About pujakins

I am a poet and teacher of meditation, with a fondness for words and a husband I love dearly. I write a regular column in my local newspaper and another on the internet. My hope, both in my life and in my writing is to encourage people to see things in way that will help them to live happier, healthier lives.

Intentions Versus Resolutions

Heartwings Love Notes 1069 Intentions versus Resolutions

Heartwings says, “Good intentions are a safer bet than Resolutions, and more reliable.”

This year in January we in the USA have had the good fortune to have two New Years. January first is of course one. However, the Chinese New Year has also just occurred. Rather than being a fixed date, this day is calculated by the Moon. The Jewish holy days are also arranged according to the date of the appropriate moon. When I checked that wonderful source of information, Wikipedia, I discovered New Year’s resolutions, common to both the East and the West, have a long history. However, the practice is more usual in the West.

Many if not most people have probably given up on their resolutions by now. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people making resolutions either to attempt too much at one go, to make impossible decisions, or to just be too lazy to push. Regardless of the reason, many people may quit their resolutions even before they give them a chance. I gave up making resolutions some time ago because I wasn’t carrying through, and it annoyed me. I have certain standards I like to live up to and one big one is being honest. Perhaps I too was aiming at impossible goals.

Intentions, on the other hand, make no boasts. They are statements of what we have in mind to accomplish rather than, as most resolutions seem to be, heroic efforts at self-improvement. Intentions can be built around needs or not. They can involve others, which resolutions often do not, and if they prove misdirected, they can always be restructured. They do not have to be confined to a particular time.

Intentions are something you can get up with in the morning or go to bed with at night. They make wonderful guidelines and can be very useful. As a substitute for resolutions, they can be restated to bring about or result in more success. For example: Instead of saying, “In the new year, I will exercise faithfully,” I might say, “More exercise is one of my goals for the new year.” My intention is to focus on exercise. When I do that, I am directing my thoughts in a good direction rather than building resistance to my resolve. Goals are not necessarily fixed or imperative like resolutions.

Resistance is best overcome not by confrontation but by avoidance. Because I have no resistance to thinking about exercise, I tend to keep it in mind. Then at odd moments during the day, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or something to toast, I might spontaneously do a simple exercise that doesn’t require extreme effort, like standing leg lifts or a stretch. When I don’t have to encounter resistance, I can accomplish more. Intentions help with that. Also, as I said earlier, they can be made any time and not just at the first of a New Year.

May you discover your best intentions and be sure to follow up.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS Do you have good intentions for this year? Please share! Hearing from my readers is a great blessing and I thank you! Please write me at tashahal@gmail.com or hit reply.

Heartwings Love Notes 1068: Avoiding Expectations May Be Wise

Heartwings says, “The future depends on how the present  proceeds.”

At our New Year’s Day gathering Stephen and I were sitting together on the sofa when a friend began taking our picture. The light was reflecting off my eyeglasses so he asked me to take them off. I heard the echo of my dad’s voice saying, “Take off your glasses and look pretty.” I laughed to myself and removed them. These days, confident in my appearance and no longer impressed by my father’s prejudice, I am happy to be photographed with them either on or off. My expectations have changed.  

Expectations often dominate a new year. After all, that’s how we express our resolutions.  These may or may not be realistic, fall by the wayside, or bring results. However, they may be doomed by our expectations. This failure comes about as a result of the unconscious programming behind them. Our programming is the unremembered precepts we grew up with. They are often reflected in our self talk: my weight is inherited from my mother’s side of the family or I am lazy and uncoordinated.

Do you listen to yourself? Do you hear how you respond mentally to plans? To resolutions? Here’s the thing: At the start of the new year many resolve to lose weight or exercise more. If they were listening to their inner responses, here’s what they might hear: “I’ve tried this before and failed, why bother trying.” Or, “I’ll just fail again; it’s too difficult to exercise, and anyway, I don’t want to take the time.” If the resolution involves depriving oneself of the pleasure of eating, or projects the boredom of exercise, where’s the incentive? These may be the negative expectations that arise when resolutions are expressed.

