Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Small Life-Lesson at Whole Foods Market

A recent trip to Whole Foods Market taught me a lesson about anger, compassion, reaction, and response.

I was waiting in the express line. There was one line for two registers. While I was waiting, a man cut in front of me as soon as one of the registers became available. I didn't say anything at the time.

However, as I left the store I saw the line-jumper mulling about, looking at his receipt. I stopped and said to him, "You do realize you cut me off in line?" He appeared a bit taken aback, then said "No... I didn't realize." I walked on and went about my business.

Walking home, I was a bit annoyed at the guy. After all, the he didn't even apologize for cutting in line. But after a minute or two, I became annoyed at myself.

Why did I even bother confronting some stranger over something as trivial as jumping line at the market? What did I hope to accomplish? Did I really need or want an apology? Not especially. Was I acting as some sort of retail etiquette vigilante, informing a miscreant of his misdeeds so he would not be a repeat offender? Perhaps I thought I was, but I wasn't. Was I being forgiving and big hearted? Absolutely not. After all, the lines at Whole Foods can be confusing. Chances are the fellow just made an honest mistake.

Worst of all, I was being a bit of a bully, something I strive not to be. Would I have taken similar actions if the line-jumper had been bigger and scarier looking than me? Doubtfully. In fact, I was quite a bit bigger and scarier than the line-jumper, and probably startled him. Why? Because I was irritated and felt the need to express it? Not good enough.

Soon I felt less annoyed with myself and more embarrassed. Soon I felt less annoyed with myself and more embarrassed by my own behavior. However, as Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön has written, feelings such as embarrassment are "like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck." During that brief encounter at Whole Foods, I was stuck on reaction (anger) instead of response (forgiveness). Now I paused not only to forgive the guy at the store, but more importantly myself for acting rashly. 


By the time I got home (about 10 minutes after leaving the store), I felt as if I had gone on a small-scale mental (spiritual?) journey from anger to more anger to embarrassment to forgiveness to a rededication to try to live in a gentle, benevolent manner. I have no doubt that Chödrön's "messengers" will continue to come. Hopefully I will have the clarity to listen to what they have to say.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sprinting and Visualization: Run Like a Hero!

Running sprints is hard. It can also be rather tedious. But it an important of fitness. I find visualization and imagination to be a powerful tool in helping me really get the most out of my sprint workouts.

Obviously, this is not a new technique. Athletes have been doing it for years. Since I'm not really into competitive sports, visualizing winning some sore of contest isn't really going to help me.

Some people have told me when they run they imagine being chased. I have qualms about that. Why put yourself in victim mode when exercising? That doesn't strike me as very empowering.

When I visualize chases when sprinting, I'm the one doing the chasing. As I have written about many times, I am a huge fan of finding real life inspiration from fictional heroes. For example, I once wrote
Next time your running sprints, instead of just thinking, "Oh man, sprints are hard!," imagine yourself as James Bond running down a terrorist, or Jason Bourne sprinting along Moroccan rooftops in The Bourne Ultimatum.  
I still do that sort of thing. If I'm sprinting on a field and I see a car parked by the side of the road, I might sprint full-force towards the car imagining there are bad guys about to get in to make there getaway. It makes sprints more fun and exciting. 

It is also more empowering than pretending to be running away from the bad guys. I much prefer the idea of the bad guys running away from me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recipe Wednesday: Thai Curry


Thailand is a fascinating country. Unique among Southeast Asian nations, it was never colonized by a European power. The Thai king has reigned since 1946, making him the longest-serving current head of state. (He is also protected from a great deal of criticism, as Thailand has very strict lèse majesté laws.) These interesting factoids aside, the land formerly known as Siam is justifiably well-known for beautiful beaches, the island of Ko Tapu (aka "James Bond Island"), brutally efficient martial arts, and a cornucopia of curries.

In fact, there are at least a dozen curries common to Thailand, so calling this dish "Thai curry" is rather reductionist and simplistic. But there is a method to my my madness!
My own Thai curry recipe is mostly a blend of two different dishes, panang curry and the Persian-influenced massaman curry, hence the generic name.

Thai Curry
(serves 4-6)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3-5 red chili peppers, diced
2 tablespoons of galangal or ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 stalks of lemongrass (inner white part only), minced

2 14 oz. cans of coconut milk
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander

2-3 carrots, sliced
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
1 potato, peeled and cubed
3-4 kaffir lime leaves

1 12 oz. container extra-firm tofu, cubed
1 20 oz. can of pineapple chunks in juice
1/3 cup peanuts
1 tablespoon tamari or other soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave

Heat the oil in a large pot with a lid on medium heat. Add the chili peppers, galangal or ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the coconut milk and use an immersion blender to mix everything together. Stir in the cumin, coriander, carrots, cabbage, potato and kaffir lime leaves. Cover and cook until the potatoes and carrots are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.

One the potatoes and carrots are done, add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the kaffir lime leaves prior to serving.

This dish is best served over a nice bowl of jasmine rice. It isn't especially spicy, so have a bottle of sriracha handy to add a bit of kick (as in Muay Thai, i.e. Thai kickboxing!) if so desired.