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Tastes of Bengal – Because life is so endlessly delicious!

Many people don’t realise the huge variety of Indian cuisine. Each state has its own distinct cooking style. After a week of deliciously spicy food in Andhra Pradesh, on returning to Kolkata I set myself the task of getting a better understanding of Bengali cuisine.  That brought me to Koshe Kosha, James Long Sarani, Behala, Kolkata, a restaurant that serves typical Bengali food.  It’s a basic restaurant, so don’t expect posh table cloths and the like, but it has amazing food.
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My education started with the first page of the menu, which explains the Bengali cooking styles to the uninitiated.  This gave a good insight into the types of ‘curries’ that are found in this part of the sub-continent and the different preparations.

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The menu was extensive, far too large to sample in one sitting – all the more reason to go back! Although we did try our best to taste as many dishes as we could!

We started with the Mochar Chop, a round soft pattie made of banana flower mixed with potatoes, onions, cashews and mild spices, served with mustard and tomato sauces.  Perfect for vegetarians and tasty for meat eaters too, but don’t overpower the subtle flavours with too much mustard. Rs.55

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This was followed by a feast of flavours. Let’s start with some vegetarian options:

Lau Bori – This was one of my favourite dishes of the night, bottled gourd (squash) cooked with dried lentil paste nuggets. Wow!! Rs. 75
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Potoler Dorma – parwal (pointed gourd/squash) stuffed with potatoes, ginger, garlic and spices in a sumptuous gravy with cashews! Delicious! Rs. 90
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Narkel Chholar Dal – channa dal, with coconut chips and raisins giving it its slightly sweet flavour and interesting texture. Yum Rs.105
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Sona Muger Dal – a simple mung dal perfect with plain rice Rs. 105

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Pur Diye Begun Bhaja – aubergine (eggplant) slices stuffed with mustard paste and deep fried with a gram flour batter.  Although I love aubergine, the mustard overpowered this for me, so my least favourite dish of the night, but great for those who like mustard! Rs. 75

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Then for the non-vegetarian (meat lover’s) options:
Chingrir Malaikari – Wow!!! My favourite dish of the night! Enormous prawns in a wonderfully tasty gravy.  If you are a seafood lover, don’t miss this!! Treat yourself  Rs. 395

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Dab Chingri – This was something I had heard about and was keen to try it, even though a mild, sweet gravy is not usually my preference. It is prawns cooked with Panch Phoron (a mixture of equal quantities of five spices: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and onion seeds) and the juice and soft flesh of a green coconut.  It’s cooked in the coconut and is definitely something to taste, especially if you like something mild.  It was a rather costly Rs.415 but worth it for the experience!

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Katla Kalia – This was also good. Katla fish is quite a meaty fish popular in Kolkata and is cooked in an onion gravy. Rs. 165
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Kosha Murgi was the chicken curry of the night, served in a wonderfully thick yummy gravy  (sorry, I forgot to snap this one) Rs. 195

Kosha mungsho is mutton (goat) dish slow cooked in a very rich dark gravy.  Nice but quite heavy so you don’t need much of it. Rs. 250

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Accompanied by Luchi – otherwise known as poori, a deep fried flat bread Rs. 65 for 4.
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Basanti Pilao (Rs. 120) and Plain Rice (Rs.80)
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If you are in Kolkata (or even Bangalore as they have a branch there too) and want to taste delicious Bengali food then head to Koshe Kosha, you won’t be disappointed!  Great food and great value.  Although don’t go expecting a beer as only soft drinks are served – try the sweet lime soda!  This feast above, with mineral water and soft drinks came to just            Rs. 3,000.
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Koshe Kosha have numerous branches in Kolkata, we went to the one at:
12, Mondal Para 1st Lane, -700034, Near M.P. Birla High School, Behala, Kolkata (James Long Sarani)

Open 11am -11pm

Tel: 03364606401 (free home delivery – but unfortunately not to the UK!)

