Monday, April 27, 2015

Eating Omily: It's Baaaaack!!!

Spring is here!!!! How do I know? No, silly! Not by the calendar! The weather?? Of course not!!! If you wanna KNOW, if Spring is a GO, it's at the Farmers' Market! (THAT'S WHERE IT IS!)* Sorry you guys, you know how excited I get!

*To the tune of "The Shoop Shoop Song". Of course.

Speaking of which, CHECK THIS OUT!


Oh yeah. Wild, garlicky ramps, and that fresh Spring tonic that haunts our dreams: Asparagus!!! Of course, I haven't eaten any of the latter yet. The price will be cut in half once a few more farmers start bringing the stuff to market, but I did grab a handful of ramps, and sautéed in butter with broccoli rabe, I just wanted to sing!

You know what else I got my hands on at the Farmer's Market recently? Are you even ready for this? Seriously, sit down. Marshmallows. MAPLE marshmallows. As in marshmallows made with 100% maple sugar, instead of cane sugar. Mind. Blown. And can I just say, a cup of chai tea with plenty of milk, a little raw honey, and a maple marshmallow floating in it? My new favorite thing.

If your sweet tooth is chomping at the bit, and you're hoping to calm it down with a healthier munchy, might I recommend popcorn? Seems like every other vendor has that stuff these days! Not only are there at least four different vendors at Union Square alone selling unpopped popcorn for your popping pleasure, you can also get your hands on maple caramel corn, and popcorn cookies! Which. Are. Amazing. Just imagine an oatmeal raisin cookie that tastes a bit like movie theatre popcorn. Yep, that good. I can only assume that we're in a great region for growing this stuff, since it seems to be everywhere. Enjoy, popcorn loving companions!

On a somewhat related note, the other day, I was contemplating just how lucky I am to live in NYC. Not only do I have access to lots of sustainably raised, healthy fruits and veggies, but I have access to lots of locally produced, sustainable value-added products: everything from popcorn cookies to potato chips, home-made whole grain pasta made with ancient grains to vodka sauce and bloody mary mix. Not only can I get TONS of the things I need to stock my pantry at the Farmer's Market, I can also pick up things that make my life easy, like jarred salsa, bread, oatmeal, jarred pasta sauce, and ready-made soups. Even though I love to cook, with my busy schedule, being able to prepare dinner in minutes is essential sometimes, and if I couldn't do it with Farmers' Market items, I would succumb to those Trader Joe's tamales and other treats much more often than I'd like to admit.

My point is, if you don't live in a place where the Farmer's Market has serious game, and is offering you so many amazing, amazing things, or even if you do, but you're on a budget, making some of those value added products out of your reach, A.) that's not your fault. Don't feel bad for not having access to some of the things you need at your market. Buy the best versions of them that you can, and move on, and B.) don't give up on the market all together just because you still need to make that regular grocery run. Small steps make a difference, to you, to your community, and to the planet.

That said, if you DO live in a place where your Farmers' Market has serious game, and you CAN make room in your budget to shift more purchases to the Farmers' Market, maybe by going out to eat less, or ordering one less cocktail when out with friends, then TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT SHIT! Your tastebuds, your health, your family, your community, the planet, and me, personally, will all thank you!

Happy Spring, you guys! Nom nom nom...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Asana–Not Just a Gateway Drug

I've been pondering yoga in a new light lately.

Why do we do it?

Which may not seem like a new light, but bear with me.

Yoga is this beautiful, potent practice that connects you the breath, that gives you a foot in the door to the present moment, and that most powerful of practices: meditation.

That's the magic, right? That's why thousands upon thousands of people walk through the doors of a studio to get more flexible, or to tone their abs or slim their thighs, and months later, they're chanting mantras under their breath at the grocery store, and burning sage before company comes over at home (or whatever brand of yoga cultural paraphernalia, which may or may not be cultural appropriation, they got hooked on).

