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Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's Hard to Find the Definitive Way

I don't know about you, but my life is a series of lurches from this right way to that right way. In a sense I'm lucky, because unlike some people I haven't got stuck in one rigid belief system—belief about anything at all, you understand—but always seem ready to receive the next piece from the next person who catches my attention.


This openness (some might call it inconsistency and a lack of rigor) operates on many levels: I'll take up the  piano again. No, I won't. Shall I eat more flax seed? No, flax was superseded by quinoa, which has now been shoved aside by chia seeds. Childhood religion moved to no religion and then to awakening spirituality and on to the quasi-Buddhist cafeteria that seems to serve me now. Or wait, what was that about the goddess?


Let's talk about chia seeds first, that being less controversial than, say, religion. You remember chia. Chia pets, those white ceramic heads or animals with grooves into which you sprinkled chia seeds and then watched as the seeds sprouted (watering takes place, too), making green hair appear on the head, green fur on the animal shapes. All the rage in the–whenever. Early 60's? It was a pretty lame fad and I'm proud to say I never had a chia pet.


Chia has been on the farthest back burner since then. Certain health foodies, I'm sure, have espoused its value, but in such a low-key manner that I never heard about it.


But recently a book has come out that may do for chia what the Canadian sisters' book Quinoa has done for quinoa. The two books are similar: many pages on the history and health benefits of the product, then a large section of recipes. By giving concerned consumers all this information in one place, the books greatly increase the likelihood that curious people will start buying the product. Now might be a good time to invest in the chia seed market.


An interesting fact I learned from Chia: a marathon runner often (while racing) slaps a tablespoon of chia seeds into his mouth, chews, and washes it all down with lots of water. The chia seeds provide the energy and stamina a marathon runner needs to finish the race (and presumably to win). And if he gets bored running he can focus on dislodging errant seeds from between his teeth.


Personal testimony: intrigued by the book's claim, we bought a couple of cups of chia seeds and began adding a tablespoon to each meal. I had been in the doldrums for months and was worried about my lack of energy, my willingness to ignore the things I could have been doing in favour of sitting and then sitting some more. The day after my first dosings of chia seeds, I hopped to it, put up fence ornaments in the back yard that have been in the basement for three years waiting for me to have the energy to collect the vintage hand drill, the ornaments, an assortment of screws, and screwdrivers to fit the various screw heads (Phillips, Robertson, and slot). Within an hour, I had transformed our fence into kitsch or art, depending on your taste. I then went on, that day, to complete half a dozen other projects I'd been avoiding.


When my husband and I compared our day's activities, we found that the chia seeds had had the same energizing effect on him.


So now it's bye-bye quinoa, good morning chia. Rather, I'll be using both. Who knows what other effects the chia seeds will have? (They are very rich in Omega 3s and fiber in addition to protein.) They are tasty—or at least tasteless and crunchy. They do tend to stick in your teeth, but we're supposed to floss after meals anyway, aren't we?


I could go on and on about chia seeds, but instead I'll suggest you look at the book and make up your own mind.


See, that's where I'm really going with this idea: it's all about making up your own mind. I suppose I've taken numerous wrong turns along the way, but the whole process has been a learning experience. Even my current approach to life (whether chia seeds or the Buddhist cafeteria) may be –probably will be—supplanted next year by something else. In the meantime, however, I'm off and running!


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lyrical Moments

Recently the term "lyrical moments" came into my head. Perhaps I read it someplace. I began to contemplate the presence—or absence—of lyrical moments in my life.


First, what is a lyrical moment? More than happiness, surely. Some sort of transcendence? How many transcendent moments come to us in a lifetime? Is a transcendent moment the same as an epiphany? Define transcendent. Is seeing a heron unexpectedly a transcendent moment? Oh, searching for a definition has me dancing like the angels on a head of a pin, with just as much relevance.


Is a lyrical moment just some pleasant time that I happen to have retained in my memory? Or deeper than that? I'm beginning to think I've bitten off more than I can chew here. I'll try a list.


* The end of Peter Sellars' and Bill Viola's production of Tristan und Isolde


* The moment in hands-on healing when I feel like a clear conduit


* Singing on a Georgian Bay island, when three crows flew to the top of a tree to listen, then flew away when I ended


* Birdwatching at dawn while I was in high school


* Watching my three children play together in harmony at 6, 8, and 10—unlikely ages for bonding over a PlaySkool garage


* This morning's sliver of a moon


* Always the moon


* Sky colours at dawn or sunset


* The green line


* Toning with my Tibetan bowl


* Lying on a giant slab of rock on High Rock Island and joining my energy with that of the white pine growing from the slab


* Learning at age 72 to duck under ocean waves at a North Carolina beach


* Playing in an orchestra or band, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts


* Dancing weirdly with my husband


* Learning to open and let go (but does it have to be so slow?)


* Deep gratitude for the direction my life has taken in the last 35 years and for all the teachers and facilitators who were part of it



Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Deja vu but always new

A lot of what I do is déjà vu (all over again, as Yogi Berra used to say). When I leave the house I go to the subway or walk into High Park or take the down-hill, up-hill sidewalk to Bloor West Village, my neighbourhood shopping area. Whichever of these three paths I take, I've been doing it for almost 33 years. I've seen it all.


