Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Power Of Now

Oh boy, friends. I've stumbled upon something that pisses me off and elates me at the same time. No, I didn't find a new ice cream flavor directly after my CrossFit class. Though, that's not far off from the wine dates I seem to schedule after. Anyway, I found a book that's been a pretty heady mind bender but in an awesome way.

I'm reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I've really had a hard time in my life with the battlefield that is my mind. Some of the things that creep in and tousle the good til it's upside down make for a pretty tough path sometimes. I think what frustrates me a lot is the fact that I see this coming, watch it happen and let it burn me. Then, I think about what that means for me in the future and it's like this cyclical madness. I can't ever seem to live in the 'now' and be 'present' which is something I marvel at when I so clearly meet someone that does live in this place. What, you think that's nuts? So do I. Enter 'The Power of Now'.

I'd read some reviews on this book a while ago but it seemed too "universe" for me. I'm definitely spiritual and my faith is strong but I'm not so much of a "world" and "vibes" and "universe" person. It just doesn't jive with me even if I can fully and totally appreciate the people it does speak to. This book is about finding your place in the here and now. It's about reaching inside and pulling out the pain, fear and sadness that has buried itself in your head and it's about facing it, making it known and forever letting go of it. Back in 2009, I started intense therapy and went for about a year. It changed my life. What nobody tells you, however, is that the patterns and cycles come back with vengeance if you don't guard you heart and life against them. So, I'm definitely not too proud to admit that I've been a casualty of this, for sure. This is where the book is pissing me off and opening my heart all at once because it's speaking to many areas that have been rooted very far from the 'now'.

Guys, how often do we all wonder where we're going or why we're here or what we're doing? I don't know a single person who doesn't question what the future holds or what's in store. Hello, my name is Valerie and I'm a 'what does the future hold' addict. It's true, I've suffered from this forever. I've never seen it clearly because it's never under the guise of things like marriage or kids or a house...things that people seemingly measure as milestones or steps in life that make you "happy" or feel like you've "made it". It's more that I have a dreamer's way of viewing the world which I love about myself most days. It's suffocating on those not-so-good other days, though.

The Power of Now has rocked me. It's thrown in my face all the things that I excuse as being "just who I am" instead of realizing that they are traps and emotional road blocks. I'm emotional. I feel deeply and I'm sensitive. What's hard is that I'm fiercely prideful and driven so most people will never, ever understand that I'm sensitive. I am now understanding how much of a choice I have in this emotional cycle, thanks to ol' Eckhart. He writes:

The more you are identified with your thinking, your likes and dislikes, judgments and interpretations, which is to say the less present you are as the watching consciousness, the stronger the emotional energy charge will be whether you are aware of it or not. Mind, in the way I use the word, is not just thought. It includes your emotions as well as all the unconscious mental-emotional reactive patterns.

An emotion usually represents an amplified and energized thought pattern and, because of its often overpowering energetic charge, it is not easy initially to stay present enough to be able to watch it. It wants to take you over and it usually succeeds unless there is enough presence in you. If you are pulled into an unconscious identification with the emotion through lack of presence, which is normal, the emotion temporarily becomes "you". Often a vicious cycle builds up between your thinking and the emotion. They feed each other. The thought pattern creates a magnified reflection of itself in the form of an emotion and the vibrational frequency of the emotion keeps feeding the original thought pattern. By dwelling mentally on the situation, event or person that is the perceived cause of the emotion, the thought feeds energy to the emotion which, in turn, energizes the thought pattern and so on. 

It's funny when you read something that feels like it was written just for you. There's a bunch more awesome stuff in there so maybe you'll consider picking up a copy.

