Today’s post is about encouraging yourself to be mindful, to be kind to you, and to help yourself remain centered, especially in the vortex of activity that constitutes our days and weeks.

Mindfulness, my own personal word-of-the-decade, is the polar opposite of multi-tasking, which is not at all what it sounds like. Despite popular opinion, multi-tasking does not help you to get a whole bunch of different things done all at once. When you multi-task, what you actually do is to switch your attention incessantly from one focus to another, giving none your full consideration. To multi-task is to invest heavily in attention-switching at the expense of focus and goals. A waste of your precious energy, multi-tasking frazzles your nerves and reduces your ability to focus. The antidote to multi-tasking is mindfulness. 

Mindfulness can take the form of meditation, massage, prayer, yoga, stretching, walking, knitting, cooking, massage, playing piano, praying, hiking, reading, listening to music, swimming, fishing, camping under the stars, petting the dog, kicking a soccer ball with a child, or watching fish swim in their aquarium. But it could easily be a thousand other options. Its essential character is to apply oneself completely to the task at hand, and to minimize interference from random distracting thoughts. Mindfulness is the self-care that connects you with your inner self. It refocuses your energy to help you understand what your body needs. It’s a key that connects you with yourself. It is foundational to your identity, and to your grounding in the world. It’s your choice.

Mindfulness helps you learn to be comfortable in your own skin. It accepts you. It connects you. It likes your attention.

I once saw a captivating presentation on the subject of context. It started with a man stepping into a cab. Music is playing. Hard, loud, angry music. Every intersection, every movement of every individual on the street, is colored by the music. A random passerby’s raised arms look threatening. A policeman is shouting at someone, a child? Worried, distracted people are hurrying to their destinations. The images fade. Then the scene returns to the very beginning of the tape, and the identical videotape plays once more, but with one significant difference. This time, when the man steps into the cab, the soundtrack plays gentle, melodic music. Now it seems as if the random passerby with raised arms is conducting the music. The policeman is calling a greeting to a child. The pedestrians look focused, but no longer frightened. The difference is remarkable.

The presenter’s point was that “You see the world through how you feel.” It is worth taking a moment to think about that sentence for a minute. It is not frustrating experiences that make the world a more frustrating place. It is your response to those frustrating experiences. Frustration is a given, but your response to frustration is a choice that you make.

Mindfulness is a choice. Mindfulness is the place where “Expect respect” and “Be the change” intersect. When you give yourself time to rest your mind, even just a few moments, you send yourself a message. “I respect myself.” “I am worth the best I can offer myself.” “I deserve the best of me.” “I am worthy.” And, indeed, you are.

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Judith’s Tabouli

Here is the best tabouli recipe you’ll ever eat. It comes from my friend Judith, who got it from her mom, who got it from her mom, who got it from her mom, which makes my friend Judith one very lucky daughter, granddaughter, cook. I’ve posted Judith’s recipes in these pages on occasion, and that makes you very lucky, too. Pick up what you need the next time you go shopping so you can make this whenever you’re ready! Continue reading

Practice Makes Progress

Let’s lose the never-enough mindset.

It’s okay if you don’t walk as far as you wish you had.
It’s okay if you don’t stretch for as long as you wish you had.
It’s okay if you ate a bag of chips all by yourself last night.
It’s okay if you didn’t keep a promise you made to yourself.

You tried. And that is always good enough for me. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Beans, Beans, They’re Good for Your Heart!

Many years ago, my vegetarian sister had a boyfriend whose mother served her “bean loaf” when she went to their home. Its dreadful, unappetizing name was nothing like its wonderful flavor, so my sister and I renamed it “chickpea pie.” The chickpea pie recipe stuck around for much longer than the vegetarianism (and the boyfriend). I sure wish I could find that recipe again. Chickpeas, like peanuts and lentils and edamame (soybeans), are a type of bean. Continue reading

What Does Dr. Sukol Eat?

Folks make a lot of assumptions about what I eat. In recent weeks it’s been announced (in my presence, and not by me) that I eat vegan, as well as Paleo, that I follow Weight Watchers, and that I’m just lucky, whatever that is, so I can eat whatever I want. In a funny way, this last part is true; I do eat whatever I want. It’s just not what you might think I want. At the grocery store, you can watch my neighbors taking nonchalant peeks into my grocery cart. So I’m going to spare you the trouble and explain it myself, right here and now. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Joe Gardewin’s Ginseng Chicken Salad

My friend Joe recently invented a recipe that he calls “Ginseng Chicken Salad.” It all started with a recipe called Korean-style Ginseng Chicken, from Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen,* which he says is by far the best Korean cookbook he has, and I think that’s saying a lot (!). He especially likes it because the recipes are very similar to recipes his wife used to make. If you don’t happen to have a copy of Joe’s special cookbook, which I do not, you can use the leftovers from a boiled or roasted chicken recipe. I am proud to share this recipe here with you. He’s invented something good. Continue reading

What’s for Breakfast?

I really love snow, and last weekend Northeast Ohio finally got its first real snowstorm of the year. As you might guess, I spent a lot of time last weekend shoveling snow, so I needed a breakfast that provided a lot of fuel. That’s what I want to talk about today. Breakfast. So what’s for breakfast? In a word? Protein. In two words? Nourishing fat. In three words? No stripped carbohydrates. I’m going to share some of my favorite ideas for breakfast, but first I’ll tell you about some of the ways I learned to nourish myself when I was younger and traveling. Continue reading

Just a Few Words About Knife Skills

Lately, I’ve been thinking about knife skills. Not just what they are, but why they are. If you take a cooking class, the chef starts by teaching knife skills, so clearly they are foundational to cooking. But why?

Chef Jim, where I work, taught me once that cutting foods into smaller pieces increases the amount of moisture available for tasting. Moisture serves as a vehicle to carry flavor molecules into your taste buds. The more moisture, the more flavor. And that explains the appeal of my dad’s chopped salad. He chops up lettuce, tomato, onion and other ingredients into very small pieces that markedly increase the amount of flavor (and mix of flavors!) released with every bite. And how does Chef Ira create that magic? With his knife. Continue reading