Why it’s Pasta Time Again

23 December, 2005

Ah, the vagaries of being a vegetarian at Christmas time. Last week a colleague booked reserverations for a lunch to see off another who’s leaving the program for a new engagement. The guy made reservations at ‘The Fish House’. Ok now, stop laughing. He didn’t know I was a vegetarian and was very apologetic, but I didn’t kick up a fuss; Toronto’s restaurants are outstandingly vegetarian friendly; I’ve gone to steak houses, crab shacks, bar & grills and enjoyed good, creative (and even imaginative) quality veggie fare at such places. So I looked forward to it along with everyone else.

So of we went to The Fish House. The extensive menu was provided. So much variety I thought. Looks promising. I started at the top on the front panel. Six panels later and I’d just read through beverages and desserts – they were the only vegetarian items on the entire menu! Maybe there was one garden salad but apart from that it was all veal, chicken, beef and of course, lots of fish. No token tortellini, nor even a simple stir fry. I was annoyed. I know it’s The Fish House but that didn’t stop them serving hamburgers or chicken. When my turn came to order I offered up to the waiter a wry response: “Well I don’t know buddy, I’m a vegetarian and I gotta say, I’m really spoilt for choice”. This prompted laughter from our party. The waiter said they could do me anything on the menu without the meat or fish (which conjured up for me an image of the cook asking the dishwasher to fork out and help himself to chicken in my lunch before sending it out to me). I forget what I ordered – I just pointed to the first thing I saw and said “I’ll take this without the fish”. Of course, taking out the fish, didn’t keep them from charging me the full price. So I won’t be going there again. The project executive leaned over to me and said “We’ll find some place nicer for our team Christmas Lunch.”

And we did; we had that on Wednesday at Carmelina’s – an Italian restaurant just behind our Canadian head office in Markham. The orange and red pepper bisque to start was outstanding. The main course vegetarian option was a Primavera Penne Rigate (pasta again!). But it was good and the vegetables were very fresh. The wine was ok. And I made an exception on my year-long coffee embargo for the dessert – an excellent home-made Tiramisu. And so ended by year at work for 2005 for that was my last business of the year. I spent the afternoon getting a massage (trying to use up my benefits for the year!) and then came home to take my daughter to her school’s Holiday ‘Concert and Craft Event’.

And now I’m on vacation until 3 January. I enjoy my work but really need this time off – apart from the two weeks I took off when Diya was born in September (which was hardly restful) this is my only break from work this year. I intend to kick back with my girls, watch Arsenal, read, take in a few movies, entertain, maybe (finally) paint the nursery and insulate the garage. Sweet.


20 December, 2005

Like Joey, I’ve been digging into my copy of the most recent edition of Namarupa (which given the demand for it, I’m considering flogging on ebay – heh heh just kidding). The interviews with ‘The Next Generation’ are particularly interesting and I’m especially taken with Prashant Iyengar’s take on things yogic. He mostly restrains himself throughout the article but every so often he lets down his diplomatic guard and fires off something strident. Here’s an example that hit the right note for me and the way I’m thinking lately about the ‘Journal’ masses these days…

We cannot expect that millions are practicing real yoga just because millions of people claim to be doing yoga all over the globe. What has spread all over the world is not yoga. It is not even non-yoga; it is Un-yoga.

There you go. What’s going on in the guise of Yoga is not just the ‘absence of yoga’ but rather worse than even that…the opposite of Yoga. I remember wandering around the floor at the International Yoga show just over a year ago and thinking it was all just too much. We all need to wear something at practice, we all need a mat…but do we need to have those clothes and those mats – or a different outfit and mat for each day. And yoga socks? Why on earth would I need yoga socks?

I’m not for that. I practice in shorts I bought five years ago for something like $12.00 – Darby and Lino have both adjusted me and they didn’t have anything to say about those shorts. They’re not even real shorts (let alone yoga shorts) – I actually think they might be for swimming. Having said that, I did come to yoga for its physical benefits – the exercise of asanas and the diet and lifestyle implied by yama. And it was because I didn’t see the physical benefits coming fast enough that I switched to the rigour of the SKPJ style. The rest I only opened my eyes to later. Indeed, I’ve only been delving into the Gita and the Yoga Sutras for just over a year.

So maybe there’s hope. The optimist in me thinks that Yoga isn’t in fact being trivialised by Western vanity and commercialism, but rather that the asanas and the paraphenalia it requires are the metaphorical Trojan horse’ – the seductive tool that opens the door for the other more ‘subversive’ elements that assault the ego and subdue its materialist mindset.


15 December, 2005

I tell you, it’s a monumental struggle for me to get onto the mat these days. It’s like this every winter. Feeling rested after a good’s night sleep, I lie in bed staring into the darkness waiting for my alarm to go off – the supposed clarion call beckoning me to mat (there’s never the thought of voluntarily jumping onto it). It too cold and too dark – how can you do a Sun Salutation when the Sun’s not coming up over Ontario for another couple of hours?

By the way, a white Christmas is now a dead certainty in this part of the world. We are to get 30 cm of snow between now and Saturday and as I gaze outside my study window I can tell you that it’s coming down now. A lot of shovelling for me then. I wouldn’t want to shovel snow everyday but I enjoy it well enough. The snow changes all the acoustics and there’s a muffled, coddled silence about the place; especially out here where we are, in the near wilderness – only the sound of your shovel scraping along the driveway, the crunching of the powder under your boot, the sound of your own breath, and just occasionally, the quieted whine of a skidoo flying by on the lane running alongside our land. It’s a welcome excuse to get outside at a time when I really need one.

Back to the asanas though, inspite of my inner struggle, I’m still getting up to practice pretty much every day…but with massive reluctance. Today though, I was up way too late to practice – but I decided to fit one in during lunch. After changing though, I remembered how bright it was last night and so I checked my calendar. Of course, I saw that it was indeed a Moon Day. Great timing. I skipped Tapas intact – and instead of practicing, I’m writing this.

Quite apart from asanas, this time of year really challenges the entire practice. Our house is full of Nanaimo Bars, fruit cake, red wine, and swiss chocolate. And all these parties! My company is having a children’s party this Saturday – 1,000 kids are expected! I’m taking our 5 year-old but we have to leave early because she has another party immediately afterwards. And then we’re off to a holiday dinner at my uncles’ in the evening. That’s all we seem to have done on weekends for the past four or five weeks – eat and drink. Well, I see it as an opportunity to exercise restraint and control – to build strong positive samskaras. Sigh.


13 December, 2005

I did my graduate degree in International Affairs, majoring in Political Economy, training to be a diplomat at pretty much the only Canadian school where you do this. Alas, after an internship during the winter of 1994 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I found the prospect of a career in the Diplomatic Corps too bleak a prospect to contemplate. My goodness, it didn’t even pay well. So I needed to figure out where to go next. I did what I usually do in these situations; I went Japan. I’ve spent about four years there on three stints. Japan punctuates my adult life – intermissions preceding decisive turns in the plot.

This time I’d been offered an 18 month scholarship to finish researching my graduate thesis (American Foreign Direct Investment in Japan: The Economic, Socio-Cultural and Political impediments – in case you wondered) at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. It was a sweet sinecure. I was supposed to spend the first six months beefing up my Japanese at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies – intensive language training – before going on to Hitotsubashi to do research and course work for the remaining year. But I somehow managed to finish my thesis early – before I even left for Japan. In fact I’d already graduated!

So I was free to do what I wanted. Thousands of kilometres from home in vibrant Tokyo, unattached (I wouldn’t meet my wife to be for another year), and with money to burn. I drank too much Suntory and occasionally woke up in strange places. I did the most pointless things – like climb Fuji-San. If I got tired of Japan, I jumped on a plane and came half-way home to Whistler, to smoke-up and snowboard for the winter. Yoga wasn’t remotely on my horizon. The scholarship paid like a good job – except I didn’t have to work. Instead, I had more than enough time to spend my yen – which I did. It was 1995, I was 25, and I worshipped Bacchus that year with some fervour.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us…

4 December, 2005

from that big bag of Doritos.

On my way back from the office Thursday night I stopped for a few groceries – soya milk, dried figs, bran flakes, apples, whole wheat rolls were on that list. I felt peckish and I knew I had at least another hour and a half on the road, so to that list I added the aforementioned bag of cheese nachos. I got in the car and before joining that majestic 16-lane stream of red and white called the 401, I opened it up. I had finished most of it by the time I got home. The sad thing is I still had two bowls of vegetarian chili and two pieces of garlic bread when I got home. I just can’t stop eating right now. Must be the sub-zero weather.

The past week was a hard one on my Yoga. Apart from the nacho breakdown, on the asanas front I only managed 3 practices; granted we had a moonday, but that still means I skipped three days. Not that bad I hear you say, but what is more disconcerting was one of those days (Friday), I failed to practice because I pretty much ‘didn’t feel like it’; I was up in time but I felt sleepy and tired and had work on my mind. And, as usual, it was cold. So I just crawled right back into bed for 30 more minutes before getting up and making an early start on work.

Work and family life are my general excuses for my negligence of the last week but of course, they aren’t valid ones. I still haven’t got to the point where I will consistently do at least some practice when I don’t have time for a full one. My attitude is still ‘all or nothing’. I back this position up with the argument that my real problem is that I can’t find at least 90 minutes in a day for my asanas and that’s the issue I need to deal with. If I settle every now and then for some condensed or abridged version of my practice, then that’ll be the thin end of the wedge and pretty soon I’ll be using all kinds of excuses (like my job) to do a short practice all or most of the time. So for now, my target is 90 minutes every day. I need to make the rest of my day accomodate this – that means proper food and adequate sleep.

Besides the lack of asanas there was also precious little study – actually none.

Anyway I ended the week well with a good early practice on Saturday. And I’ve started the new week with a fine practice and a genuine breakthrough – Yoga Mudra. It’s been a long long time coming. It bodes well for the week ahead.