Or it may be possible to avoid expectations, both positive and negative altogether. There is a way to do this. It comes from the practice of Buddhism and is called beginner’s mind. I once had a yoga class with a teacher who said his mantra—a saying to help one grow spiritually, was “I know nothing, I want to learn.” This is an excellent way to express beginner’s mind. Back when I first heard this I scoffed, thinking that I was creating an affirmation of stupidity. This was incorrect. By affirming I know nothing,, as I later realized, I was clearing the slate of the expectations, definitions, or prejudices I might carry in my mind.

Now when I look at the New Year I see it through a lens of confidence, sure I approach it without any idea what will happen. However, regardless what does, I know I will grow from the experience because I wish to. My life may or may not go in a direction I am prepared for, That’s not important. What is, is that I greet any and all happenstance without prejudice but with the confidence that I will benefit if only by learning not to do something or else to do what is needed. That way a new year is truly a blank slate I can look forward to writing on, just to see what happens next.

May your new year of life be filled with blessings of all sorts, known and unknown,

Blessings and best regards Tasha Halpert

P.S. Did you make any resolutions? How are you doing with them? I always enjoy your comments so much. Write me on my blog or at this email: tashahal@gmail.com.

Santa is Real and his Gifts are Many

Heartwings says. “Santa does not have to be visible to be real.”

From my childhood I remember an old nylon stocking stuffed with presents lying on the front part of the Franklin stove in my bedroom and the excitement of taking out and opening the small wrapped packages within it. Later in my childhood came the fun of shopping for small, inexpensive stocking presents and wrapping them, and the feeling of glee as my contributions were opened and exclaimed over. In our house Santa only filled the stockings. All other gifts were labeled with the name of the giver and placed under the tree to be opened on Christmas eve.

Santa was a mysterious figure in a red suit who always managed to evade my view. Once revealed as a myth, in my mind he remained and still does to this day, as real as real can be. Santa is the personification of generosity. He never expects anything, though cookies are often put out for him, and, too, celery sticks for his reindeer. He is an amalgam of myths and legends, and an important part of Christmas. There are those who think he takes away from the Christian focus on the birth of Jesus at this time, yet the details of that too are a collection of myths.

The myths surrounding Santa are built around the reputation of a real man, St. Nicholas, a kind Turkish bishop who was said to provide dowry money for several young ladies so they could get married. There are other sources for today’s man in the red suit that have coalesced around him. They all involve gifts in some way or another. Another favorite of mine is La Befana, an Italian woman who puts gifts into the shoes of young children because she is looking to give them to the Christ child. The three kings had stopped by as she was doing her household chores and she was too diligent to take up their invitation to go with them, so she set out later and wanders still, leaving gifts.

There is a German legendary figure called the Christkindl, and more figures, if one digs around on the Internet, all bearing gifts. No matter the name or the language, the spirit is the same: the spirit of generosity. Absent the commercialism of the day, the idea that we can celebrate the gift of the returning light—the Solstice, or the birth of a baby who became a holy figure, with gifts makes so much sense. In days gone by the gifts might have been placed on an altar. As time goes by, customs change, some continue and some do not, yet the theme remains the same. Giving and receiving, the returning of the light, the birth of a new brightness in the sky, and hopefully in our hearts, is what Christmas is about. 

No matter how they occur or when, may your Holiday celebrations be merry and bright.

Blessings and Best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS, Please consider sending me a few words about your holiday celebrations or anything else you might wish to share. It is a gift to me when I hear from a reader.

Heartwings Love Notes 1066 Change is the Nature of the world

Heartwings says, “It’s not easy to adjust to unexpected changes.”