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2017 in cooking, food, India, Life, Uncategorized

 

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Food for thought this Lent

Lent is traditionally known as a time of prayer and fasting, a time reflecting on Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, where Christians give something up to provide extra time and space to concentrate on God.  For many 21st century Christians, and I count myself among them, fasting is not part of their spiritual life.  In the past I have made the token gesture of deciding to give up chocolate or cake; in a society where we are surrounded by such luxuries (there is always cake in our office!) it can be a challenge and a good discipline but I’m not that sure it ever brought me any closer to God.  It might be different for you, but I’m sure my motives were more about losing a few kilos rather than spiritual in nature.

I find giving up food difficult, mainly because I am a foodie, but also because I get headaches if I don’t eat frequently. Perhaps giving up a meal each day would allow me more time to spend with God. If I also gave up eating out I could give extra money to charity. Call it an excuse if you want but I decided this year that I was not going to give up food for Lent (although I’m sure I would benefit from a little less excess).

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I’ve often heard people say that giving something up is negative and they are going to do something extra, something positive for Lent, like giving to charity or spending more time in bible reading.  There is certainly nothing wrong with starting new positive habits and charities need all the support they can get, so its a great idea.   For me this year in Lent I wanted to do something positive and spend  more time in silence, escaping the seemingly never-ending rush of life, being still with God.

However, to do this required ‘finding time’.  I needed to give up something  to ‘find’ that time to make a real difference to my spiritual life, in the hope that the habit started for 40 days would become lifelong.  This Lent has been about slowly changing my lifestyle so that I am able to get a better balance in my life.  I’m trying to limit my excessive ‘work’ time to provide more time for family, friends and stillness, trying to take a few minutes each day in silence (not just those moments on the loo) to sit and be with God, to be mindful, appreciate the beauty around me and to thank God for all He provides.

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Books that have been helpful in this include Stephen Cherry’s book ‘Beyond Busyness – Time Wisdom for Ministry’. I’ve learned the difference between time management and time wisdom and have used various tools he suggests for making wise decisions about how I spend my time.  It’s a must read for workaholics and anyone in ministry.

The other book that has inspired me has been Mary C. Earle’s book ‘The Desert Mothers – Practical Spiritual Wisdom for Every Day’.

12745639_10208284540649310_1344397817639724825_nShe writes, “When we fast (whether it be from food or noise or busyness or buying too much), our fast is not only for our own health and deepening love; it is offered for the life of the world.  When we fast from mean-spirited conversation and from the need to be always in control and think ourselves to be right, we are allowing open space in which God’s healing silence can bring forth something new, if we give it time and care. When we fast from hurry and frenetic, non-stop rushing, we not only allow the distended stress of our bodies and souls to heal. We also practice one of the most subversive acts in this society: rest in God, trusting that God’s own recreating and restoring grace will be sufficient for the tasks at hand. We put aside the addictive behaviour of working as if everything depended on our own efforts, and allow real questions to surface…..the questions are an essential part of discovering who you are and who you were called to be.”

I don’t know about you but I so relate to this passage.  Up until now my life has centred around doing…..now I’m trying to balance the doing and the being.  Who are you and what has God called you to be?  My food for thought this Lent!

 

 

 

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Go to your cell

I’ve recently been studying about the Desert Christians, women and men from the third century who escaped popular culture to go into the desert to dedicate their life to God.  This was a time when Christianity had become the religion of the Roman Empire.  You might think that this was a good thing.  However, mixing Church and State meant in reality that with ‘serving’ the church came a life of wealth and prosperity, it was often socially and materially beneficial to associate yourself with the Church and people ‘decided’ to become Christians often to further their own ends.  Such a situation meant that the Church became more secular than spiritual, it was a friendship club rather than a place of prayer . It was focused on serving ambition rather than humbly serving others and sharing the good news.  Therefore, those keen to live in humility and simplicity in a close relationship with God decided to move into the desert and live either in single cells near to others or in community.  They spent much time in silence, prayer and simple work but communities also provided hospitality and spiritual direction to Christians wanting to walk in a closer relationship with God.

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Their time in prayer and listening to God gave them immense wisdom and sayings of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, although written 1700 years ago, are still relevant to us today.

Lets take the example of a saying from Mary C. Earle’s book The Desert Mothers.  She quotes Amma Syncletica:

“If you find yourself in a monastery, do not go to another place, for that will harm you a great deal. Just as the bird who abandons the eggs she was sitting on  prevents them from hatching, so the monk or nun grows cold and their faith dies when they go from one place to another.”

As Mary explains, this is not just a message for monks and nuns in the third century, it ‘is addressing a universal temptation – to miss our lives by living completely on the surface’.

Our culture encourages competition and ambition.  We are highly mobile, with it often being common to flit from one job to another, one relationship to another, and to move from place to place.  There is an inner kind of rootlessness. Even when we are at home we are rarely still, if we get bored we move on to something else.  We don’t take time out to be still and go deep, we live our lives on the surface.

Amma Syncletica taught that faith was like hatching eggs, it needs us to be still and patient and to wait out the boredom.  There is temptation for us to go and do other things, but at what consequence?  Our chicks will never hatch.

We need to give time to our spiritual life.  We need to go to our cell each day (any quiet place where we will not be disturbed) and be still, encounter the divine and pray. It may be prayers of word, or silence, or a combination of both, but in doing so we will root our lives in prayer and faith. If we get bored, we must persevere because we will miss the deeper spiritual life if we are always on the move.

The Desert Mothers and Fathers told followers of Jesus to let their cell be their teacher.  Mary C. Earle explains:

Staying the in cell, or ‘sitting on the eggs’, means noticing our appetite for over stimulation. The cell teaches us to slow down, to be less of a slave to our impulses, to notice what is right in front of us. The wisdom that the desert mothers offers us is that by staying with ourselves, with our inner ups and downs, with our hurts and our fears, we will bring forth the new life that God is creating within us. The cell teaches us to trust in the Presence even when it feels like absolutely nothing is happening. The cell helps us to see that skipping from one activity to another, from one interest to another, from one focus to another results in never putting down roots, never getting into deeper meaning and purpose, never going beyond the surface reality.”

Where is your cell?  Do you have a space, a particular chair or area in your home that you can go into each day to be still and root yourself in the Presence of the Divine?  A place where you can ‘be’ rather than ‘do’? Why not give the wisdom of the desert mothers a try and spend some time each day rooting yourself in God? Doing so will enable you to live life in depth and fullness – not just on the surface.

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Tiger expedition to the Sunderbans

I’ve been coming backwards and forward to Kolkata for a long time and have longed to see the Bengal Tigers in the Sunderbans, just three and a half hours from the city. This trip I decided it was time for an adventure so booked a two day, one night stay through Tour de Sunderbans

The booking process was easy, transferring INR 2,000 to their account in advance and then paying the remaining INR 2,000 on arrival (£40 was not bad for an all inclusive weekend adventure). I was picked up at 9am opposite the entrance to Science City in Kolkata.

Top tip – if you didn’t get breakfast go to the other side of the street at the Science City entrance, near the dinosaur: there are stalls where you can get toast, chai and fried egg or an omelette for a bargain price.

I joined my fellow passengers in a tempo traveler for the three and a half hour bounce along the Basanti ‘Highway’ to Godkhali – the end of the road. Supplied with a two litre water bottle and a sandwich breakfast (the latter of which I declined as my mother in law had already made sure I was well fed on departure), we spent the next 106km dodging people, cows, dogs, rickshaws, autos, cars and buses, even a gaggle of geese – it was like being in a live computer game –one mistake on the behalf of the driver and you would lose your last life! If you are a nervous passage then close your eyes and take a nap – it’s not for the fainthearted! There was a tea stop on route and thanks to my guardian angels, I survived the journey. At Godkhali there was just enough time for some coconut water (INR 20) before we boarded the boat for Gosaber in South 24 Paraganas District of West Bengal.

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Looking at the overcrowded boat as it came into the jetty with people, luggage and even a motorbike made me think of the refugee boats coming to Europe.

