Vegetarian Recipe of the Week #3

Sweet Potato, Lentil & Bean Rolls

I wish I could say that my kids loved these as I was primarily making  it for them however it was a disaster in that regard! My 3 year old picked off the pastry and my 1 year old tucked into the sour cream I served on the side as a dipping sauce. I was surprised that my 3 year old even dared to touch it to be honest so I was actually happy with his pastry efforts.But who doesn’t like puffed pastry? Fluffy, golden, crunchy, yum!

I however thought they were delicious and super easy to make so here’s the recipe!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 brown onion,diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 250g tin of red kidney beans, drained
  • 500g tin of brown lentils, drained
  • 2 small or 1 large sweet potato (kumera) cubed
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • fresh thyme, roughly chopped

Cook the onion in the olive oil till translucent, add the garlic and cumin and stir till fragrant. Add the sweet potato with the vegetable stock and simmer till sweet potato is soft. Add kidney beans and lentils and simmer for a further 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Allow to cool, stir in fresh thyme then add mixture to a food processor or blender and mix to a paste. I like to leave it a bit lumpy for texture.

Line approx. 1.5 tablespoons of mixture along one end of one pastry sheet then roll the whole thing up into a long sausage roll shape. You can cut the pastry into smaller pieces if you want smaller individual sausages. Make sure you pinch the ends to stop the mix from bubbling out. Brush the tops with olive oil or even a lightly beaten egg if you want a real golden crisp (I didn’t have time).  Pop in a moderate oven for 15 – 25 mins or until lightly golden, puffy and crisp.

Serve with yoghurt mixed with diced cucumber or sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. Enjoy!

MM

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Meditation for Children

One of the pitfalls of parenting is that your time is never your own. Hence when the latest cold virus sweeps through the family you find you suddenly have no time to work on that blog you just created! Sorry it’s been so long.

As I continue to practice I find I am gradually becoming more focused and therefore more aware of my mind and my actions throughout the day. I am less likely to react to my emotions as they arise and I am keeping more of an even keel. Of course most of the time I am at their mercy but let’s just say I have noticed the ride has become a teeny tiny, little bit less bumpy. I notice I am more considerate of others, including strangers and this in turn has uplifted my mood and made me less irritable and more tolerant of my children’s demands on me (often irrational) throughout the day.

I would like to introduce some of these benefits of meditation to my children and I don’t think they are ever too young to learn. Even babies. So, with that in mind I would like to share a technique I practice with my children. It is something I’ve come up with on my own but my children have really responded positively so I hope others find it works for them too.

Watching the Breath

I believe there are benefits to starting this practice with newborns. At the very least it will enhance bonding and all the benefits that simply a loving touch can bestow. To start, position your child in a way in which they are comfortable but gives you access to their back. I like to have them laying on you or touching you somehow as I think they can synchronise to your own breathing pattern or at least listen and learn a relaxed way of breathing. For babies this is easy as they generally love lying tummy down over one arm, legs dangling either side of your forearm, craddling their head in your palm. Keep them close to your body for stability and sit down comfortably yourself. I am aware that for babies with reflux and breathing difficulties they may be more comfortable upright in which case lay them on your tummy and chest as you recline in a chair or lay down on the lounge or bed where ever is comfortable. As babies tend to be rugged up in snug fitting clothing it is easier if they have their top off or just a singlet so that you can easily get your hand underneath. For older children let them snuggle on your lap however they like as long as you are able to reach their back. No need to have their top off as generally the clothing is much looser.

Ok, so once comfy, I like to take a few mindful breaths myself to get focused and while I do this I am generally rubbing their back with my whole palm just to get them relaxed. Then I gently run a finger tip or several finger tips up and down their back in time with their breath. Make sure you are running up their back with the out breath and down with the in breath as if your finger is following the path the air takes. Children’s breathing is a lot shallower than our own as they have little lungs so don’t worry if it feels as though they’re breathing rapidly. After a few times going at their pace I then start to slow down gradually until I am going at my pace. With older children their breathing isn’t as shallow so you may find it is the same anyway. I find my 3 year old does slow his breath slightly to match my own and in doing so he often relaxs further.

