A random thought splurge on meditation & chocolate…
RECENT CHOCOLATES TO RAVE AND RATE:
Ah, yes. The chocolatier has returned. Don’t worry, I’ve been doing the dirty deed undercover at Harvard.
Harvard also hosted a mindfulness meditation program called “Wake Up” last weekend. Unfortunately, I was too tired to participate in the entire day’s activities (deep relaxation meditation = invitation to sleep), but I enjoyed hearing about the five pillars of meditation at their initial lecture.
What they’re about (taken from their website):
Wake Up – Young Buddhists and non-Buddhists for a Healthy and Compassionate Society, is a world-wide network of young people practising the living art of mindfulness. We share a determination to live in an awakened way, taking a 21st Century version of the 5 Mindfulness Trainings as our path and guiding light.
The Wake Up network has grown out of Plum Village meditation centrein SW France, under the guidance of Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Plum Village has been offering retreats to young people for over two decades, and the Wake Up movement was formally launched in Summer 2008.
We know that our minds race all the time, worrying or regretting about the past, predicting or practicing the future. It’s hard to have the confidence to let go of thinking and to be fully in the present moment. What a weird thought, right?
One monk said the simplest thing to do was to begin with three breaths that you paid full attention to. The moment your mind wanders off about something else, start again. It helps to breathe in and out on focus words if it helps. My personal favorite is breathe in on trust, and breathe out on doubt (as if I was breathing out any emotions of doubt). It helps a lot when I’m worrying about the outcome of something, and I just do that simple 3-breath trick to remind myself to trust that at that moment, the right words/actions will come along with emotional calmness.
Confidence is awesome for promoting a product as well. Take the founders of Komforte Chockolates, who acknowledge in their about section that “they debated the intelligence of starting a new small business in the midst of the worst recession of our lifetimes. It didn’t occur to us that we had a huge learning curve ahead of us. We took to the kitchen and began often times frightening rounds of experimentation mixing our favorite snacks with premium chocolate until we hit upon something undeniably good.”
But hey, look how they didn’t obsess ahead to the potential “huge learning curve” they were to face. They were instead trusting their passion and desire to mix their favorite tastes to guide them forward in the competitive world of chocolates.
I tried their Tortilla Lime & Salt Chocolate Bar – I have to say, one of the best bars I’ve had since I’ve been back at school. Although I am not a huge milk chocolate fan, I was pleasantly delighted by the spin of the lime and the crunch of tortilla. And obviously the salt was bomb with chocolate – can’t resist that sweet and salty combo. Whenever I handed out samples of Sriracha Chili chocolate for Socola Chocolatier, I always promoted it as “an adventure in your mouth”. Well, I’d probably describe this bar as “a trip in your mouth”, what with the zangy crispy lime waiting to burst in an explosion of lucid green on your palette, followed by a soothing, curved sensation of the milk chocolate (great quality too, fyi).
Okay so I’ll admit the first thing I thought of when I heard this one was Asian Tiger mom. Obviously that wasn’t quite what they were going for.
In fact, this type of diligence is the opposite. It’s tender and gentle. The example given was cultivating a garden and showing love to the good seeds as well as the bad seeds. For the good seeds, you show love by cultivating them and focusing on them. For the bad seeds, instead of hating on them and trying to either ignore or destroy, you simply invite them to gently go to sleep.
I hope by now you’ve figured out seeds are your thoughts (surprise). The very foundation of mindfulness meditation is to sit, focus on your breath, and notice what thoughts arise. Rather than push any of them away, simply observe and stay detached. Almost as if you’re watching a television screen, or clouds, or a river.
The diligence required isn’t hardcore meditating 10 hours a day. It is simply being mindful of the thoughts that arise in your mind throughout the day – when you brush your teeth, eat, take a walk…cultivate the good thoughts and gently watch the bad ones rise and fall (a la Craig David).