Ever since we moved to Grafton, Stephen and I have been going to a restaurant in the center of town. That’s more than thirty years. There have been many changes there, some of which kept us away from it, some of which did not. The other day we walked in and there had been another change. This one we were not happy with. The tables and chairs where we usually sat had been replaced with high bar stools and high tables, and the comfortable, regular tables had been moved to the bar section. There were other changes that had created a kind of game room atmosphere, and the restaurant we were used to was completely gone.

We stayed to dine however the menu too had changed considerably and pretty much guaranteed we won’t be back any time soon. I was sad because this place, the source of so many fond memories, had disappeared from our lives. This was only one of the many changes that have been happening lately for us. The elderly neighbor who had lived in the apartment next door left to be with family. The building changed hands, and our landlord who was also our eyeglass doctor retired. The new landlords are having her former apartment completely redone, which has generated much hammering and occasional whining of machinery. Fortunately, the workers do not start until nine o’clock, for which we are grateful.

I won’t bore my readers with more details, however, these are only a few of the most recent changes in our lives. For myself, the changes in this past year have been about adjusting to Parkinson’s Disease and the challenges it has presented. This has been challenging for Stephen as well, though not in the same way. Both of us have been used to my being able to do certain things I can’t any more. He is more than willing to help out when necessary, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Living with what is rather than what was or how I wish it could be can be tricky. I know I must focus on what I can do rather than lamenting what I can’t. I also know that with Parkinson’s, every day can present a different set of circumstances and the only way to deal with it is to go with the flow. While I have practiced this way of living and the necessary attitude that helps produce it for many years, my current situation is still another turn of the spiral. Of course, it presents a greater opportunity to learn and to grow. However, that being said, it is still something to cope with. I hope to do the best I can and to help others in some way in the process. Chop wood and carry water, as the saying goes, is my mantra these days, and I will add, stay in the present moment so I can flow with the next changes.

May you be able to adjust to the changes that come to you with grace and ease.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I so enjoy hearing from readers. Do you have any suggestions, thoughts, or comments to share? Please write me at Tashahal@gmail.com.

Heartwings Love Notes 1065: Future Shock Is Real

Heartwings says, “It is not easy to adjust to rising prices as one gets older.”

Some of my older friends may feel as I do: what happened to money? In 1970, a book called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler gained a lot of publicity. Perhaps it ought to be reissued. It describes how persons are affected by changes, especially financial, over time. For instance, when I was a child I could buy a comic book for a dime and an ice cream cone for five cents. When I used to take my little ones for a cone it was a quarter. I don’t have to tell you, times have changed. What is more shocking is by how much any item seems to increase.

When McDonald’s first began to raise its golden arches in New England, there was one near where I took the children for swimming lessons. A dollar bought us a drink, a burger, and fries, with change. Now there are many similar venues and you can’t find anything for a dollar in any of them. Of course, to the twenty-somethings who work and may lunch at a fast-food restaurant, that is business as usual. To families trying to eat healthy meals, it’s an occasional treat, because restaurants cost so much more than they used to.

Not only restaurants but everything costs so much more, most especially to someone like me who grew up licking a five cent ice cream cone. I remember my grandmother would save up her pennies and when they filled her hands, she would give them to me with a simple ritual she had either devised or learned—I never asked her where it came from. Holding her closed hands full of pennies over mine, also closed, she would say, “Hold fast all I give you three times, then open her hands and spill the pennies into mine, held open in expectation. I was delighted with my small hoard and spent it on whatever took my fancy at the time.

Coping with this difference between then and now, has for me become a work in progress. I am a firm believer in the abundance prayer and also in the principle it represents: I will always have enough for what I need. This grows increasingly more difficult. “Reality” in the form of visits to the supermarket, or a meal at a restaurant would seem to contradict this. Yet why should I not believe? My abundance need not falter or fail to keep pace with inflation. The child that treasured her pennies needs reassurance, and only I can give it, which I do.

So, when doubt creeps in and I wonder how to cope, I repeat my prayer ending with the affirmation that all is well for me and likely to remain so. Then I do what I need to do and carry on. So far, it seems to be working, let’s hope it continues.