So while I am doing this I have started saying “Breath in, Breath out” with my 3 year old as he is only just becoming aware of what breath and air is. I think if I had started this earlier with him he would have been aware of his breath and understood the concept much sooner. Prior to this I was saying simply “Up and down” to get him connected to the sensations of breathing in and out. For my 1 year old I like to say words like “calm”, “peace”, “love” but more often than not I find myself just saying “Mmmmm” on the out breath. Sometimes now he will join in and say “Mmmmm” himself which is incredibly cute. He generally has a huge smile on his face when he does!

I’m thinking about trying to do a visualisation with my eldest. Just something simple, again just to connect him to his body and breath. Something similar to the purification meditations where you visualise the breath as black and white smoke but I need to modify it so that it’s not so scary to a 3 year old. Maybe just keep it as white and describe it as love and happiness? I’ll post it when I come up with it!

It’s not going to work all the time, babies will need to be fed, changed and burped before attempting this and toddlers can have a tantrum over anything at anytime so pick your moment carefully. After a bath is a good time to try. Or when they’ve just woken up from an afternoon nap. I wouldn’t worry if they fall asleep it’s about getting them used to touch and teaching them how to relax and quieten the mind. If nothing else they are bonding with you too! With my 3 year old sometimes he jumps straight back up squealing that it tickles him and other times he’ll climb on to my lap asking for it but won’t want me to talk and instead will tell me a story or something that he’s thinking about. I just go with it.

Do this for as long as you are both comfortable to do so and at the end be sure to dedicate any merit gained towards our enlightenment so that we may be able to help all sentient beings.

My 3 year old came up with a nice variation at bed time. He likes me to lay down with him at night and he asks me to stroke his forehead while we both say “Mmmmm” and it’s just naturally on the out breath so a nice calming rhythm is created as he winds down for the day.

So that’s one technique I practice with my children in order to introduce them to the idea of meditation and mindfulness. I hope others benefit from this too.

MM.

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Practicing Compassion

The Buddha taught us to be compassionate. That is to sincerely want to alleviate the suffering of others. Not just our family and friends but of ALL others. ALL sentient beings. [A sentient being is characterised by having consciousness or sensory perceptions].

The cartoon above shows a boy not only saving the ants one by one but taking it one step further and hosting a picnic for them in his backyard. Buddha asks us to celebrate and to honor the life of all others as if they were our mothers. Just as it would be an overwhelmingly difficult task to literally do as this boy has done and save ants one by one so too is it to practice compassion all of the time. Some things are easy right? This blog is also about being a parent as well as being a Buddhist and I think a great example of how our compassion for people changes is with children. When our baby is first born we gaze at them with such awe and such love. They seem so helpless and so pure. They seem to be the manifestation of pure love. It is easy to feel compassion for such a beautiful and seemingly untainted human being. They have done nothing wrong, how could they? They are mere seconds old! So we lovingly feed them, bath them, dress them warmly and give them cuddles and kisses in abundance. It is effortless. Then somewhere along the line, as the baby grows into a child or perhaps even before then, we can start to resent them. We are tired, grumpy, perhaps haven’t showered for a day (be honest, this is not THAT uncommon with a newborn baby particularly if you have no family around for support!) and as we are woken up for the fourth time that night maybe we lie there for a second longer. Perhaps even put the pillow over our heads and groan. It is no longer effortless. There is a very good reason why parents all over the world have embraced the book Go the F#@k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach because it highlights exactly how many of us truly feel. It is REALLY hard to show compassion when facing the relentless days and nights of parenting.

So, if it can be a struggle with our own children sometimes, can you imagine trying to show compassion to a murderer, a paedophile, an arsonist? Buddha asks us to see each and every sentient being, including the aforementioned, as our mothers. What an incredibly difficult task that is! On the other hand, as someone, somewhere said “I find it easy to show compassion to the starving millions. It’s my husband I have trouble with!”.  So showing compassion to every sentient being is a complex and arduous task. Similarly, Jesus asks us to love thy neighbour… it’s not as easy as it first sounds is it?

What we can do however is practice. Practice, practice, practice. If we keep training our mind to show compassion then eventually we will start to show compassion effortlessly again in all situations towards all sentient beings. We can meditate on seeing all sentient beings as our mothers or perhaps just one sentient being, our enemy, someone we loathe. Imagine them as our mother or as our child if that is easier. In this way we are able to generate compassion for them. Usually we will discover that they are simply seeking happiness for themselves just as we are and, although perhaps misguided, can we really blame them for wanting the same as us? Is there a way we can help them even? Meditation doesn’t have to be all mantras, breathwork and OM. Analytical meditation is a powerful tool in helping us to transform our minds and therefore our actions.

