Friday Five!

Hello! I am sick, and majorly busy, and pretty overwhelmed, but I’m going to take advantage of my current state of “not-enough-brain-capacity-to-do-actual-work-but-enough-brain-capacity-to-do-the-Friday Five.” Because there is nothing like the internet to give you a break from your life outside of it. Also, it’s another cheesy motivational poster kind of week for me, sooo:

And now the FF!

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How a national food policy could save millions of Americans lives

I really appreciate this article from the Washington Post (written by three famous food warriors) that points out the insanity of the government (or at least the First Lady) promoting healthy eating habits, whilst entrenching the structures that make healthy eating impossible for the majority of Americans. The authors write: “A well-articulated national food policy in the United States would make it much more difficult for Congress to pass bills that fly in its face. The very act of elevating food among the issues the White House addresses would build public support for reforms. And once the government embraces a goal such as “We guarantee the right of every American to eat food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable” — it becomes far more difficult to pass or sign a farm bill that erodes those guarantees.” #church

Fall Veg + Lentil Bowl w/ Goji Ginger Tahini Cream

Just read the name of this recipe again. Now look at the picture. Omg, I really need to make and devour this amazing dish from The First Mess!

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First-Ever Walmart Strike!

As may of you know, the labor movement and worker’s rights more generally are things that are very close to my heart/my scholarship/my activism, so I was pretty effing stoked to see this historic news about Walmart workers first-ever strike. Organizers hope the action will raise awareness of their concerns about fair hours and wages in advance of Black Friday. Walmart is known for terrible working conditions and egregious union basting tactics, so it is incredibly awesome that the workers were able to get even this far by organizing OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), a nonprofit group supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers. Support workers, remember to stay away from stores (especially Walmart!) on Black Friday!

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Self Care, In Theory and Practice

This, this THIS. The Hairpin’s Fariah Roisin and Sara Black McCulloch talk to each other about what self-care means, and “the struggles that come when you’ve been socialized to equate an act of self-love with solipsism.” The two women talk about how to practice self-care after bad breakups, while traveling, before sleeping. They write about makeup and selfies and sage and body-hate. Fariah discusses how appreciating other women is part of self care: “I’ve really developed good feelings about other women, and that’s been really cathartic for me. Another woman’s success is a good thing for all of us, and instead of using it against myself—when it has nothing to do with me, I’ve embraced the importance of women’s voices that aren’t mine. Besides, a lot of us are fighting each other when we should be fighting the patriarchy. “ It’s basically all the things, and it’s going to be an ongoing series, so I’m pretty stoked to stay tuned.

Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy

yoga; teaching sculpt and having one of my students come up to me after class and say, so sincerely, “you are so strong. you’re really inspiring.” (be still, my heart!); an overdue coffee date with a person i care about very much; speaking my truth; good outfits; the weather—the changing, the growth of the seasons and the reflection it inspires; this video because it reminds me so much of minneapolis and is just the most delightful; phone calls with dear friends; emails with dear friends; knowing how to take care of myself when i get sick and implementing all my get-better tools; seeing my students improve; the good/bad tv that keeps me company on my couch while i’m not feeling well; kitten.

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What made you happy this week? xoxo

Coping with Suffering & the Suffering of Others Through Compassion

On Friday morning, a student of mine approached me at the front of the room a few minutes before class started.

“Can I talk to you outside?” he asked.

I nodded and followed him into the hall.

“Last night…” he began, swallowing a lump in his throat, “Last night my friend got shot.”

He explained that his friend was in critical condition in the hospital. After expressing my condolences, I asked if he needed to leave and go be with him.

“No, I don’t need to leave now, but if I seem out of it, or if I get upset by something, I might end up leaving before class is over, if that’s okay,” he asked/explained.

“Of course,” I replied, “Do what you need to to take care of yourself. We’ll make sure we get you caught up if you miss anything.”

On Sunday, I received an email from the student saying that his friend had died.

This is not the first time something like this has happened since I’ve been teaching college. I had a student talk to me during office hours about being suicidal. I had a student who got through a class at the same time that her parent was getting deported. At the beginning of this semester one of my students lost her mom to cancer. And last week, another student’s mom just got diagnosed with cancer (a year after her dad passed away from kidney failure).

