Friday, May 25, 2012

Stop-Motion and Larb Gai (or Tofu)

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.
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  1. THIS! This is exactly where I am right now. I am struggling so much with the in-between-ness of it all. Today my temp dropped super low, signaling this cycle is a bust and it hit my harder than I thought it would. And I can feel that it's not even I NEED to be pregnant right now, or am so concerned about not getting pregnant, it's nothing tangible, it's just that I don't want to be in this in between place anymore. I don't want to be waiting to put my foot down. Because it's exhausting to be in the in between places. And they don't compliment my strengths at all.

    This morning was tough. I was sleeping in my old bedroom at my parents house because we're staying here with friends from out of town. My daughter was in a Pak n Play next to me and she wasn't sleeping and I wasn't sleeping and I'd just seen the low temperature and knew for the first time that this cycle was a bust and I just lay there thinking, it's too early to get up, but I probably won't fall asleep again, there is nothing to do but be here, waiting, in this in between space between night and day, awake and asleep, this incarnation of my family and the next, this school year and the summer, this job and the next, this apartment and a (someday, hopefully) house, pretty much everything. It was hard to lay there like that. Usually I day dream, I tell elaborate stories in my head to pass the time, to distract myself. But today I just lay there and let myself feel the disappointment and sadness and stuckness of it. And I got through it. And we got up and hopefully all that is going on will help me get through these next days so I can finally put this cycle behind me and start again.

    I hope we both get out of the in-between-ness soon.

    1. So you DID inhabit it, then, the in-between. Though I'm not sure I can find it in me to *enjoy* it, I think that the point is to allow yourself to be in it, rather than push through. Because something else might come of the simply being.

  2. I think I would love taking classes with your yoga teacher. Like you, I am comfortable getting from here to there with my list. I can easily get my leg from downdog to runner's lunge. But ask me to slow down the process and do it mindfully and with control, and I'm suddenly a beginner again.

    Which is not a bad thing in yoga.

    This is one of those posts I'll remember in the coming weeks as I practice. On and off the mat.

    1. :) I wish you could take a class with my teacher while you're here for BlogHer! It's too bad that my town is so far from NYC ... you'd love her.

      Glad that this resonated for you!

  3. I am stuck in the in-between again. In the past times I was speeding through and totally focusing on the end. This time I am kinda ignoring the end completely and not letting these in-between days pass without doing something to enjoy them.

    1. It's such a hard place to be. I think JeCaThRe, who commented after you, makes a really good point ... that the in-between is dangerous, risky, and can be alienating ... and that sometimes it's easier if we have someone to help us through it. Hope that you are managing to enjoy your days, and that you are feeling loved and tended to.

  4. I have a hard enough time with sun salutations that I cannot imagine having to pause in between poses. I like how you tied in your yoga class with how you're goal-oriented, focused on results. I'm the same way, and I find it interesting that if I pause to consider what I'm doing, my goal changes shape entirely. Maybe I don't care anymore about accomplishing x, but y is suddenly very important.

    You are so, so kind to send us something. My email is detourtomotherhood at gmail dot com, and I can send you my address from there.

    1. I love your comment about how your goals change. It's the advantage of perspective, perhaps?

      I will catch up with you via email ...

  5. The in-between places are where the Others are, the fairies who kidnap innocents and the ones who steal our favorite necklaces, sometimes returning them to the most unexpected places. The in-between is risky.

    Birth is an in-between, and so I inhabit it with every client, the transition from maid to mother. The in-between is also a sacred space, where we are able to touch both sides, and so we are the gods and goddesses in those moments. We get into trouble when we try to cross the in-between alone. No god or goddess travels without acolytes, and we shouldn't either.

    1. yes, it is a risky place. One false move, and you collapse on the floor. Or worse. It is wise to be there with someone we trust ... thank you for posting this.

  6. Wow...what a great post. I have a hard time living in the "in between". I'm also very goal oriented so I can easily get caught up in what is happening next. What a good remiThank you for sharing, and thank you for your kind words on my newly designed blog. So appreciate you stopping by. I hope you are having a lovely Tuesday. nder to stop and let myself

  7. I wish you could hear how loudly I laughed at your opening. When you said, "If this sounds like a huge pain to you practicing yogis out there, well, it was." That was exactly what I was thinking.

    As someone who is not very good about being in-between, perhaps this is something to try tomorrow. Or to pass along your post to my yoga teacher and say, "re-create this lesson for me." Because, dude, I have a lot to learn.

  8. Look at you being featured on the Friday Round-Up on Mel's blog. I literally feel like every one off your posts could easily be found there. Insightful. personal, and they always taste good. :)

  9. Oooooh I am so not good at in-between. I want to know what, when, where, and how it all happens and then go. I don't like waiting. Just last night we were taking the family to a local baseball game and left with plenty of time to make the first pitch but got stuck in a line in the parking lot. No no no, we don't have time for this. I can't wait here when I'm supposed to be THERE.

    I'm working on this. But it's so so hard.

  10. What a beautiful and thought provoking post Justine!

    I too have struggled with the in-betweeness (both in my yoga practice and with life in general), especially when we were struggling with secondary infertility for five years. I wrote this post last year called Delicious Ambiguity, inspired by a Gilda Radner quote, about how so much of our lives are spent in times of transition and uncertainty and how we need to try to learn to embrace living that way:

    It's good for me to be reminded often about the importance of finding joy in the journey and not being so focused on the end game.

    Congrats on making Mel's Friday Blog Round Up! A well deserved honor! :)


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