The other day, my yoga teacher began class by asking us all to get comfortable. She begins class this way every time, of course, but this week she stressed the importance of finding that comfortable space, and settling into it: to really feel what that comfort felt like. Maybe it's sitting in lotus position, but maybe it's kneeling, with our hinds on a block for support. The practice of yoga is not about whether we can all do exactly what the person in front of the room is doing, but whether we can find our own ways to achieve mindfulness, using our bodies as a tool,or a pathway. Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, writes that only when experience comfort can we experience true awareness (or joy). This makes sense to me, as most things in yoga do: if I'm not comfortable, all I can think about is getting comfortable. But rarely does anyone invite us to revel in comfort, to find it and to explore it, to be mindful of how we feel in that state. My yoga teacher said, too, that it's important to remember that our experience of comfort may change from pose to pose, day to day, even minute to minute. So the way I flop on the couch one day may not work for me the next day. This, too, makes lots of sense, but I'm particularly biased right now, because it takes a while for me to get comfortable; I'm just in my own way all the time.
This lesson about the body is just as applicable, I think, to our environments and our dinner plates. If you're like most people I know, the holidays can be stressful. Even if you're the sort of person that cheerfully hauls out the holly in October, there are worries that come with gift-giving and socializing during this time of the year; if you didn't have to do so at Thanksgiving, chances are you'll be invited to a gathering that you'd really rather not attend, feel strangely obligated to give a gift that doesn't come from the heart. This season, given all of the craziness at work, and the impending arrival of this child, I've been thinking a lot about what makes me comfortable. While I wouldn't consider myself a grinch, for example, I did skip our division's holiday party this year at work, because I just felt like I didn't want to socialize with that group right now. And though we don't always have the luxury of opting out, the least we can do is to figure out how to be comfortable where we are, and to allow ourselves to be comfortable, even if what we discover we're feeling isn't exactly joy.
I invite you to soak in the comfort of this winter stew, too. You can alter it to your tastes (and your diet) pretty easily. And when you're done licking the bowl and sopping up the broth, you're invited over for cookies (though I didn't win the chocolate recipe exchange contest; it seems I was beat out by, among other things, creme de menthe and spicy sugar in a chocolate cupcake. Still, fifth place out of 26 entries isn't all bad, right? And oddly enough, this week's competition, which opens tomorrow, is focused on comfort foods ... maybe this means something?).
New Mexican Stew
1 lb. fresh ground turkey, chicken or pork (I used a 15-oz can black beans for vegetarian/vegan)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder- hot or mild, to taste
1 1/2 cups peeled butternut squash, diced
2 large yellow or white gold potatoes, peeled, diced (I used sweet potatoes, or you could toss in some zucchini if you prefer to have some green in here)
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 cup roasted chopped green chiles- mild or hot, to taste (I use the canned kind)
1 quart chicken or vegan broth
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Juice from 1 large juicy lime
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro (as you can see, I forgot to get cilantro at the store)
1-2 teaspoons raw sugar or raw agave nectar, as needed
If using turkey, brown the ground turkey in a skillet and pour off the fat, if any. Add the turkey to the slow cooker/Crock Pot and add the remaining ingredients- through sea salt and ground pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for about 7-9 hours.
About 20 minutes before serving, stir in the lime juice and cilantro; taste test. Add a dab of sweetener, if needed, to balance the spice. If you prefer it to be more like soup, add more broth. Heat through.