Posts Tagged ‘Judgment’

instant pot enlightenment

April 23rd, 2018    -    7 Comments

I didn’t want it. I didn’t ask for it. What I asked for was a slow cooker. When I said “slow cooker” I envisioned the brown ceramic Crock-Pot my mother filled with pork chops and a can of condensed mushroom soup in the morning before work. I’m good with slow.

I usually scale down what I ask for because gifts for me tend to get scaled up. Once I asked for a juicer and got a stainless steel “citrus press” that stands 14 inches high. I asked for a 10-inch fry pan and got a 15-inch skillet. I asked for a soup ladle and got a professional grade combination ladle and strainer with a handle so long that it won’t fit in a drawer. I use all these things, but I have a small house and kitchen that gets teenier every Christmas.

So when I saw the two-foot tall box under the tree I held my breath. It was the last gift I unwrapped. It wasn’t a slow cooker. It was my worst fear: an instant pot. I needed it like I needed another ladle.

A week later I still hadn’t opened the box. When I did, I was wary. It had a lot of packing material and instructions in several languages. My husband reassured me it wasn’t that complicated. And it was the highest rated model he could find. I might have asked for what I wanted, but I hadn’t wanted nearly enough.

I waited until he cleared one of our three gourmet coffeemakers from the counter before I installed it. And then I trolled Facebook looking for real people who had used the thing successfully. The first weeks of the year were full of postings from first-time instant pot users, posts of the “live to tell” variety. I found one from a friend and went right to the recipe she had used: butter chicken.

I tried it. I loved it. Everyone loved it. And that’s all I needed to keep going. I’ve attained instant pot enlightenment, and here’s what I’ve learned:

1. It’s not complicated. Never mind the 14 function buttons lined up on the front of my Instant Pot Duo Plus. I don’t want to make cake or porridge or yogurt. I want to make dinner, and to do that I have only ever used two functions: sauté and pressure cook.

2. It’s not that big, not as tall as a citrus press, for instance.

3. It saves time to cook, but not necessarily the time for cooking. You still have to prep the ingredients, and you might have to shop for specific ingredients more often.

4. It’s fun. I’ve been the cook for at least four nights a week for the last 21 years. So I needed a jolt to my system.

5. There are a lot of recipes out there. Some of them are faster ways to make old favorites like pot roast, chili or tomato soup; others are things you never thought you’d make, like Indian food. The Instant Pot has revolutionized traditional at-home Indian cooking with its time bound methods to achieve complex flavors. (I read that in a magazine article.) I usually start looking for a recipe using things I have on hand and want to use up, like too many sweet potatoes, carrots, or tomatoes.

6. Season it up. The pressure cooker nukes your seasonings. My favorite recipe is for a quick pot roast that sounds like something my mom would have made: it uses a packet of old-fashioned onion soup mix for flavoring.

By now you might have an instant pot sitting on top of your refrigerator. Time to haul it down and fire it up. People ask where I get my instant pot recipes. I get them instantly, but I can still save you a second or two of trouble. These are some the recipes that I have or definitely would make twice.

Beef Stew
Butter Chicken
Chicken and Pea Risotto
Chicken Biryani
Curried Carrot Red Lentil Soup
Curried Sweet Potato Lentils
Ground Beef Chili
Kale with Garlic and Lemon
Lemon Vegetable Risotto
Mongolian Chicken
Mulligatawny Soup
Palak Paneer
Spicy Cauliflower Soup
Pot Roast
Sweet Potato Chicken Curry
Tomato Soup

 

the secret of a good mother

July 6th, 2016    -    9 Comments

broken We say, “A good father is not a good father.” Do you understand? One who thinks he is a good father is not a good father. — Suzuki Roshi

The quote above is often misunderstood. How do you understand it? I’ll answer for you from my own experience. One who thinks she is a good mother is not a good mother.

Zen can sound like doublespeak, but it’s always as plain as plain can be. When you think “good,” that is not good. The moment you step back from total involvement in living life as it is and go up into your judging mind to evaluate it, you are completely mistaken. Do you know that place? Have you ever judged yourself to be comfortably ahead of the game? Or woefully behind? With an edge, an advantage, a method, or for that matter, a reason, excuse or handicap? Maybe you think all those things in a single day! When you indulge in either self-congratulation or self-criticism you are no longer present. You might even say you are no longer alive. Dead fathers are not good fathers.

One who thinks he is one of the worst may be a good one if he is always trying with a single-minded effort.

