In-between retreats, probably the most nourishing thing I do is spend a day (or more) by myself.
Many people seem to be confused by this; it’s pretty unfashionable to want to be alone! But I get things done; practical things like cleaning the house and doing laundry, nourishing things like cooking and practising yoga. All of these things and more, when done at my own speed and alone, add up to a deep feeling of rest. The best description I’ve ever heard of rest is:
REST is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be.
It’s the most beautiful time of year here in NZ, the beginning of autumn. We are having frosty mornings, and clear and warm, blue sky days. Everything is so still, and so beautiful, it stops me in my tracks.
Being alone gives rise to inward conversations. It seems that when I am in company, my focus is very outward. And when I am alone, especially in nature, there is another type of conversation that happens. In the silence and beauty, thoughts and emotions present themselves for discussion. The thing about the past is, it’s not the past, as the Irish say. On these ‘alone’ days, I find I can have conversations that bring a small amount of forgiveness, healing and insight to the events past, and yet to be born, that vibrate in my being. Being with these thoughts, I am shining a light into the dark recesses of my home, and making a sincere effort to be welcoming to all the parts of me – including all the stuff ups. This is a peaceful, receptive state of mind.
I heard a story once about a minister who was leading a retreat. He was always either talking with students, or talking (praying) to God. And at one point, during his long talks to God, he says he heard a voice say, “Shut up and let me love you.”
Sometimes, the beauty of this adopted country I now call home can bring a tinge of sadness, or tenderness to my mind, especially this time of year. The beauty is so fleeting. Tied up in that subtle feeling that ‘I cannot hold on to this’, there is so much gratitude that I have somehow managed to find my own slice of paradise. Your paradise may well not be the dramatic isolation of the south island of New Zealand, but whatever paradise means to each of us, I know that not everyone finds what they are searching for. I’m so grateful, yet so aware of the fragile and momentary nature of our experience, and existence.
It’s a ‘beautiful trepidation’ — the sense of something about to happen that you’ve wanted… yet we are scared of so much happiness!
On this beautiful autumn afternoon I leave you with David Whyte’s full exploration of what it means to rest, and also a fabulous Ottolenghi recipe which has made it on to our menu:
is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving. Rest is an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bulls eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.
The template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving which is the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world; we are rested when we let things alone and let ourselves alone, to do what we do best, breathe as the body intended us to breathe, to walk as we were meant to walk, to live with the rhythm of a house and a home, giving and taking through cooking and cleaning. When we give and take in this easy foundational way we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that self when we are most rested. To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given
Curried Carrot Mash – recipe by Ottolenghi
- 1-2 red chillies, cut into thin rings at an angle (and deseeded, if you prefer less heat)
- 1½ tbsp white-wine vinegar
- ½ tsp caster sugar
- About 8 carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthways and roughly chopped into 2cm pieces (800g net weight)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp curry powder
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp extra olive oil
- 2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin matchsticks
- ½ tsp nigella seeds
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tbsp lime juice
- 1 spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced on an angle
- sprig of mint leaves, finely shredded
Put the chillies, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of salt, massage together and leave to pickle for at least 30 minutes, and ideally overnight.
Put the carrots in a steamer (or colander that fits inside a large pot with a lid), put on a high heat, cover and steam for 25 minutes, until you can cut through them easily. Tip the carrots into a food processor with the oil, curry powder, cinnamon and a teaspoon of salt, and blitz to a semi-smooth mash (it should have some texture).
While the carrots are steaming, put the olive oil, ginger, all the spice seeds and a generous pinch of salt in a small saucepan on a medium heat. Cook gently for one minutes, stirring occasionally, until the seeds become fragrant, then take off the heat.
Spoon the mash on to a large plate, and make dimples all over the surface with the back of a spoon. Drizzle over the oil with the ginger and seeds, then sprinkle over the lime juice. Drain the pickled chillies, scatter over the top, and finish with the spring onions and mint. Serve warm.
At Aro-Hā I have been serving this carrot mash with lemon-miso roast potatoes, roast aubergine with walnut salsa, romanesco broccoli, beluga lentils, and bok choi in a dish we call “All things from the garden”! The most autumny dish ever!