6 Easy Steps: Meditation We Don’t Usually Consider Meditation

[vc_row content_placement=”middle” center_row=”yes”][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_single_image image=”6984″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548800420646{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]Written in 2016

Meditation at the Pool

I’m sitting at a Hotel Club in Antigua, Guatemala meditating. I’m at a pool, but I’m still in my meditation practice. And I have (somewhat annoyingly) stopped my meditation to sit down to write this post. I would rather be meditating but inspiration arrives when it arrives, and it is a welcome guest. No matter what I’m doing or where, I keep the radar on and my compass pointed in its direction. Fortunately, inspiration never runs dry when you are open to it.

I am the proverbial frog waiting for the fly.

Back to the Hotel Club. Cloying in the background is a marimba group playing their lively traditional marimba music, which I have heard for the umpteenth time. Iza and Zai are over watching Casimiro the clown do his thing, for the umpteenth time. I guess it’s what we do. We do things over and over and over again, whatever the circumstances. I could be in a silent forest retreat right now, but I’m not. I’m here, every day, happily, and here is the only place to be. So I practice on and try to keep the little Mona Lisa smile intact.

Enjoy the Distractions

When l think of all the “distractions” and noise here, I think back to the time when I was living at a Zen Buddhist center in Los Angeles, California. Zen Buddhist center, Los Angeles, quite a unique juxtaposition I would say. But while deep into one of the many meditation retreats we participated in and helped conduct throughout the year, there were almost always one or two (sometimes 3) ice cream trucks blasting their carnival music into the street.

* Take 3 deep breaths……now.

Welcome back. As I was saying, ice cream truck music is not the ideal background music for a Zen retreat. Or is it?

The point I am making? We are not always presented with the most ideal circumstances to continue a spiritual practice (whatever practice that may be). That in itself is the perfect spiritual practice.

I mean, right now, I am hammering away on my phone and trying to keep up with the words and ideas flowing through my mind, and in a way this is just a part of the extended practice.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”6980″ alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548800593990{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]

Meditation 101

Now for the purpose.

  1. Find a moment (even 5 minutes)
  2. Sit in a comfortable position
  3. Listen to the sounds around you
  4. Don’t focus on anyone sound
  5. Breathe with intention, follow your breath
  6. Try to release your mind from all other obligations

You are now meditating and its something you can do anytime, anywhere, for as long as you have available. It offers you a moment to be alone even in a sea of people. It gives you an internal power you can’t get anywhere else.

Want to learn more? Here is a pretty well-written article from Yoga Journal.

The Story Continues…

We are now back home and the kids are sleeping. You parents know the deal: it’s SO sweet when you get those few minutes to decompress, But it’s only 3:30. Do I wake them or let them sleep. If I wake them, back to the beautiful grind of parenthood.

If I don’t wake them I’m F’d because I know they’ll keep me up all night. Yea, nobody wants that so I’ll go with another half hour and hope for the best.

So for the precious moments I have, do I continue my meditation I was so relishing back at the pool? Or, with inspiration still fully intact, do I continue this post. Rache would definitely continue writing so I use her as my guiding work force. And I feel like there is something I need to say, right now, so I am rolling with it and serving it up. Of course with the deepest gratitude for receiving this inspiration to share words and ideas. I feel like other like-minded folks out there in the cyber world are working hard to share their inspiration as well, so I want to give back when I have the chance.

And there you go. One of them awoke. Gotta go![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner css=”.vc_custom_1547575447533{margin-right: 120px !important;margin-left: 120px !important;}”][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

Get Started with Meditation with These Tools

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”6994″ img_size=”300×300″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://amzn.to/2RERhGe”][vc_column_text]

You can never have enough. These cushions are essential for any meditation practice, especially when you are starting out. They help you to ease into lotus. 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”6993″ img_size=”300 x 300″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://amzn.to/2RzlUgm”][vc_column_text]

Want to learn more about my style of meditation? Read up on Rinzai. 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row content_placement=”middle” center_row=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1547575406613{margin-right: 120px !important;margin-left: 120px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”6998″ img_size=”500×300″ alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

If you look closely, you can see me on the left when I first started practicing.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1547575729641{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]

What’s Sesshin?

sesshin (接心, or also 摂心/攝心 literally “touching the heart-mind”) is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery. – From Wikipedia

Most dedicated western practitioners do two sesshins a year for 7 days each in total silence. Each day you meditate in a variety of different ways for roughly 18-hours. Meditation in these cases can be sitting, walking or working. Often, by the 7th day, practitioners feel ‘high’ or ‘light’.