Or have I? As I walked to the Village one day in late winter, I resolved to see people and things in a different way. The critical eye, always at the fore, has taken up too much space. It was time to soften its judgment and look with a curious and open eye. It is often said that if you are nervous about, say, speaking before an audience, all you have to do is imagine your audience members naked and your nervousness will disappear. I've never tried this, but yesterday I carried it one step further. Instead of noticing this woman's hat, whether beautiful or ugly, or that man's shabby or natty coat, I focused on seeing beyond the clothes and beyond the body (naked or not). My intention was to see the troubled or peaceful or compassionate or distraught soul within the body. So many sad eyes, so many downturned mouths made me aware of the burdens we hide in our hearts. I saw more sorrow than joy on that walk.


I also discovered that in my head I carry on a continuous dialogue with my surroundings, animate or inanimate. I passed a father pushing year-old twins in a tandem stroller, one seat behind the other. The baby at the back was sound asleep. But the little front-sitting one didn't miss a thing. Just as we came together, something on the side of a building caught his eye and he pulled his head around and then, as the stroller continued past his point of interest, he raised his chin and tilted his head back to keep it in view. I, wearing sheepskin hat covered with a hood and all held together with a large, looped-around muffler, was drawn to the baby's exposed neck as he craned his head. "Baby, baby," I said to him, "get a scarf. Protect your neck. At least put your chin down and don't expose yourself so freely to the wind."


Well, he didn't listen or care, and that was all right. Maybe he's not as sensitive to the cold as I am.


The pigeons accumulated on the sidewalk around a local hamburger joint and I had to pick my way through them, saying, "Shoo, pigeon. Take to the air, pigeon. Move, move—I'm coming through." Like the baby, they paid me no mind, although they did roll out of the way as I walked through the flock.


"Oh, ladies," I said to the two women dressed to the nines for shopping, European-style, "I hope you are happy to be living here in Toronto even though it is not your original home. I hope you don't find it oppressive to live in the midst of another language, another culture. And you do look snazzy. I sometimes wish I had the desire to dress up like that just to run up to the Village for a dozen eggs."


"Don't be impatient," I remind the driver who honked when the car ahead of him hesitated for half a second after the light turned green.


Walking to the Village reminds me of community even though I don't actually speak to anyone. I was going to say, "I don't speak to a soul," but maybe that's what my silent commentary is: speaking to souls.


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Little Things Mean a Lot

Sometimes I stand in the middle of my kitchen struck with wonder at how beautiful my life is and how grateful I am for it. Other times, not so much. Today, I want to talk of the role of inanimate objects in creating at least a portion of my happiness.


Lee Valley is my corporate hero. You didn't know I had one, did you? Going through a new Lee Valley catalog I dog-ear page after page of "wants," which I later, refusing temptation, un-dog-ear because wants are not needs. In the last six months, however, I made two Lee Valley purchases that have changed my life.


When we go out at night, we leave the porch light on so we can find our way up the steps without stumbling. But the light fails to reach the front door lock. I have spent 36 years fumbling for the keyhole. Whole minutes! Minutes gone from my life! Blood-pressure-raising minutes!


Now I search no more for that keyhole! From Lee Valley I bought a tiny little flashlight, the size of a hearing-aid battery, that adheres to my key. I aim the key in the general direction, press the tiny button with my thumb, and voila! Let there be light. The door is unlocked in the wink of an eye. Two shakes of a lamb's tail. The work of a moment. I am happy!


The second inanimate object is almost as small and was just as inexpensive. With the failing memory of age I have become ever more dependent on timers to keep me from burning everything I cook. I've been known to put a tray of cookies in the oven, get myself a drink of water, and then, having focused on the water for fifteen seconds, leave the kitchen with nary a thought for the cookies in the oven. It is only 25 minutes later that the smell of burned cookies swirls its way up the stairs to my computer. And then I remember . . .


So I always set a timer the minute I put something on a burner to cook. And if I leave the room, I take the timer with me. And when I leave THAT room, I probably forget to take the timer. So when it dings its tiny ding 20 minutes later I am nowhere to be found, certainly not within hearing distance of the little ping. And then later the smell of burning swirls its way up the stairwell to the computer—oh, we've been here before.


Having a timer implanted into my wrist seemed excessive. Luckily I found in the Lee Valley catalog just what I needed. I now have a digital timer that is so simple even I can operate it. My timer can be set for seconds only or for up to ninety minutes. When the pre-set time is reached, the high-pitched bee-bee-bee-beep is so annoying I react to it immediately, just to stop the noise.


But here's why I really love my timer. It has a big fat clip! I clip it onto me (well, my clothing) and it stays with me wherever I go. When it beeps I have usually forgotten that I am wearing it (and of course forgotten that I had anything in the oven). But I am startled into remembrance and action and I haven't burned anything since I bought it.


So if you come to visit me and see something clipped to my sweater like a limpet, rest assured that it is not a growth or an insect but the only thing standing between me and culinary chaos.


Lee Valley, I love you.


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor