Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ringing- Actually "Gonging" In The New Year

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and wishing you all a year filled with much happiness, love, success and compassion.

This holiday season was quite overwhelming, so I took a little blog hiatus, but I am looking forward to visiting & catching up with everyone and of course, I will blog much more diligently this year. That is not a resolution though it may sound like one- I think resolutions set you up to fail because of it's very nature. I will just "do" rather than "resolve to do"- like going vegan, just do it!

Over the years, I have spent New Year's Eve in many different ways- though more years than not were spent partying hard and hurting the next day. As I got older, the need to carouse lessened. There have been years where I spent New Year's with Jared Diamond- reading "Collapse" and then in contrast, the year Fcat & I spent it decadently in Aspen with our fancy friends.

This year, we celebrated the end of the year at The New York Zendo Shobo-Ji (The Temple Of True Dharma). We wanted to do something more spiritual and contemplative this year. I wanted to spend it spiritually to set the tone for the coming year. A former carriage house on the Upper East Side is beautifully done to house this center of Zen Buddhism & meditation- complete with a simple but gorgeous Japanese rock garden in the back.

When I called to make reservations for the New Year's celebration, they told me about the evenings' program:
- 7:00pm - 9:30pm (zazen- seated meditation with eyelids half lowered so that one is neither distracted, yet still awake/alternated with brief periods of walking meditation)
- 9:30pm - 10:30pm (break)

-10:30pm - 11:30pm (zazen)

-11:30pm - after midnight (purification/chanting/striking the gong 108 times- to chase away evil and forming your intentions for the year)

-food & refreshments served

This program immediately brought on some anxiety. How was I going to sit still and stay awake for all that time? And the eyelids half lowered thing the whole time too?!?!? I was definitely excited to participate but definitely nervous too.

When we got there, people were already sitting on small cushions with their legs folded in a kneeling manner or in half-lotus- crossed & folded in. They were sitting in this manner facing the wall. Fcat was placed in a spot facing the glass doors that looked out onto the rock garden- pretty , but cold. I was placed in the corner adjacent to him. I sat immediately in half-lotus, feeling confident that it would be like yoga. Wrong! After several minutes, I began to lose circulation in my right leg and I longed to move it, but I thought- well mind over matter and I let my right leg pass from pins & needles to no longer feeling it. About fifteen minutes later, we stood up to start our walking meditation. As I stood up, I realized that my right leg was not doing it's job- it definitely was not supporting me and I fell into the shoji screen against the wall (thank goodness the screen was against the wall!) and to try to recover quickly I tried to lean forward to hold onto to Fcat, but didn't realize that I was up on a three inch platform- so I tripped. I was a mess and somewhat horrified because I still couldn't feel my right leg. As we began the walking meditation where we walk in single file around the zendo, I did not have the use of my right leg for a few minutes, so I actually had to drag my right leg behind me. I was not enjoying this at all.

I dreaded being led back to the seated meditation, but this time I sat in the kneeling position and decided that I would change positions if I had to. It was cold in the room and I was feeling pretty miserable. The sound of the bell to start the walking meditation could not come fast enough- but this time we sat for over forty minutes before walking. After sometime, somehow, things got better & my mind was somewhat quieted. When the hour break came at 9:30pm, Fcat and I went home for some much needed hot tea (my apt luckily was a block away). When we returned at 10:30pm for the last hour, it was much much easier on my legs and my mind. Having no zen meditation training, I found myself employing do-it-myself yoga mantra during meditation. I held my palms faced up to the universe and asked that I attract good things and that I radiate good things. Surprisingly, I began to see a moving flood of bluish/purple color in my half-closed eyes. The color experience was similar to when I had reiki (healing energy therapy) done a few years ago. After sometime, I turned my palms down and the color movement stopped. I turned my palms back up and again asked the universe that I radiate good & attract good so that perhaps I could see the color again and all I saw was a little bar of yellow that hovered and then disappeared. I have no idea what it all was, but it was really really cool. And I know that zen meditation is supposed to bring you to the point of no-thought and what I was doing was all wrong, but I definitely benefited.

