Where Did My Hammock Time Go?

by Millie Grenough

hammock

“Everybody I know is just flat-out overwhelmed. Me, too.”

It was my 30-something niece Suzy on her speakerphone. She was driving her two-year-old son Gus and her dad to a couple of errands outside of Indianapolis. The day before, I had e-mailed all my family members to ask their opinions on a title for my book, “OASIS in the Overwhelm,” which was about to be published. Continue reading

Apple Tart

by Terry Walters

apple-tart

APPLES AND NEW ENGLAND ARE PRACTICALLY SYNONYMOUS. I remember my parents bringing them home by the bushel and we would enjoy them straight through fall and winter. I was always partial to the most simple of recipes like this one that required little fuss and delivered lots of sweet satisfaction.

Crust
1 cup millet flour
3⁄4 cup almond flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1⁄4 cup maple syrup

Filling
4 apples
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Glaze
1⁄2 cup apricot jam or preserves
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

PREPARING CRUST

Place millet flour, almond flour and salt in food processor and combine. Melt coconut oil over very low heat and whisk together with maple syrup. Add to food processor and pulse to combine and form dough. Transfer dough into 9-inch oiled tart pan. Press down to form crust. Pierce several times with fork and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

ASSEMBLING TART

Peel apples, slice in half (from stem down) and remove stems and cores. Slice apples crosswise into 1⁄4-inch slices. Keeping sliced halves together, fit apples into tart crust. When crust is full, tilt sliced apples to fan them. Combine lemon juice and maple syrup and brush over apples. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until apples are soft and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

FINISHING WITH GLAZE

In small pan over low heat, thin apricot preserves in water. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Pour through strainer into separate bowl. Stir in lemon zest, brush over tart and serve.

SERVES 8

Terry Walters is the best-selling cookbook author of “Clean Food, Clean Start,” and most recently, “Eat Clean, Live Well.” She is a James Beard Foundation Award finalist and recipient of the Nautilus Gold and Silver Book Awards. She is featured regularly on television and radio in print and Internet media, and is the author of the popular blog, Eat Clean, Live Well. Terry will lead the overnight retreat, Clean Food for the Holidays and New Year at Copper Beech Institute, December 2-4, 2016. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 50 retreats and programs to foster peace and resilience in everyday life.

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A Faith Beyond Belief

hand

by Thomas Moore

Around the world, people tell stories of Nasrudin, a sometimes bumbling and often clever spiritual teacher of the ancient Middle East who was better at navigating the depths than the surface of life.

In one story, an old friend tells Nasrudin that he has decided to go off on an adventure and discover the meaning of life. He’s going to miss him, the friend says, adding, “Nasrudin, why don’t you give me that lovely ring on your finger. I’ll wear it, and that way every time I look at it I’ll think of you and your wisdom.”

Nasrudin, not one to part easily with a precious possession, replies, “I have a better idea. Why don’t I keep the ring, and then every time you look at your finger and notice that there’s no ring there, you’ll think of me.”

This is one of many stories about spiritual emptiness—not the literal idea of nothingness as understood in a negative way but a valuable kind of lack that serves the spirit.

Spiritual people often are obsessed with having something to believe in, something to be proud of, something that sets them apart. They want to attain a stage of understanding, a level of wisdom or perfection, and they’d like to possess the truth. They consider their list of beliefs precious and give special honor to their teacher and their local community of fellow believers. They’d like to see miracles and will even travel great distances to check out the new appearance of a saint. Many spiritual people hold on to their faith as a thing, while the most refined teachings often recommend developing a taste for nothing.

This special appreciation for nothing, called sunyata in India and “the negative way” in the Christian tradition, is essential on the spiritual path. When you relax the heroic tendency to know everything and to possess wisdom and belong to the right community, then you have a chance of seeing something really important. You might glimpse the divinity within nature, the sacred in other people, and the holy core of your own self.

You don’t go looking for the right community, because you understand that spiritual community appears at every moment you make a heartfelt connection in the world. You don’t cling to a set of beliefs, because you notice that every experience has such depth that you can sense the divine in it. You don’t need to believe as much as to trust and to see in a sacred manner.

The objects of our belief are often defenses against the sacred rather than its manifestations. We cling to certain practices and a language because we fear the sense of spiritual free fall involved in being open to constant revelations and epiphanies. These latter experiences, visible only to the naked eye, the eye not covered by lenses of belief, offer a different kind of certainty, the kind that comes from relaxed openness rather than anxious need.

Years ago, I was an anxious Catholic, closed to the wisdom of other traditions, believing in a limited set of terms given to me fully defined and sanctioned, unaware of the lessons I could take from the natural world and those I could explore openly and freely. Now I am a less-heroic Catholic, in the eyes of some not a Catholic at all. I’m an empty Catholic, a man whose ardent and cherished Catholicism is invisible in my thoughts and in the way I live and is only a hair’s width away from all other traditions.

