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Tuesday, April 12, 2016


The Eastern ascetic Ramana Maharshi encourages us to still the wandering mind by focusing on the breath and concentrating on being. Why we should need to try to become what it is in our nature to be - beingness itself - is unfathomable to me, which I suppose is a good thing when trying to go beyond thought. And I do know that the wandering mind is a weak mind, that inspiration often happens in quietude and stillness becomes strength. 

Strategies such as chanting a mantra and dwelling on the image of God have evolved to make the mind more one-pointed. And yoga attempts to achieve mental quietude while the body is bent over and the pits are sweaty. But if you're not wearing any clothes nobody will notice. I love yoga, and I'm not usually into spectator sports.

But really, focusing on anything, be it your golf stroke or a complicated math problem, even a picture of naked cuties, can help strengthen the mind. "Of all the rules," Maharshi advises in his short question-and-answer treatise Who Am I,  "the taking of sattvic food in moderate quantities is the best; by observing this rule, the [harmonius] quality of mind will increase." This is the way to promote mental clarity and inner peace. If you've read my book The Paradigm Diet then you're already eating sattvic foods in humongous quantities, since that's what I preach, though I refer to fruits and vegetables as paradigm, not sattvic. There are just too many consonants. But in honor of the Maharshi, and the many practitioners of the Indian school of Ayurvedic medicine, I'll use the term sattvic here to refer to light, soothing, easily digested food, especially sun foods and ground foods. Which is another way of saying fruits and vegetables. Don't say I didn't try.

These foods are preferable to tamasic and rajasic foods, which cloud the mind and make it restless, respectively. (I wonder, does eating both cancel them out, as is the case with say, mixing coke and heroin, as the Nazis did to mellow out their submarine pilots? We won't know, because those super soldiers never made it back alive. Life's a trip.) However, some of each type of food is advisable to balance the temperament. A little spicy rajasic food, for instance, can help you tackle the problems of the day. And anyway it cannot be avoided. You try going without tamasic staples such as onion and garlic, though it is easier to pass on alcohol and drugs, unless you're on a date. Getting through the meet-up without having a glass of wine ain't so easy. Just hold the cloves. Rajasic foods like coffee and chocolate, though hard to resist, are nevertheless preferable to animal products and refined sugars.

Lest we grow overly concerned about what to put in our bodies and thereby become more grounded physically rather than shall we say ethereal (which is the point both of the yogi's practices and the pot head's bong hit) we'd do well to heed the advice of another Eastern mystic. Maharshi's contemporary, the Swami states that"the food you eat will fill only your stomach and not the mind, but spiritual food will fill your mind and give you eternal bliss." 
Simply eating beans and greens is not enough to make you a Mahatma, but diet is a worthy first step and it tastes good, too. So in the spirit of these teachings I offer to you today's lunch.

I make beet juice for my mother and used to juice the leaves as well. But beet greens are tender and sweet, not to mention oh so nutritious and (surprise!) easy to prepare. Simply cut the leaves in 1/4-inch pieces, rinse and boil for two minutes. You can include the thinner stems. Before throwing in the beets I diced a whole white onion and boiled it for three minutes for an overall cooking time of 5 minutes. I strained the concoction thoroughly because I don't like soggy food and then added four diced tomatoes and two pickled artichoke hearts in addition to the juice of 1/4 lemon and some salt. Voila.
Boiled greens pair nicely with beans of all varieties. My current favorite is kidney beans. I usually enjoy them from the can after rinsing and straining, but recently I've gotten into boiling a large batch and consuming throughout the week. A lb-size bag (La Preferida brand) costs $1.50 and provides the calories of 3 cans of beans. A can costs as much as the whole bag, so boiling your own allows you to save 2/3 of the price. 

It usually takes me three days to go through a pound, because they are amazing. They are tastier than canned versions because you can cook them to desired tenderness and go easy on the salt. I use the rapid soak method, which saves a lot of time. Simply fill a pot with hot water and add the bag of beans, being sure that the beans are submerged in an inch or two (6 or 8 cups) of water. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for 2 minutes. Remove from the flame, cover and let stand for an hour. Then, drain and rinse the beans and repeat the drill, adding beans and fresh water and simmering for another hour with the top partially on. Then I stir in 1 heaping tablespoon of salt. I let the beans sit on the stove until room temperature, by which time I've eaten the day's serving. Then I refrigerate the left-overs, which being no longer fresh I guess are tamasic. But hey, I could be snorting blow. I store the beans in the cooking juice but usually strain before eating.

Kidneys are the beef of the beans. Hearty. Reddish brown. Savory and chewy. And they provide about half the day's iron requirement per large serving. I mix the beans into whatever I eat for the day, so beet greens this afternoon. I enjoyed the latter so much there are no left-overs, so it's back to the drawing board (stove) tomorrow.

 Try this feast and see how sattvic you feel. Then you can undertake your yoga and breathing exercises or masturbate to naked women doing yoga while you breathe heavily or whatever you call meditation. But not immediately after eating, which the Maharishi - not Maharshi, though he was also a contemporary - strictly forbids. As good a reason as any to give it a try. But making beans and greens is itself a form of concentration - otherwise they'll burn and are a bitch to clean up - so you may just want to call it a day and say, a full belly feels nice.

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