Archive | March, 2014

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 26: What I Learned in Italy

30 Mar

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 26: What I Learned in Italy.

IMG_6300

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 26: What I Learned in Italy

It seems that I always learn many things when I travel. Here are some of the things that I found important to me on my recent trip Italy to Florence, Sienna, Cinque Terra (all five villages) and Genova, from March 15 to 29th, 2014. I was particularly open on this trip to new ideas because my life was in transition before I arrived. Therefore, my head, heart and spirit were listening for information that would help me consider the next steps in my life. Travelling always provides answers to me when I have questions in my life.

Language Keeps Us Connected: It struck me on this trip, more than at any other time, that languages are all very similar in the end. If you really listen, it all makes sense. Although I relied on my Italian language guide periodically, I learned that if I paid attention I could decipher the messages. In most cases, English and French helped. In other cases, it was just exchanging words, expressions, gestures, anything, and then we found some common ground. I could hear the similarities between Spanish, French and Italian, and at times, English words. It was powerful to consider how we are all really speaking the same language through some etymological connections. The non-verbal language is still the most powerful of all the communication systems. The inflection, gestures and eye contact we share with each other is truly all of the information that we really need to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings. The smaller details require words, and when this is necessary, we find them.

Bells Remind Us to Pray: I was moved by the bells that rang from all of the church, cathedral and bell towers wherever I went in Italy. I could hear them when I was climbing the trails of the Cinque Terra, or when I was sipping wine in the Chianti vineyards. Their gentle timbre sang out to me throughout my holiday. They rang first thing in the morning, calling people to mass, and awakening me gently from my sleep. They rang in the middle of the day, calling people back to pray, or to celebrate someone’s special occasion, like a wedding or other special occasion. They rang in the evening, and sometimes later at night. They rang for funerals, and sometimes they just seemed to ring for no reason at all. Whenever the bells rang, they stopped me from doing what I was doing, and I considered them for a few minutes. They call for us to pray and think of a higher power that connects us as a whole people.

Good Food is Everything: These people take food very seriously. The discreet details about the quality of the ingredients, how they are pulled together in complement of each other, and then there is a taste exaltation later in the evening when everyone has time to come together and share in the daily festival of eating. People eat together here. Food is not just a means to and end, rather, it is a time to gather and exchange what is happening in people’s lives, and to celebrate the food with each other. The food was rich and intoxicating. Granted, my body is not designed for wheat, dairy and eggs, but I found that by embracing the experience, I found a new appreciation of the culture. I lived out the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

None of my food experiences will match the taste sensations of my own homemade fresh pasta in first ever Italian cooking class. As well, my favourite spaghetti vongole in white wine sauce, Florentine pizza, pistachio gelato or tiramasu held a close second place. Unfortunately, despite my rigorous exercise of hiking mountains and ascending and descending numerous stairs, I still managed to gain weight while in Italy. Therefore, portion control, or some modification of the Italian diet would be required if I lived in Italy. However, I think that I can take some of the joy of cooking and eating back to Canada, regardless of my food sensitivities and while still staying at a reasonable weight. I just need to try different recipes that might bring just as much joy to the food experience. I think the key is simply to slow down, take time to find healthy and good quality ingredients, while creating the time to relish cooking and eating them together.

Communicate Openly: People communicate very openly in Italy. I found people hugging and kissing in public places. Rapid conversations over important topics happened all around me. Arguments, and animated ones, seemed to happen anywhere and at any time. People seemed comfortable letting out their feelings regardless of the content or context. Unlike the festering land mines or the nuclear bombs of some of the emotional arguments that I have observed at home in my Canadian culture, there was just a general outpouring of feelings in Italy. In all of the ones I observied, there was no time to wonder what might happen in them because they were over before they began. By the time there was much contemplation, the outburst had vanished like a freak weather squall that hit me while hiking up in the Cinque Terra trails. The rain came, and then the sun came out to dry me off. I found it refreshing to see people communicating so overtly, and it reminded me that it is healthy to say out loud what we really feel without fear of repercussion, hard feelings or grudges. That’s amore!