The purification & chanting process was really interesting and everyone got to strike the gong with their intentions twice. Apparently 108 times to strike the gong because that is the number of delusions in the mind and also represents the 108 measureless possibilities present in each moment. In this celebration, we are purified and we release everything- understanding & misunderstandings so that we can see out true selves.

Afterwards, everyone convened for some food upstairs where there were veggie sushi rolls & good luck soba noodles and of course, champagne to welcome the new year. It was a lovely way to celebrate.

After that lengthy discourse about New Year's Eve, I will fast-forward through my holiday review:

Right before the holidays, Fcat booked a job doing an advertising shoot for a local hospital. It was really rushed, but Fcat pulled off a terrific job. I give myself a little pat on the back for producing this job in a working hospital where we shuttled from room to room.

Shooting in a hospital, comes with makeshift spaces- this is where our stylist was setting up in ER.

The Fraser Fir that Fcat brought from upstate to my small apartment- I love a big tree!
Finishing up SKO's really really long scarf- pattern is called Column of Leaves from brookenelson.com. Can't wait to use up all the wool I have leftover from my dog sweater days so that I buy some vegan yarn like organic cotton, soy, bamboo & corn.

I made a shadowbox for Fcat from the shells & pics from Marco Island. I plan on labeling the names of the shells. And I triple checked to make sure that when I was shelling that there were no creatures living in them! This of course is unfinished and just a rough layout before I hot-glued everything down...there is a little cluster of four tiny shells to the the left of the palm tree pic- those shells are called "Kitten's Paw", isn't that cute?

This was a finished shadowbox that I made for Fcat's mother which I was going to label the shells too, but it would have been too busy and plus these boxes were quite time-consuming to make...
Here's Booboo helping me unwrap some of my gifts. Fcat & I wrapped gifts in newspaper to be more green.
Here's a sampling of some of my goodies from Fcat- yay V-Con, amazing knives, The Landmark Herodotus The Histories (am so excited about this - yes, am such a geek sometimes) and lovely rings & things not picture here and from SKO- D'Aulaire's Book Of Greek Myths (which was my absolute childhood favorite and which of course, started my love for mythology which I gave to SKO when she was little). SKO, sweet sister that she is, gave me a slew of my childhood faves that I no longer have...and also made me a brilliant set of coasters decorated with poetry and a secret message on the flipside- too cute she is.
I made lots of madeleines for the holidays, plain & chocolate. Was my first time veganizing a recipe- was really simple recipe though, just sub the eggs with silken tofu & butter with earth balance. They were perfect.

Also made Seitan Bourgione from The Voluptuous Vegan. This was the most involved meal I have ever made- complete with marinating & roasting peppers & mushrooms and red wine reduction. I also made the basic seitan first from VWAV. Fcat declared it the most delicious & complex vegan dish he's ever had- success!

My cousin drove from Syracuse with her two young boys so we had to take them to see the tree at Rockefeller Center- it was packed with people.

Here's SKO with the boys in front of the Penny Harvest Field from commoncents.org an amazing charity that get kids involved in philanthropy. They estimated about a million's worth of pennies in the field. Yes, those are all pennies!

We also stopped by St. Patrick's to light a candle for our loved ones that we have lost.

Lastly a bevy of sweets for a sweet year to come:

The most amazing white chocolate raspberry cheesecake from Red Bamboo- I had to ask again to make sure if was vegan. It's that good! And not at all too sweet like real white choc/rasp cheesecake...you must try it, even SKO loved it.

On New Year's Day, Fcat and I had our first meal of the year at Candle Cafe and capped it off with the Chocolate Mousse Pie which is the most divine thing ever- really and yummy carrot cake (beware it has pineapples, which I was not expecting so I thought the cake had gone bad- but's it is good once you are aware).

Again wishing everyone peace, love and joy and the hope that all beings everywhere will be free from suffering. Happy New Year!


Vegan_Noodle said...

Sounds like a very zen start to 2008. Not sure I could handle all that sitting/meditating and not falling asleep myself. Definitely a unique experience which you and Fcat are sure to remember!