May you deal creatively with future shock if and when it arises.

Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Have you experienced this for yourself? How have you coped? If you’d care to share, I would love to hear what you have to say. Let me know at tashahal@gmail.com, I’m hoping to hear.   

Heartwings Love Notes 1064: Thankful for Small Blessings

Heartwings says, “The more thanks we give, the closer we grow to good fortune.”

Is it appropriate to do good for selfish reasons, i.e., to do good for the reward? This thought has been going around in my head recently, and it seems quite a conundrum when you think about it. To do good, altruistically, without expectation of reward is or is said to be, the best of ways to act. Realistically, to do good without a motive, might be said to be an essentially unselfish act.

However, it is also true that what goes around comes around. What you do to or for another person will return to you, often in spades. This seems to me to be a good reason to behave oneself, as well, as I and others were brought up to do. My question is, does the motive matter? If I’m doing a kind act for selfish reasons, because I know I will receive back in some way, is there less of a reward or benefit than if I do it just out of kindness?

Common sense says, it ought not to matter, what goes around comes around, regardless. Besides, life is too short to be concerned with such trivial notions. What really matters is to be thankful, regardless. No one is perfect, nor is any circumstance, at least in the long run. The best anyone can do is the best they can. For instance, I never did enjoy riding a bicycle, no matter how hard I tried. I managed to fall off frequently. Once, after I had a tumble, when a kind stranger brought me and my bike home, my parents thanked him then after he left, berated me for accepting a ride from a stranger. Oh, well, such is life.

My parents did the best they could to protect me from whatever bad thing might happen. I am grateful to them for their caution and for their efforts. I was a friendly child and might well have gotten into some kind of trouble and suffered for it. However, thankfully I didn’t. Of course, I grew up to become a parent who practiced the same caution. Isn’t that always the way? We have one end of the behavior and then the other in order to understand how it all works out for the best.

On a daily basis I try hard to remember to express my gratitude for the smallest and even the most ordinary of blessings. The reason I do it is because I want to remember to be grateful and to take nothing for granted. In my experience people can disappear from my life without any warning, expected events and opportunities can vanish suddenly. When I have made note of a blessing at least I have acknowledged it. Gratitude is key for us all to have a successful, productive, and happy life regardless of motive.

May your giving of thanks become a constant experience.

Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert

PS do you remember to express your gratitude often? How is it for you? I do so enjoy your comments and emails. Write me at Tashahal@gmail.com, and for more Love Notes, check out my website at www.Heartwingsandfriends.com

Heartwings Love Notes 1063: A Recipe for Friendship

Heartwings Says, “Food and friendship go together.”

Remember how at one time friends would do a chain letter for the sharing of recipes? This involved typing up 10 copies of a recipe and sharing it with ten friends who were to do the same, and so on. Names were listed and we crossed out the name at the top and substituted one’s own. In addition, we were supposed to share a recipe of our own back to the sender. Theoretically, we were supposed to get back a large number of recipes to enjoy. In practice I don’t know about anyone else, but I got few if any new recipes and those I did get, much to my dismay, were not to my taste.

Once everyone pretty much had computers this changed to sending them out as emails. While this was easier, it still produced the same results for me: One or two recipes back and nothing I could make use of. However, I have often shared recipes with friends and they with me. These I keep in a loose-leaf notebook of pages with clear plastic over them beneath which I can place the written page for preservation.

This unique recipe for a banana cake given me by a dear friend is very special. Banana Lattice Cake: From South America, the recipe is somewhat time consuming, yet fun to make especially if you have a child to help you with the lattice work. Grease a 9X12 baking pan, preheat the oven to 350 or 325 if pan is glass.