I “cultivate my ignorance” about spiritual matters, a lesson I learned from my favorite theologian, Nicholas of Cusa, who said each of us should pursue our own unique form of spiritual ignorance, our own ways of shedding the need to know everything. I also cultivate uncertainty and the sense of belonging to every and no community or tradition. Paradoxically, this letting go intensifies my faith and makes me more religious.

Look at your fingers, and focus on one that doesn’t have a ring on it. That’s a reminder to keep your mind open and your heart unfastened. Notice how empty that finger is, and be reminded that in order to be infused with wisdom and purpose you have to be empty. Otherwise, you won’t be ready when you stumble upon yet another pebble of insight or behold some new revelation. If your fingers are all ringed with fixed ideas and final conclusions, they won’t be free to receive a new insight and keep your spiritual progress alive.

Thomas Moore has been a monk, a musician, a professor, and, for the past 30 years, a psychotherapist practicing archetypal therapy with a spiritual perspective. His latest book is “A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World.” Thomas will offer the weekend retreat, Tapping Into the Soul’s Depths: Finding Personal Strength, Inner Guidance and Purpose Through Soulful Living from November 11-13, 2016.

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Loving Your Inner Critic

by Brandon Nappi

We are all familiar with the voice that arises periodically and without warning. The voice is persistent and usually booms following monotone themes:

I am not good enough.
I will never be better.
There’s something wrong with me.
No one understands.
I need to change for people to like me.
People will reject me if I let them in.
I am too much for others.
I am not meant to be truly happy.

These themes expressed with unapologetic harshness can become an incessant soundtrack to our lives. Remarkably, we speak to ourselves with words and indictments we would never use with others. We reserve the harshest of tones for ourselves.

The following are five practices that can help ease the intensity of the inner critic and provide a way to respond when these unforgiving messages do not subside.

1. Observe

Begin by observing each time you become aware of a harsh inner commentary. Observing is an incredibly powerful act. The act of mindfully observing changes the experience of the thing we observe. By observing, you may notice a stunning fact: there are two of you in there. There’s the voice you hear in your head and there’s the hearer of the voice. Which one is the real you, you may ask? Remember you are not your thoughts.

The observer is not the commentary. Try to observe as non-judgmentally as possible. Notice the inner critic’s statements. Why do they seem so authoritative? Observe as if you were peering into a stranger’s inner world and overhearing the inner monologue. The very act of noticing itself is healing, and reminds us that we don’t need to believe everything we think.

2. Breathe

The breath can support us in the midst of observing. The breath is a familiar friend that can calm the body and the mind. By aligning our attention to the breath we naturally ground ourselves in the present moment, and that’s always the safest place to be. This present-moment awareness is called mindfulness.

So often the inner critic and its harsh judgments launch us into a storyline about the past or the future. Like a tripod steadies a camera so we can take a clear picture, resting our attention in the breath grounds us in the present moment and enables our own stability.

When the inner critic roars, gently feel the breath supporting your life right now and reminding you that in the moment, everything is OK.

3. Thank

Remember that it’s not all bad. This voice has probably fueled you to do many positive and beneficial things in the world. The voice has convinced you to not settle for mediocrity, convinced you that you could be better, and urged you to pursue a goal. Offer sincere gratitude to the inner critic for all the good that it inspired (even if it did so with great harshness). The ability to recognize beauty amid the brokenness can be incredibly freeing.

4. Smile

Here’s a little secret: the inner critic longs for love and acceptance. It does not need to become your enemy. Waging war with the inner critic only confirms its tormenting logic that something’s wrong with you. There’s no use in arguing with the inner critic—you will always lose. While the inner critic baits you into argument, what it really needs is acceptance. Whenever I sense persistent harsh messages arising, I smile and send compassion and love to the inner critic who just can’t seem to help himself.

5. Repeat

First, the bad news: For those of us who have a particularly bold inner critic, the voice probably will not go away. The good news is that by repeating these simple mindfulness practices, we can be happy, grounded and at peace even with the chattering critic in our heads. Courage is not the absence of this harsh inner voice but the willingness to proceed amid its protests. With some practice, we warmly invite the inner critic to join us on the road trip of life. The difference now is that the inner voice is riding comfortably in the back seat rather than driving the car.

To discover ways to tame your inner critic and treat yourself with compassion click here.

Dr. Brandon Nappi is founder and executive director of Copper Beech Institute, the nation’s newest retreat center for mindfulness and contemplative practice. Copper Beech Institute is the nation’s newest retreat center for mindfulness and contemplative practice offering more than 50 transformational programs to foster peace, resilience, and compassion in everyday life. For a listing of all retreats led by Brandon, click here.

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