Climbing Stairs is Rewarding: This is a country of stairs. Everywhere you go, you have to climb up or down stairs in order to make your way around the towns and cities, and, as well, to go between buildings. It is truly inspiring to see very old people making their way so capably where I would have thought the obstacles of the stairs would be prohibitive of the elderly. Instead, the stairs simply serve as part of the daily exercise, and might explain the long life span of the average Italian citizen. Where we do everything to avoid stairs in Canada with escalators, elevators and electric walkways, Italy makes no such concessions. If you want to get around, you have to embrace the stairs. Some of them are wide and shallow, or deep and steep, or crooked and uneven. In general, your legs get a good work out, and you have to stop periodically to catch your breath. It always feels good to get to the top, like I felt when I made it to the top of the mountain in Monterosso, and looked down over the five villages of the Cinque Terra trail. It was a rewarding triumph to manage it…and yet, I had to then climb down the daunting 1000 or so stairs to get back into town. As well, climbing 467 stairs to the top of the Duomo in Florence made me appreciate staying in health so that I can travel into my retirement years.

My concern has always been that places like Italy might be too demanding when I get into my 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (and beyond). Perhaps this is not a bucket list place. However, perhaps the key is to stay in better shape at home so that these trips are manageable all of the way through my lifetime.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 26: What I Learned in Italy

30 Mar

IMG_6300

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 26: What I Learned in Italy

It seems that I always learn many things when I travel. Here are some of the things that I found important to me on my recent trip Italy to Florence, Sienna, Cinque Terra (all five villages) and Genova, from March 15 to 29th, 2014. I was particularly open on this trip to new ideas because my life was in transition before I arrived. Therefore, my head, heart and spirit were listening for information that would help me consider the next steps in my life. Travelling always provides answers to me when I have questions in my life.

Language Keeps Us Connected: It struck me on this trip, more than at any other time, that languages are all very similar in the end. If you really listen, it all makes sense. Although I relied on my Italian language guide periodically, I learned that if I paid attention I could decipher the messages. In most cases, English and French helped. In other cases, it was just exchanging words, expressions, gestures, anything, and then we found some common ground. I could hear the similarities between Spanish, French and Italian, and at times, English words. It was powerful to consider how we are all really speaking the same language through some etymological connections. The non-verbal language is still the most powerful of all the communication systems. The inflection, gestures and eye contact we share with each other is truly all of the information that we really need to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings. The smaller details require words, and when this is necessary, we find them.

Bells Remind Us to Pray: I was moved by the bells that rang from all of the church, cathedral and bell towers wherever I went in Italy. I could hear them when I was climbing the trails of the Cinque Terra, or when I was sipping wine in the Chianti vineyards. Their gentle timbre sang out to me throughout my holiday. They rang first thing in the morning, calling people to mass, and awakening me gently from my sleep. They rang in the middle of the day, calling people back to pray, or to celebrate someone’s special occasion, like a wedding or other special occasion. They rang in the evening, and sometimes later at night. They rang for funerals, and sometimes they just seemed to ring for no reason at all. Whenever the bells rang, they stopped me from doing what I was doing, and I considered them for a few minutes. They call for us to pray and think of a higher power that connects us as a whole people.

Good Food is Everything: These people take food very seriously. The discreet details about the quality of the ingredients, how they are pulled together in complement of each other, and then there is a taste exaltation later in the evening when everyone has time to come together and share in the daily festival of eating. People eat together here. Food is not just a means to and end, rather, it is a time to gather and exchange what is happening in people’s lives, and to celebrate the food with each other. The food was rich and intoxicating. Granted, my body is not designed for wheat, dairy and eggs, but I found that by embracing the experience, I found a new appreciation of the culture. I lived out the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

None of my food experiences will match the taste sensations of my own homemade fresh pasta in first ever Italian cooking class. As well, my favourite spaghetti vongole in white wine sauce, Florentine pizza, pistachio gelato or tiramasu held a close second place. Unfortunately, despite my rigorous exercise of hiking mountains and ascending and descending numerous stairs, I still managed to gain weight while in Italy. Therefore, portion control, or some modification of the Italian diet would be required if I lived in Italy. However, I think that I can take some of the joy of cooking and eating back to Canada, regardless of my food sensitivities and while still staying at a reasonable weight. I just need to try different recipes that might bring just as much joy to the food experience. I think the key is simply to slow down, take time to find healthy and good quality ingredients, while creating the time to relish cooking and eating them together.

