Bread Love

"This is crazy!" I thought, as I rounded yet another sharp turn on the Shoreline Highway at 15mph. Fog clung to the windshield as I inched my way toward Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. When I arrived, I turned the car off, dropped my shoulders and exhaled. Finally, I could let go of the fear of getting lost (again) and relax into the bread baking workshop that was starting in five minutes.

Five minutes. Whoops.

I grabbed my camera and a scarf and walked quickly toward where I thought the kitchen might be.

Upon entering the baking room, just off the kitchen, I was greeted by Mick Sopko and his assistant, Yuki. Mick and Yuki bake bread for the entire Green Gulch community and a few other places in the Bay Area. Fortunately, Mick offers workshops on the fundamentals of bread baking to the general public four to five times a year to those who are curious, like myself.

There are few things in life as comforting as bread. And while I have experimented with different pastries, muffins and cakes, I have never made real bread.

Mick explained that when you are making bread you are, in a way, "playing god." You activate the yeast, bring it to life, nurture it and allow it to mature and blossom. And then you kill it about five minutes after it goes into the oven. I looked across the room at the rows of freshly baked bread and felt a bit bad for all that yeast.

Throughout the morning and afternoon, Mick patiently demonstrated each step of the process and even gave us the opportunity to get our hands in some flour and water and knead the dough. My team was in charge of forming sandwich loaves while others formed rolls, baguettes, round loaves and oval loaves. When we were all done, we watched in fascination as Mick effortlessly (and with a lot of love) prepared our bread for the oven.

After 7 minutes or so, the bread miraculously came out warm and golden brown. Once it had cooled, Mick sliced open a baguette and invited us all to taste. I dipped a piece in a small bowl of olive oil and smiled, totally relaxed and comforted.

At the end of the workshop I thanked Mick and bowed to Yuki. With a fresh loaf of bread in my arms, I made my way back out to the parking lot, content and happy. I gently tightened my scarf and prepared for the trip home, less concerned (for now) about being lost.

(If you're in or planning to be in the Bay Area, you can take this workshop too. Check out the website for more information: Fundamentals of Bread Baking and read more about Mick.)


Confessions of a teeth grinder

Confession: I have been meditating for almost five years now and I still grind my teeth. My dentist was adamant - stop it (she lamented, how many people are not grinding their teeth these days?). I have resisted getting a mouth guard, because, holy shit, that sounds incredibly unsexy. But the truth is, I may need to swallow my pride and just get one. Receding gums, due to teeth grinding, are also incredibly unsexy (not to mention, painful).

In order to protect my teeth and my overall health - because I don't think I'd be grinding my teeth simply for the hell of it - I've started scaling back how much I commit to. It's been hard. I like being busy. I like helping people. And I have a really hard time saying no. I also hate disappointing people, especially those I care about. But I am realizing more than ever that my wish to not disappoint others is costing me a great deal. I am at an age where I can no longer simply push on through. My body is telling me to stop and pay attention.

Finally, I am listening.

At the beginning of the year, I took three days off to completely clean out my closet. Something I had been avoiding for a very long time (understandably). I found receipts from ten years ago, letters, birthday cards, old photographs from high school, magazines I'd kept from my time in the Czech Republic and papers I wrote in grad school. It was unexpectedly emotional. When I was done and I only had a few small boxes left, I felt a huge wave of relief. I felt lighter.

There is something about creating space, both physically and mentally, that is highly motivating and refreshing. Since then, instead of committing to more projects, more tasks, more self-improvement fiascoes (going sugar-free and gluten-free, while healthy, is just not realistic for me), more this and more that, I have decided to commit to saying no, setting boundaries, scaling back, simplifying, giving stuff away and making room for space.

It hasn't been easy, but something surprising has been happening. I'm starting to relax. Slowly but surely. Little by little. Why is it so hard?

We'll see what my dentist has to say...

(What I'm listening to right now: House of Cards by Radiohead)