Sounds like you had some yummy treats during the holidays, as well as spending quality time with loved ones. Have fun with your copy of V-con, I so love that cookbook.

Happy New Year VKO!!!

urban vegan said...

What a great way to gong in the New Year. Your description was actually a riot--and in the end, it sounded like a very purifying experience.

What a nice Xmas you and F-cat had...and Boo, too. I love the shadowbox you made him. And I have Wustof knives--you will love them. The madelienes make me want to pull out a cup of tea and a copy of "A La Recherce du Temps Perdu..."

Happy New Year!

Rage And Love said...


Meditation is a great way to start off...wish I had the patients to do that.

NYC is so beautiful during the holidays!

That's so awesome you got Veganomicon!! I LOVE that book...it's my baby. I'm kind of sad that one of the pages got dirty while I was cooking...

Wish you all the best for 2008!

Pink Theory said...

Your peaceful ringing in of the new year sounds much more appealing to me than the standard get sloppy drunk and hungover path that most take. Happy New Year!

It also looks like you and Fcat had a great (and yummy) holiday. The cakes look so yummy! I am like you, always double checking @ restaurants to make sure stuff is vegan especially when its uber decadent b/c i find that for many places vegan desserts=dry and gross. It's always nice when people get it right!

and yay for V-con!

Cakespy said...

Happy New Year! I was just in NYC but we'll have to do some vegan cakewalkin' next time we're in town! Sounds like you had a wonderful holiday. I must say I do love a good vegan dessert.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Candle Cafe's chocolate mousse pie is one (if not the only #1) of my favorite foods ever.

The one time I went to Red Bamboo (last year), they were completely OUT of all their vegan cakes! After seeing your chocolate cheezecake, I'm even more sorry I didn't get to sample any... oh well, it's a good excuse to go back, right?

Happy 2008!

VeggieGirl said...

your New Year's celebration sounds so exciting and fun!! The New York Zendo Shobo-Ji sounds like an intriguing place; and I love your description of your experience there, haha.

wow, SKO's scarf is coming along quite nicely!! gorgeous!!

oooh, have fun baking/cooking with Veganomicon - I LOVE that cookbook :0)

Wishing you a belated happy new year, vko!!

Theresa said...

Happy 2008, vko! You celebrated the new year in the most interesting way I have ever heard of! The food all looks great, and it sounds like you had a wonderful holiday!!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Happy New Year!
Funny thing, I shot in a hospital today! haha.
The shadowboxes are so lovely! The scarf is amazing as well, I didn't know you knit.
Your food looks SO good! yum yum. Enjoy that V-con, it's full of delicious dishes.

Melody Polakow said...

Happy New Year! What an interesting way to bring it in.. just reading about the eyes half closed sitting meditation made me start to panic.. I think I would have been out of there by the first break.. good for you for sticking it out and experiences cool things.

Great gifts.. and the food looks great! You're so lucky to have such cool vegan restaurants to goto... and your seitan looks amazing! I have that cookbook, and every recipe seems to be so time consuming...

Ashasarala said...

I always love reading your posts, VKO. You inspire me to do so much! What a great idea to do meditation on the New Year! Partying is fun, but I could really use some relaxation and releasing of stress.

Have you ever read 'The Celestine Prophecy'? It's not greatly written, but the ideas in it are very moving and leave a lot to think about. The author mentions seeing colors as auras, feelings and energy.

I know what you mean about the pins and needles in the leg, though. It's good you decided not to worry about moving it the second time around because cutting off blood circulation kinda defeats the purpose. haha ;)

Your holiday sounded very fun and relaxing. I hope you have a refreshing, relaxing, wonderful new year filled with lots of love and peace. :)

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

You are one busy lady! Perfect beginning for 2008. I used to teach 6th grade ancient history and know D'Aulaire's Book Of Greek Myths very well! Enjoy V-con!! :)

Rage And Love said...

Thanks for the comment about my drawings. I really take things like that to heart.

Let me know how you liked Sweeney Todd (or didn't[!]).

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