Taking Both

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I don’t think I ever mentioned this: I am not learning to box as a new interesting way to spend my time. My goal is to win a boxing fight. I don’t have a vision for how and where and when, but that is what I am training for. That is surely one of the biggest risks I have ever taken.

How is the training going? The running is getting a bit easier. I run now three times a week. I started at 0.75 when I first put my shoes on. That was the first time I ran since I was 15 years old. I stay with what I can do for a week and when I notice that I am getting used to a certain distance, I increase it by 0.25 miles. It has been four weeks now after I began doing this and I currently am at 2 miles. In “Girlfight”, one of the boxing movies I recently watched about a young woman training to become a boxer, her boxing trainer told her to run three miles three times a week. That is the goal right now and I am moving towards that.

I definitely notice a big difference in my endurance when I am boxing with my trainer. When I had to stop because I was running completely out of breath in training before I can keep going now for much longer.

Practice is definitely paying off. But I have to pay attention to take it a bit slower than I want to. I have been boxing five or six times a week to practice what I learn in my lessons and to get ready for the next one coming. I am getting much stronger and faster than even four weeks ago. But especially my shoulders and elbows have to keep up with the intense workouts. So, I am learning that I am not invincible. When I first got some aches and pains in my shoulder my mind wanted to get depressed and fearing that I have to stop boxing. But, nothing is ever “either or”. I can’t do this as a machine. I work out six times a week, running, jump ropes, weightlifting, core exercises, rowing machine, footwork exercises, but I have slowed down the actual boxing to 3 or 4 times week.

There is the progress, the strength and satisfaction that come from feeling more and more physically fit and strong. That of course translates into how I feel in general about myself. But that is just one side of the coin. It is about taking both – the positive things and the hard, challenging, painful things that come with it. It is about including and accepting any pain that comes along with it instead of getting all freaked out by it, worried and depressed. Now it has become more like the juggling of what is the right thing for each day, adjusting to what is needed and at the same time keeping the bar of training high.

Here we are at relaxation again. Since I remembered that there is never a linear way in anything – and surely no linear way in becoming a boxer –  I see that I am  in charge of my training, listening to what my body needs. And, I can relax again.

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Grilled Summer Zucchini Salad

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Zucchini can appear to be a boring vegetable, but how untrue that is! It depends all on how it is being prepared. If just cut into chunks and left to its own devices to be steamed, yes, it is the dish that mostly does not get eaten… Soggy, tasteless and a bit bland it can be. But oh, give it the right attention, cut it the way it wants to be cut, forget the steaming for a moment, and the zucchini’s true magic reveals itself.

I made this zucchini salad just recently as a side dish together with a French potato salad and greens beans – and it was gone within seconds. No kidding! Even the children at the table who usually do not ask for zucchini wanted more. For this salad the zucchini is grilled, which is a refreshening variation and brings out its nutty flavor that mostly stays hidden.

There is just something about simplicity. It is not the amount of fancy ingredients that make good food. (And that doesn’t mean I do not sit transported to other worlds if I eat, for example, amazing green asparagus in almond wasabi crust – as I once did in a Japanese restaurant in New York. That was 8 years ago and I am still thinking of it….) But let’s be honest, most of us have ordinary lives, with children that want to be fed, (just not with vegetables…). We have busy lives and big hearts that long for nurturing, delicious food. Well, this is for you.

Ingredients:

For 4 people
Preparation time: 40 minutes

4 medium size zucchini
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 big clove of garlic, squeezed
1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Carefully slice each zucchini lengthwise in thin slices. A different way to cut it can make all the difference!

Turn the grill on.

Add the squeezed garlic, the salt and the pepper to the olive oil. Brush the zucchini slices with the olive oil. And then, put them on the grill! It will only take a few minutes for each side. Make sure to not burn them, as they grill quite fast.

Take the slices off the grill, arrange on a platter and sprinkle with lemon juice. Sprinkle some more salt and pepper on it over the platter. Serve warm.

It is called “Road Kill” for a reason

During my last boxing session I boxed three rounds of two minutes each on the double end bag. It sounds like nothing, but two minutes can be a very long time… At the end I was so exhausted  my punches looked like I was drunk. I was simply trying to not quit before the time was over. At the end of the session my trainer commented: “Your hands and arms look better, but you have to work on your cardio…”

The next day I started running by an impulse that didn’t coming from my head, telling me I had to do this as a way to improve my endurance. It came straight from the body.  I said to my friends, “it is called ‘road kill’ for a reason!”, told them to pray for me and hit the dirt road.

