In my meditation this morning I was cleaning the house. Vacuuming, organizing, moving the painting that’s at the wrong height since I moved the plant that was beneath it. 

All of this movement was motivated by anticipation. I am going to be hosting. 

After so many months of meeting online, my book club is coming to my house this weekend. I want them to come. I invited them to come. I’ve missed having them here. Also, I dread it. 

Ok, dread might be dramatic but there’s definitely doubt. Wouldn’t it just be easier if we were online? Safe within the confines of our own little squares on the screen. Safe within the confines of our own little boxes lined up on the street. Safe to sit amidst the mess that we’ve made. Safe from the judging eyes, we think. But wait, they’re here. 

The eyes of awareness are here. 

Sometimes consciousness is with them and our attention is focused and clear. More often (some studies say 95% of the time) it is a subconscious impression that activates our senses. 

The way that we respond to what we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and think is almost always a repetition of what we have sensed and how we have responded in the past. This is how humans work. It’s not dysfunction. It’s brilliant! 

The predictability of patterns allows our minds to rest, or so it seems. 

The tremendous amount of effort that it takes to learn something new is a major drain on our limited resources. The ability to “rest” in what feels familiar keeps the brain from using all of the energy (calories) that are also needed for digestion, cell division, immune function, circulation, and all of the other maintenance activities that keep a body vital. The machine that is your body is truly a miracle!

Think about the last time you went to a new place, picked up a new hobby, made a new friend, practiced a new language, or played a new sport or game. Maybe it’s been so long that you can’t really remember what it was like. If you can you probably remember some emotion: fear, elation, trepidation, exhilaration, frustration. You may even feel some impression of that feeling in your body as you read this. If you allow yourself to linger in the memory, you may feel it get stronger. 

This is how stress works. It motivates us to act. The less familiar the stressor, the more it demands. Brains will scramble, desperate to find some connection to something familiar in order to make sense of the experience. Brains have the responsibility to steer the vehicle of the body, and, to decide when to speed up and when to slow down. When what’s in front of us feels scary or even life threatening (and this too is affected by not only our own memories but inter-generational experiences,) we better be able to respond quickly! Often, it happens so quickly that we don’t even notice what’s happening. 

And so, like this, we respond. 

We clean the house, eat the food, say the thing, do the other thing… that has in the past, brought us some relief. 

We practice noticing so that we may respond more carefully. 

We learn to rest deep within our experience. We learn to see, from the inside out, what’s familiar, what’s scary, and how we respond. We get to grow! We learn to take care of our precious resources. We may decide to purposefully expose ourselves to something new and feel a rush of emotion wash over us. We may sit confidently in our awareness as the tides of perception and memory rise and fall. We get to be more truly alive, aware, present, and engaged with experience, without being incapacitated. 

With mindfulness practice, we learn to negotiate so that this is possible.

I will host the book club, in the beautiful (mostly, already ready for guests) studio, not in my living room where the kitties and the blankets and the unsorted papers live. I will not spend this sunny Saturday scrubbing the bathroom (which really is clean enough anyway!) I WILL make spicy sourdough buns to share. May both today, and tomorrow be nourishing for you too. 

Spicy Sourdough Buns

FILLING:

  • 1/2 cup sucanat or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspons cinnamon (or ALL the spices: cardamom, ginger, clove, pepper, turmeric, nutmeg… all divine!)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup cold lard or butter, cut into small chunks
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar, honey, or maple syrup
  • 1 cup milk or cultured milk ( yogurt, milk kefir, or buttermilk)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. At least seven hours before baking, prepare the dough for a long fermentation. Start by cutting the butter into the flour until it is in small pieces. Stir in the starter, sweetener, and milk until a soft dough just comes together. Cover and place in a warm spot in your kitchen for 7 to 12 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. When ready to commence baking, combine salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a very small bowl until evenly mixed. Sprinkle this over your fermented dough and knead until it comes together into a cohesive, soft dough.
  3. In a small bowl combine filling ingredients until they form a paste.
  4. Roll dough out into a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Spread filling evenly over dough. Roll dough tightly and cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces.
  5. Place in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and bake in pre-heated oven for 20 to 30 minutesor until golden brown on top and bottom.