Communicate Openly: People communicate very openly in Italy. I found people hugging and kissing in public places. Rapid conversations over important topics happened all around me. Arguments, and animated ones, seemed to happen anywhere and at any time. People seemed comfortable letting out their feelings regardless of the content or context. Unlike the festering land mines or the nuclear bombs of some of the emotional arguments that I have observed at home in my Canadian culture, there was just a general outpouring of feelings in Italy. In all of the ones I observied, there was no time to wonder what might happen in them because they were over before they began. By the time there was much contemplation, the outburst had vanished like a freak weather squall that hit me while hiking up in the Cinque Terra trails. The rain came, and then the sun came out to dry me off. I found it refreshing to see people communicating so overtly, and it reminded me that it is healthy to say out loud what we really feel without fear of repercussion, hard feelings or grudges. That’s amore!

Climbing Stairs is Rewarding: This is a country of stairs. Everywhere you go, you have to climb up or down stairs in order to make your way around the towns and cities, and, as well, to go between buildings. It is truly inspiring to see very old people making their way so capably where I would have thought the obstacles of the stairs would be prohibitive of the elderly. Instead, the stairs simply serve as part of the daily exercise, and might explain the long life span of the average Italian citizen. Where we do everything to avoid stairs in Canada with escalators, elevators and electric walkways, Italy makes no such concessions. If you want to get around, you have to embrace the stairs. Some of them are wide and shallow, or deep and steep, or crooked and uneven. In general, your legs get a good work out, and you have to stop periodically to catch your breath. It always feels good to get to the top, like I felt when I made it to the top of the mountain in Monterosso, and looked down over the five villages of the Cinque Terra trail. It was a rewarding triumph to manage it…and yet, I had to then climb down the daunting 1000 or so stairs to get back into town. As well, climbing 467 stairs to the top of the Duomo in Florence made me appreciate staying in health so that I can travel into my retirement years.

My concern has always been that places like Italy might be too demanding when I get into my 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (and beyond). Perhaps this is not a bucket list place. However, perhaps the key is to stay in better shape at home so that these trips are manageable all of the way through my lifetime.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Being Now: Week 25: Happy Endings

25 Mar

52 Weeks Being Now: Week 25: Happy Endings.

1781455_10152373020356383_1331996233_o

Don’t Tell Me The Ending: How many times has someone told you about a good movie, and you put your hand up and begged them to stop because you didn’t want them to ruin the ending? You simply didn’t want to know until you read the book or watched the movie yourself.

However, why are we then so compelled to know the outcomes of our everyday lives in such rigid and fixed detail? Consider how much time we actually spend in our lives to assure that we do know what the endings will be in our day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year lives. We create plans and regimented schedules at work and for our personal lives that help us anticipate and in some ways guarantee our lives in multiple ways. This organization is seen to be purposeful, and also helps us to be less anxious over unknown outcomes. As we all know, uncertainty can be anxiety provoking. Therefore, we know what will happen to us first thing in the morning, at noon and at 3:00 PM, and then, as well, in the evening. We know where we will go to bed, and are pretty assured that we will awake in the morning at a set time, and will likely repeat much of our previous day, all over again.

How often do we approach fortune tellers asking to know what is going to happen to us. This mysterious, unknown Future both intrigues and disturbs us because we don’t really know what life will deal us or our loved ones. We cocoon ourselves in our daily tasks so that we don’t have to look at the truth of the randomness of the universe in the eye. We attach ourselves to domesticated routines to help us pretend that we can determine our destinies in love, business, finances and other. Why not? If we just do A, B and C, then D will happen. Right? Some people coordinate their lives so carefully, that there is no room for “error”, in their minds. They become quite disappointed or surprised when things don’t happen exactly as they expect that they are supposed to happen. However, life unfolds as it intends to manifest itself, and we sometimes need to be reminded of how little control we truly have over it.