Here is a prayer to help us establish the correct motivation and mindset. Unfortunately, I have not yet worked out how to condense the spacing so the formatting makes it a little hard to read.

Thought Transformation in Eight Stanzas by Langri Táng.pa Dorje Chang

Being determined to accomplish

The highest welfare for all beings

Who excel the wish-fulfilling gem,

I shall constantly hold them dear.

When accompanying anyone,

I shall view myself as the lowest of all,

And in the depths of my heart

Shall hold dearly others as supreme.

Examining my continuum throughout all actions,

As soon as an emotional affliction arises

That endangers myself and others,

By facing it I shall strictly avert it.

When seeing a being of wicked nature

Who is forced by violent wrongs and sufferings,

I shall hold dear this one so hard to find

As though discovering a precious treasure.

When others out of jealousy,

Treat me badly with abuse, insults and th elike,

I shall accept their hard words

And offer the other the victory.

When someone whom I have assisted

And in whom I have placed great hope,

Inflicts me with extremely bad harm

I shall view him as my supreme Spiritual Friend.

In short, I shall offer benefit and bliss to all my mothers,

In this actual life and in the future continuum,

And secretly I shall take upon myself

All of the harms and sufferings of my mothers.

Also, having not defiled all these by the stain

Of preconceptions of the eight wordly feelings

And by perceiving all phenomena as illusory,

Free from attachment I shall be released from bondage.

MM.

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Vegetarian Recipe of the Week #2

My husband has been in London the past two weeks so my experiments in the kitchen haven’t been forthcoming. Not enough people to eat the leftovers! I did find that I ate virtually no meat. I say virtually as I did eat a little of my kids meals in an effort to encourage them to eat (“Look! Mummy’s eating some. Mmm… Yummy!”).  I am not going to force my beliefs on them and meat and fish are things they will eat with the occasional pea being the only vegetable. As a result, they are not vegetarian.

What I did do was try recreate the delicious dish I had at Brown Cow the other week with the result above. It’s no photo finish but I was absolutely exhausted so forgive the appearance.

I used store bought hash browns but if I had the time I would just boil some potatos, roughly chop, press into an egg ring and fry them till just crispy and golden brown. In the other half of the fry pan (moderate to low heat) I added some chopped, organic roma tomatos (Brown Cow use semi-dried but I actually preferred the fresh stuff) and cubes of goat’s feta which had been marinated in rosemary. I let this simmer, gently stirring so it didn’t stick to the bottom of the pan until the tomato started to soften and the feta went all gooey.

Meanwhile I had an egg poaching and had diced some avocado. When all was cooked I gently tossed the tomato and feta mix in with the diced avocado, piled it on top of the hash brown and then delicately placed the egg on top of this. Season to taste.

Though my preparation and presentation was rough it tasted delicious and with only a little bit more time and tenderness it could also look spectacular as well. A great one for Mother’s or Father’s Day! I plan to make this for my husband as a treat one Sunday morning.

I am keen to also experiment with capisicum, red onion and variety of fresh herbs too. Enjoy!

MM.

Posted in Recipes, Vegetarianism | 1 Comment

Thank you!

I was woken up at 5am this morning by my son who wanted to watch TV. After some heavy negotiations I lost the battle around 5:30am when he was ramping up to such a volume that would wake #2. I went back to bed vainly hoping I might get a few more minutes of sleep but the sound of Teletubbies proved to be too disturbing so I decided to have a shower. As soon as I had the shampoo in my hair I could hear #2 wake up and start crying. So, not quite dry and with dripping hair I race out to get him out of his cot after which the three of us headed downstairs for breakfast.  And so my day begins…

I’ve been awake for 3 hours and have only just been able to grab a moment for myself. Toast, coffee, and a book I picked up from the Centre on Monday night Teachings from Tibet. Guidance from Great Lamas. I’m only still up to the Editor’s Introduction but as I was reading about this precious human rebirth it suddenly dawned on me how incredibly lucky I am to have found the Dharma again in this life. I strongly believe that I was a Buddhist in at least one of my previous lives and there are several factors for this: –

1) My parents are not religious or spiritual. Nor were my grandparents. Yet I was drawn to religion and the church from an early age. Having said that, as a young teenager something didn’t quite sit right with me with the Christian religions I was surrounded by.