So, if you finally get it, that it's about the meditation, and if you finally, FINALLY, get that daily meditation practice down pat...

then why do yoga..?

For the stronger muscles? The more limber forward folds? That's the stuff that doesn't mean anything, right...?

Let's be clear here: every time I think I've got that daily meditation practice on lock, I lose it again. So, I'm not the best example of someone who doesn't 'need' yoga anymore, but just as a thought experiment, if I DID, then would I?

My inevitably westernized, personalized, neo-paganized, Catholicized Spiritual Yoga understanding was that the Asana practice was a gateway...and with most gateways, once you pass through them, you leave them behind.

But, according to Patanjali (who is kind of a big deal), if we look at Yoga as an eight-limb path, then Asana is one of those branches. We make a big fuss about how meditation encompasses four, but Asana is still there, a seemingly indispensable aspect of the beast...

Why is that? Within the context of the other seven limbs, what does Asana do for us?

Well, its role as an assist into a meditation practice is totally legit: by keeping the body busy, we make it a bit easier to still the mind.

But contrary-wise, we're also making it pretty tough!

In a yoga class, there's a lot to focus on, from elaborate alignment cues, to intense stretching sensations, to tired, sore, achey, shaky muscles. Then there's the sights, sounds, and even smells coming from other practitioners in the room, and your instructor, and the complex relationships engendered by physical adjustments. There's also the music playing, if there is any, and sounds from outside, like sirens, construction, or a phone ringing in the office of the studio.

Some of those things are useful to focus your attention on, but a lot of them you're meant to be tuning out, and that's a tall order. Some of those things might tempt your mind to stray through their pleasantness: a favorite song popping up on the playlist, a sacrum massage in child's pose, a good-looking fellow practitioner striking a pose. Others steal your attention with their sheer obnoxiousness: the jackhammer outside the window, a particularly bad joke on the part of your instructor, the ache in your arms after four breaths holding down dog, the smell emanating from that guy who's mat looks like it's just been through a car wash.

With the former, it's easy to want those things to go on, and on, to lose all sight of being present to your body and your breath. With the latter, feelings of anger, and frustration often come up.

"Ugh, I cannot possibly pay attention with this pop song blaring in my ear!"

"That car alarm needs to shut up RIGHT NOW!"

"If she adjust my hips in Warrior III one more time..."

If you've taken even one yoga class, the tone of these thoughts is likely familiar. Yoga brings up anger, frustration, fear, aggression, not because you're not good enough at yoga to keep those things down, but because it's designed to. The asana practice is your opportunity to confront the more difficult parts of being a human being with presence, wisdom, and humor. 

To do that, you're going to fail, over and over and over again, for a while. Now, eventually, you'll start to pick up on the fact when those feelings pop up again when your train gets delayed underground when you're already running late, or your significant other leaves dirty clothes on top of, instead of in the hamper (maybe he's thinking in Spanish, so that 'en' could mean either one, so he's not distinguishing the difference?), you're facing another opportunity to choose patience, your breath, and the peace and content that is always there waiting inside of you. When you do, maybe that hour and a half sweating it out on a mat becomes slightly less crucial...but we all need practice to keep this skill honed, not just in the beginning, but for the rest of our lives.

And, all bodies need exercise to stay healthy, which a good asana class provides in a beautifully balanced way.

So even if you're all about meditating while waiting for your table to come up at a restaurant, and you practice mudras to help you refocus and energize at work, your nitty gritty Asana practice still has a lot to offer you. I'll see you on the mat. :-)
Live Omily,
~em

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Omily Tarot: Exploring the Elements–Fire


Don't lose your temper because I've saved this one for last: today is the last in my mini-series of exploring the elements blogposts, and we've finally gotten to Fire! In some ways, I think fire is the easiest element to explain, because we've all felt fiery at one time or another.