In my other job, as a yoga teacher, I don’t always hear these stories verbally, but I feel and bear witness to my students’ struggles. I feel trauma in the quivering hips of a student I adjust in half-pigeon. I witness sweat mix with tears while my students rest in savasana. I feel the weight of heartbreaks, and transitions, and grief from every exhale in the studio.

Because I, like everyone, have experienced suffering to varying degrees in my own life, it sometimes feels overwhelming to also be wound up in the suffering of others. I have not always known what to do with the heaviness I feel after those interactions with burdened students. I used to attempt to find ways to bring them comfort while still shielding myself from carrying their pain, but that never proved successful.

About a year ago, I learned about the Buddhist practice of tonglen. Pema Chodron describes it as “connecting with suffering–ours and that which is all around us.” She explains,

“We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in other’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our personal stuckness happens to be at that moment.”

When I first read those words, I was at one of the lowest points I had been in a long time. My entire life had been flipped upside down and I felt very scared and alone. I was spending all my time consumed in my own suffering. I remember sitting on my bed and re-awakening to the suffering of the world. I remember breathing in for victims of drones, for people with chronic illness, for exploited workers, for my mom and the challenges she was facing at home. I started weeping almost immediately, burying myself in that pain, but, at the same time, my body felt suddenly light.

Chodron continues,

“At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment of time are feeling exactly the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it —a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in —for all of us and send out relief to all of us.” 

The practice of tonglen is a reminder of the interconnectedness of all beings. When I have been in low places, I can find comfort by practicing compassion for those who are also suffering. This is different than “misery loves company.” Tonglen isn’t about feeling better because “someone has it worse,” it’s about recognizing that all beings suffer, (just as all beings feel joy), and that a path to effective healing must consist of compassion both towards ourselves and towards others.

When I am surrounded by suffering, I can conjure the compassion that I have learned through my own personal challenges. When I see and feel the tumult of my students, I can breathe it in, hold it, then exhale some relief to them, and in turn, to me.

Any human being who is in relation to other human beings will experience the suffering of others, but those of us in care-giving occupations may often experience it to a level that feels overwhelming and/or triggering. In addition to tonglen, these are some other ways that I practice coping with others’ suffering:

Ritual.

At the end of every yoga class, as I’m guiding my students out of savasana, I fold my towel in front of me on the mat in exactly the same way.  Over, under, flip it, fold. That process may seem small, but it allows me to transition from the space in the room–now sopping with the stories the students came in with–back into the world, and to leave what no longer serves me on the mat.

Sweating.

Running, HIIT, yoga, whatever it is, when I move my body and sweat, I feel epic release.

Showering.

This is a practice that some suggest you ought to do every night.  After being out in the world with all the mucky energy, it is important to rinse away the day. (And also allows your bed to remain a clean, pure space to enable optimal sleeping and dreaming conditions!).

(PS: I don’t practice this one all the time because I do the majority of my working out and/or yoga in the morning, so I usually shower in the AM. If I do do a PM shower, I try to make it very quick so as to not waste water!)

Dry Brushing.

Dry brushing is a practice of taking a body-brush and running it over your body to get blood circulating and remove dead skin cells. More than that, it too acts as a method of release and detox.

Sage.

Burning sage cleanses the space around you. I do this whenever I move into a new apartment, and any other time I feel like I need to purify the energy around me.

 

In her book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, Tara Brach writes, “…as we feel suffering and relate to it with care rather than resistance, we awaken the heart of compassion. As we practice responding to our suffering with the kindness of compassion, our hearts can become…as wide as the world” (p.201). The suffering of others is also our own, and vice versa. Our mission is not to resist or find a way to escape, but rather to let it open us up into our most vulnerable and compassionate selves.

Friday Five!

Happy Friday! I hope you had a nice week. My week has been up and down, and also busy. I did get to enjoy an afternoon in the Boston Commons, and it made me very happy to be a New England resident in the fall:

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And now the Friday Five!

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From GMOs to Soda Tax, What the Election Results Mean for Your Fridge

Well, a lot of people are pretty unhappy with Tuesdays election results. I am grateful for the small, meaningful victories (like the states that raised minimum wage, ensured paid sick time, and challenged prison expansion), and not terribly surprised by the “losses” (which is really just the status quo in our capitalist system). Anyway, regardless of your politics, I figured the RGK community would be curious to know the outcomes of the bills that related to our food system. Mother Jones provides this thorough review.

