Begin Within Monthly Journal
& Favorite Easy Meals
August 2015; Letter 9
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What if you could change your past?
When I first came across that question it blew a hole wide open in my thinking. Why didn’t I ever think of that? Of COURSE we change our pasts... We do it all the time, both individually and collectively.
On a more superficial level, people (usually the ‘victors’, as they say) write and rewrite history daily. If everyone believes such and such happened, well, that ‘is’ the past.
Though certainly there are many times when people disagree about what happened. We can look for facts, and can maybe eventually influence enough people with our information gathering to change their minds. But that is all we are ever doing. Where is ‘the past’ except in our minds?
Although we can and do change our stories, we humans often vehemently oppose doing so. Our ‘history’ is littered with famous figures who were ostracized, ridiculed, or even killed for trying to mess with concepts that society at large had already agreed upon.
Individually, I realized that I had, many times, without putting words to what happened, changed my past. Simply by seeing an event or a person in a new light, I changed my perspective— sometimes my whole understanding— and with that the memory also was never the same. Past changed.
So on a level deeper than the collective stories we share, we can influence and even permanently change our histories too.
Imagine, if you can, waking up with amnesia and having no memory of who you ‘are’, not even your name. Scary maybe; but also imagine the freedom. In an instant all of your emotional baggage and scars gone. Just vanished. You could meet a person who you had considered your attacker or enemy, and you would have no notion, no memory, no past with them at all. They would be just another person, a stranger passing by.
A Course in Miracles says that a memory of the past like a dream. You choose the images. To realize that you dream a dream is to find healing, freedom, release.
I have found that to be completely true.
Unfortunately, we too often WANT to remain the victim, the winner, the survivor, or whatever we attach to our memories of the past. If it’s positive for you and others, great. But how many of our memories lock us into grievances, guilt, fear, and unhappiness? Whether we are remembering the terrible traffic accident we were in, the person who we believed wronged us at work, or the family member who we have decided is unforgivable.
I’m not going to get into the issue of other person right now; the beliefs we have about them, how ‘wrong' they are, maybe unforgivably so— or so we think— when we, of course, are in the virtuous, undeniable ‘right'. (Look, we say, look at the evidence of what they did to me!)
Who doesn’t think that some people are bad while others (usually ourselves and those we have made pacts of ‘loyalty’ with) are good? That’s a tough mental nut for most people to crack. Which rides alongside the belief that we are only our bodies, which are destined (like everything in this world) to die. Only bodies can hurt bodies.
Today I will just point out that it is your peace of mind that is at stake. The past, in our minds, influences every moment of our every day. In many ways it makes life smoother (ah, teacup, I put hot liquids in this), but in many ways we never deal with ourselves or others from any place except the past. Just try meeting someone you know without any past clinging to them.
Those memories we have- our dreams- make it so we can never see what is, right now.
I have experienced transformational change in current relationships that I thought were permanently damaged (and could have been, because of the past I was attaching to them in every encounter). By changing my view of the other person, in only my mind, the entire relationship shifted for the better. (There was and still has not been any outward communication with the other person(s), and yet the shift remains.) It is very, very powerful.
By the way, if you need to face a relationship in the past with someone who isn’t alive now, that is no problem. Remember, it all in your mind. You are the one in control. In your mind you can travel through time and space in the wink of an eye. You can have conversations and ask questions. You can relive events and then choose again.
Unfortunately, saying to someone that ‘it is all in your mind’ has become a negative in our culture. Though it is the truth, with everything. Taking responsibility for our thoughts is the only way we will every find the deep, unshakable peace, freedom, and joy that go with lasting happiness… What we are always searching for, but seems forever out of our grasp.
That’s all. :)
Simple, but not easy. It has taken me years to stop balking inside when faced with an unhappy situation or interaction, while reminding myself that I can change it, I am responsible. Many times I really, really, wanted the other person to be wrong. 'Why do I ALWAYS have to be the one to take responsibility?' But the more and more I was willing to take it, the more peaceful all of my interactions became.
I remind myself that I am never the victim. Nothing can ever hurt me. The only way out of this (negative interaction or situation) is to change my mind.. These days it usually only takes me minutes to shift back on track; when before I could keep a problem going for days (or years!). I hope eventually that I won’t ever have to get irritated or rise into anger at all. We’ll see. :)
Einstein said man’s experience is like an optical delusion.
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, “Universe,” a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind
of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a
few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle
of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of
the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”
(I often come across really interesting quotes from Einstein. He wasn’t just into physics, he was a very deep thinker.)
In the 1930s, Sir James Jeans, the English physicist, astronomer and mathematician said, "The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.” Other physicists have begun to agree.
In closing this topic today, I am reminded of an episode from Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, that I saw a long time ago. A dog was found, terribly neglected, with his collar embedded in his neck from being left alone and tied up for so long. He was taken to a vet where they surgically removed the collar and nursed him back to full health.
The workers at the clinic all loved the dog and treated him with super tender care and pity. Recalling his terrible ordeal, they refused to put a leash on him, which made finding him a new home difficult (he couldn’t go for walks).