Letting Go: Perhaps we need to embrace this “unknowing” with greater inner abandonment. Just as when we are watching the movie, we don’t want to know the ending until the end, so should we sometimes give things up to chance in the living of our lives. By allowing space in our day for life to breath into us what could or should or might happen, we can allow ourselves some connection to that which pulls at our souls. Perhaps we don’t know where we will eat dinner. Perhaps we sit down in a restaurant with someone new and have a conversation about something else that we might not have considered before. On the weekends, we might allow our time to be flexible, and do things based on how we feel at the time. Perhaps we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and travel or hike or bike somewhere we have never been and invite along new people that push us to think about topics differently. Maybe we travel by ourselves so that we can be truly open to what is just around the corner, and to meet new people that might ask us to think about life in new and exciting ways. Maybe we take time to read literature that we might not normally read, or write letters or emails to people to whom we have been meaning to write. At work, we try new things, or ask for different opportunities. Perhaps we do nothing at all and just meditate so that we have time to breathe deeply. In other words: What compels us to do, think and be things in new and unpredictable ways where we don’t know what the ending will be?

Happy Endings: And what if I told you that everything is going to be okay? You will meet the person that you are meant to be with. You will be secure in your future until you pass away. You will have grandchildren. You will publish your book. Would you then let go of needing to carefully orchestrate your life in an effort to assure that this will, in fact, be the outcome? Now all you have to do is live for the moment because you don’t have to worry about the outcomes. You can just live and enjoy each moment that you encounter. Everything else will take care of itself naturally and through the natural course of things intended by the universe. Perhaps the endings will not be exactly what you were expecting, but maybe that is better. Expectations just have a way of upsetting us anyway. I suggest that you wait to read the book of your life until you get to the end. Enjoy it. Wait to be surprised, and enjoy the unexpected, instead of feeling anxious about it. I will meet you somewhere along your journey of happy endings.

52 Weeks Being Now: Week 25: Happy Endings

25 Mar

1781455_10152373020356383_1331996233_o

Don’t Tell Me The Ending: How many times has someone told you about a good movie, and you put your hand up and begged them to stop because you didn’t want them to ruin the ending? You simply didn’t want to know until you read the book or watched the movie yourself.

However, why are we then so compelled to know the outcomes of our everyday lives in such rigid and fixed detail? Consider how much time we actually spend in our lives to assure that we do know what the endings will be in our day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year lives. We create plans and regimented schedules at work and for our personal lives that help us anticipate and in some ways guarantee our lives in multiple ways. This organization is seen to be purposeful, and also helps us to be less anxious over unknown outcomes. As we all know, uncertainty can be anxiety provoking. Therefore, we know what will happen to us first thing in the morning, at noon and at 3:00 PM, and then, as well, in the evening. We know where we will go to bed, and are pretty assured that we will awake in the morning at a set time, and will likely repeat much of our previous day, all over again.

How often do we approach fortune tellers asking to know what is going to happen to us. This mysterious, unknown Future both intrigues and disturbs us because we don’t really know what life will deal us or our loved ones. We cocoon ourselves in our daily tasks so that we don’t have to look at the truth of the randomness of the universe in the eye. We attach ourselves to domesticated routines to help us pretend that we can determine our destinies in love, business, finances and other. Why not? If we just do A, B and C, then D will happen. Right? Some people coordinate their lives so carefully, that there is no room for “error”, in their minds. They become quite disappointed or surprised when things don’t happen exactly as they expect that they are supposed to happen. However, life unfolds as it intends to manifest itself, and we sometimes need to be reminded of how little control we truly have over it.

