cells and placental cells may regulate the immune system in similar ways.

3. Jane Brody reports on confusion and misleading headlines surrounding the healthfulness of saturated fat. It’s a story worth reading in our day and age of frequently conflicting nutrition headlines and a good reminder that weak study designs can significantly impact research findings.

In the case of saturated fat (and many nutrition studies), one of the big confounders is that researchers can’t always anticipate or adequately control for which foods study participants will ultimately eat more of when they eliminate another food or nutrient. Many studies on reduced fat consumption seem to have been complicated by participants eating more refined carbohydrates and/or trans fats in the wake of reducing animal fats, which means that study results may not reliably indicate the benefits of saturated fat reduction alone (minus other dietary changes).

4. A harrowing account of medical emergency, which becomes a powerful statement about healthcare as a basic human right.

5. So cool: MRI scans show that memorizing ancient mantras increases the size of brain regions associated with cognitive function.

Another way I insisted on peace this week: getting this post up today because I needed to turn inward yesterday. Happy Monday morning to you all.

xo

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    10 Comments
  1. Dear Gena, these words of yours recognizing this sweet spot are so “spot” on: ‘They hit a sweet spot between challenging the reader to let go of self-imprisoning habits while also offering up tremendous empathy for how and why we all sometimes choose to be—or can’t imagine not being—stuck.” Amen to such a generous view, both from you and from Beattie. The food looks good too (dredging Tofu in chickpea flour?? interesting idea. . ) and the reads are especially compelling to me. I look forward to getting to them. I think accessing peace also has to do with cultivating patience, at least for me. . .xoxo

    • OK so I was really glad to read the update about saturated fat. But sad that she doesn’t seem to know either about Dr. Swank’s work with just these fats vis a vis heart disease and MS, or Dr. Esselstyn’s small study of low fat plant eating (and in his case no oil). . .

  2. GIIIIIIIIRL I’m in awe of how our lives sometimes run so damn parallel. The last two weeks were beyond intense for me and I ended up fighting for peace with boundaries, a hotel stay while attending a conference in lower manhattan, a vacation responder and inbox pause (AMEN), and cancelling some plans.

    As always loving these recipes and articles. Here’s to fighting for peace always.

    xo

  3. I love Melody Beattie’s work and Louise Hay as well. Just wanted to pop over and say that I might not comment every time, but I always always always look forward to these posts.

  4. Thank you for mentioning Melody Beattie’s book; I will definitely check it out.

    May I also suggest Louise Hay’s 365 affirmations book, which is a compilation of 365 affirmations for every day of the year. I found it to be very inspiring and helpful in dealing with my own anxiety.

    Loved your weekend reading post, as always. Can’t wait to try that rockie road brownie recipe!

  5. Gena,

    Thank you (once again!) for a great round of reading. I am really not up to speed on much of the information surrounding people with disabilities, including the terminology used and the ways in which people want themselves described. Dani’s story was good to read. Her voice is firm and strong, which I appreciate.

    I also like Jane Brody’s article on saturated fats and why some studies don’t tell the whole story. It seems like it is very difficult for the average person to sort through nutritional information to begin with but to have flawed studies as the source of recommendations seems kind of hard. So, I appreciate the points of the article.

    I look forward to your compilations whenever they happen:) Thank you again.
    Libby

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