I have always been a sensual creature, needing to feel my way through life, taste, smell, visually experience and touch through the world to digest it fully. It's no mistake I pay such close attention to detail. "Life is lived in the details", is almost my motto.
So when I am described as "tigger" or as "born under a lucky star" or even as a "unicorn who must fart rainbows" I laugh a great belly laugh of acknowledgment to myself that my discipline of happiness is actually being transmitted and felt by others. The last year has challenged everyone at every corner of the earth to reassess their lives and shift their perspectives at the very least. For some it has meant financial devastation, utter isolation and a total reimagining of the person they once were pre covid. And all this can also be seen as a gift, a gift to committing to a truly authentic life, one without the masks of acceptance we wear in the face of familial and societal expectations, because all of that has been turned on it's head, businesses closed for almost a year, wellness venues shuttered deemed unessential, pleas to the public to self isolate even from loved ones, a form of a dystopian novel that could not have been written to make more of a blockbuster psychologically depressing film. And yet, here we are, so now what?
So now reinvent, start over, sit quietly and sow seeds of love, let the seeds of expectation, fear, ego wither and die under a less fertile soil. Fertilize the seeds of love, joy and compassion.
On my writing desk sits a very small quote on brown kraft paper typed in times new roman font.
It's Proust, born in the time of Cholera in Paris, as a small maybe not so insignificant side note to his revelatory quote,
"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
The source of this citation is 'In Search of Lost Time' À la recherche du temps perdu - perhaps the most celebrated work by Marcel Proust. To quote more fully from the original citation source:
“A pair of wings, a different respiratory system, which enabled us to travel through space, would in no way help us, for if we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe everything we could see in the same aspect as the things of the Earth. The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we do, with great artists; with artists like these we do really fly from star to star.”
I'm not sure how much of this time for us is unprecedented, historically, it seems that at the turn of the century one could argue Proust was experiencing a similar revelation about the origin of true happiness. How we choose to see, touch, feel, taste life is really up to us. Suffering in it's innumerable forms has always existed as happiness's bedside companion and the way through suffering is not in attempting to avoid or alleviate it, to remove or escape from it in life but is instead to view it as a great teacher, an opportunity to deeply experience compassion, it is suffering that is the fertile soil that enables the seeds of joy and love to germinate.
Maybe read that again. Let it sink in.
In Hindu and buddhist traditions Avidya is what Proust is acknowledging. It is our ignorance before awakening. Our darkness is not in the daily suffering we endure but rather in the way we view the world around and within us through the veils of ignorance, ego, attachment and avoidance that creates suffering.
We choose how to experience our life. How to digest our lives. When we look deeply, sit quietly we can choose complete presence to this moment. How sunlight catches the tips of undulating current at the oceanside and sparkles like fairy dust, or how the pink sunrise reflects off the monolithic silver skyscrapers of a great city casting it's warm hue upon every face and street and object it can reach. We could also choose to see the danger in the ocean, or have irritation about the temperature in the air instead Or rather than seeing the morning light reflecting off of the buildings in the city we could be wholly unaware of this choosing instead to be irritated by traffic or feeling a sense of entitlement or egoic satisfaction in where we are in life and what we have accomplished, we could be in essence ruminating on past and projecting into future instead of being present to the experience of our feet on the ground.
The great discipline is this, to find the beauty in all things, and there are a million ways we have been given to do just this. Find your way, make it a discipline, use the tools that work for you to shake off the avidya, this incorrect way of seeing to make room for the joy of now.
Shakshouka is one of those dishes that has been a simple one pan meal that satisfied and nourished from middle eastern and north African diets and centuries past. I've given it a twist. If it is one thing I struggle with it is dishes, I look deeply into the zen of soaping up a dish as a way to romance myself into doing this and enjoying the sensation, this is my practice that I am still working on, I laugh to myself in joy therefore when I find a one pan meal that satisfies, which is rare.
It is traditionally a reduced tomato based sauce heavy with aromatic herbs of turmeric, cumin, paprika, coriander, and goat, or lamb, peppers and poached eggs, it's quintessential element making it a breakfast food for the ravenous.
I eat meat maybe twice a week but still need the protein at the beginning of my day and so I have chosen a vegetarian version that calls more out to it's South American neighboring dish huevos rancheros with it's use of black beans and cilantro.
In any case it's simple and in these winter months it begins the day with a warm belly.
8" cast iron pan (almost necessary)
1 -2tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp organic tomato paste
1 garlic clove minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
a dash cayenne
3 cherry tomatoes quartered
1/2 cup black beans
4 free range organic eggs
handful chopped fresh cilantro
tortillas, chickpea flour crepes (recipe coming soon), naan, or fresh crusty bread to eat this with
Saute' garlic in olive oil in a small 8" cast iron pan , add spices and let heat to perfume the room, add tomato paste and cherry tomatoes on medium heat stirring to amalgamate flavors and possibly add a little splash of water if your tomatoes don't suffice to make a soft sauce, not soupy but thick. Add drained black beans, salt and pepper and crack in the four eggs gently and spaced evenly, you have just a moment or so to shift the beans and sauce a little around the eggs before taking off the heat and placing under the broiler of your oven until the tops of the eggs have just turned milky ensuring the yolk is still soft.
remove and sprinkle fresh cilantro and maybe a dash or two of hot sauce!! Add your favorite carb and dig in.