We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. ~Abraham Lincoln
It’s that time of year where we naturally think about what we are thankful for. One of the easiest ways to bring more peace and joy into our lives is by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. One of the main differences between happy people and unhappy people is their level of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the highest emotional frequencies! It is an emotion expressing appreciation for what we have as opposed to what we want. We need to both acknowledge our blessings and recognize that they come from outside ourselves. It opens our heart when we understand that blessings come from other people, nature, or a higher power. Being thankful is easy, it’s free, and it bestows enormous physical and emotional benefits. People who have a gratitude practice have been scientifically proven to have deeper interpersonal relationships, stronger immune systems, better brain function, and sounder psychological resilience.
A great way to foster thankfulness is playing A Rose & A Thorn each day. My family likes to play at the dinner table. Each person present tells a “thorn” that happened that day-something that was challenging, unlucky, stressful, scary, or sad. This validates our feelings by acknowledging that life isn’t perfect and bad things sometimes happen. It’s a sort of nod to that whole “you can’t have a rainbow without the rain” thing. It also leads to discussions about how that person could have responded to the situation more mindfully. Then the person must list at least one “rose” from the day-a moment that was sweet, uplifting, or exhilarating.
A few years back, I went with my friends Maggie and Jenni to Europe to celebrate my 40th birthday. We were in Barcelona looking for a cathedral in the Walled City when we found ourselves deeply lost. We had no cell signal to ask Siri where the hell we were and our only map was written in Catalonian. We were hot, exhausted, peckish, and with each wrong turn, more and more grouchy. Nothing looked familiar and we were convinced we were moving further away from our target. I was almost in tears. It was at this time that we stumbled upon a tiny shop tucked back in a stone wall. We went in to see if the shopkeeper could help us and discovered a charming gelato shop. We gratefully ordered huge cups mounded with cold, creamy gelato. I ate the world’s greatest pistachio gelato; it was nutty, buttery, and sweet and better than any gelato I’d ever eaten. It deserved sonnets written for it. Gelato is made by heating custard and then allowing it to cool so that the milk proteins bind. This produces a more nuanced, delicate flavor than ice cream. There are photos of the three of us devouring gelato with orgasmic looks on our faces. When we ran through our rose and thorn that day, it was clear that our thorn-getting lost-led us to one of the most memorable roses (that gelato, oh, that gelato!) of our lives.
Just like in Judith Viorst’s classic book, even on the most terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days, there are blessings to be found. Identifying both a rose and thorn often shows us that they are both a part of the wholeness of existence. As the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “No mud, no lotus”. One cannot exist without the other. What we perceive as a thorn often brings about the rose.
Have you heard of Kitchari? This Ayurvedic staple is made from mung beans, lentils, rice, Indian spices , and tons of yummy vegetables. It is balancing for all three doshas (kapha, pitta, and vata). It is often eaten for a few days each fall to reset a sluggish digestive system and ignite agni (our digestive fire). You make a huge pot and would traditionally eat only this for up to three days.
This cleansing approach holds that by eating one simple, easily digestible thing for several days, we give the digestive system a chance to heal itself. Compare this to the idea of drinking cold, raw juices for three days. Ayurveda wisdom holds that the raw fruits & vegetables are hard to digest, the cold temperature is counterintuitive to what we need in autumn, and we’re left hungry without actual food in our bellies.
Each ingredient in the kitchari plays a specific role in the healing process. The mung beans are alkaline forming and protein-rich. The rice is easily digested, the warming spices ignite the agni, and the ghee (or coconut oil) lubricates the system, allowing for “smooth passage”. Eaten as a whole, Kitchari provides everything the body needs to feel amazing.
For the rice:
Rinse 1 cup long grain brown rice. Bring to a boil with 2 cups water. Reduce heat to simmer and cook , with lid askew, for 30 minutes.
In a skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon coconut oil with:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 Tablespoon turmeric powder
When seeds start popping, turn off heat and slowly pour mixture into cooking rice.
For the dahl:
Rinse 2 cups yellow split lentils. Drain and bring to a boil with 5 cups water.
Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Skim off any white foam that develops and discard it.
In a skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon ghee or coconut oil with:
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cumin powder
1 Tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
Add vegetables such as beets, broccoli, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, sweet potatoes, collards, kale and spinach to the skillet. Add 1 cup of water, cover, and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Mix into the lentils. Add entire mixture to rice, stir, and eat.