Enter Cesar. Essentially he just took the dog outside, put on a collar and leash, and they went for a walk. That’s it. To the dog, it was a totally new day, even a new world. All the women were crying, and the dog and Cesar were like, ‘Hey, that was then, we are perfectly happy now'.
We could all be more like dogs.
Think about that, then just try to see some part of your past differently. Even if you can’t get there, ask yourself if you are actually okay right now. Without the memory, what is really wrong? Whenever you go back to the source of your struggles and beliefs, you have the opportunity decide again. For or against peace. It’s always up to you.
On the TV and in my Kindle
I just love it when I come across a really great page-turner of a book. A lot of what I choose to read is serious and dense, so I often have to keep a few books going at once. That way I alternate reading material and make sure I am absorbing the heavy stuff by not overdoing it, or getting too dull. I don’t read much fiction anymore, mostly because there’s so much to learn and only so many books I can read. Which is not to say there is anything wrong with fiction or that you can’t learn from it. I used to read 100% fiction books, so maybe I am just balancing things out.
I also love how my reading material has a way of leading from one thing to another, just as I need it. Sometimes I seem to be at the end of a ‘theme’ in my reading material that I’ve been on for a while. In that case I will often suggest to myself I fall asleep (as I do with many things), that I’d like to find the next best thing to read. This works amazingly well. Sometimes I wake up with a thought, that leads me to a general search, which results in the perfect book; sometimes I will just come across a book a day or two later that jumps out at me.
This recently happened and I woke up in the morning with the thought 'Joan of Arc'. I hadn’t seen anything about Joan of Arc and I knew nothing about her, other than watching The Messenger many years ago. I have almost no recall of the movie apart from Milla Jovovich in a dungeon at the end, and the lingering impression that Joan of Arc had been a religious nut.
So, I went to Amazon to see what books there were about Joan of Arc. I did a double take when I found one, entitled 'Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc' by Mark Twain. Who knew he wrote a book about her? And how could I resist?
When I began reading, I had to go back to the internet to make sure it was really written by THE Mark Twain. The style is not typical of his works. It is a novel, written from the perspective of her childhood friend and later page, and is based completely on documented history. (Historical fiction, I believe, is the correct term.)
Twain spent years researching Joan of Arc, including multiple visits to France while he was staying in Europe for a couple of years. Apparently he was rather obsessed with her, and after the reading the book I can understand why.
"I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none".
- Mark Twain
The book itself is a total page-turner, fascinating in every way, made all the more fascinating because it is a true story. For the most part, it reads very ‘straight’, particularly when Twain is recounting Joan’s activities. But now and then he lets his style shine though in a chapter where he is depicting the men in her group hassling each other, or in describing a character and how he got his nickname, with his typical tongue-in-cheek understatement.
What really shines in the book is Joan. And Twain’s treatment of the whole topic— being a non-religious person himself— makes it all the more interesting. She becomes relatable, sympathetic, definitely not a nut, and the true definition of a martyr. (The type who is killed for refusing to yield to the will of others.)
We all know how it ends, but I still cried my eyes out. Highly recommended. It was one of those books that I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next, and at the same time never wanted it to end.
And, as is so often the case when I am led to new books, it was the perfect continuation of my current reading theme and course of self-study.
And every evening we are watching an episode of an excellent TV series. What luck to find great books and great shows at the same time! It’s called Orphan Black. There are only three seasons, ten episodes each. I can’t really tell you anything without spoiling the many surprises that it holds in store; except that the acting is amazing, the story like nothing we’ve watched, and every episode leaves you hungry for more. We only have a few episodes left, and I’m already sorry it’s ending. Don't even read about it, just download it and start watching right now!
The Hot Days of Winter
We are coming to the end of winter here in Argentina. By mid-September I’ll be planting our Spring garden and everything will be in full bloom.
In general winters here are pretty mild. No snow, dry as a bone, sunny and warm most afternoons, cold at night. We have cold spells, where it gets down to 32F (0C) at night and only up to 45F (8C) during the day. But that’s not very often or for very long.
Our version of winter storms are called ‘zondas’, which apparently are the same thing as chinook winds. In the middle of winter it will suddenly start to get hot. Really hot. You’ll feel the temperature rising. If it rolls in at night you’ll look out and see it’s 75F (24C) degrees, after dark. During the day it can climb to 95F (35C). Uh-oh, you say... here it comes. Soon the winds start. Wicked howling winds for a day or two, which stir up all of the desert dust and blow down anything they can. Then, as quickly as it came on, it stops and everyone sets to sweeping and cleaning up the debris.
August, the dead of winter in South America, is peak ‘zonda’ month here in Northern Argentina. This year we had a few storms, including a record one (in our experience) with three days of high winds and over a week of hot weather. It was only the beginning of August and everything started to burst into bloom. With any luck we won’t get a late cold snap that nips the buds.
With the heat we also got an influx of fresh blueberries, well before they usually appear in the markets. I won’t complain about that. I started freezing them right away. This last winter we ran out far too soon. I love frozen blueberries in my spirulina smoothies, in healthy blueberry pancakes and scones, and just straight-up they make the best treat when the weather is warm.
I bought an extra batch of fresh blueberries to make into a gluten-free, nearly sugar-free cobbler. At current exchange rates blueberries cost about $1.30 or $1.60 a box ($20-25 pesos each, for the little plastic containers you all know). The locals think they are expensive, but I think they're a steal.
I made a few small adjustments to my Rhubarb Banana Cobbler recipe (see below for details), including using the most lovely honey I might have ever tasted in the topping instead of traditional sugar. I got this honey— which has the flavor of moras, which here refer to a type of blackberry from a tree (quite distinct from the vines)— from a guy selling door to door.
I love the people who come to our door to sell produce. I buy walnuts at half the price of the market (to make nutmilk for my husband), giant watermelons in season (and don’t have to haul them home), I get fresh black figs (which usually don’t even make it to market they are so prized here), and other treats like this new honey which is so natural there are bits of bee pollen floating on the top.
This is a very small town and word gets around. I’m quite happy to have the reputation for being the house that will buy all the ‘fancy' foods.
This month I’d like to leave you with a few healthy recipes I want to try but haven’t gotten around to making yet. Let me know the results if you get to them before I do!
And for my husband (since I rarely do dairy)- Banana Turmeric Lassi
I hope all of you in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying the end of summer and back-to-school season!
Favorite Easy Meals for August 2015
First off, I wanted to remind you of a recipe that’s in the archives already. It’s one I forget about, but whenever I return to it I wonder why it took so long. It’s one of my favorite easy recipes. The simple ingredients add up to far more than their sum.
I recently made it again, using cilantro in place of basil (which is out of season here). It was fantastic. I stand by my original description that they are like vegetarian crab cakes.
A side dish that I like to make to go with meals such as the Chickpea Cakes or with Veggie Burgers (instead of using buns) is roasted brussels sprouts.
I confess that I never liked brussels sprouts. No matter what recipe I tried they tasted bitter or blah. My husband, however, loves them, so I persisted. Eventually I came back to my simple solution for most vegetables— roast them with in a hot oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. And lo and behold!, delicious brussels sprouts that I LOVE to eat: Tender, a bit crispy, and not at all bitter. Now I have to buy extra whenever they are available because both my husband and I want seconds.
How to Make Brussels Sprouts That Taste Delicious
Brussels sprouts (how ever many you want to make, keep in mind they will shrink as they cook)
Good olive oil
Heat oven to 400F (200C).
Wash the brussells sprouts and remove any outer leaves that don’t look good.
Cut each head in half. Then cut out the little white stalk bases (if they are bigger than about a woman's thumbnail, otherwise you can leave them).
Place in a baking tray and toss with a generous amount of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Roast in the hot oven for about 25-35 minutes, tossing once or twice, until the sprouts are cooked through and starting to get brown and crispy around the edges. I like them best when parts are starting to get really dark brown (but not black, of course).
Add salt, pepper, olive oil to taste. Delicious hot out of the oven, and still tasty as cold leftovers too.
What to Do With White Beans
I finally made a totally vegan and gluten-free lasagna.
My original Roasted Eggplant Lasagna recipe uses roasted eggplant strips in place of noodles. Zucchini also works great in place of, or in combination, with the eggplant. I’ve often thought that one could use white beans in place of the ricotta cheese, for those who don’t eat dairy.
Using my homemade white beans, I pureed them into a thick paste and substituted them for the ricotta in this vegan zucchini lasagna.
I was very tasty, though no one will think the beans are actually cheese. That said, if you don’t eat dairy, I think you’ll enjoy this dish and I highly recommend you give it a try. The key is to prepare the white beans so they are flavorful, otherwise the dish will be very bland.
Use my original lasagna recipe and substitute pureed white beans for the cheese. Feel free to add extra fresh herbs for even more flavor. Chopped basil, cilantro, and/or parsley all go great here.
When I have extra white beans, I like to fry them up up in some coconut oil and olive oil (about 1 tablespoon of each) until browning and starting to get lightly crispy...
They are delicious on salads and with roasted veggies- either hot out of the oven for dinner, or using cold leftovers from the fridge. White beans are a great way to add some variety and protein to a healthy meal.
You can also whip up a healthy white bean dip for veggies, or add them to soups.
And for the healthy and easy dessert category this month... I threw together this cobbler the other evening. It’s based on my Banana Rhubarb cobbler recipe with just a few small adjustments:
1. I didn’t add any sugar to the fresh blueberries. I think they are perfect baked with just the natural sweetness of the fruit.
2. In the topping I used 1/4 cup of mild honey instead of granulated sugar. Either the oven was off or the honey made the topping bake faster. It turned a deep golden brown and was ready to take out of the oven at only 15 minutes.
This 9x12 cobbler has only 1/4 cup of added sugar-- total. It is also wheat-free, dairy-free and nut-free. Oh, and totally delicious.
Enjoy! Until next month!