Letting Go: Perhaps we need to embrace this “unknowing” with greater inner abandonment. Just as when we are watching the movie, we don’t want to know the ending until the end, so should we sometimes give things up to chance in the living of our lives. By allowing space in our day for life to breath into us what could or should or might happen, we can allow ourselves some connection to that which pulls at our souls. Perhaps we don’t know where we will eat dinner. Perhaps we sit down in a restaurant with someone new and have a conversation about something else that we might not have considered before. On the weekends, we might allow our time to be flexible, and do things based on how we feel at the time. Perhaps we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and travel or hike or bike somewhere we have never been and invite along new people that push us to think about topics differently. Maybe we travel by ourselves so that we can be truly open to what is just around the corner, and to meet new people that might ask us to think about life in new and exciting ways. Maybe we take time to read literature that we might not normally read, or write letters or emails to people to whom we have been meaning to write. At work, we try new things, or ask for different opportunities. Perhaps we do nothing at all and just meditate so that we have time to breathe deeply. In other words: What compels us to do, think and be things in new and unpredictable ways where we don’t know what the ending will be?

Happy Endings: And what if I told you that everything is going to be okay. You will meet the person that you are meant to be with? You will be secure in your future until you pass away. You will have grandchildren. You will publish your book. Would you then let go of needing to carefully orchestrate your life in an effort to assure that this will, in fact, be the outcome? Now all you have to do is live for the moment because you don’t have to worry about the outcomes. You can just live and enjoy each moment that you encounter. Everything else will take care of itself naturally and through the natural course of things intended by the universe. Perhaps the endings will not be exactly what you were expecting, but maybe that is better. Expectations just have a way of upsetting us anyway. I suggest that you wait to read the book of your life until you get to the end. Enjoy it. Wait to be surprised, and enjoy the unexpected, instead of feeling anxious about it. I will meet you somewhere along your journey of happy endings.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 24: The Art of Pizza Making and Life

19 Mar

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 24: The Art of Pizza Making and Life.

1658637_10152360859776383_324603144_o

The Whoas of the Celiac: Unfortunately, I will not make many actual pizzas in my lifetime because I struggle with all of the ingredients. My Irish heritage has plagued me with the gift of gluten, dairy and egg issues that are typical of the Irish. However, “when in Florence, Italy” I chose to learn about the art of building a pizza in a class with a well-known pizza chef, Davide Rafa in The Food and Wine Academy of Florence (with permission). In doing so, I was reminded to think carefully about life and am richer (and fuller) for the experience. I caught myself wondering why I waited this long to learn the art of cooking something special in the good company of enthusiastic (and hungry) students. I realize that it is likely because food, for me, for most of my life, has been a means to an end (staying alive while busy), and keeping a growing boy from the brink of starvation every hour of every day until adulthood.

However, as a result of this short course, I thought about cooking food differently as I listened to this wonderful chef explain the love and art of the pizzeria. As he spoke, I saw the pizza metaphor for life emerging.

The Crust is Everything: It takes some skill and patience to bring this little ball of dough to life.

First, the choice of flour makes or breaks the pliability of the crust. We need to make sure that we are choosing soft flour for our crusts. If our flour is not ground soft, we need to sift it down until it is as fine as icing sugar. Then, it is necessary to hollow out a circle in the centre of the flour and fill it with the water and active yeast (that has been sitting in room temperature waiting for this moment to bring the flour to life). Slowly, you bring the flour, little-by-little into this little circle, while whisking it gently with a fork to build moist consistency and an easy texture. You cannot push the pace of this process, or it gets sticky and unmanageable.

Next, you pull the dough together and gently, and repetitively knead the dough away from you into a moist and flexible egg. You lift it gently from the bottom, and then ever so carefully knead outwards. You repeat this often. If you push down too hard, it gets gooey. If you knead it in too many directions, it gets tangled up and rips apart. If you put too much flour in it in an effort to speed up the process, it loses its pliability. You need to slowly and tenderly bring the dough to a smooth and flexible round ball. Once you have succeeded, you cover it, and wait for it to rise.

Remember to drink wine while you wait.

After that, you push down with flat fingers and start pulling the ball into a flat round base. If you push too hard, the crust will be too thin. The ingredients will then soak through, or it will burn in the fire. If you do not knead it carefully and evenly, it will start to take on an interesting shape instead of the desired circle that truly is the mathematical genius of the perfect pizza. With patience and careful kneading, flipping and pulling it outwards, the pizza crust begins its life. Its whole purpose is to support the rest of the marvellous ingredients that we choose to put on top of it.