I have a teenager now, as if it isn’t obvious. And in the course of writing, however vaguely, about what I am experiencing, I hear from kind-hearted people of a venerable cast, folks who have a longer view of the road we tread. They tell me about inexplicable disappointments and deep sorrows, happy turnabouts, miraculous resolutions, and ultimate acceptance of what they didn’t know then and couldn’t have guessed would happen in a million years. Life is a tricky business, and no one knows how it will go. We all know this, and yet we don’t.  Not until the illusion shatters.

From where I stand now it seems a parent’s learning curve goes like this: it starts out hard then it gets easier, and then hard, then harder, then quite a bit harder, then much harder. Humility is the face of love.

The people I take comfort from are the humble ones. They are quiet but outnumber the prideful ones a billion to one.

So how do we conduct ourselves without attaching to good or bad? I like this story about the 20th century Thai Buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah who was giving a talk on impermanence. He could be talking about anything.

Before saying a word, he motioned to a glass at his side. “Do you see this glass?” he asked. “I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me, this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over or my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.”

Read a transcript of the original talk by Suzuki Roshi.

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who turns

December 18th, 2014    -    15 Comments

upside-down-world-earth-grass-sky1-250x300The only difference between a buddha and a sentient being is upside-down thinking – Buddha

Who turns this into that?
Sound into noise?
Aroma into odor?
Taste into pleasure or disgust?
Who turns yes into no?
Grace into disgrace?
Who turns the present into the past?
Who turns the now into the not-now?
As-it-is into as-it-should-be?
Silence into restlessness?
Stillness into boredom?
The ordinary into the menial?
Who turns pain into suffering?
Change into loss?
Grief into woe?
Woe into the story of your life?
Who turns stuff into sentiment?
Desire into craving?
Acceptance into aversion?
Peace into war?
Us into them?
Who turns life into labor?
Time into toil?
Enough into not-enough?
Who turns why into why not?
Who turns delusion into enlightenment?
Who thinks?
Who turns?

All practice is the practice of making a turn in a different direction.

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the short story of yes

August 26th, 2012    -    7 Comments

At about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Facebook newsfeeds were updated with the posting, “Karen Maezen Miller and Georgia Miller are now friends.”

There is a story behind this friendship, as there is a story behind all friendships, and a story behind the end of friendships.

The long version is that preteens around the world know that 13 is the magical year in Facebookland, the year when you can sign up without lying about your age. So that on the morning of a 13th birthday, when a child wakes at dawn to make a bleary-eyed inspection of her overnight transfiguration, she takes up a bleat incessantly alarming and annoying to the parental cochlea. “Can I have a Facebook? Can I have a Facebook? Can I have a Facebook?” (An expression that is peculiar to the young. People of my age might admit to being possessed by Facebook, but our children see it the other way around.) So that after two weeks of hedging and hawing, the answer is given:

Yes.

Behind every friendship is a story. And the short version is yes.

It’s not all that easy to be friends, because it’s not that easy to say yes. It’s not even appropriate to say yes, particularly not to your children. During most of our great and tremulous time together, we are not our children’s friends.

But should you care to make and maintain friendship with, say, your sister or brother, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, partners and spouses, strangers and enemies; should you care to live out your frail and frightened years with a companionship other than bitter loneliness, anger, judgment and blame; should you wail or wonder why you are forgotten, avoided or overlooked, the world shrunken and mean; should you ever attempt to make easy space and grace for the ten thousand million billions who share your blessed blink of time, you are going to have to shorten every one of your stories to one word that includes everything and leaves out nothing that really needs to be said:

Yes.

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talk to strangers about the weather

January 4th, 2012    -    10 Comments

Whenever I see something I’ve written reflected back this way, I know the message is for me. That’s the case with this excerpt from Hand Wash Cold, which is being recirculated right about the time I’d rather hole up with my own precious self, doing what I want, when I want, how I want. So right now is a good time talk to strangers about the weather, especially since it’s 88 degrees on January 4.

Do you want to live in friendship or fear? Paradise or paranoia? We are each citizens of the place we make, so make it a better place.

At the grocery store, give your place in line to the person behind you.

Ask the checker how her day is going, and mean it.

On the way out, give your pocket money to the solicitor at the card table no matter what the cause.

Buy a cup of lemonade from the kids at the sidewalk stand.

Tell them to keep the change.

Roll down your car window when you see the homeless man on the corner with the sign. Give him money. Have no concern over what he will do with it.

Smile at him. It will be the first smile he has seen in a very long time.

Do not curse your neighbor’s tall grass, weeds, foul temperament, or house color. Given time, things change by themselves. Even your annoyance.

Thank the garbageman. Be patient with the postal worker. Leave the empty parking space for someone else to take. They will feel lucky.

Buy cookies from the Girl Scouts and a sack of oranges from the poor woman standing in the broiling heat at the intersection.

Talk to strangers about the weather.

Allow others to be themselves, with their own point of view.

If you judge them, you are in error.

Do not let difference make a difference.

Do not despair over the futility of your impact or question the outcome.

Do not pass while the lights are flashing.

Trusting life means trusting where you are, and trusting where you’ll go, and trusting the way in between, as on a bus trip, the driving left to someone else. It’s bumpy but remarkably reliable.

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the map of faith

November 14th, 2011    -    22 Comments

When my daughter was born prematurely, they said she might not breathe. Then they said she might be in a hospital for two months. They said she might need a year to catch up. Soon enough, she was at the top of the charts. Then they said she might be delayed. Then they said she was ahead. Then just last week someone said she might be slow, and need an extra year to catch up.

I no longer have faith in these pronouncements. My daughter has never been anything but completely herself, no matter what they called it.

All parents struggle with fear, hope, and expectations for their children, so I wanted to respond publicly to a mother who contacted me some time ago.

I’m totally unqualified to give guidance in her circumstance, so I’m only going on faith. That’s all any of us has to go on.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to read my mail. I feel a bit silly for writing to you, but I decided to get over that because my need for relief is so great.

The willingness to feel foolish is the first step on the path. It’s also the last step on the path. To be honest, it’s every step on the path.

I am mother to two children: a less ordinary boy of just 5 years with a mild disability; and a girl of 2 1/2.  I have noticed that having a non-average child complicates matters in a way I never saw coming.

Give yourself credit for what you didn’t see coming. Most of us think we see much farther ahead than we really can. We anticipate outcomes and draw foregone conclusions. Then we leap to either a false sense of security or a false sense of insecurity. Anything we conclude about the future is false. All that we can ever see is what is right in front of our eyes, and so I encourage you to keep that focus. Then you can be sure that you are always seeing clearly, because you are seeing things as they are.

It takes strength to see things as they are without interpreting it to mean one thing or another.

I’m not one of those mothers who always knew that there was something wrong. It is rather the opposite. My son feels OK to me. I see his delayed development and the stress he experiences because of that, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. I see a solid foundation in him and know that he will grow.

You’ve said two things here that are profound. First “my son feels OK to me.” This is the peace we seek: to be OK even when it is not OK. What makes it OK is the second thing you said, “it’s nothing we can’t handle.” This is the ground of faith. Not faith in a certain set of outcomes — the ones we want, wish, like, push, and prod for — but faith rooted in the reality of the present moment. The present is where we stand, and to stand upright where we are is the embodiment of strength. This is the strength we use to handle things as they occur, staying steady and aware without getting caught in the mind-spinning panic and paranoia of a future we cannot predict.

And let’s be clear: the future is unpredictable for everyone, no matter what. read more

in the matter of mr. d

March 14th, 2011    -    12 Comments

I have written before about the peculiar scourge of jury service but that is nothing compared to the small matter of one Mr. D.

And I have wailed over yet another cruelly unjust summons, for which I cleared my calendar to no avail until the fourth of five days’ duty, when I was the last of 40 called in the final hour of an interminably inconvenient week.

And so I howled at the capriciousness of the judge who then made me and my fellows report downtown for a next day, and then a next day, all before seating the twelve who would take up the minuscule matter of one Mr. D.

And on this third day in proverbial chains to the justice system, reassured on each previous one that this was but a minor case, a slight disruption, a quick thing, a short suit, we commence to consider the foregone insignificance of one Mr. D. I was not, at last count, among the dozen who will determine his fate, but he has already determined mine.

Because on this day, I finally realize what has lain before me all this time, unseen in the impatient storm of my own self-pity.

I see Mr. D., a young black man in a jail jumpsuit, a garment itself so indicting that the judge has taken three days to reassure us that his apparel choice alone is meaningless and inconsequential. No one is dissuaded, because we know what befits the guilty.

I survey the court and see the absence of either friend or family, no one to piously pray or hopelessly hope for his redemption.

I have heard the jurors, on interview, bemoan their own victimhood, brag of their biases, defend their beliefs, all offered as but a clever strategy to be removed from the tenure of this test, and I am sadly aware that Mr. D has no peers among us.

It took these three self-righteous days, these tortuous 14 hours, these 120 angry miles, these six indignant hikes up and down seven city blocks, for me to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt:

The minor matter of Mr. D deserves more than it is going to get, and better than I’ve granted. The proper defense of Mr. D requires that I escape the shackles of my own self-importance. And in the glare of that revelation, I see my way clear, chastened and in debt to the matter of Mr. D.