Yacon Cacao Chia Cookies with Chai Tea Frosting 

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently on the Rest & Restore plan, which, for me, means no sweets like this for a couple weeks. BUT, when I’m done resting and resorting, I look forward to giving these Essential Living Foods low-glycemic, raw, vegan cookies a try!

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7 Ways to Deal with Uncertainty

So, I am, for the third year in a row, in a position of complete uncertainty. Jobs, relationships, where I’ll be living…it’s all up in the air. Existing in liminal space and coping with instability is not easy…and it leads me to google things like, “how to deal with uncertainty.” One of the articles that popped up was this gem from Tiny Buddah. I actually found some comfort in it and plan to practice these things more mindfully.

1980s AEROBICS + T. SWIFT

Okay, I was going to just link to this in the SftWtMMH, but this mashup is just TOO GOOD. Seriously. HAPPY FRIDAY.

Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy

a low-key halloween night with friends; exploring new coffee shops in different parts of the city; Logan’s visit, especially our afternoon in the Commons; voting (i suppose…); it’s social movements week in both my Mass Comm class and my Public Comm class, so I’ve been spending the whole week getting to talk about MLK, Malcolm X, ACT UP, the changing face of activism/digital activism, etc. It’s kind of my jam, and I get pretty stoked to introduce this stuff to my students who seem largely to not know much about it; new string lights above my bed; kitten; delicious homemade soup; yoga.

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What made you happy this week? Have a great weekend! xox

Some Things I’ve Been Eating Lately: Rest & Restore Edition!

Hello! As usual, I didn’t end up documenting an entire day of my meals, but I have taken shots of my food over the past few days, and so I’m still able to provide a pretty solid sample of what’s been in my belly of late. I am currently participating in Rest and Restore, a two-week program designed by Lacy Davis from Super Strength Health that encourages participants to slow down and commit to eating a whole foods, plant-based, sugar-free diet.

Because I already eat entirely vegan and almost entirely whole food, it may seem odd that I thought it was worth it to pay to get a meal plan that so closely matches what I already do. But the benefits of doing something like this in a community of other people on the same journey is really powerful, and it’s helping me go the extra mile with my health: for these two weeks, in addition to following this meal plan, I’m cutting out alcohol, cutting out any kind of dessert-y things (no maple syrup, no agave, not even dates), and I am upping my protein intake. These are three areas I slack on majorly–that is, I will often drink just to be social without pausing and deciding if it’s actually serving me; I will often end the night with something sweet (usually “healthy”, but still, it starts to feel addictive, and it’s a cycle I like to take a break from); and I can certainly always use a push to get more protein.

So here is what a some of that has looked like:

My mornings, as usual, have been smoothie-centric. This is an INCREDIBLE turmeric green smoothie, slightly modified from the SuperTasty Anti-Inflamatory Cookbook.

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color coordinated nutrition on my drive to work.

I was exploring downtown Boston with Logan while he was in town and we stumbled across an adorable health-food market that happened to have an R&R-approved quinoa veggie soup. It was delicious!

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For dinner, I’ve been working on finishing this incredible butternut squash lentil soup, based on this recipe. It was seriously so yummy!

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I’ve also snacked on lots of carrots and hummus, apples, and almond butter.

What have you been eating lately? 

Friday Five!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I’m a big fan of most holidays, and Halloween is definitely in my top three favorites. I love the festive, spooky energy it musters up in people. I love that it coincides with the peak of autumn, and that my memories of trick-or-treating are juxtaposed to the smell and crunch of crispy leaves. I love how fun it is to brainstorm and create costumes. And I love finding creative ways to make and share theme-appropriate treats!

Not surprisingly, this week’s Friday Five has some Halloween love sprinkled throughout. Enjoy!

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Is Your Halloween Costume Racist?

The good folks at College Humor provided a nice simple flowchart for you and yours to determine if your Halloween costume is super fucked up and racist. I like to think the RGL community of readers wouldn’t think of participating in any number of the horribly inappropriate costumes that exist out there, so perhaps you can just have this handy for that person in your life who maybe isn’t thinking so critically about their costume choices.

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The Problem with Positive Thinking

I’m not sure I entirely agree with this article from the NYT, but I am curious to hear people’s thoughts. Basically some scientists did some studies and showed that people who practiced positive thinking (more specifically, achieving goals without challenges) did worse on achieving those goals than people who didn’t practice that kind of positive thinking. I agree that we can’t be all Oprah-fied all the time, but, as the article fortunately points out, the alternative shouldn’t be negative thinking. It should be some middle ground.