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

4 or 5 ripe bananas

Cinnamon to sprinkle

Sugar to sprinkle

Lemon juice to sprinkle

Method: Cream sugar and butter, add egg and vanilla, beat well. Mix in Baking powder and salt, then flour. When mixture is well blended put half of it into baking dish. Press into dish, let sides build up a little. Slice ripe bananas over top and distribute evenly. Sprinkle lemon, sugar and cinnamon over bananas. Take about a teaspoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Then put your hands together as if you were clapping but rub them back and forth so that the dough makes a long roll or strip. Crosshatch the bananas with these strips, placing them on the diagonal. Don’t worry if some are not long enough; just add onto them with shorter pieces. The dough will all glue itself together nicely as it bakes and spread out to make a pretty, puffy appearance. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool before cutting and serving. Delicious! Serves 24 to 36.

Whenever I make this, I think of my friend fondly and wish we could share a piece. My hand written recipes are my most precious and evoke fond memories of the times we spent together.

May you have friends to cook with, and may your recipes turn out well.

Blessings and best Regards, Tasha Halpert

Please write me back with any comments, thoughts or suggestions. I prefer tashahal@gmail.com for now. All blessings, Tasha

Heartwings Love Notes 1061: 3 Soups for Soup Weather

Heartwings says, “Homemade soup warms the heart and the tummy too.”

Growing up, I was accustomed for the most part to think of soup as something that came in cans. Certainly, I didn’t know anything about making it from scratch—not at least for some years as I taught myself to cook. I remember once making a cream of mushroom soup and thinking, what a waste of time, it tastes just like it came from a can.

Chicken soup made from the bones to begin with was one of my first efforts. I must have seen my mother doing it because she was never one to waste anything that could be made into food. She was a very thrifty cook. As time went by, and I was feeding more people, both family and later, friends, I began out of necessity to learn the art of soup making.

 At one time, and especially when I had a garden I fed the scraps to, I even saved my vegetable peelings and tops and boiled them into a tasty broth I used to enhance my homemade soups. This was especially good with vegetable and bean or lentil soup. For some reason I don’t think my mother did much with lentils or beans. Perhaps my father didn’t like them. It was Stephen that got me into lentil soup, something he had enjoyed long before we met. Another of his favorites is onion soup.

After researching a variety of recipes, I crafted my own very simple onion soup. I use 1 ½  to 2 cups thinly sliced onion sauteed slowly in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 of olive oil. When onions are soft and ready, I add 1 quart box low sodium beef broth, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 or so minutes. Serve either plain or with some toasted bread with melted cheese on top. This serves 3 or 4 nicely.

My potato soup is equally simple: I use ½ a large onion, chopped sauteed in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 of olive oil. Peel or don’t 4 medium Maine potatoes, chop and add to onion along with 3 cups water or broth and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook an hour or so. Serve or store for next day when it is even better. Chopped fresh parsley, though not necessary, will also enhance the taste.

And finally, here is a favorite of mine, using mung beans. Sprouted they are the ubiquitous bean sprouts of oriental foods. In their dried state they are tasty and nutritious. I use ½ cup chopped onion, 1 cup mung beans, 2 cups chopped potato, 1 cup or more sliced carrots, 1 cup or more chopped celery, 1 teaspoon thyme, ¾ teaspoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon ground garlic, 2 cups beef broth and 4 cups water salt and pepper to taste. Sauté onion and add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer until tender and tasty—45 minutes to an hour.

May your meals be tasty and nutritious regardless what you prepare.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I love it when you share your recipes and make comments or suggestions. Please feel free to write me at tashahal@gmail.com. Your emails make my day. Thanks!

Heartwings Love Notes 1060 Birthdays are Markers on the Highway of Life

Heartwings says, “When you take note of the milestones, you know how far you have traveled.”

I remember my mother when she was in her late eighties shaking her head and saying, “How did I get to be this old?” Now I am celebrating my eighty-seventh birthday and thinking and saying the identical words. Years, decades, days have melted and become one past without much definition. Where did the time go, and how did it pass so quickly? As one friend of mine often says, “Beats me!” It seems as though each day or even week slips into the past and immediately shrinks or dwindles to practically nothing. Perhaps I’ll write a poem about that. I’ve written lots of poetry on the theme of time and all that pertains to it.