It took only a few minutes until I noticed that my mind was producing thoughts like, “Oh my God, am I going to make it this long?” Fear immediately followed, hand in hand with tension. If I didn’t pay attention my stomach contracted. Not listening to my mind, I kept running and relaxing with every step, just like in boxing. When I have been able to bring my attention back to the very next step and relax into it hidden pockets of energy opened up.

I was running quiet nicely, even beginning to enjoy it and suddenly turned around the corner from where I could the see house. I was on the home stretch now and – isn’t it interesting? – immediately I could hardly breathe. So close to the end I allowed thoughts and emotions to come in again and take control. Staying vigilant to the end. There is no moment in time when I can lean back, just because I think I am on the home run and I have it made. Lack of attention and vigilance create road kill, not cars!

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First Taste

What a magnificent moment, the first time of tasting different foods. Most of us probably don’t remember as it happened at such an early age. What an important time in our lives as small children when we get to know food, optimally in an environment that supports healthy meals, maybe preparing them with family and eating together. In giving space to children for experimenting and trying out new flavors and dishes, we can support them in finding a healthy relationship with food. The daughter of a friend of mine is two right now and her great passion is butter – without the bread. Wonderful to see her tasting it! With gentle guidance from the adult  and with lots of space a child will find their way around food. And that impacts not only our relationship with food, but with everything in life.

While I was thinking about that for myself I mostly remembered foods from my childhood that I did not like at all. On the top of the list vegetable soup, cooked carrots and mashed potatoes, which had me sit at our kitchen table for hours after everyone else had left. There was a strawberry yoghurt waiting for me for when I would have eaten the soup. I have always been strong willed and so I would sit at that table for very long times…. I still don’t like mashed potatoes or cooked carrots, but I do love all kinds of food – and how much less colorful, rich and breathtakingly delicious the world would be without it!

I like this video because it captures the very moment of “The First Taste.”

“Protect yourself, don’t defend yourself”

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In one of my first boxing sessions my trainer was punching me and I panicked. I turned away from him, lost eye contact, forgot to keep my hands up and at the same time was trying to keep the oncoming punches away from me. He kept coming towards me, yelling, “Protect yourself, but don’t defend yourself!”

What a useful distinction, not only for boxing, but for how I relate to everything in life! I would describe myself as being defensive in general. Since I started boxing I realized that it is partly because I never really learned how to protect myself. And there is a difference between the two. “Defending oneself” is the act of having already given in to the belief that I am a victim. It is passive, closed off, a reaction. There is no power or possibility in that position.

“Protecting oneself” is active, it needs strength, attention and courage. And there is something quite vulnerable in it, because it implies being open and flexible. If I am not identified with the thought that I need to react there can even be space to be creative in the moment!

The picture of Muhammad Ali communicates the intelligence and power of staying open and flexible in the face of an oncoming challenge. Be it criticism, conflict, or a jab coming towards my head!

Spring Tango Feast with Roasted Fennel, Kalamata Olives and Cherry Tomatoes

Spring is here and it needs to be celebrated! The following is a recipe that originally a friend of mine from Germany came up with and that I have made many times. It is in my cookbook Dharma Feast Cookbook – Recipes for a Fresh Start. Oven roasted fennel with kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes, thyme and lots of garlic. Make sure you invite some of your good friends for this…

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And before you start cooking, put on the right music… Here is one of my favorite tango songs while you are cooking. It is a vals, which is one of three forms of tango. It is impossible for me to stay in a bad mood when I hear this song.

And here is the recipe:

Serves 3
Prep time 40 minutes

5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 heaping teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 pounds fennel (core, stalks, and leaves discarded), cut into 8 wedge pieces
1 pound cherry tomatoes 20 pitted kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix olive oil, garlic, sea salt, and thyme. Put the fennel, tomatoes, and the olives on a baking sheet. Pour the olive oil mixture over the vegetables. Bake for 20–25 minutes. The fennel should be soft and the tops should be a little bit browned.

Serve it with arugula salad, fresh bread and butter. Enjoy the spring tango feast!