I'm a work in progress, friends. I think we all are. All we can do is try and the 'trying' is what makes us eventually fearless. Fearless and bold and carefree and strong and limitless. We are all limitless. Believe it. Believe it now and live in this place. Not in the past, not in the future. Just now.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sara Forte, A Woman After My Own Heart

Becoming ingrained in the food blogging world is kinda like this fierce downward spiral that you'd never want to halt. One day, you're sitting there all bored at work and not even Facebook can kill time any longer. You browse the net for articles or gossip...anything that will make the day pass...and then you stumble upon a site that changes everything. Over five years ago, I so happily came across 101 Cookbooks, one of the unwavering staples in my food blog collection today. This blog opened my eyes to the vast world of food writing and Heidi's recipes became a sort of obsession for me. I went back to the very beginning of her blog and started reading my way through the entire thing, one post at a time. Her practical honesty and straightforward approach to healthful, wholesome foods really changed every idea I had about cooking at that point. I fell in love with her ideas and craved the goodness that she was creating. She's a mighty accomplished photographer as well and something about her blog fed not only my eyes but my soul. It was the first open door that I stepped through into the culinary world and my oh my, what an unexpected treasure that is.

From 101 Cookbooks came a newfound hobby and purpose for me. I became so hungry for new material, ideas and passions which led me to find the folks dear to my heart to this day. The fiercely talented and oh so fun Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. The sweet and artful Lindsay Landis of Love and Olive Oil. The charismatic and sassy Joy Wilson of Joy the Baker. These are but a few of the people I have followed for years and have virtually gotten to know. These people invite you into their lives, expose their hearts and share with you such romantic, beautiful ideas of what food means to them. You begin to connect with perfect strangers, sharing a love of something you hold dear, and they become your friends. Their words inspire, transform and move you. Your spirits are lifted on days you feel low, their stories make you laugh when maybe all you've done recently is cry and they provide an outlet so joyful that your heart can't help but overflow. I am one of millions of people who follow these amazing women (and so many more!) and they have touched my life without my ever even meeting them. Isn't that fantastic?

My most recent find leaves me with one sentiment. HOW have I NEVER read this blog before?! A friend of mine in San Diego, who knows how much I love this stuff, sent me the link to Sprouted Kitchen not even a week ago. I have since read the entire site from start to finish and I'm in love. Sara and Hugh Forte, a husband and wife team, have created this thoughtful, lovely blog that focuses on whole food cooking. Sara cooks, Hugh photographs. I have been moved to tears by Sara's words in more than one post and all of her food looks divine. She is a creative, sensitive soul and I have never identified so much with someone's writing (or with someone for that matter!) as I do hers. When I read her post on whole wheat persimmon ricotta scones (an adaptation of Deb's recipe, hey-yo!), I swear I felt like I was reading my own writing. She says:

To read through Deb Perelman of The Smitten Kitchen's book felt sentimental for me. The photos and writing are so quintessentially Deb. When I was trapped in a cubicle, I poured over her and Heidi Swanson's work. Printing out all the recipes I wanted to try (in color, of course), put them in plastic sleeves, and in a three ring binder because those things are at your disposal working in an office."

Not only did I do exactly the same thing with the binder, I did so filling it with Deb and Heidi's recipes! And, I still have it! I had already felt like Sara's words struck my soul but this post sealed the deal. The way she feels, thinks and views the world around her is nearly identical to me and I feel like I've got this kindred spirit out there that I must one day meet. I haven't yet tried her recipes but you can put money on the fact that at least ten will be made in the coming days.

This food world, this unbelievably daunting world full of talent so great it'd make you turn and run in fear, is made so much more wonderful (and possible!) by people like Sara. Since graduating from culinary school, the devil on my shoulder so often outweighs the angel by telling me that I just can't do it. It's completely reassuring to know that other people have taken the leap, quit their job and pursued their dream. They are living examples of what the doubts will do to paralyze you unless you just have faith to take a risk. Believe. DO.

I'm so thrilled to have this new addition to my food blog treasures. I'm more inspired than ever to look ahead at what could be, no IS, possible for me as I figure out what my place in the food world will be. Until then, cheers to you, Sara. Thank you for sharing your life, marriage, family and food with us. I can't wait to continue following your journey and perhaps even follow in your footsteps.

Until then, here's to big binders full of precious old recipes, new cookbooks from incredible artists and unending Bon Appetit magazines:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Who Am I?

