Archive for November, 2012

The Five Contemplations: Food Blessing by Thich Nhat Hahn

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky and much hard work.
May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it.
May we transform our own unskilled states of mind and learn to eat with moderation.
May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.
We accept this food so that we may realize the path of understanding and love.

~Bless this food~

Jessica Smith shared this blessing with us. Jess is a Yoga teacher and macrobiotic cook in Ithica, NY and a graduate of Karuna’s 200hr TT. Photo by Derek Goodwin

Vegan Holiday Feast!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Almond Nog
Soak 1 cup almonds 8 hours. Strain. Place in blender
Add 1/2 cup dates soaked for 30 minuets. Strain. Add to blender
Add 1/2 vanilla bean or tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated nutmeg
3 cups water
Blend, strain if you wish. Chill and enjoy.

Country Style Cashew Gravy
2 cups water
1/2 cup cashew
1 tbsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp soy sauce or gomasio
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp cornstarch

Soak cashews 30 min. Strain. Add to blender. Add addition ingredients. Blend on high for 2 to 3 minuets. Pour into saucepan and cook on medium to high heat stirring constantly until thick. Serve over loaves, potatoes or biscuits.


Savory Shepherd’s Pie
Filling :
1 small or medium chopped onion
3 small carrots
1/2 cup spinach chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1 large tomato chopped
2tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup cooked (or canned) lentils
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce

3 medium potatoes chopped
1/4 cup soy milk
1tbsp butter or olive oil
Salt to taste

Optional layer of corn

Preheat oven to 350 *f. In medium pot of water, boil the chopped potatoes until they can be pierced with easily with a fork. In another medium saucepan, sauté the onions, carrots, spinach, celery and tomatoes in the oil. Once carrots are tender, add the mashed lentils, basil, salt and soy sauce. Stir and simmer without a lid until the liquid cooks off.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or a medium bowl, mash the potatoes, milk salt and butter with a masher. Set aside. Pour the veggie mixture into a lightly oiled pie plate and then layer the mashed potatoes over top.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

*Photo from

Recipes Contributed by Jamie Tancredi, Karuna Yoga Teacher.

Leek Miso Soup

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Leek Miso Soup from Wild Flavors by Didi Emmons

Makes 4 Servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium leeks, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces, green and white parts seperated

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup yellow split peas

2 teaspoons freshly minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

pinch ground cloves

1 cup chopped carrots, in 1/4-inch coins

2 heaping teaspoons mugi (barley) or soybean miso

Freshly cracked black pepper

4 handfuls chopped green herbs (such as arugula, chickweed, cilantro, mustard, or sprouts) or 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary  (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add white part of the leeks and the garlic. Cook until the leeks soften, about 5 minutes.

2.Add the yellow split peas, ginger, cumin, cloves, and 51/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. The split peas should still have some crunch.

3. Add the carrots and simmer another 3 minutes.

4. Add 1/2 cup or so more water if the soup has become too thick. Dissolve the miso in 1 tablespoon water and stir into soup along with the green parts of the leeks. Then remove pot from heat. Whisk in more miso and fresh cracked pepper to taste (be careful not to boil the miso; it will lose its health benefits.)

5. Serve the soup in big bowls topped with the chopped greens or herbs.

Ayurveda Meal Time Prayer

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Ayurveda Meal Time Prayer

Anam Brahma

Raso Vishnu

Pakto Devo Maheshvaraha

Evam Jnatva Tu-yo-bhunkte

Anadosho Na Lipyate


The food is consciousness

The plasma in the body is the Protector

The fire which digests the food is the destroyer

of the impurities in the food

If you know this

The food becomes pure consciousness


Yatha Pinde Tatha Brahmade

(as in the microcosm so in
the macrocosm)
Blessing contributed by Jamie Tancredi, Karuna Yoga teacher

Reflections on a Cadaver

Sunday, November 18th, 2012
Image from Gunther Von Hagens’s Body Worlds

As a part of the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training at Karuna students have the option of going to a cadaver lab at Springfield College with Megan Frazier. The lab has two cadavers to view, one supine and the other prone. The environment encourages students and visitors to view the cadavers objectively without attachment to who is on the table. For many people the study of anatomy is purely scientific but for yogis the samsaric perspectives on the cycle of life and death inevitably arise.

Katherine Veazey Policy is a current Yoga Teacher Trainee in the 200-hr program and a Vipassana Meditator. The following post is her reflection on her visit to the cadaver lab.