Most of us have had that moment of realizing the expression 'so mad I couldn't see straight' isn't a metaphor, or the moment where we watch ourselves explode in a towering rage with a mix of horror and admiration. Perhaps a memorable fire moment for you is when in spite of exhaustion and frustration, you keep right on doing whatever it is that you're doing, because your love for it is its own burning engine in your chest. Maybe you felt fire after many minutes of quiet meditation, or at a religious service of some kind, or perhaps your fire burned in your loins, stoked to a fever pitch by a lover.

These moments tend to stand out for us more than air, water, or earth moments, because they're so bright, so intense, so red hot you aren't always sure if you're being nourished and energized, or destroyed from the inside out. It can be either one, and sometimes it's both.

Those of us with a heavy dose of fire in our constitutions are passionate people, pouring our enthusiasm into people, projects, and ourselves, perhaps a bit indiscriminately if we don't have a dose of other elements to direct us.

People with lots of fire and air might feel very strongly about what they feel is the truth. They will likely have very little patience for people who don't see it this way, and are more likely to look forward (somewhat uncharitably, admittedly) to the day that the older generation, with their prejudiced and hateful ideas, dies off, rather than trying to sit them down and change their minds.

People with lots of fire and water  are a dramatic bunch: they have lots of complicated feelings, and intuitive ideas...and tons of passion behind those feelings! They dive in and plumb the depths of every emotional experience they have. They can sometimes wallow in sorrow, enjoying it on some level, and they aren't the people you want mad at you, but if you're the cause of their happiness, you'll never lack for warmth.

People with fire and earth are an interesting balance: the earth can quiet the fire, leaving the person to just look extra stubborn. Underneath a calm exterior is a determinedly burning heart: nothing can tear them away from the project, person, or whatever it may be that they've lit a candle to.

In the tarot, fire is traditionally represented by the suit of wands, staves, or staffs. This suit represents all matters of passion, which means the suit can represent an incredibly wide variety of issues and activities. The suit can represent shoes for one person, cake decorating for another, and sex for a third, and spiritual growth for another, or of course, all of the above for a single querent! If a lot of fire is showing up in a reading, ask your client what she or he is passionate about. Ask what areas of his or her life make her or his heart beat fast, or his or her temper flare.

It could just be me, of course, but it almost feels like there's nothing about fire that needs explained: we know why it's good (it warms us, nourishes us, drives us forward, lights us up), and we know why it's bad (burns us, burns and drives away those we love, becomes all-consuming...)

But maybe we don't! So let's break those down a little.

Our fire is our reason for doing something. Sure, friends, loved ones, and authority figures might get us to do things or make changes, but if there's no fire behind those actions, they won't last long. On the other hand, when you feel that fire ignite inside you, you become unstoppable!

That can be a very, very good thing if you're trying to do something really hard and worthwhile...but if that fire gets sparked for the wrong reason, it's not so helpful. And if that fire gets out of control, if there is no watery empathy keep you aware of how your actions impact others, if there's no earthy practicality to keep you healthy, if there's no airy objective reflection on what you're doing, fire can be a very dangerous force. Wrongly channeled or over-fed fire can destroy the person wielding it, and everyone who doesn't see the writing on the wall and get out of the way.

Are you a Fiery Fey? Or do you know one? Do you have that one friend who can get you excited to run the most mundane errands with her, but who also drives you nuts because if they're out of the kind of toilet paper she wanted, there just might be a screaming match with the manager?

Are you the friend who gets kidnapped and forced to eat because you'll keep working straight through lunch without even thinking about it?

Where does fire manifest in your life?

Did you enjoy this mini series on the elements? Do you think it will influence how you work with the tarot? Are there other things you'd like to see a mini series on?? You can always ask questions or make suggestions in the comments. :-)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Eating Omily: What You Don't See on the Price Tag

So I'm trying to pick which one of the Know Your Food videos from Lexicon of Sustainability to highlight today, and I just can't decide, because everyone I watch is just so good!!! So, I'm just going to start with the first one. If you have a vote for a video you'd like to see me go into greater depth on, let me know in the comments!

