The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snowed In--Attachment, Aversion or Neither?

Seriously Snowed In. Not just a "dusting" or that changeable "Wintery Mix", (charming metaphor for nasty stuff Accu-Weather really can't categorize), but "Significant Snow Fall"--here in South Central PA, that means milk, bread and eggs had disappeared many hours before the impending storm from every mini-mart and grocery store in town, which lead my son to wonder out loud what it is about milk, bread, eggs and Pennsylvanians, as we left the market with....well, just milk. He's a New Yorker, a city dweller, where nothing ever closes, and people have a vast cornicopia of food choices.
We decided it wasn't so much about the food itself, but the excitement of an impending natural occurrence that would be fairly benign (no earthquake), fairly pretty (no tsunami), fairly short (no raging wildfire) and remenicent of childhood. Threat of a good snow storm engenders a feel-good desire to be part of a little community of stressed but generally good natured Hunter/Gatherers. In other words, a mix between being cave-people stockpiling the wooly mammouth for hard times ahead and being a child again, waiting for Christmas morning when someone might make you French Toast after opening gifts!

Waking up Saturday morning, with the snow still coming down, and at least a foot already on the ground just made me crack up laughing. That was the child in me, and she laughed for quite awhile. Then the cave-woman made a big pot of coffee for everyone else in the cave, put on full winter gear and went out to start shoveling a path for the domesticated animal to find a place to do what he still needs to do outdoors! Back indoors, all in the cave fed and cared for, chores done, phone calls made to those outside the circle of snow (are you getting any snow? No? Oh too bad), it didn't take long before one of us said, "Oh my God we're snowed in!" in a very anxious tone. And even though we all knew it was a joke and we laughed, there was that undertone of frantic question, what the hell am I going to do for the next couple of days if I AM snowed in?!?
At different times in my life, I've felt just this anxious undertone.
It's never really had much to do with actually being snowed in, or laid over, laid off, stuck in traffic or waiting in the Dr.'s office. In fact, I remember feeling exactly this panic as I settled in for my first retreat--here with my self and only my self? Now What?!?
No, it's not so much about waiting, as it is not knowing what comes next. How can we possibly effect an unknown?
We can act with compassion and wisdom to each new experience, but unless we are mindful, we don't know that this will be the most skillful response every time!
How can we control it, if we don't know what "it" is? And control? Hmmm....we might just find ourselves in a situation we have no knowledge of, no control over--in fact, we may have to face something the ego can't construct.
All on a Snow Day.
Anticipation, the unexpected, the experience of not knowing can be utterly unhinging. Our ego self flourishes and thrives with a continuous diet of known, expected, controlled, predictable. The house of our ego self is constructed over and over again with this flimsy sense of control, of what we think we know and what we expect to be unchangeable and distinctly individual.

And at different times in my life, depending on where I was and who was there with me, being snowed in was either a glorious loving heaven that I wished would last forever, or a hideous hell relm from which I couldn't run fast enough. And yes, at times, both! We've all had the experience of feeling smothered by what we so desired and pursued.

We humans have the amazing capacity to imagine something entirely different than what is directly in front of us, and the best (and worst) of human civilization is inspired by this gift. But residing in the "what if" and "used to be/could be/should be" is denying our moment to moment living. Even as we function in our immediate world, we spend so much energy residing in the past or the future as if those places are directly experienceable, all the while missing our very moment of awakening.
The anxiety of "snowed in" points to the anxiety of having to face the small self that requires constant bolstering by doing something or going somewhere or being "useful". Snowed In means we may have to just "be", and most the time that sends us frantically scurrying to find solace in front of the computer, television, on the phone or indulging in the drug of choice! And yes, this weekend I've relied on all of the above (candy is my drug of choice).

But I've also spent time in formal meditation, practicing yoga, sitting silently in front of the fire with my husband and son, walking the dog, practicing samu with snow shoveling, laundry and cooking. And this was one of the recipes I tried this weekend. Satisfying for body and soul.

Snowed In Sweet Potato-Lentil Stew
many thanks to Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet

Serves 4-6

1/4 C olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 small tomatoes, diced or a can of tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
fine sea salt
2-3 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4" cubes
7 C of vegetable broth
1 C brown lentils

Heat oil over medium heat in a large, deep pot. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion begins to soften. Stir in the tomatoes and ginger and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in all spices and salt, cook and stir for 2 minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Add sweet potato, broth and lentils. Stir well and bring to a boil over high heat. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until potato and lentils are soft.

This is delicious served on it's own as a stew, or over brown rice, which gives it a nice chewy texture. Great with corn bread too! And really, if you have leftovers in the fridge, just about any veggie could go into this Snowed In concoction. The spices will bind it all together, not unlike the Dharma in our lives!

And thanks David, for the lovely photographs!

No comments: