Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Filters, Bliss, and Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles

It's always been interesting to me to watch the world awaken again after the Christmas to New Years week.  In my line of work, students tend to be relatively silent, either experiencing the satisfaction of a semester completed, or beginning to work through the stages of denial that surround a less than successful term.  There's a period of just-being that happens at the end of December, which I really enjoy before all hell breaks loose.  Where I am work now, students don't take exams until after the break, but I feel a similar escalation in tension, and the email is definitely beginning to build up again.  Which is why I'm even more glad that I was able to get to yoga class several times during the holiday week, even if I was responding to email more often than I might have liked.

My teacher spent a lot of time talking about the koshas, which are, in Vedantic philosophy, more or less like filters of experience.  The ones we end up focusing on most in class are the annamaya kosha, or the physical body; the pranamayakosha, or the energy-body; and anandamaya kosha, or what I can translate only as the "bliss body." 

When we practice yoga, sometimes we filter the experience through our physical body: we're tight in our left hamstring, or maybe we're a little wobbly in our balance poses.  We feel our weaknesses, or even our strengths.  If we're being attentive to the lived experience of our bodies, sometimes we can tell what we need next.  Do we need to move through vinyasa?  Or rest in child's pose?

If we can rise out of the physical body experience, sometimes we can be attentive to the pranamayakosha.  Where does the energy go? The breath?  Can we visualize its movement up and out of ourselves, connecting to something larger?

And finally, if we can let go of even this, we experience anandamayakosha, which is experience in its rawest form.  We don't get caught up in what hurts, or what's tight.  We don't overprocess it.  We just breathe, and be.

My teacher likens this to discovering vegetables after growing up eating them from a can.  I know exactly what she means; though my father grew a garden, and we ate from it in the summer, canned peas, canned beets, even canned asparagus were part of my childhood.  And the first time I tasted a roasted beet, or shelled my own peas, or bit into a raw asparagus spear, I was shocked to discover how flavorful and delicious it was.  So it goes with the filters of the body and the mind.  If we can experience things in their raw, pure form, without the canning and processing, we're bound to experience them with a depth and dimension that we never imagined.

On the other hand, sometimes things are better processed.  My yoga teacher happens to have a fondness for Del Monte creamed corn, which is about as non-organic as she gets, I imagine; for me, it's whipped cream from a can (true confessions: one of the valuable skills my son learned this week was spraying whipped cream directly onto his tongue).  And it's OK to process; we are human after all, and we were built with bodies that experience the world this way.  To deny that would be to deny our humanity.

But it's important, every once in a while, to get rid of the filters, to just be there.  The new year can be a time for removing obstacles, but also seeing the obstacles that stand in the way of our access to bliss.  Which is not to say that you have to eat plain lettuce, by the way.

What are your filters?  What stands in the way of your experience of bliss?

Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles
Food historians tell us that small cakes or biscuits with snickerdoodle-type ingredients date back to ancient Roman times. Joy of Cooking attributes the cookie to Germany, suggesting that though they added more spices and dried fruit, the name is a corruption of the German word schneckennudeln, a type of cinnamon dusted sweet roll. These are minimally adapted from Elana's Pantry; her snickerdoodles aren't exactly raw, but they do let you experience the heady cinnamon in a way uncluttered by processed white sugar.  If your body is crying uncle like mine has been, these are a good not-too-terrible sweet treat.

2 c. almond flour
1/8 t. kosher salt
1/8 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. virgin coconut oil (or butter)

2 T. honey
1/3 c. coconut sugar for rolling
2 1/2 t. cinnamon for rolling

Preheat oven to 350, and line baking sheets with parchment.

In a food processor, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Pulse in the coconut oil and honey.

In a shallow bowl for rolling the cookies, combined the coconut sugar and cinnamon until well mixed.

Roll the dough into balls by tablespoonfulls and briefly dip the balls in a small bowl of water before rolling them in coconut sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat.  (If the dough is too sticky, refrigerate for half an hour.)

Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets and press gently to flatten them just a bit.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until beginning to turn golden.  Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet to make sure they're firming up, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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  1. I was writing about snickerdoodles yesterday, too, though in a very different context. I think there's something simple and wholesome about them after the Christmas race to put more chocolate and more caramel on everything. (You don't realize how much chocolate must go on everything now until you have take a child who doesn't like chocolate to a cookie bake-off.) They might be the perfect January cookie.

  2. My filters have gotten me in pretty tight spots - which is why I love that yoga has given me the ability to look at the raw footage versus the news reel with my editing on it. It's so ironic in that we edit as a defense mechanism - but in the long haul, the editing always catches up with us and hurts us more. I want to go to yoga with you one day!

  3. I must admit that neither creamed corn nor whipped cream from a can appeal to me. But I do have a certain weakness for pop-tarts!

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