I went to the lab at Springfield College today to study the human cadavers. I have wanted to do so for several years after hearing that some Buddhist monks meditate on dead bodies. It was fascinating. I noticed while looking at one of the cadavers that the body seemed to retain memory. This ‘lifeless’ body was still reflecting the way that it had lived.  The quality of the cadaver also reflected the quality of the person’s thoughts.  I could practically feel the dead person’s daily life in the examination room today. Her hands, which we didn’t look at too closely, contained a consciousness that was beyond death. Two major religions, Islam and Christianity, talk about raising up from the grave. I’ve never understood how that could be possible but today had me wondering. Human beings often visit the tombs of holy people. There is something tremendously alive in those places. There are instances of the bodies of spiritual masters not decomposing for quite some time after death and some of them even grow crystals in their bodies. I just wondered what Paramahansa Yognandaji’s  body would be like. I assume this is because of the coherence, sympathy, and unity in the vibrations these masters had generated through practice in their former lives.  Upon gazing at the bodies the thought arose that it would be beautiful to live in such a way that one’s corpse could be an inspiration to live mindfully.  The body can be a temple through which one sees the universe and cares for all beings or it can be inert leavings of a half-conscious un-actualized god.

One of my teachers says that the body is the textbook for one’s life in God’s creation and that we write in it.  I have observed in photographs and in living beings that some people have very ‘coherent’ bodies. There’s little chaos; one can think more clearly while looking at them. The physical structure and energetic structure are confluent and un-conflicted. The abdomen can be a jumble of whirls and indistinct physical structures or it can be a pleasant energetic ‘book’ for the person connecting with it. Upon connecting, one finds peace and order while one’s attention moves down over muscles that express the grace of alignment. The muscles align meaningfully to a point in the chest. They are imbued with intelligence including eloquence of speech, thought and refinement of emotion. They are a communication and record of an understanding of the workings of creation and oneness. I was grateful to have witnessed these corpses and to have seen lives and life written in them.  I am in awe of the potential we have to create and communicate. Witnessing such a corpse elicited an awareness of myself as beyond manifestation. I observed and learned from the corpse and yet I was beyond it, even while simultaneously connecting with it.

May you and beings and things be happy.

Buddhist illustration of Parinirvana

Fire Cider Recipe

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Eileen’s favorite remedy, that she serves in her grandmother’s sherry glasses, part of her enjoyment is watching the blood rise to drinkers’ face and listening to their oo’s and ahh’s as they swallow it!

1 quart Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Horseradish root grated
1/8 cup of Garlic chopped
1/2 cup of Onion chopped
1/2 cup of Ginger grated
1 tsp Cayenne
1 whole Lemon
1 tsp. Turmeric


1. Place all ingredients in a quart jar and  cover with Apple Cider Vinegar.
2. Cover tightly.
3. Steep for 8 weeks.
4. Strain into clean jar, or, if you like, enjoy unstrained. (more…)

Thanksgiving Recipe: Maple Squash or Pumpkin Pie

Friday, November 16th, 2012
Maple Squash or Pumpkin Pie
2 c. dry mashed organic squash or pumpkin
3 local eggs
1 and 1/3 c. maple syrup (or combine maple syrup and organic brown sugar)
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
dash of ground cloves
2 T. vanilla
1 – 1.5 c. soy creamer (or cream)
Blenderize all ingredients.
Pie Crust (from Tassajara Bread Book)
2 c. unbleached all purpose white flour or ww pastry flour
1/2 c. safflower oil
1/2 c. salt
1/2 c. cold water
While briskly stirring flour and salt with a fork, add oil a small amount at a time.
Continue stirring with fork while adding water until dough clings together (you may
not need all the water). Knead lightly. May be rolled out immediately.
This recipe makes one 9″ pie crust or two 8″ pie crusts.
Drape pie crust over pie pan and crimp edges.
Pour custard into unbaked pie shell and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 1 hour
and 15 minutes (or less).
Test to see if custard is done with a cake tester or knife: if it comes out clean, it’s just right.
Cool on a rack before serving. You may press small pieces of candied ginger
into the surface in a circle, when it cools–pretty!
If you don’t want the gluten, omit crust and pour custard into a 9″ pie pan and bake for
about the same amount of time, maybe a little less, testing as above.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Contributed by Susan Yard Harris, Karuna Yoga Teacher

B.K.S.Iyengar: Love in Every Cell

Friday, November 9th, 2012

“Love must be incarnated in the smallest pore of the skin, the smallest cell of the body, to make them intelligent so they can collaborate with all the other ones, in the big republic of the body. This love must radiate from you to others.”

B.K.S. Iyengar

Appreciating Our Teachers: Sharon Salzberg

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

The Great Power of Ordinary Kindness

Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg has taught me the tremendous power and value of ordinary kindness. Her example showed me what kindness really is, how easily it can be misunderstood and overlooked, and how influential it can be in the creation of happy lives and relationships.  By her work and practice, Sharon lit the way for me to cultivate my own kind heart.

In the tradition of meditation Sharon teaches and practices, which arose out of the Theravada Buddhism of Southeast Asia, there’s is a type of concentration practice called metta (in Sanskrit maitri), which means loving-kindness or friendliness.  The method is to repeat phrases that invoke kindness, methodically deepening one’s concentration in the experience of friendliness and interconnectedness. Usually there are three or four phrases, for example, “May you be safe and protected. May you be peaceful and happy.  May you live with ease of heart in all circumstances.”

