Month: September 2016

Metta Meditation and a List of Guided Practices

I have recently taken up a meditation practice. The experience of sitting down to meditate is an incredible thing to allow yourself. Perhaps my own interest has made me hyper-aware, but as of late, I am continually hearing of different experiences that people are having with metta meditation.

You may recall my discussing this type of meditation briefly in the article on Matthieu Ricard. There, I refer to this practice as “loving kindness” or “compassionate” meditation. Aptly named, it is the process of focusing on expansion of love and the equalization of all living beings. Metta meditation asks that we wish happiness and well-being not only for ourselves, but for all living beings.

In the traditional, Visuddhimagga approach, one journeys through a set of steps that are meant to focus one’s energies. A set of phrases are used to guide us through and focus our intention. Traditionally, they read, “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, and may I live with ease”. These phrases are repeated at the practitioner’s discretion, and are then focused outward.

metta-meditation

Metta meditation begins with one wishing happiness and love for one’s self, then, onto a family member or close friend. These loving thoughts are then expanded onto a neutral person (one that does not yet warrant a positive or negative feeling), a difficult or negative person, and then all four of these beings are envisioned together. Finally, the practice encourages that we view all living beings in the universe and wish them the same love, health, and well-being that we would wish upon ourselves.

I have found this practice immensely gratifying. There is a calmness that I feel when I have begun my day with such positive thinking. It is in no way a cure all to any aggression or frustration that you may naturally feel throughout the day, but it definitely allows me to rightfully view each person that I interact daily with as the human being that they are. I encourage you to try this practice when you have a spare moment. If nothing else, you are spending 20 minutes to an hour with yourself, quietly focusing on love and positive thoughts.

A great tool for neophytes, YouTube is filled with numerous guided meditations to help maintain focus in your practice. Here is a list of a few of my favorite. Good luck!

Guided Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation with Sharon Salzberg – 29 minutes
Stress-Free Guided Meditation – 20 minutes
Loving Kindness Meditation – 15 minutes
Guided Metta Meditation by Ajahn Brahm – 35 minutes

For further research, there is a video to Sharon Salzberg’s 2012 TED Talk, Transform Your Mind, Change the World. Salzberg is at the forefront of meditation research and is the founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts.

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Ginger Hazelnut Protein Granola Bars

Granola bars save lives as long as you don’t have sweet stuff like chocolate in them. This is especially true when you make them yourself and know exactly what is in them that made them so lovely and healthy. They can be made days ahead of time and package up perfectly when traveling and frolicking. But being that I am a gluten-intolerant vegan, venturing away from home can be a bit difficult at times. Thankfully I am well-prepared and want you to be as well!

My favorite thing about having skipped out on ol’ Manhattan is that winter is absolutely no where in site. The forecast for tomorrow in Los Angeles is 90F. It is perfectly appropriate to take a stroll to the farmer’s market down the street, go on a midday hike up into Runyon Canyon, and even take the ferry to Catalina Island for a day trip. I might never go back.

catalina-island

Yesterday, backpack empty, my roommate and I skated around West Hollywood. We found a farmer’s market and filled our bags with the most beautiful produce. I brought home some colorful baby heirloom tomatoes, raw almonds and hazelnuts, honeycrisp apples, golden beets, and fresh flowers to make my temporary apartment feel more like home. I then got to the baking.

heirloom-tomatoes

Ginger Hazelnut Protein Granola Bars
vegan and gluten-free

5 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup warm water

5 medjool dates
1/2 cup hot water

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup brown rice protein powder
1/4 cup each roasted almonds and hazelnuts, chopped
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, diced
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 banana, mashed
1/4 cup almond milk

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a round or square 8-inch baking pan.
In a small bowl, stir the chia seeds and warm water together and set aside. In another small bowl, soak the dates in warm water so that they are fully submerged.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and set aside. Drain the water from the soaked dates and coarsely chop them on a cutting board. Combine the chia seed gel, dates, banana, and almond milk in one of the small bowls and incorporate into the dry ingredients. Mix well so that no powder remains at the bottom of the bowl. Press mixture into the prepared baking dish and place in preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp at the edges.

Wrap in plastic and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.




Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cookies

So after my delicious banana almond ice cream I wanted to bring you another great recipe on my favorite foods list that I really like.

You’re gonna need to lay down after one of these. But make sure you’re within arm’s length of another because they are truly that good. It is so freezing, snowy, and cozy in Manhattan right now that all I feel like doing (have the energy to do) is bake, eat, and sleep. Peanut butter and chocolate and Harry Potter are all that my days consist of. It’s wonderful.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cookies
(gluten-free and vegan)

1.5 cups of peanut butter (not the fat-free gimmicks!)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

peanut-butter-cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking sheet. Mix all ingredients in one large bowl. Plop rounded tablespoonfuls on the prepared sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Cook for 10-12 minutes and let cool before transferring to a wire rack. They will be heavy and a bit crumbly but so great.




Banana and Vegan Almond Ice Cream Recipe

Here is a quick recipe for making a delicious and healthy ice cream based on bananas and almonds.
Enjoy.

Ingredients:
5 very ripe bananas

4 cups almond milk
2 tbsp soy lecithin
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
3 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tbsp each almond and vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly grease. Peel and slice all 5 bananas in 1/4″ pieces and lay them in a single layer on the prepared parchment. Bake for 10 minutes, flip each piece over and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a large bowl, blend remaining ingredients with a hand mixer for a few minutes so as to break up any clumps and to thoroughly incorporate the thickeners with the almond milk. When bananas have cooled, coarsely smash them with a fork and add them to the almond milk.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Then eat!