This plays into the previous pillar – being aware of what sort of thoughts arise. My mind-body therapist (more on that later) helped me with this by asking me to notice that the thoughts that arise in my head belong to a “part of me”, and are not “all of me” nor are they not part of me at all. We’ve already distinguished things like the judger, the baby Kelly, the worrier, the hoper, the protector, the achiever.
It helps to distinguish the voices and also to use my right brain to visualize where in my body or presence they are (i.e. I always feel like the judger is to my left side and slightly behind me, while baby Kelly is nestled in my lower right ribcage). It’s kind of cool, because now I can distinguish how I become engulfed by different emotions via my thoughts in situations. Kind of like watching a bunch of TV screens.
Anyways, like I said before about bad/good seeds – you gotta show some love to all your parts. There’s a reason that these “thought voices” are neurologically built into your body. In order to alter set patterns, you have to be your own mother/father and embrace the inner child or whatever is going on in there. Smile to it, nourish it with positive thinking, focus on it. Also notice the relationships of the constitutive parts (baby Kelly is terrified right now and the judger is berating her for being so weak).
On the topic of parts, I have to bring up Vosges Chocolate. Her diversity in bars is overwhelmingly awesome, and her strength is bringing in distinct parts together to create a wholesome experience. Some of my personal faves (with her descriptions because I love them):
Black Pearl Exotic Candy Bar: “Inhale warming ginger as menthol-nuanced wasabi cools. Sense the evolution of flavors in the mouth. Commence with ginger, followed by earthy cacao notes, mellow wasabi reminiscent of coriander, finishing with black sesame seeds, rich in nutty texture.”
Gingerbread Toffee Bar: “The scent of classic gingerbread spices will have you dreaming of snow dusted pine trees in no time. We begin with the same melt-in-your-mouth, burnt sugar and butter toffee and add a touch of ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, Grenadian nutmeg and Jamaican allspice to put you in a holiday frame of mind. A generous coating of dark chocolate completes the affair on your palate. “
This one is simple. The right concentration brings you happiness and joy by being aware of the present moment, while false concentration is focusing hard as well, but brings you dissatisfaction and false perceptions (i.e. looking at a magazine filled with photoshopped models and drowning oneself in it).
What else has the right concentration? Chuao Chocolatier Earl Grey Milk Chocolate Bar. Granted, another milk chocolate friend (not as high quality as Komforte Chockolates). I would have preferred dark, but for what it was I approve. The concentration of Earl Grey was just right – not too overpowering and allowed room for imagination (yes I am staring directly into an Englishman’s eyes sipping some tea and chewing on crumpets), but had enough swirl to make a profound statement.
This last one was both surprising and interesting to me, since creativity is part of my neuroscience research (the hypothesis that meditation lends the mind to a brainset that allows for easier connections be made –> insight!!).
The monk who opened up about his thoughts on insight reviewed the garden concept. He talked about how once someone cultivates a good garden, he or she develops a vital skillset that leads to insight. In understanding our condition and how to transforming suffering into peace, calm, and happiness, one can create a space for insight to come about. Well hello senior thesis.
I love that New Tree operates their mailing list on the basis that we want to hear more about their chocolate innovations. That’s just too cute. Oh, stop it.
Two flavors that I nearly died when I tried them were ginger (#intriguing) and thyme (#ohmygodwhatisthisbecausethisisbrilliant). I’ve always loved ginger in stuff, but the fact that they combined thyme, a little bit of flax seeds, and dark chocolate = WIN WIN WIN. What a lush creation that I couldn’t stop eating.
Ginger is sexy, apparently.
Okay the meditating chocolatier is out.
“Buddhism needs to be recognized as a source of wisdom, a long tradition of practice of understanding and love and not just of devotion. The spirit of Dharma is very close to the spirit of Science; both help us cultivate an open an non-discriminating mind. You can join the Wake up Movement as a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, an agonist or an atheist. The practice of maitri, of loving kindness, the practice of sisterhood and brotherhood, is at the foundation of the Dharma.”