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It certainly did not look safe, but then I’ve come to realise that safety is not a priority in India – you do what you have to do to survive. If I wanted to join the Sunderban Safari then I had to board the boat. Since there were no seats you either balanced crouching on the edge of the boat or you chose to stand. I took the former.

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Unfortunately I chose a spot right near the engine; this not only meant having black smoke  puffing at me for the 10 minute crossing, but also that I got to see the crew bailing out the water from the leaking boat…… I said it was an adventure but this bit was certainly not an ecotour!!

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Top tip – don’t sit in the middle of the boat by the engine!

When we arrived in Gosaber we trekked through the hustle and bustle of the market to our next mode of transport across the island.

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Top tip – travel light, you will need to carry your own bags and your water bottle for a good ten minute walk through the busy market area.

Next it was time for our ‘Harley Davidson’…. A motorbike rickshaw used for transporting goods and people. It bounced us to the jetting on the other side of the island. Bone shaker is an understatement. It’s certainly not advisable for anyone with a back problem. However, it’s how the locals travel so a good way to experience rural Indian life.

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Top tip – sit at the back so you can dangle your legs of the back and get the best view.

After our rattling ride observing village life from the back of the motor-rickshaw we arrived at the boat that was going to take us to the backpackers eco-lodge.  Just after 1.30pm we were shown to our mud huts.

If you want a luxury resort, this is not for you. It’s meant to give visitors the opportunity to experience life in an Indian village so it’s a no frills accommodation. The hut is clean and has an ensuite toilet and cold water shower. There is soap, a mirror and a comfortable bed with a mosquito net. Don’t expect freshly painted walls (I reiterate, it’s a mud hut) but it was clean with clean sheets on the bed and a blanket. There was also a fan (although definitely not needed in December I’m sure it would be beneficial in the summer months). There are lights and one electricity socket, although power only came on after dark and we were told to conserve it as the site uses solar power (although thought I heard a generator somewhere).

Top tip – essentials to pack for the trip include your passport, a towel, mosquito repellent (although I did not see many possibly because it was winter season), warm cloths for December and January, and a torch. If you like a sheet between you and your blanket (not common in rural India) then bring your own. In December/January it gets cold at night so warm PJs are advisable.

After a short rest we all came together for lunch, a feast of rice, dal, kerala (bitter gourd), mixed veg, fish, papad and chutney. Excellent traditional home cooked Bengali food. Then at 3pm we took a walk around the village. It was time of the rice harvesting so everyone was busy.

We then walked along the embankment which was built by the locals to protect their land. Unfortunately over the decades man has cut down the mangroves, which had provided natural protection against erosion. So as well as new planting of mangroves man-made barricades are also needed to protect their crops and their homes, especially during the summer cyclones.

As the sun began to set we took a boat across the waters to explore the mangrove forests by water. Lots of bird life, and hundreds of crabs stuck to the trunks of the mangrove trees.

Our guide, Om, picked up a crab unaware of the fear of the guy sitting next to him, who jumped up and jumped off our boat onto the one passing by, the shock causing one passenger at the back to lose his balance and he just managed to right himself in time to prevent falling into the water: a hilarious sight that had us all in hysterics – that would have been great for YouTube!

The man-paddled boat ride was so peaceful; we watched the sunset and the bustle of India washed away. We relaxed in serenity.

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Returning to shore we took jungle ginger tea and rested in our mud huts. At 7pm were joined by a few of the villagers who serenaded us with traditional music for an hour, which was followed by another Bengali feast, but with chicken instead of fish. Then it was early to bed, under the thatch, tucked into the mosquito net ready for our 6am start the following morning.  A perfect time to lie in total darkness, pray and reflect.

Top tip: if you want to buy some fresh honey (madhu) picked from the jungle then ask Om in the evening and he’ll make sure they bring some in the morning. It’s INR 350 a kg and will be provided in a plastic water bottle for you to take home. You can’t get fresher or more organic!