I personally feel like as I’ve gotten deeper into yoga (and found many crossovers in Buddhism), that it’s not even just about “moderation,” but rather finding ways to practice both positivity and negativity in a way that promotes balance. For example, in yoga, we intentionally invite sitting in and breathing through things that don’t feel good (much like Buddhism invites us to sit with suffering). But yoga has also taught me to “leave it [negative stuff] on my mat.” I don’t think we should try to run away from or erase our problems with positive thinking, but I think that after we do the work to sit with our discomfort that it’s okay to start affirming the shit out of ourselves and our lives.

What do you think?

The Problem with That Cat Calling Video 

Perhaps a lot of you saw the video floating around social media of the woman who records herself walking through NYC and experiences over 100 catcalls. It was, of course, disturbing, and a glimpse into what many women go through on a daily basis. But the video was incomplete–the creators actually admitted to editing out the white men who were complicit in street harassment. Thus, the video became a story almost entirely about “bad men of color.” Feminism is nothing without intersectionality; that is, it’s important to not treat social injustice in a vacuum. If we’re outraged over #Ferguson, we can’t continue to perpetuate discourse that frames black masculinity as always already threatening.

Vegan Candy Corn (That Isn’t Full of High-Fructose Corn Syrup!)

I have to admit that I am one of those people who used to find that waxy sweet experience of Brach’s Candy Corn to be utterly irresistible. Fortunately, my taste buds have changed a lot over the years, and I don’t even want to splurge on a handful of that junk. I do still get nostalgic for the concept though, and that’s why I was delighted to discover not only a recipe for vegan candy corn (there’s actually quite a few of those), but a recipe that is free of refined-sugar and other scary stuff. And to get the yellow color, the recipe calls for turmeric! Cool!

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Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

seeing a movie by myself for the first time ever!; work study date with my good friend, Michael; the pumpkin candle Michael gifted me knowing I really wanted one!; friend time with a gal pal at a queer dance party; when the bar DJ played “Anaconda” and mixed it into “212,” and our little dancing circle responded with delight; the run-in I had with the Harvard prof to whom I once taught yoga, who I fan-girl over because he’s a big deal in African American studies, and when I saw him at a coffee shop this weekend (a year after the first and only time we met), he remembered my name and my work and invited me to a conference at Harvard about mass incarceration!; shared CSA veggies; hard talks that make me glad because it means there is growth happening; transparency from my colleagues; when the chair of the Women and Gender Studies Department at my school thanked me for inspiring students to be feminists; kitten-love; HALLOWEEN THINGS; the arrival of my friend Logan who is visiting for the weekend; all my fellow professor/grad student friends who share amazing pedagogy ideas on FB–i feel really lucky to have such inspiring friends!; planning for and connecting with the community of folks doing Lacy Davis’ Rest & Restore program; True Bistro; phone calls with momma; feminist book club with such fierce ladies, and the conversation that ensued; making my new sculpt playlist; T-Pain; and my students, always.

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What are you being for Halloween?! Have a great weekend! xoox

Feel-Better Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

Happy Monday! Remember how on Friday I explained that I was so busy I didn’t even have time to cut and past things from the internet into a blog post? Well, then it probably comes as no surprise to you that on Saturday I got hit with what felt like the beginnings of a very bad cold. I felt tired the whole day, I was sniffling, and my throat was scratchy.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten pretty good at attacking symptoms before they get too comfortable. My go-to get-better kit includes: grapefruit smoothies, ginger (in anything i can put it in), turmeric (same), lemon, oil of oregano extract, and lots of tea and water.

In an effort to combine several of those in one meal, I made a variation of my carrot soup. It’s a super simple soup and you can make it with a lot of variations.

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Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

3 large carrots, chopped

1 in. (or more)  fresh ginger root 

1 in. (or more)  fresh turmeric root

2 c water (you may want more or less depending on how thick you like your soup)

juice from half lemon

Optional Add-Ins:

tahini

salt

cayenne pepper

kale 

Heat the carrots, ginger, turmeric, and water in a pot at medium heat until it comes to a boil. Pour ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend until smooth.

Pour in a bowl, squeeze the lemon on top, add a dollop of tahini, and a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper. Also, maybe some kale.

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This had me feeling better right away. And it was delicious!