I meditate every morning and have tried to attend at least 1 sesshin a year while our children were small. Now that they are older, I am renewing my 2x annual practice.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1547575740756{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]

Meditation is Apart of My Work

My art is centered around meditation and in my most recent work, you can see the repetition, patterns, and simplicity of form. I typically meditate for 50-minutes and then do a freehand piece in under an hour. Learn more here on my website.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”6988″ alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.kurtisbrand.com/project/manta-cruda/”][vc_empty_space css=”.vc_custom_1547575753142{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1547575770154{margin-right: 150px !important;margin-left: 150px !important;}”]My Zen brother Billy White also practices meditation as his work. Check out his sound healing at The Heart is Awake.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Iza: The Crispy Jew Bu

[vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column][vc_column_text]When you have 8 grandparents you are bound to have a mix of all cultures. Iza is truly a global child being represented by 3 cultural practices. While we are not religious, our families have traditions which we share in, and our own joint practice of Buddhism. This year Iza will experience Christmas (and maybe remember it), Hannukah, and in the New Year she will begin heading towards a meditative yoga practice with us.

She is not unlike most ‘Homelanders,’ who are, by definition, melting pots of worldly experience. Iza is growing up with a knowledge of so many important traditions which are the foundation of history and family… a key element which has been mostly lost to those who grew up as Generation X‘ers and Millennials.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”2944″ alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][vc_column_text]Christmas comes just 1 time a year, and Easter seems to be a candy coated holiday for kids. Almost everyone on both of sides our family have some relationship to Christianity (except for the Ruby girls.) The Bible is an awesome read if you haven’t read it in a while.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”2945″ alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][vc_column_text]I was born into a matriarchal Jewish family and as Ruby girl I am bound culturally. If your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish. What I love are the rich stories, filled to the brim with poignant cultural references and valuable lessons… and the fact that food is #1 in cultural tradition.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”2953″ alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][vc_column_text]Kurt is a Zen practitioner and participates in daily meditation and sesshins as the Tenzo when he can get away to visit his teacher David at the Ithaca Zen Center. I have joined his practice in theory, less so in physical time, but it is our preferred daily commitment.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”2955″ alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][vc_column_text]Religious exploration has been ever present in our lives. Both our dads have explored Unitarianism but are now staunch atheists. My mom also was a devote Unitarian for most of my life. We have been in many churches, temples and structures with spiritual teachings around the world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column][vcex_spacing][vc_text_separator title=”Unbiased Babe” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_column_text]We are lucky that we have a hilarious mess of a child – and in all her shining brilliance she finds a way to flash that million dollar smile to anyone who is willing to look at her and pay attention. She is one with the world and every person in it, without bias, criticism or question. When it comes to religion, culture or practice, she is going to choose what she wants. We are just educating her with various traditions.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2956″ alignment=”none”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2967″ alignment=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column][vcex_spacing][vc_text_separator title=”Books for Generational and Religious Exploration” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vcex_image_carousel items_scroll=”page” auto_play=”false” thumbnail_link=”custom_link” custom_links_target=”_blank” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”4″ max_slides=”4″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”2961,2962,2965,2960,2963,2964,2972,2979″ custom_links=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1610393503/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1610393503&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=3AYHFYFEQG7PVETP,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143115154/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0143115154&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=QSCLN5ZGGLHSZN3E,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1433524767/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1433524767&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=SCBJBUQTDT22LS6V,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0671034812/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0671034812&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=UYNHPBS2SDCVIBIE,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1590302672/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1590302672&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=WRBMIQGN5STVILRO,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310286182/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0310286182&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=LGVQRJQM2W6LQSRY,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0807016179/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0807016179&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=QWBU4DHWZV6WHKPY,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003XKN6IC/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003XKN6IC&linkCode=as2&tag=racolifecom-20&linkId=OSJV4DJ22MKAVF6Q,”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Throwback: Making a Detox Meal