Om rapped on the door at 5.45am with the early morning wake-up call. Jungle chai and biscuits was available for those who needed something to get them going, then just after 6.30am we left (with honey and all our belongings) on the boat for the Sunderban reserve. It was a cold and misty morning, but the mist gave an aura of mystery to the place and provided some great photo shots.

At the entrance to the reserve Om, our excellent guide and tour organiser, took our passports and dealt with the necessary documentation and then we proceeded to the beauty of the Sunderban reserve.

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A few facts:

  • Sunderban means ‘beautify forest’
  • The Sunderbans house the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world, covering over 10,000 square km of India and Bangladesh, in the delta of the Bay of Bengal
  • It’s a UNESCO world heritage site
  • It’s the largest reserve for the Bengal Tiger with an estimated 403 man-eating tigers, who kill at least 30 Indians each year plus numerous Bangladeshis (these are official figure – in reality it’s probably more since many people are in the jungle illegally and therefore their deaths go unreported)

From our vantage point on board the boat and at the two watchtowers we saw:

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White spotted deer

Monkeys

A monitor lizard

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Lots of  hungry crocodiles

Red fiddler crabs

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And plenty of birds

Unfortunately the Royal Bengal Tiger was rather elusive and we only got to see his footprints.  It would have been amazing to have seen one of these rare creatures with males weighting between 180-280kg and females 115-285kg.  Om last saw one about six weeks ago walking along the mudflats on the beach. They have a life expectancy in the wild of about 20 years, an average litter of 3 offspring and prey on white spotted deer, wild boar, rhesus macaque (monkeys) and occasional humans.

It was a really relaxing day on the boat, with puri and veg for breakfast and another Bengali feast for lunch, while looking at the wonderful view and listening to the sounds of the jungle.  It’s one of the best places I’ve been to in India for beauty and peace.

In the evening the cruise boat took us back to Godkalhi and then we braved the night journey back to Kolkata. In a rather rickety vehicle with no seat belt or horn I can certainly say this was more scary than jumping out of an aeroplane whilst waiting for your parachute to open.  I now know the value of a horn in India – it has the same importance as a brake in the UK! How we survived this rather hair-raising journey I do not know, but it certainly dragged me back into the bustle of life, arriving in Kolkata about 8.30pm.   The peace and beauty of the Sunderbans was great while it lasted and a great reminder of the amazing creation we are part of.  If you are in Kolkata – take a detour for the weekend, its worth it!

 

 
 

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Rain on me

I’m in Sri Lanka for a short time by the beach so I wanted to make the most of it and so had prayed for sunshine today. However we need to remember that prayer is not answered just when we get what we want. God can also answer prayer with a no, or at least a wait. He has his reasons and knows what’s best for us. That’s what happened today. God knew best and was determined to rain on me!

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Thinking of God

You know what it’s like when you get a song in your head, well today’s was the chorus “Reign in me, sovereign Lord reign in me” (click on the photo above to hear it in Sri Lankan style sung in English and Tamil). As I walked to sit under the umbrella on the beach it became rain on me, sovereign Lord rain on me. I pondered the discussions we have been having in work recently regarding God raining blessings upon us and realised that if we let God reign in our life – our work, family and relationships then he will rain on us the blessings of his love.

God is synonymous with love so we must let love reign in our life, being filled with compassion, servanthood, peace, a willingness to challenge injustice, to support those in need, to sacrifice ourselves for others. God sacrificed his Son for us, sacrificial love. As His disciples we are called to love sacrificially too, be that sacrificing our time to be with God, our desires to serve others, our wealth to bless others, our home to welcome others.

Practicing Mindfulness

In my mindfulness practice I’m starting to try to give my time as a sacrifice, to spend more time in the ‘now’ as a means of spending more time with God. So I sat under the umbrella in the rain on the beach experiencing the ‘now’. I heard the rain drops as they touched the umbrella and the roaring and crashing of the waves, felt the warm breeze blowing my hair and water droplets gently touching my skin in the breeze, the gritty sand on my feet. I rested there in stillness and felt the peace, power and love of God.