Samuel Johnson said sorrow is the mere rust of the soul; activity will cleanse and brighten it. JK Rowling also said numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. I've been putting both of these into practice fully the past few weeks and, over the weekend, it all reached a boiling point. No need to share details. I simply write honestly from my spirit and recall precious words from my counselor years ago about using this avenue to be vulnerable and exposed, two of the only things that really push me to grow. So, details aren't necessary. The therapy of writing is.

I had a very tough weekend and I simply couldn't stop my thoughts and feelings from spiraling into confusion, self doubt and heartache. I think I've definitely numbed some pain for a while and, as my mom has told me, I need to stare it directly in the face and deal with it. You don't heal by going around something, you heal by going through it. I haven't wanted to feel any of this, I've wanted to block it out and pretend it's not happening. But, it is. So, now I have to deal with it.

Recently, all I can think is who am I? What is my place here and what is my direction? These questions are life-long confusions for most of us out there and I know I'm not uniquely alone here. For years, I've been ambitiously driven to create a life for myself full of meaning, purpose and passion. I've succeeded greatly for the most part so facing some of these things right now is hard for me. I'm not used to feeling so displaced or having heartache momentarily direct my steps. While temporary, it's blinded me to being able to see life in Denver clearly or to find my place amidst the sea of confusion I'm trying to stay afloat in. I know that time will go by, my heart will heal and that element will no longer be a part of this life equation but, for me currently, it's more about learning to accept and understand that I cannot control every aspect of my life.

Life is undeniably precious and short, something I think most all of us forget and take for granted. Why is it so very easy to lose sight of the precious gifts we do have and instead focus on what we don't have? We have no idea what's around every turn and how quickly something can be taken away from us. I think it's our responsibility to appreciate every second we have, even in heartache, and to understand the richness in our lives. Since the start of this year, it's been my deepest desire to live out of a humble, grateful heart and it's so easy to lose sight of that. In these recent months, I've had to face many of my mistakes, demons and things I regret. It's really exhausting but, when you want to be better, you have to reveal these things to yourself and change them. I'm pretty sure that all of these questions I have right now are for a very specific purpose. I don't think I could see some of these mistakes or poor choices I've made without being really alone to figure it out. See, I'm that stubborn and sometimes I can't see right in front of me because of my own pride. It's one thing that seems to creep back up cyclically and I think I'm finally at the point where I just can't take it anymore. I have got to tear down that pride and put it to rest, once and for all.

I truly believe that pain or heartache is one of the only things that can really grab us and shake us to the core. Losing something or someone that you love seems to be the one way that life turns you upside down and really makes you see the choice to pick yourself up and grow or not. I can never be that person that wallows, I'm simply not built that way. But, being the person who's always viewed as so strong and driven can really be hard to live up to sometimes. This weekend, I cried more than I have in a long time and I think I needed to do that. As I mentioned before, vulnerability is not my forte and it pierces my soul sometimes to allow myself to feel that. I'm slowly understanding that it's part of healing and part of becoming the woman I really want to be.

Much like my time alone in Lucca last summer, I feel lost at points. It's foreign, uncomfortable and it rattles me. Yet, those exact reactions to it all are exactly why I know that I'm right where I should be, going through just what I need to. It's for a divine, purposeful reason. Even though it hurts, I'm trying to shed the strong, prideful skin that I wear so easily and become a softer, less fearful version of myself. I want to walk in love, light and humility and stop being the person that thinks I know best. With a grateful heart, I want to see the goodness in life and allow the freedom of forgiveness and letting go to be what fuels me. I want to be able to open the door to a life full of liberation and acceptance of not only the person that I am, but acceptance of the people around me. My faults, my strengths, my quirks, my fears...these are a fraction of the things that make up who I am. So, as I question that very thing going forward, I'm beyond committed to embracing everything that this time in life is teaching me. I just need to remind myself that it's ok to fail, ok to stumble and ok to let go. More than anything, it's ok to accept myself just as I am. May I step into a fresh season of life with renewed perspective and with a great, true, sincere love of me.