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karma is justice

October 26th, 2010    -    23 Comments

I’m juggling two jury summons. Yes, that’s right, two different courts demanding either (a) one week, or (b) two weeks of my time.  It’s karmic injustice if you ask me, since I’ve already been judged either (a) too unqualified, or (b) too qualified to serve. It brings to mind this story from last year, and it reminds me of how often we misjudge the concept of karma as being either (a) good for us or (b) bad for us or (a) fair to us or (b) unfair to us. Karma is inescapable effect inseparable from cause.  I’m repeating this post from last November when I titled it “The Buddhist in the Jury Box” and reporting to the courts for double karmic duty. When it comes to karma, there’s no room for deliberation.

***

We’re sometimes told that one key to an ethical lifestyle is to not take anything personally. That sounds like a good idea but practically speaking, your honor, I object.

State your:
Area of Residence

Occupation

Marital Status

Spouse’s Occupation

Occupations of Adult Children

Previous Experience as a Juror

I studied the instructions posted on the courtroom wall. The judge said, “Pass the microphone to Juror Number 11.”

I told him where I lived, and then I said, “I’m a Buddhist priest.”

***

I like to think of myself as a good citizen, but let me come clean: I haven’t been upholding my civic duty for the last few years. When you are a full-time caregiver of children under school age, you are exempted from jury service. After that, you have to dodge and deceive to exempt yourself, and that’s what I’ve done for the last five years, vexed by the question of after-school childcare.

Then, as we expect of our civil society, the court came breathing down my neck with a high-dollar penalty. So I showed up at the criminal justice center downtown for a day of jury service. I hadn’t found a way to manage an unforeseen absence at home, but I did have an epiphany. I realized I could tell the truth about myself, and that alone might disqualify me from participation in our system of justice. Truth, you see, is the ultimate defense. It’s the defense of having no defense.

Maybe doing good would do me some good, I bargained.

It was 11:30 a.m. before I landed in a big courtroom with 40 other potential jurors, a charming judge, and two sides in a criminal case expected to last up to eight days. The judge warned us that with the late start, we might be required to come back an extra day before jury selection could be completed, and I began calculating the collateral impact at home.

Before anything could begin, we had to break for a 90-minute lunch. read more

Monkey love

October 27th, 2009    -    9 Comments

First, I want to thank all the commentators on my last post, even those who told me off. I will let you off the hook for not liking me. It’s easy enough to let us someone off the hook, since there is no hook except the one I invent with my judgment and expectations.

What I want to explore is where we get the sense that we are so inept at parenting. Where does that judgment come from? It’s a fascinating piece of self-inquiry.

Once I gave what I judged to be a good talk at my Zen Center about the extraordinary challenges of parenting. The parents in the room nodded in solidarity. Why, oh why, was it so hard to do it well, to do it right? Ours was the most difficult job in the world! The discussion wound on and on, going nowhere, until my teacher gave a harrumph.

“Even monkeys can raise their young!” he said.

“Raise them badly,” I thought at the time, taking his comment to be little more than the rude evidence of his unique insensitivity. “He might have been a father,” I reassured myself, “but he was never a mother!” Mothers, I knew firsthand, could be the unrivaled experts at doing difficult things. With an extra degree of difficulty, I might add.

Some of us take at face value the conventional wisdom that “parenting is not intuitive.” It sounds true, since we judge ourselves to be so bad at it. But that would mean that human beings are the only species on the planet without the intuitive capacity to raise their young. That sounds false.

There is something that inhibits us, but I don’t think it’s intuition. After all, we have a boundless store of intuitive wisdom that functions miraculously with no interference from us. That’s what I wrote about in a column that ran yesterday on Shambhala Sunspace. No, what sets us apart from monkeys and all other mothers in the animal kingdom is our intellect. Our higher-order thinking, wherein resides knowledge, comprehension, analysis and judgment. Intellect is useful, but it is limited. Intuition is mysterious, and it is boundless.

Knowledge is acquired, but wisdom is revealed. Each has its place, until we come to the matter of judgment, critical judgment of ourselves and others. This is where the hooks are – the shoulds, the bests, the rights and wrongs, the perfect and imperfect, the not good enoughs. We must be careful when we ensnare ourselves in judgment, because there is no love there, not even monkey love, and that’s the most irresistible kind.

***

Edited to add: This link to a redemptive story in today’s Times for all of us so preoccupied with “how things will turn out.”

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