Last night in yoga we practiced sun salutations in slow- and stop-motion. Before putting a foot down, for example, we would hover it over the ground for a few seconds. If this sounds like a huge pain to you practicing yogis out there, well, it was. I've done sun salutations hundreds of times, and though my form is far from perfect, my body naturally glides through the flows of the asanas. It was amazing to observe how different something feels, and how clumsy and unbalanced you become, when you take a habit out of practice, when you make yourself wait in an in-between.
Part of the point, my teacher explained (besides allowing us to concentrate on our form), was to become comfortable with in-between-ness, with the messiness that occurs when we are attentive to the process rather than rushing headlong to the endpoint or solution.
I am not good with in-between-ness. It's not that I don't enjoy the journey from point A to point B, but rather that I generally live with my end goals in sight, and I tend to be hell-bent on arriving at them. That's one reason this year has been a challenging one for me: the goals are fuzzier (though I suppose I could set more tangible writing goals), and the days less purpose-driven (short of the bullet pointed list of things to do that is always in my head, and which always includes laundry and making the next meal, sort of like a shopping list that always starts with bananas and milk). I am less graceful in this state. Sometimes it's downright ugly.
On the other hand, sometimes if we disrupt the "flow," the most wonderful, unexpected things can happen. Not like hovering my right leg an inch above the floor before I put it down for a high lunge (which builds muscle tone but makes my quadriceps scream), but like discovering a new kind of tiny flower that grows in the cracks in the sidewalk, or having a conversation with someone you've never met, or gaining new perspective on how to resolve a difficult situation.
I used to travel internationally as often as I could; we were lucky to have parents who took us on vacation every year to some really remarkable places: Spain, France, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico. I had relatives in two of those places, so it wasn't that surprising that we traveled to see them, but saving for those trips was a priority in our house. When I started living on my own, I continued to make travel a savings priority, and I visited (some with my husband) Alaska (which might as well be another country for me, given where I live!), South Africa, Brazil, Thailand, Japan, Canada, and a host of other places. And when I think back, I remember that the best trips were the ones in which I didn't, guide-book in hand, spend all of my time worrying about getting to the next place.
So I'll encourage you to do something disruptive today. Live for an hour in stop-motion. And become comfortable, for a moment, in the in-between-ness, the point of transition, that makes change possible.
Larb Gai or Larb Tofu
This refreshing salad is generally made with chicken, but the tofu will sop up the flavor and dressing beautifully. And if the shallot bites, live with it for a minute or so. :)
2 t. jasmine rice*
2 t. coconut or vegetable or peanut oil
3/4 lb. chicken or firm tofu, minced/crumbled (I use my cuisinart)
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced
2 T. fish sauce (nam pla)
1/3 c. broth
3 small shallots (1-2 large ones)
4 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1/2 c. mint, chopped
3 T. lime juice
1/2 lb. lettuce, shredded
1/4 c. roasted unsalted peanuts
(PSA: this first part is a real p.i.t.a., and we will understand if you decide to skip the rice bit.)
In a small pan over medium heat, toast the rice until it's fragrant. Grind to a powder using whatever means you have available: mortar and pestle, small and powerful cuisinart, etc.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chicken mince and cook thoroughly, stirring often to break up lumps. Add broth, lemongrass, and fish sauce, and cook for another 10 minutes (but watch to make sure it doesn't burn; you may need to turn down the heat). Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool.
Add shallots, green onions, cilantro, mint, and lime juice and stir to combine well. Place lettuce on a serving platter, top with chicken mixture, and sprinkle with peanuts.
*You could omit the rice entirely, though I'm told that the flavor of the dish without the rice really makes it a different dish.