2) At 17 when I read my first book on Buddhism I instantly knew that that was what I believed in. Some paragraphs felt so familiar that I remember thinking it was like someone had written a book from the thoughts in my head.

3) It has never been a struggle for me (nor was it a shock) to read about such concepts as there is no Self, or Karma or the idea of one-ness. It was more like “yeah I kinda knew that”. Even now as I am learning more things it never feels “new”, but rather it just feels like I’m dusting off an old book from the bookshelf that I read a long long time ago.

So I just wanted to rejoice that I have been able to find the Dharma again and to continue on my efforts of previous lives. May I remain dedicated and motivated to my practice in this life so that I may be at least one lifetime closer to becoming a Buddha.

Gratefully yours,

MM.

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True Love is without Attachment – Teaching from 28.8.11

Tonight’s class was not about any one topic but as it was the last class with this particular teacher he commenced with a longer than usual meditation and then just opened the floor to questions.  One question, which I think is quite a common question to those learning about Buddhism for the first time, was; how can we love without attachment?

The English language is quite vague about the definitions of love. Love can mean the love between family members, the love of music, the love of an object (e.g. I love that car!), sexual desire or even as a term of endearment (e.g. my husband and I refer to each other as “my love”).  All of these types of love involve attachment and involvement of the ego and the I. But True Love means there is no I. With True Love, we foresake ourselves entirely for another. Think about it. Entirely. And it doesn’t stop there. We can not discriminate our family and friends over enemies and strangers. Just because we know someone and have formed attachments to them doesn’t  mean that they are more deserving than others. Even our enemies have mother’s who are equally as attached to them as we are to our family. True Love doesn’t seperate object from object. We are all equal, and not only are we equal but there is actually no distinction between us at the fundamental level. We are all just energy.  There is no “I”  or “you” to be attached to one another there is only love. Woa that was a bit deep! Let’s keep on track.

This isn’t to say that we all must become doormats for the sake of everyone else’s happiness. Buddhism teaches that we too must be happy. This creates all sorts of complex ethical scenarios. It can be quite tricky. I think a prime example that I face daily is with my 3 year old. I’ve mentioned before that he is very trying at times, a typical 3 year old. He would be over the moon if I let him stay up all night. It would make him very happy. But his happiness wouldn’t last long as he would be tired and cranky the next day and my husband and I would not get any time on our own together. As a result we enforce a bed time and sometimes my son is not very happy about this at all and in fact is very cranky indeed. I think the concept of short term pain for long term gain or doing something for the greater good is not unfamiliar to us all. It is not a new lesson, but it can be difficult to know exactly the right action to take in the moment in order to ensure the most benefit to everyone.

So what do we do? We meditate. An enlightened being knows instantly and effortlessly exactly the right thing to do, the right action to take, that is going to have the most benefit to the most people. Can you imagine how wonderful that must be? I am so motivated by this that I have started drafting a post solely on Compassion. True Love is truly wanting another to be happy and simultaneously Compassion is truly wanting another to be free from all pain and suffering. But I digress… back to loving without attachment.

So the above was a little bit of understanding what love is and how we need to love in the right way, but the question the student asked was how can we be not attached to those that we love? People often assume that Buddhists must be cold and distant people because they need to be detached from their loved ones. Buddhism shows us that to be attached to our loved ones only causes suffering- both our own and theirs – and we all have examples of this in our own life or if not, just look at the newspaper and you will see the damage such attachment is having everywhere. You see attachment comes from our ego. Our ego says it must have such an object of love and beauty, it must own it and be a part of it. It must bask in the glory of this beautiful person and let other’s see you with them as this reflects upon ourselves. I must be so beautiful and wonderful if I have this beautiful and wonderful person as my own. Attachment can make us do crazy things for fear of losing that beauty, that loved one. Think of domestic violence, usually the perpetrator loves their victim so much so they feel they have to beat and threaten them into never leaving. I hate to simplify domestic violence in that way but hopefully you can see the negative effects of attachment I’m talking about. Even on a very basic level, if we are attached to our loved ones we feel terrible pain and suffer badly if that person gets sick or, and it will happen eventually, passes away.  There is a great analogy that goes something like this: imagine your loved one as a beautiful butterfly sitting on the palm of your open hand. They are free to fly away whenever they want. We enjoy their company and admire their beauty. If we become attached to them we may want to close our palm thereby keeping them with us forever, hoping that we may avoid the pain if we were to lose them. However by doing so we would crush their wings and hurt them terribly if not kill them. So the right way to love  would be to keep the palm open and ensure that they are happy and free from suffering. We remain unattached but still love them with great emotion. We also know that we will eventually be separated in some way or another. Nothing is permanent and everything is impermanent. If we know this, we will not suffer when our loved one leaves as we already know that this was always to be. There is another teaching that comes to mind from some text I have obviously read in the past, and that is, be careful where you place your happiness. If you place your happiness in that loved one you will inevitably suffer pain.