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As I closed my eyes I was bathed in His light, the warmth of the breeze was like being enveloped in His embrace, the sound and power of the waves welled up inside me and I knew in my heart – not just my head – that if I let Him reign in me I could do all things through Him who gives me strength.

I stilled my mind and opened my heart by repeating over and over again the words ‘reign in me, sovereign Lord reign in me’.

Filled with His presence

Then in total abandonment in the Spirit I ran along the empty beach in the rain into the waves and sang at the top of my voice REIGN IN ME SOVEREIGN LORD REIGN IN ME. I was worshiping the Lord surrounded by water, both around me and with droplets bouncing off the surface of the sea, floating and being carried over the waves.

And God said, “Trust in me, I can a calm the storm but I want you to experience my love so sometimes I need to carry you over the waves of life, so you can trust in my power and strength and how much I care for you. Believe in me in your heart, love me and I will keep you afloat. Near the shore when you are just touched by my love the waves break and you find it difficult to cope. Trust in me, come deeper into my presences and I will raise you up so you can be carried over the waves and feel the joy of being surrounded by my love as I rain blessings upon you. Don’t struggle against the tide doing your own thing, ride the waves with me, live through my power and I will deliver you safely to shore. I am always with you, but when you come out of those times when you have bathed deeply in my presence don’t wash away the salt with which I have covered you. Go and be salt and light in My world.”

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Click on the picture above to hear ‘Reign on Me’ by Brenton Brown and below for Paul Baloche’s ‘Reign on Me’

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Christian Mindfulness – Part 4

Who are you?

How do you generally answer the question ‘who are you’?  Perhaps the first thing you say might be your name. Then what?  Cultures vary on this one:

In the UK you are often defined by your job, so my response is likely to be “Head of Programmes at The Leprosy Mission”.  In fact, my job is so much part of me I find it hard to separate the two.  Who would I be if I was not The Leprosy Mission’s Head of Programmes?  An entrepreneur with my own Cookie business?

But isn’t there more to me than my job?

In India registration documents of women require that you give the name of your father or spouse – defining you as a child or wife of ……. So I suppose I am daughter of Chris and wife of Amit.

In Zimbabwe women are usually know as the mother (Amai) of their first child i.e. Amai Tasha.

These responses all state who I am in relation to others or  what I do.  But if we take that away, who am I?

Philosophers and social scientists have debated for centuries the concept of identity and I’m not going to go into that now.  However, during my recent studies on Mindfulness, I’ve become conscious that life in not just about doing, its about being – being one with God, being who God has called us to be.  So some of the questions I have been pondering are: Who am I? What is the real me like? How can I be more Christ-like and live the life God has planned for me, being the person He wants me to be i.e. the person He created – ME?

Being still, sitting quietly in reflection I’ve been trying to consider who I really am and what the difference is between the ‘me’ that I portray to others and the ‘real me’, the ‘me that God sees’.

How much do I bury the ‘real me’ and put on an a facade so that I seem stronger, more confident , more capable and more acceptable to the people I am with?  How much do I conform to cultural expectations and what I perceive to be the expectations of others, rather than ‘be me’?

Today I watched the Hindi film Tamasha.  It starts off with a man and women who meet in Corsica and agree not to tell anything to each other about who they are (i.e. the labels indicated above in terms of job and relationships) – they are just themselves, have great fun and a bit of a holiday romance.  After a very enjoyable week together they go their separate ways. Two years later they meet up back in Delhi. However, Ved is not the man that Tara met in Corsica.  He is an office worker who follows a routine, conforming to the rules and society’s expectations. Tara sets about convincing him to be the real ‘him’, the free spirit, rather than the corporate slave.

The movie made me reflect that we spend so much of our life doing the things that others want us to do, with our thoughts and actions shaped by the society in which we live.  I’m not saying that we should all break the rules and do what we like oblivious to the needs of others, far from it.  Although it is great to break the rules sometimes, if they are man-made rules rather than the God given ones. Our actions should be shaped by our beliefs and values.  However, should they be governed by our culture and our perception of the expectations of others, or should we  be ourselves?  How can we be ourselves and better enjoy the moment, rather than shoehorning ourselves into the shape of the world?