 I’ve considered collecting the poems into a chapbook, if I can somehow carve out the time it takes to discover, select, design, and proofread them for the pages. I suppose I could, yet my days are pretty full as it is with cooking, doctor’s visits, and taking care of the needs of the moment. I do no cleaning fortunately, because I have a wonderful person for that. Stephen helps when he can with what he can, for which I am also grateful. These daily doings, the minutiae of life blend themselves into my time so seamlessly I find it difficult to catch hold of any part of a day without using considerable effort.   

Sometimes I try to locate the year such-and-such happened and shake my head and sigh. I can’t find any landmarks to tie it to. There are some important milestones, however that do stick in my memory, and I am grateful for them: My high school graduation, the year Stephen and I met and the year we married, my children’s birthdays and those of other family and friends. I have two Birthday twins though only by date of course. I did mark one recent birthday with a zoom party—my eighty fifth, so people in Italy and those in California could both attend without traveling. I like to celebrate birthdays–mine, and that of others. I believe it is important to mark the years as they pass.

At one time I remember I thought fifty was old. Now someone fifty is to me in the prime of life. I can recall my mother saying “When I was in my fifties, I could do anything.” I could say the same now. The hourglass that marks my time has lots more in the bottom than it did then, and my personal, physical self is commensurably unavailable. Yet I can make the most of whatever time remains to me, and that is my task these days. I will explore the potential for doing that and then at least I may find it easier to mark the milestones on the highway of my days.

May you find many fine milestones to enjoy as your days and years pass.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I always enjoy your comments and your questions as well as your suggestions. Please write me at Tashahal@gmail.com. Read more Love Notes at www.heartwingsandfriends.com.

Heartwings Love Note 1059: Feedback

Heartwings says, “What is perceived may alter what is received.”

As a very young child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered, “I want to be married and I want to be famous.” How I knew or even if I knew what these meant is unknown to me now, however it is definitely what I said. I am married, and counting my first time, I have been married for sixty-seven of my nearly 87 years. I am happy to say I have no regrets.

As to the second, being famous, I have to decide what is meant by that. Being recognized in the supermarket as the author of a newspaper column might to some people mean being famous. Having kind things said about that column is equally nice. Being told by a reader that you have been helpful in some way is gratifying to hear. Does it mean I am famous? I don’t know. I can say that these experiences satisfy my initial desire to be famous. In other words, I’m sufficiently famous to suit me.

However, while these are pleasant experiences, something I have learned is not to dwell on feedback from others. My eldest daughter and I had a recent conversation about this. She was saying it was not her habit to base her self-value on feedback. I told her I loved that thought and would steal it, because I agree. I have learned that lesson more than once and have the stories to prove it. As far as I can determine, what people see in anyone else most often depends on the personal filters through which they perceive that person. We all have them; the trick is to be aware of them.

Years ago, I learned that if people praised me, it was because of what they liked about me, or what I had done for them or another. If they criticized me, they probably didn’t approve of what I had done or how they saw me.Their opinion was what influenced their response. I must admit it’s nicer to be praised than blamed, yet both are in the eye of the beholder. This was a new level in detachment for me. I had learned to be detached from possessions, now it was time to be detached from opinions both good and bad. I appreciated that lesson.

I myself must be the judge of how I am doing. I am the only one who really can tell how I am measuring up to my own standards. Being honest with myself, I can see my value to myself as well as to others. When I honor my efforts, recognize my efforts as worthy, and feel good about them, then I will have been successful, regardless of the result. We cannot all win the blue ribbon, but we can all try. And when we do, then we have succeeded.

May you enjoy success in your own eyes, whatever you try to do.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I treasure your comments and enjoy your communications. Do let me know what you think; I promise to respond. Please do write to me at Tashahal@gmail.com