The Choice of Toppings: This is the fun part. You get to add what you want on top of the pizza. He explained how important it was to keep the key ingredients fresh and simple. “Don’t add to much of any one thing so that all of the ingredients blend and complement each other”. This means that you do not want to have too much sauce, cheese or seasonings. The goal is to have a taste sensation that is balanced and full. I chose to use tomato puree, dry mozzarella, salami, oregano, basil and at the end, some olive oil.

The Metaphor: I suppose we could all interpret this process in multiple ways, but I chose to see the following in the pizza making experience:

-We need to consider our base. It needs to be the right size and density to support our dreams. We need to be patient with ourselves and work at being flexible. If we spread ourselves too thin, we burn in the fire. If we are not round and balanced, some of what we take on, falls off, or becomes difficult to slice.

-The spirit within us, like the yeast, needs to be alive and meaningful or it will not rise.

-We must always think carefully about what we add into our lives as “toppings” to bring us joy and fulfillment. If we put too many things into our day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year experiments with truth in an effort to experience it all at once, it takes away from the present moment of enjoying just a few tastes of life at a time.

-It is best to cook together in life with good mentors, friends and family. It is the process, not the outcome in life, that makes life worth living and this is always more enjoyable in good company.

-And always remember to drink wine. (I suppose that this is intended to be a literal translation from my pizza lesson as we all enjoyed a lot of it).

My first pizza experiment resulted in an odd shape, despite my efforts. However, it was delicious. Others around me chose other toppings, and they too, were very happy with the results. We were happy because we made time to slowly and methodically build our pizzas together. We expressed loving every step in the process. Eating it was just one part of the enjoyable process, albeit, it was the outcome for which we were all waiting.

Take care to make delicious pizzas with your life. Take time. Be patient with yourself, and do it so that you can savour life to its fullest in balance and wellness.

“Chi ha tempo, ha vita”
(He that has time has life).

**Permission to re-print elsewhere is provided to The Food and Wine Academy of Florence with reference to the author’s link Adventure Ahead by Shelley Robinson, Canada

1974024_10152360857186383_937517831_o

1899604_10152360858746383_1820141271_o

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 24: The Art of Pizza Making and Life by Shelley Robinson, Canada

19 Mar

1658637_10152360859776383_324603144_o

The Whoas of the Celiac: Unfortunately, I will not make many actual pizzas in my lifetime because I struggle with all of the ingredients. My Irish heritage has plagued me with the gift of gluten, dairy and egg issues that are typical of the Irish. However, “when in Florence, Italy” I chose to learn about the art of building a pizza in a class with a well-known pizza chef, Davide Rafa in The Food and Wine Academy of Florence (with permission). In doing so, I was reminded to think carefully about life and am richer (and fuller) for the experience. I caught myself wondering why I waited this long to learn the art of cooking something special in the good company of enthusiastic (and hungry) students. I realize that it is likely because food, for me, for most of my life, has been a means to an end (staying alive while busy), and keeping a growing boy from the brink of starvation every hour of every day until adulthood.

However, as a result of this short course, I thought about cooking food differently as I listened to this wonderful chef explain the love and art of the pizzeria. As he spoke, I saw the pizza metaphor for life emerging.

The Crust is Everything: It takes some skill and patience to bring this little ball of dough to life.

First, the choice of flour makes or breaks the pliability of the crust. We need to make sure that we are choosing soft flour for our crusts. If our flour is not ground soft, we need to sift it down until it is as fine as icing sugar. Then, it is necessary to hollow out a circle in the centre of the flour and fill it with the water and active yeast (that has been sitting in room temperature waiting for this moment to bring the flour to life). Slowly, you bring the flour, little-by-little into this little circle, while whisking it gently with a fork to build moist consistency and an easy texture. You cannot push the pace of this process, or it gets sticky and unmanageable.

Next, you pull the dough together and gently, and repetitively knead the dough away from you into a moist and flexible egg. You lift it gently from the bottom, and then ever so carefully knead outwards. You repeat this often. If you push down too hard, it gets gooey. If you knead it in too many directions, it gets tangled up and rips apart. If you put too much flour in it in an effort to speed up the process, it loses its pliability. You need to slowly and tenderly bring the dough to a smooth and flexible round ball. Once you have succeeded, you cover it, and wait for it to rise.

