March 2010

I Am Amazed At What One Person Can Do

One person can change the world.

iyengar-teaching

Click photo to watch video.

It doesn’t matter if you were born into humble circumstances.  It doesn’t matter if you suffer illness or a life-altering diagnosis.  It doesn’t matter if you are not certain of the direction you are going.

What matters is that we choose a direction for this moment.  What matters is that we are persistent.  What matters is that we let go of our attachment to the outcome.  What matters is that we engage ourselves in useful service of life and humankind.

There will be obstacles for all of us.  But with discipline, love and practice we can blast through them, overcome them, go around them, transform them, or just plain eliminate them.  We will create positive change.

This video, made 4 years ago when Mr. Iyengar was 87-years old,  is an example of the power of one man’s commitment to share the life-changing practice of yoga.  Mr. BKS Iyengar, our teacher, whose genius shines light on our path every day.

To watch video, click the photo or click here:  Mr. Iyengar: Genius in Action

Fresh Vegetabale Spring Rolls with Mango & Tamarind Sauce

veggie-roll

I made these fresh rolls last night, and love them.  I served them with a light Asian-inspired soup, and we felt satisfied and energetic after eating them.

It can be a challenge to find long chives, so just use the green onion stems as indicated.  I had to split some of them in half (after blanching) and tie them together.

These lovely rolls feature an intensely flavored, sweet-sour sauce made with tamarind, a sour pulp found in tree pods native to Asia. Tamarind Sauce is the non-hot sauce that is commonly served alongside spring rolls in Asian restaurants (like Saigon Le or Pho Saigon)

Prep tip: Blanching makes the chives pliable enough to tie around the rolls. To blanch, drop in boiling water for 10 seconds, then drain and run under cold water.

1/2 large carrot, peeled

1/2 large cucumber, peeled

1/2 large ripe mango, peeled

½ cup cashews (or almonds, macadamia, or brazil nuts)

Handful of fresh cilantro

Handful of fresh mint

12 large spinach leaves (if necessary, use smaller leaves, layered)

1 cup mungo bean sprouts

12-16 long chives or green onion stems, blanched

Tamarind Sauce (makes scant 1/2 cup)

1/3 cup tamarind pulp or concentrate

*if you can’t find this, substitute lemon or lime juice and brown sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar

1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt, to taste

1. Combine all Tamarind Sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until emulsified. Set aside.

2. Cut carrots, cucumber, and mango into matchsticks. Finely chop nuts, cilantro, and mint. Lay spinach leaves on a flat work surface. Arrange carrots, cucumber, mango, and bean sprouts on each leaf. Top with nuts, then cilantro and mint. Roll up and tie with a blanched chive or green onion. Trim ends to shape. Hold each roll upright and pour about 1 teaspoon sauce into each (or use as a dipping sauce). Serve, passing extra sauce.

Yum!

The nature of resistance

So you want to get to your yoga mat every day?  Or you want to spend a few minutes each day sitting in meditation.  Or maybe you want to take up the guitar.

Or spend more time with family members you love.

Or, argh, maybe you are like most Americans and think you should try to lose some weight. (This desire is a little different from the others because thinking you should do something is much different than genuinely desiring to do it…a topic for another blog post.)

What keeps us from doing those things we say we want to do?

One thing: Resistance.

What is the nature of resistance, how does it pop up, and what do we do about it?

Say you’ve decided to wake up 15 minutes earlier each morning to meditate (because you genuinely want to), but when the alarm clock rings you hear a little voice saying, “I really need 15 more minutes of sleep because I was up late last night and I don’t want to get sick.”  That’s the voice of resistance.

You want to write in your journal before bed because it calms you and makes you feel good.  But … you drink an extra glass of wine after dinner and decide that you are not in the right condition for writing.

Or you wish you had time to take an afternoon walk in the park but the laundry hamper is overflowing and besides, it’s cold out.

No matter what new thing you’ve chosen to do, resistance will show up at some point.  It’s a given.

Author Seth Godin (Linchpin, Purple Cow, Small is the New Big, etc.) says that resistance to trying new things comes from your “lizard brain.”

This is the part of your brain that is responsible for anger, fear, clinging to safety. It’s the part that thinks you might get laughed at.

A hold-over from pre-historic times, your lizard brain kept you quiet when speaking too loud meant the sabertooth tiger might hear you and eat you. When the way to survive was to move toward safety at all costs.

lizardbrainYour lizard brain is part of your shared humanity with every person who has come before you.

Lizard brain (technical term: amygdala) is not a bad thing. It’s why you don’t leap into the lion’s cage, or speed around town at 125 miles per hour. It’s the place that stores your earliest emotional memories, so it’s quite powerful.  You don’t want to get rid of the amygdala — it serves an important purpose.

Some behaviorists call it “reptilian brain,” and consider it the source of rage and fight-or-flight responses. This part of the brain responds to triggers, and can override a person’s ability to reason and respond.

Relying on lizard brain can result in unpredictable or primitive behavior in even the most sentient of creatures.  To grasp what lizard brain is, think road rage or even emotionally-charged impulsive speech.

Our mammal brains have evolved beyond the reptilian brain because of the presence of the cerebral cortex. A well-developed and healthy brain uses its cerebral cortex to monitor the person’s tendency to react with the rashness of the reptile. The cerebral cortex helps us to make deliberate choices to respond with rational behavior rather than reactivity.

Once you recognize the tendency to revert to the ways of the reptile, you are better prepared to beat it at its own game.

How? When you hear the wily voice of resistance, simply say “Thank you for sharing.” And ignore it.

But to do this, you need to find ways to strengthen the cerebral cortex, your place of reasoning and rational thinking.

Practicing yoga increases your ability to tune into this more-evolved part of your brain.  In each class at Evergreen, you practice steering your focus toward where you want it to go.  You strengthen your cerebral cortex “muscle” by using it through repeated observation, self-reflection, and by carefully choosing response.

Here are a few other ways to give your lizard brain a rest & move toward your more evolved self:

  • Put a photo that reminds you of your desire in a place where you will see it.
  • If you want to practice more yoga at home, unfold your yoga mat and keep it in plain sight.
  • Play music in your car that inspires you.
  • Get more sleep. Everything goes better when you are rested.
  • Hang out with people who refuse to indulge their lizard minds.  If you’ve made a commitment to spend your lunch hour at the gym, then teer clear of those who speak in the voice of “Come on, you can skip today and go to lunch with us instead.”
  • Take up with friends who have interesting ideas and want to talk about them with you.
  • Tune out voices that speak the language of fear. A person doesn’t have to carry a gun to terrorize you.  In fact, your lizard brain will do it to you every day if you don’t put it in its place. Practice letting your higher mind make your decisions.

There are an infinite number of ways to slide back into pre-historic ways of avoiding innovation in favor of safety.

The truth is, ultimately there is very little security in living anyway. Which is all the more reason to move out of the descending spiral of resistance.

Cultivating the higher mind of the cerebral cortex leads the way out of lizard brain and into a life supported by choices we make to support our heartfelt desires.