Articles in Buddhism
Good eating, an eclectic Toastmasters group, hospice training, Zen meditation, depression, social phobia, orgasmic meditation, tears — and laughter — all come into play in Cravings: A Zen-inspired memoir about sensual pleasures, freedom from dark places, and living and eating with abandon (Say Yes Press), an insightful gem of a memoir: writer, editor, foodie and adventurer Wanda Hennig’s first.
Current brain research and the discovery that neurons that fire together, wire together is producing concrete evidence for something Buddhist practitioners have maintained for centuries: the sustained practice of mindfulness can change the workings of the brain at a molecular level and allow people to achieve different levels of awareness. In light of this the San Francisco Zen Center has been offering mindfulness and depression workshops for the past ten years.
Plentiful: The Big Book of Buddha Food (Jacana) is the Buddhist Retreat Center’s third cookbook. Plentiful was launched at Adams Bookstore in Durban by journalist and longtime Zen student Wanda Hennig. Plentiful’s chef is Paul Atkinson. Editor is Chrisi van Loon. Photographer is Angela Shaw.
Pudding and Prana had us do a lot of yoga with Amy Best and cooking demos (followed by eating) with Paul Atkinson. Vegetarian curries and a Moroccan stew. A beet and feta salad. A “bejeweled’ cous cous. Poached pears in a yummy rich chocolate baked pie topped with whipped cream blended with double-cream yogurt. All were recipes he had perfected while working in the Buddhist Retreat Center kitchen and were destined for Plentiful: The Big Book of Buddha Food (Jacana).
My outsize shibori scarf is the most useful item in my luggage. You can use it to cover your shoulders at the Big Buddha temple in Koh Samui, sit on it on grubby bus seats, keep the sun off your arms and shoulders with it, don it in the evening to add a touch of elegance, dry yourself with it, wipe your hands on it when you’ve eaten, use to to keep you warm when the breeze comes up of an evening and lots more.
The morning market opens at 6am, just after Sai Bat. To quote from the official Luang Prabang website: Lao cuisine draws almost exclusively on fresh foods. Few homes traditionally have refrigerators and modern supermarkets are rare. So at this market, you’ll find every possible type of food regionally available, including an amazing mushroom selection. Everything fresh is seasonal.
When I see a young monk sitting at a little table inside a temple ground reading, I smile and he smiles and says Hello across the short distance and the wall. And tells me he is practicing his English and invites me to come and check the book he’s taken from the library. His English is good and his name is Bakh and he says he became a monk to get an education and he is turning 19 the next day. He is from a Mekong village where they had no high school.
At Delilah’s Cafe in Luang Prabang I order the Rough Guide brekker suggestion. The banana pancake that comes with lemon, ginger and cream and a Lao coffee. Here, like everywhere, there is WiFi. (Sometimes I doesn’t work but for the most part does).
The young monk’s English is broken, but OK. I have been surprised at the unselfconscious lack of English to date. “Thailand has never been colonized,” the young man explains. Guess a self-confidence comes with that. Of “just being Thai.”
He says here in Thailand they belong to the Theravada school of Buddhism. Asks me if I know anything about Buddhism. I tell him I lived for three years at the San Francisco Zen Center. Have meditated for many.
French director Jean-Jacques Annaud talks about making Wolf Totem, the relevance of the film to China, Mongol culture, French kissing a wolf and wolf whisperer Andrew Simpson, ice sculpture horses, his relationship with religion and more in an interview with Wanda Hennig in Durban.