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]So the moving is done (mostly) and we are finally we are settling into our new home. It seems like when we get into the habit of moving, our diet goes a rye. Now that we are here, it is time to kick off the healthy lifestyle again so we can get back to normal… I’d like to lose the little pudge in the middle and sleep through the night more consistently. Kurt wants to fix his rotator cuff, and lose the inflammation in his hands.

It brings me back to a time when were were just starting to date in Ithaca, and Kurt had his Kurt’s Cuisine service. Ahhh reminiscing of the good ‘ol days. 🙂

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” content_width=”50%” media_width=”50%” heading_type=”h2″ image=”2202″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″]Kurt’s Cuisine was developed after living at the Ithaca Zen Center and participating in the Body Mind Retreats. While it was a relatively short-lived operation, it is still a long term vision for Kurt, but has taken a back seat to his art career for the last 3 years.[/vcex_feature_box][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”One of My Favorite Kurt’s Cuisine Events” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_carousel style=”default” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”1″ max_slides=”4″ items_scroll=”page” auto_play=”true” infinite_loop=”true” timeout_duration=”5000″ arrows=”true” thumbnail_link=”none” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”500″ img_height=”500″ image_ids=”2204,2206,2211,2208,2207,2205,2212,2209,2210,2203″][vc_text_separator title=”2 Delicious Vitamix Recipes” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” content_width=”50%” media_width=”50%” heading_type=”h3″ image=”2214″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″]Brazilian Choco Maca

  • Brazil nuts
  • Almond milk
  • Cacao powder
  • Maca powder
  • Dates
  • Sea salt

[/vcex_feature_box][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vcex_feature_box style=”left-content-right-image” content_width=”50%” media_width=”50%” heading_type=”h2″ image=”2215″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ equal_heights=”true”]Energy Soup

  • Avocado
  • Sprouts
  • Wakame
  • Carrot
  • Parsley
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Lemon


Sesshin (7 day Zen Retreat in Ithaca, NY), Vegan and Gluten Free!

So Rache was extremely kind to let me take part in Sesshin in Ithaca, NY. Sesshin is a silent 7 day meditation retreat and is the life-blood of Zen practice. How often do we get to get away from the distraction of our daily lives and get time to focus inward without need for thinking, planning doing, etc and try to discover who we truly are? Sound easy? NOT! Spending 8-10 hours a day in meditation and having everything in your life appear before you can be extremely difficult. Most of us spend all of our time just trying to get by. We never have time for introspection and, honestly, we don’t want that time. Because then we have to deal with our minds directly and there is no escape. No escape. No computers, iphones, food, drink, exercise, TV, iphones, movies….just ourselves and our own minds. But the more we practice this the better we get and the more we begin to understand ourselves (or lack thereof).

I was fortunate enough to cook for 25 people for this retreat and everyone was so grateful that I tried to make the food as vegan and gluten free as possible. I had some great help in the kitchen and we made it through. What a great experience! I wish to thank everyone that took part in the Sesshin for all of their hard effort and gratitude!

I don’t know when I will be able to take part in Sesshin again as it definitely takes a toll on a family with a small child. At this point I really have to put my nose to the grindstone and make things happen for the Brand Fam so Rache and Iza can have a better life.

Thanks again Rache and Iza! I will do everything I can to repay you for this time.

Alicia of Pura Vida in San Miguel Allende made these incredible gluten free shortcakes to celebrate our last day of the retreat.
Alicia of Pura Vida in San Miguel Allende made these incredible gluten free shortcakes to celebrate our last day of the retreat.


Alicia and Ithaca Zen Center Monk, Polly, Preparing the Vegan Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcake.


The Finished Dessert. I made the rhubarb sauce with fresh rhubarb from the Zen Center garden and also made the raw cashew cream for the topping. Finished off with a spearmint sprig that grows everywhere.