Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Cilantro Between Us

My life would be so much easier if I liked cilantro. Living in California, where there is an abundance of Mexican food, I’m the annoying one at the restaurant, asking the waiter, “Does it have cilantro?” Then, disappointed, “Oh, it does? Can you put it on the side?"

Everyone at the table acts shocked. “What, are you kidding? You don’t like cilantro? How can you NOT love cilantro? I LOVE cilantro!” They stare at me, stunned, like I just renounced my religion or decided to relinquish my citizenship.

Never, it seems, has there been an herb that has created such a divide. It’s like the red and blue states. I don’t see people having this reaction to basil or thyme. But with cilantro, it’s either, you’re with us, or you’re against us.

So, I kept trying it. I wanted to like it. I was sure I would grow to love it. But, I didn’t.  I tried it cooked, I tried it raw, I daringly added a dollop more of a little cilantro laden salsa on my chips, I took little baby bites, and still, I couldn’t wait to get that taste out of my mouth.

If you’re like me, I’m sure that you, too, wish you could love this little contentious herb, just so that people would stop questioning you about your choice, or so that you could stop making two versions of your favorite guacamole or salsa for friends and family. I figured there had to be some kind of middle ground, at least a Switzerland type of substitution that might work for the masses. 

So I did a bit of research and found that some people recommended a few different substitutions; a bit of coriander seeds, a little parsley, some finely chopped poblano chili’s, or a little minced green onions with a squeeze of lime. But no matter what, the cilantro lovers will definitely notice the missing ingredient, and you, the cilantro hater, will wonder why you even bothered to add anything to what might have already been a perfect dish!

And then, just when I was feeling like there must be something wrong with me, I mean seriously, how could I hate this little green delight that everyone else was touting as tasting so fresh, clean, and bright, I learned that it wasn’t my fault! They now say that people who strongly dislike cilantro are born with some genetic variant. Apparently it lies deep inside a cluster of smell-influencing genes. There is a special protein that many of us are extremely sensitive to, and for those of us with this extra sensitivity, we dislike the smell and taste of cilantro. For those less sensitive, they will love it, like it, or possibly won’t taste it at all.

So, taking a deep breath, I think we can all relax now. Nobody is wrong or right in this battle of the herb. It looks like we need to just accept this and move on. And, like the saying, two heads are better than one, so it goes, that with cilantro, there is no debate, two recipes are better than one.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Listen, do you want to know a secret?

Is there really a secret to communicating with the universe? To getting all you desire and living a life of fulfillment? I’ve read The Secret, and books like Thoughts are Things, and Your Invisible Power, and as I apply what I’ve learned, hard as I try, doors still seem a little bit hard to open. Some are squeaky, some off their hinges, others have loose hardware, or the doorbell doesn’t work. And I've been told, that if things don't flow, if doors don't open easily, you're probably on the wrong path. Hmm, how do you decide that you've put in enough time and energy, and you should head back to the trailhead and walk a different direction?

When I was attending the BTB School of Feng Shui years ago, I remember His Holiness Grandmaster Professor Lin Yun, telling us that the universe would listen, and provide, IF, what we were desiring or wanting, was in our best interest. 
Well, that’s quite a disclaimer, isn’t it? “If it’s in our best interest.” So that being said, it meant that the universe had already decided what we needed and what we didn’t, and the best we could do is hope that the two of us were on the same page.

This thinking is in direct opposition with our having free will. Designing our own life. Living a life that we map out, that we plan, that we desire. Apparently, someone had already made that decision for us in advance. Well, we all know we aren’t really in control. That life makes sudden U-turns, takes the side roads and sometimes completely derails. But we make our plans anyway. And we pursue a dream that we hold dear. Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in synchronicity and the wonder of how things unfold. How sometimes we just happen to be in the right place at the right time. And I always give the universe or God or whatever "bigger than us" power you want to call it, credit.


The problem I have with all of these books that offer the solution to our flailing, is (besides the fact that they are making a killing off of us) is that it can lead us to feel inadequate as we are. That we are not doing it right, that we are not truly invested in our dreams, that we really aren’t communicating correctly with the universe and if one negative thought enters our mind, we have blown it, completely hung up or created a great disconnect with our all powerful universe. Leaving us to feel discouraged, powerless and without direction.

I believe the power to create a life we desire is within us. That we are the ones we need to communicate with, to focus, to trust ourselves. So, we shouldn’t get discouraged when things aren’t happening as fast as we like, or in the exact way that we like. We need to believe in ourselves, and in the path and direction that we decide to take. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. You’ve heard it many times, "you win some and you lose some." It’s the yin/yang principal. Balance. But I don’t think we should feel guilty, or feel as if we didn’t quite understand how The Secret works, and that we must have done something wrong, or that thoughts become things and we thought a few negative things along the way, and it all feel apart! At times, we all think both good and bad thoughts. Everyone does! Even the Dalai Lama admits to that. Don't let them fool you.

We can’t depend on the universe, or an outside source to really be able to pay so much attention to us, can we? I mean, there are at present, 7.2 BILLION people in the world, and I’m gonna say, that’s a pretty crowded party line going on. So talk to yourself, listen to yourself, and trust that you get to decide the life that is in your best interest. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn

One of the things I miss most about where I live is the witnessing of the change of seasons. Living in Santa Barbara, the seasons change, but not too drastically. What we have here are a few seasons of “Amazing” then comes “June Gloom” (which refers to our one overcast month in summer) and with any luck, another season that consists of some rain and nights cold enough to wear my peacoat.

October has always been my favorite month, for as long as I can remember. I love the coolness of the air on my skin, the surge of energy I feel, and the way I sleep like a baby under heavy blankets. I also adore boots, jackets, scarves and turtlenecks. Yes, turtlenecks.

And there's something to be said for really appreciating a beautiful day. Here, everyday is pretty beautiful, and you would think I would be appreciative of that on a daily basis, but it seems to be human nature that if you have something all the time, you tend to take it for granted. We really do need something to look forward to. Whether it's a sunny day, a vacation, a Broadway play, we need to have plans, events, things that are not ordinary, not delivered to us daily.

I remember what it felt like, when after having a rainy winter, the first day of spring rolled around, and flowers started to bloom and birds started to sing, and there was that exhilarating feeling of everything coming back to life. That feeling of wanting to dance in the mixture of spring rain and warm sunshine. Everything seemed possible in spring. 

Yes, today is the first glorious day of October and I love how the nights come a little earlier and when I wake there is crispness in the air. It’s the time of year when things slow down, nothing seems as pressing; it's restful. Fall and winter are such quiet times. They are more in line with the likes of the hopeless romantic, where it's easy to get lost in an epic novel. There is a peaceful hush to the world. Fall and winter seem soft, nurturing, and safe. To me, they feel like cashmere and smell like freshly baked banana bread.

Even if the leaves aren’t turning orange and yellow where you live, there are subtle shifts happening outside and in us all. There is a communal slowing down. Fall helps us make the transition from the frenzied activity of summer to the deep quiet of winter. It can also remind us to pause, to be present, and to reflect on the past year. It's a time for us to look back on what we have achieved, on any unfinished business in which we need clarity or completion. It's a time to stop the fiery summer energy of running around, of trying to accomplish maybe too much at one time, and breathe. Just breathe.

So, if the idea of summer being over brings you down and the thought of the cooler and colder months ahead already have you feeling a bit blue, try to relax and embrace the notion that we are meant to change, just like the seasons ~ and rest assured that spring will return and summer will come again.