Romans 12: 2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I am beginning to recognise that mindfulness helps us to do just that. In the stillness we are able to question the ways of the world, to better understand who we are in God, so we can be our true selves – the person God has created us to be.

When we are silent and resting in God, in union with Him, we are perhaps the closest to our true self as we will ever be.  And what’s wonderful is that I can be ‘me’, the ‘real me’ and know that despite my imperfections God still loves me, and has plans to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11).

So today when the movie finished, I decided to be the ‘real me’.  The ‘conforming me’ would have walked quietly out of the cinema hall and back to the car discussing the movie on the way.  The ‘real me’ danced out of the cinema hall and gave Kung Fu Panda a run for his money….. mindfully enjoying the moment!  Watch out folks – I think the more I get into this mindfulness business, the more you might get to see the ‘real me’ ….

 

 

 

 

 

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Christian Mindfulness – Part 3

Do you think in words or pictures?  For me and my analytical mind its almost always in words.

Mindfulness or contemplative practice is the new way I have adopted to try to escape these incessant thoughts, causes of anxiety and depression, to be able to reconnect with God.  When I sit still and try to be silent its always verbal thoughts that are going through my mind that I have to try to bat away.  Occasionally though I see a picture, and when I do it usually has some significance through which God speaks.  Yesterday was a picture day!

I saw a fairground with a Big Wheel. I knew I was in the picture somewhere, it was a bit like Where is Wally!  There was lots going on.  Then I spotted myself, at the top of the Big Wheel.  Yet not sitting comfortably in the chair….. I had fallen out and was hanging on for dear life, legs swinging and holding on with one hand on the bar at the top – rather stressed!!!  I was scared, I needed the wheel (the busyness of life) to stop so I could climb back in.  I wanted to sit down in the chair, be still and enjoy the view.  Clearly a message from God to slow down, take time to relax and appreciate the view of the wonderful things that God is doing.  Message received and understood!!  Now I just have to make it happen (its not easy climbing back into the chair from that height).  I’m sure mindfulness practice will help.

However, today I realised that climbing back into the chair is just the first step.  This morning I started reading an amazing book “Into the Silent Land” by Martin Laird.  Godincidentally, Chapter 1 explained one of the early church images of the wheel. It explained that God is the hub at the centre that unites all the spokes (us).  Most of us spend our life at the outer rim (like I was, clinging to the chair on the Big Wheel). We are far from God and distant from others, we might trust God and even allow him to guide us through the circle of life, but we are not living in union with Him; we are still caught up in the ways of the world. Our relationships with others are often strained and not rooted in love.

Union with God is not something to be acquired it is something to be realised (we already have it but do not experience it or appreciate it).  It is beyond thoughts and pictures, beyond our emotions and feelings; it is being immersed in the love of God. It is through silence that we are able to journey towards the centre of the wheel and the closer we get to the centre the closer we are to God and to others; the more we are able to experience and share God’s love.

In doing so we come to know our true self and to truly experience the love of God.  As St Augustine said in Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  When we live life from the centre the stresses of life recede, we see God in everything we do and we are able to live in the likeness of Christ.   However, that journey to the centre is not easy.  It requires us to take time out from the world to be still and enter the ‘silent land’.

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It’s not necessarily about joining the monastery or the convent, God can work in you wherever you are and you can rest in Him in your living room as well as in a monks cell.  However, it is recognising that it if we don’t spend time in silence we will miss out so much of what God has for us.  Silence is necessary if we are to hear God speak; prayer is not a shopping list it is spending time with God listening to Him.

So in your next prayer time, talk less – God already knows what is on your mind and the desires of your hearts. Start by offering these to Him and then nudge away those thoughts and feelings that are distracting you and just spend some quality time quietly in His presence, demonstrating your love for Him. As St John of the Cross said, “Our greatest need is to be silent before this great God….. for the only language he hears is the silent language of love.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Uncategorized