This first video, "True Cost Accounting: The Real Cost of Cheap Food" (it's three minutes long; go watch it if you haven't yet), is so, so important, because it's really the linch pin to the sustainability movement. It's the the first step necessary to stepping away from that cheap produce section at Walmart. That's a hard step to take! Money is a limited resource. Most of us, even if we're privileged enough to be financially comfortable and stable, still have to make choices about where our money will go: asparagus? Beer? A night out with friends? A new mattress? Whatever your priorities are, odds are, you can't have it all. And for most of us, it seems like there's never quite enough money for the things we really want but don't quite need: a new guitar, to take yoga more often, an updated wardrobe...

With that situation staring us in the face, it's pretty hard to see people who choose to spend MORE on their food than they need to as anything other than sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, elitist, fun police. I've no doubt I've been accused of at least a few of the above!

And here's the thing: some people who are trying to eat sustainably ARE sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, elitist, and/or fun police. So, that's not helpful, obviously. There are also lots of MISINFORMED people out there attempting to do their part: buying nothing but California-grown certified organic food, or collecting 'All Natural' labels like they're going out of style (oh, if only...).

So, as tough as it is, when we get an eye-rolling, or dismissive response from somebody when we mention that maybe they should go for the certified humane eggs, or the apples at the Farmers' Market rather than the ones from New Zealand (Why is this a thing? WHY???), there IS a reason for it! We have to know the baggage our well-meant message is coming with. So, how do you handle it?

Well, if this person is willing to give you a chance, you unpack that baggage, and lay it all out where you can both see it. Acknowledge the image this person has of your choices, and why. Then and only then do we get to unpack and lay out the baggage behind their choices.

Unpacking that baggage is true cost accounting. There are consequences to cheap food, but our society is designed to keep them hidden, in ways that aren't even subtle! Ag gag bills, anyone? Yeah, those charming pieces of legislation attempt to make it a felony to film what goes on at factory farms, since when those films come to light, more people choose not to pay for and eat that food, AND the perpetrators sometimes (not nearly often enough) find themselves subject to animal cruelty penalties. BECAUSE FACTORY FARMING IS ANIMAL CRUELTY ON A MASSIVE SCALE AND THAT SHIT IS ILLEGAL HELLOOOOOOO!!!!!! Ranty Emily, go sit down. That's enough.

And the thing is, until we really figure this stuff out, we're complicit in keeping this stuff hidden. We don't WANT to know. If we KNEW we might have to do something about it, and our lives feel confusing and complicated enough. And don't get all holier than thou about this, ether. Maybe you're a vegan, but are you supporting small, diverse family farms? Are you only purchasing clothing not made in sweatshops? Do you have an iPhone? (Guilty!) This stuff makes us complicit in suffering! We don't want to acknowledge that, so we choose, subconsciously, to be complicit in silence instead. Don't ask; don't tell. And when it IS briefly revealed to us just how much harm we're personally causing? It feels insurmountable: pointless to struggle against, so we do our best to go back to forgetting about it. Maybe we can't AFFORD to buy clothing not made in sweatshops and local food 100% of the time, so we think we shouldn't do anything.

This is important for you to know, and for anyone you educate about these or other important issues to know: Of course you can't do EVERYTHING, but that does not make it helpful or ok to give up! If there is still any small thing you can do, then, You. Have. To. Do. It. You are not exempt!

It is hard, and confusing, and complicated to do true cost accounting, but if we all keep right on doing it,  eventually, those costs will be properly figured into the cost of our food (like they are at the Farmers' Market), and we won't have to do it. Take it one step at a time, and if every now and then it's just too much and you buy yourself a bunch of bananas and some new cute socks and then post a tumblr on your iPhone, that's ok. Do what you have to do. Get back into the good fight tomorrow. We're in this together. We're changing the world. Keep fighting the good fight!