I am certain that I have not done the topic of Loving without Attachment justice but I am going to publish this post anyway as I’m also sure the topic will come up again in subsequent postings. This blog after all is about the lessons I am learning and believe me I need to learn lessons over and over again in order to continually obtain and reinforce their benefits. If it is a bit haphazard I apologise, my mind is incredibly busy which is why I must meditate as much as I can.

I think it is appropriate to conclude this post with the prayer of the Four Immeasurable Thoughts.

May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness;

May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering;

May all sentient beings never be seperated from the happiness that knows no suffering;

May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and anger that hold some close and others distant.

MM

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Does Buddhist = Hippie?

It is thought small Buddhist communities existed in Northern Australia from the 1400’s. If not, then it certainly would’ve arrived during the Goldrush with the influx of Chinese migrants seeking their fortunes.

Later on lay organisations were established but from what I can gather these were more like discussion or interest groups. Tibetan Buddhism, or Mahayanan Buddhism if you like, really took off in Australia in the late 1970s when thankfully Lama Yeshe established several institutes with resident monks to serve as teachers and really bring Buddhist teachings to Australia. He gave us clear guidelines for practice and venues in which to establish and seek help with a spiritual path.

To this observer, at least, it would seem that the development of the western Buddhist (or perhaps I should narrow my generalisation somewhat to Australia) has become stuck in the era in which Buddhism really flourished here, i.e. the 70’s. You see, I feel there is a stereotype which is associated with being Buddhist that is closely related with the hippie movement and involves arm pit hair, tie-dyed shirts, beads, feather earrings that might also function as dream catchers, bare feet and clothes made of cheese cloth.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics  people declaring to be Buddhist have increased by 79% or 158,000 between 1996 and 2001. We have just completed a national census again and it will be interesting to see what the statistics are now, 10 years later. So if there is this great increase why is it not more present in my modern, western circles?  I don’t feel like I live in a marginalised community but that’s because I don’t. The 158,000 do. The answer I suspect is that Buddhism is still largely the domain of migrants from our close Asian neighbours who tend to live in their own particular suburbs, as we all do really don’t we? I mean like seeks like right? Nothing wrong with that, or maybe that’s not the most politically correct thing to say, but it is probably where my answer lies. Having just said that, I look around Monday’s class and I don’t see a lot of people who look like immigrants but I am attending class in an area in which 77% are born in Australia compared to 69% in the whole of Melbourne so the suburb is not the place to find migrants.

Looking around at the rest of the class there is still a lot of flowing skirts, unkempt hair, a few dreadlocks, canvas bags and the like. The Dalai Lama has often expressed his excitement for how the West will interpret Buddha’s teachings but here I am feeling like we have not properly integrated the philosophy into the 21st Century.

Somehow if you live in the West and you become a Buddhist you get warped back in time to 1969 and I must confess I am not completely outside of this (as she listens to Jefferson Airplane on iTunes) but by and large my Manning Cartell knit and Sass & Bide jeans does not fit the stereotype of a hippie and I don’t wish to stop shaving my pits!  However my mind seeks a category in which to place myself and herein lies my struggle. This is of course the work of my ego and the subject of another post currently in draft mode.

Meditation class tonight so I will blog again on what the topic of discussion was but privately I have pulled out some texts which give instructions on meditations to directly combat the ego and it’s demonic like posession of the mind. I will let you know what these meditations are and my success with them once I have grappled with them for a bit myself first.

In the meantime, this post is best read while listening to Dylan, Janis Joplin, Donovan or of course Jefferson Airplane. Enjoy.

MM.

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