Remember to drink wine while you wait.

After that, you push down with flat fingers and start pulling the ball into a flat round base. If you push too hard, the crust will be too thin. The ingredients will then soak through, or it will burn in the fire. If you do not knead it carefully and evenly, it will start to take on an interesting shape instead of the desired circle that truly is the mathematical genius of the perfect pizza. With patience and careful kneading, flipping and pulling it outwards, the pizza crust begins its life. Its whole purpose is to support the rest of the marvellous ingredients that we choose to put on top of it.

The Choice of Toppings: This is the fun part. You get to add what you want on top of the pizza. He explained how important it was to keep the key ingredients fresh and simple. “Don’t add to much of any one thing so that all of the ingredients blend and complement each other”. This means that you do not want to have too much sauce, cheese or seasonings. The goal is to have a taste sensation that is balanced and full. I chose to use tomato puree, dry mozzarella, salami, oregano, basil and at the end, some olive oil.

The Metaphor: I suppose we could all interpret this process in multiple ways, but I chose to see the following in the pizza making experience:

-We need to consider our base. It needs to be the right size and density to support our dreams. We need to be patient with ourselves and work at being flexible. If we spread ourselves too thin, we burn in the fire. If we are not round and balanced, some of what we take on, falls off, or becomes difficult to slice.

-The spirit within us, like the yeast, needs to be alive and meaningful or it will not rise.

-We must always think carefully about what we add into our lives as “toppings” to bring us joy and fulfillment. If we put too many things into our day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year experiments with truth in an effort to experience it all at once, it takes away from the present moment of enjoying just a few tastes of life at a time.

-It is best to cook together in life with good mentors, friends and family. It is the process, not the outcome in life, that makes life worth living and this is always more enjoyable in good company.

-And always remember to drink wine. (I suppose that this is intended to be a literal translation from my pizza lesson as we all enjoyed a lot of it).

My first pizza experiment resulted in an odd shape, despite my efforts. However, it was delicious. Others around me chose other toppings, and they too, were very happy with the results. We were happy because we made time to slowly and methodically build our pizzas together. We expressed loving every step in the process. Eating it was just one part of the enjoyable process, albeit, it was the outcome for which we were all waiting.

Take care to make delicious pizzas with your life. Take time. Be patient with yourself, and do it so that you can savour life to its fullest in balance and wellness.

“Chi ha tempo, ha vita”
(He that has time has life).

**Permission to re-print elsewhere is provided to The Food and Wine Academy of Florence with reference to the author’s link Adventure Ahead by Shelley Robinson, Canada

1974024_10152360857186383_937517831_o

1899604_10152360858746383_1820141271_o

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 22: I Will Meet You in the Garden

19 Mar

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 22: I Will Meet You in the Garden.

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Looking Beyond the Veil: Sometimes, it takes making a big shift in life, to start seeing things differently–deeply, in such a way that I have had to review what my tendencies are in relationship with self and others. Taking any risk such as moving or travelling, forces me to examine what it is that is really important to me, and why it is so. What motivates me? What am I vulnerable to? Who do I let in my life? Why am I being given, what I perceive to be, the same types of challenges in relationship over and over again? What is now different than when I have been in relationship before, is my engagement and attachment to being “right” within them. I have also learned that feelings are never wrong to the person feeling them. Therefore, it is this delicate balance of not fighting for right and wrong, but knowing that there is somewhere in the middle of thoughts and feelings where people need to find some common ground. The poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī writes: “Somewhere between right and wrong there is a garden. I will meet you there.”

After recently experiencing a short-lived, but intense relationship, it became clear that what started out as a fairy tale, was only a story of two personalities still learning about ourselves. It was not, in the end, a meeting of the souls, or I believe that things would have turned out differently. It is interesting reading Gary Zukav’s Seat of the Soul (finally) that he talks about spiritual partnership as the following:

“Spiritual Partnership
… The new female and the new male
are partners on a journey of spiritual growth.
They want to make the journey.
Their love and trust keep them together.
Their intuition guides them. They consult with each other.
They are friends. They laugh a lot. They are equals.