Generally, students are instructed to begin by offering these phrases either to oneself or to a benefactor, someone toward whom it seems easy to feel kindness.  As strength of heart grows, the meditator slowly includes more challenging categories of people (or beings, since we can work with animals too). Eventually, we develop the capacity to include even our most difficult enemies in the field of kindness.  Along the way, there’s a chance to offer phrases of kindness to everyone, including dear friends and people we feel neutral about.

Even if you are unfamiliar with the practice, you can perhaps imagine that the effort to cultivate this evenhanded friendliness tends to bring the student face to face with many other emotions – dislike, judgment, anger and envy are just a few of the mental demons that rear their heads as we practice this meditation.  Perhaps because the journey to an open and loving heart involves facing our inner demons, the metta practice often includes silent retreats of a week or a month or even three months, where we have time and space to allow this profound meditative process to affect our hearts fully.

On one such retreat, a month-long, I chose Sharon as my benefactor.  At the time, Sharon and I spent a fair amount of time together, because part of my work at the Insight Meditation Society was to act as her assistant.  Through that work, I witnessed Sharon interacting with many people in a while variety of circumstances. I saw her in many roles – as a teacher, a customer in convenience stores, a non-profit board member, a friend, a leader of a spiritual community.  Sometimes it’s suggested that one should choose a benefactor you don’t know too well, so that thoughts about their weaknesses or difficulties in the relationship will be less likely to intrude on the cultivation of kindness toward them. Sharon and I knew each other pretty well, but I felt drawn to working with her as my benefactor because she had helped me a lot, and decided to go with my gut. Because of our familiarity, I expected to face a few inner demons in my meditations on kindness toward her.  I thought I might feel judgmental of Sharon’s behavior in various situations, or see her natural human flaws come to the foreground of my mind.

Over the weeks of retreat, I was surprised and touched to discover that, as memories and images of Sharon filtered through my practice, they provided great support for the growth of kindness in my heart.  In repeating phrases of loving-kindness toward Sharon, I learned on experiential level what it means to have a benefactor, what a benefactor is.  I began to understand why the teachings suggest we work with a benefactor early on in our practice, as offering phrases of kindness to Sharon helped me touch and then develop a warmth of heart I had never known before.

A slow acknowledgement occurred of how often Sharon extends herself on behalf of others (including me!) or puts her own wishes aside in favor of those of the group.  Memory after memory struck me with the recognition that although she is often candid, Sharon generally does not speak in ways that might hurt others.  Another aspect of her kindness that came clear was that she doesn’t tend to shy away from difficulty. I remember once telling her about some challenges in my work at IMS. Sharon listened to the whole story, and then just said something like, “That does sound hard.”

Over the month of retreat, as thoughts and memories faded, what was left in the phrases as I held Sharon in mind was an enduring sense of our humanness, our interconnectedness, and our potential to love each other right in the midst of all the ordinary complexities and disagreements life brings.   Not only did concentration on the quality of kindness develop, but insight into what it means to be kind deepened and matured.

In many ways it was a wonderful retreat, but the full impact of it has taken years to come to fruit.  Initially, I was struck by the simple appreciation that someone I knew to be fully human was also capable of such wisdom and strength. Sharon isn’t some mythical figure from the distant past, capable of great yogic feats. As far as I know she doesn’t fly, except in airplanes, or bi-locate, unless you count skype. She’s living here and now in New York City! Sharon has an Iphone and a laptop and a complex worldwide teaching schedule to manage.  In the midst of all that, she manages to treat people beautifully, to be a beacon of kindness.  Through her practice and teachings she has been largely responsible for the spread of loving-kindness practice in the western world.  Through her example, I discovered that I didn’t need to change anything specific about my life to develop boundless compassion. Kindness really can be practiced moment by moment in ordinary situations.  Thanks to the time I spent working with Sharon as my benefactor on retreat, I realized that I too can in fact be a strong force for something I value deeply – basic human goodness and care.  This has changed my life.

But it was only later that I started to recognize another aspect of the wisdom and vision that underpins Sharon’s kindness.  Perhaps it’s best conveyed in Sharon’s own words:  “As I go through all kinds of feelings and experiences in my journey through life — delight, surprise, chagrin, dismay — I hold this question as a guiding light: ‘What do I really need right now to be happy?’ What I come to over and over again is that only qualities as vast and deep as love, connection and kindness will really make me happy in any sort of enduring way.” What I’m slowly coming to know is that, in practice, in our experience of them, kindness and love are not only helpful to the recipient, they are of great benefit to the giver as well. Kindness, it turns out, is place to rest your heart. If you want to learn more about Sharon’s teachings, visit

Eowyn Ahlstrom, Karuna Yoga teacher.

Mary Oliver: How I Go to the Woods

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

How I Go to the Woods
by Mary Oliver

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible, I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.

Photographs by Beth Maciorowski’s Photography