That is what a spiritual partnership is:
a partnership between equals
for the purpose of spiritual growth.”

The Power of Words: When two people discover that their egos and baggage hamper this type of spiritual evolution of relationship, there is nothing one or the other can really do. I have now learned that I truly cannot change anyone. If judgment and harsh behaviour emerges, I can only comment on it, and explain the human experience from the other side while trying to understand the other person as well. However, the wall that is often quickly erected and obstructs a compassionate vantage point, is one in the form of harsh words of judgment and accusations. “How could you do this to me?” Instead of, “What are you trying to say, and why is it important?” Erroneous and arbitrary words that bubble up in argument can be fatal as they cage the conflict in ego, and not in truly seeing each other for what the issue ought to be, a difference of perception and experience. Where I see someone attempting to personify me in a way that does not exemplify my true intentions or best self, it is important for me to first consider why it is happening. Then I try to attempt to communicate my thoughts and feelings to clarify any miscommunication (without wounding), and failing these efforts, it becomes necessary to let the relationship go where it continues to assume the worst of itself under pressure.

“A power struggle collapses when you withdraw your energy from it. Power struggles become uninteresting to you when you change your intention from winning to learning about yourself.” Zukav indicates that when souls, not personalities, love each other, they can meet in this garden that Rumi describes. Otherwise, they are caught trying to impress upon the other the “right way” to act and feel and perceive situations. They are caught blaming each other for their reactions to difficulties, instead of uncovering what is happening in any given dilemma. The goal of any relational conflict is for each person to learn more about each other while still coming out of the situation unscathed and whole. Too many arguments in relationship wound each other, and this is the unfortunate cycle of things. Maturity has taught me that I must walk away where woundedness controls the situation.

Relationship Skirmishes: Regardless of who starts the difficulties, how the matter is handled, and the empathy for the context within which it arises, is paramount. Where there is compassion and empathy, comes love. If empathy leaves the room and counter attacks (based on perceived attacks) take over (passive or aggressive), it is not a reliable or trusting connection. We have to trust that even in the darkest hour of our relationships, we can count on the other to endeavour to see us for all of our good points, and provide us with the benefit of the doubt even where painful to do so. We like to think that an emotional bank account in relationship is deposited so that the partner can draw on it to balance out anger when he or she sees some of our uglier sides. What happens too often, is that people bankrupt all of the emotional investment in one argument.

Compassionate relationships see the frailty of human nature, and understand that where we fail, we are usually grappling with ourselves and the challenges at hand, and not attacking or meaning to attack. People who go through their lives blind-sided by conflict, and seeing it as an attack (passive or aggressive), are not likely to see or understand the other person underneath the surface of their personalities. Therefore, it is not love, it is something else. I have learned that when relationship skirmishes arise, that they are very telling of how successful the relationship will be over time. They give us insight into the journey of our partners and how we can be sensitive to the relationship. Sometimes, we can love people but detach from their pain that might otherwise, pull us under. Sometimes, we can do this in the context of the relationship, and sometimes, we need to leave the relationship in order to stay healthy. We can always love people regardless of our connection to them.

In the end, we are all human. If this humanness is not truly appreciated, we are caged by our relationships because we must alway be perfect. We must always be perfect for fear of toppling over the egos engaged in the relationship of right in wrong. We then live in fear of emotions, rather than embracing them for what they are truly meant to teach us about our souls. Sometimes we have to look fear, anger and hurt in the eye of the storm, and unveil it gently and carefully so that it can look back. When it is this vulnerable, it is best not to label it with unkind words, or pathologize the intentions of the person expressing it, or “it ” will hide or attack; rather we must uncover what “it” is. Once people in relationship can do this over and over again, the volatility of the relationship holds less power and love penetrates everything.

“When you have an emotional reaction to what you see, you are judging. That is your signal that you have an issue inside of yourself – with yourself – not with the other person. If you react to evil, look inside yourself for the very thing that so agitates you, and you will find it. If it were not there, you will simply discern, act appropriately, and move on.” Gary Zukav

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