A Peaceful Day at Samye Ling

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A little while ago, my husband and I spent a day at one of my favourite places, Samye Ling. Founded in 1967, Kagyu Samye Ling was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Europe, and the red-robed monks with shaved heads were an incongruous sight in the little Scottish town where I grew up. I’ve been visiting Samye Ling since I was a teenager, and over the years I’ve come with friends to buy books and prayer flags from the shop, chat over cups of tea in the café or sit peacefully in the temple. Nine years ago now, I suggested visiting Samye Ling as one of our very first dates as my then boyfriend (now husband) had never been before, and we’ve returned several times throughout our relationship.

In keeping with the Buddhist belief that everything is impermanent and ever-changing, Samye Ling is a work in progress and there is always something new or slightly different every time we visit. Nevertheless, I’m always struck by how calm and unhurried the pace of life at Samye Ling is, yet somehow the work still gets done.

I often write about slowing down because it is not something that comes naturally to me. Like many of my peers, I’ve rushed through life treating significant milestones like items on a to-do-list to be ticked off one by one, instead of achievements to be celebrated or precious moments to be savoured. Many of us are so impatient to reach our destination that we barely experience the journey itself, yet watching the monks mindfully – and joyfully – going about their daily routines and chores always reminds me just how calming and restorative it is to immerse ourselves in the here and now.

This has been a turbulent year for us with illnesses and injuries – as well as daily news reports of terrorist attacks, natural disasters and political unrest – reminding us just how fragile and fleeting life is, but I feel very grateful for the people and places that help me to find peace and contentment in the present moment. So much has happened since the first time we visited Samye Ling together, and so much has changed, yet some things have remained constant, like the serenity of Samye Ling and the steadying presence of my husband as we walk hand-in-hand through life together. Have a lovely week. X

Tofu Quesadilla

A quick and tasty Mexican-inspired recipe, ideal for lunch or a light supper.

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Ingredients:

1 Onion, finely diced

1 Garlic clove, crushed or finely diced

140g of firm Tofu, drained and chopped into small cubes

120g of Cheese, grated

Handful of Cherry or Baby Plum Tomatoes, finely sliced

1 tsp of Chipotle Chili Powder

1tsp of Ancho or Guajillo Chili Powder

4 small Tortillas

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Method:

In a bowl, mix the cubed tofu with the chili powder.

Pour a dash of oil in a small pan on a medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, fry gently for around 5 minutes or until onions turn translucent.

Add the tofu to the pan and mix thoroughly. Heat for 3-5 minutes until warm through. Remove the pan from the heat and add the tomatoes, mix well.

Heat a large frying pan on a low heat. Fold the tortillas in half or using the back of a knife press a line along the middle. When pan is warm, place one tortilla flat on the pan.

Sprinkle a layer of cheese over half the tortilla, when the cheese starts to melt, spread a layer of the spiced tofu, tomatoes and onion over the cheese.

Once the underside of the tortilla starts to crisp, fold in half and press down to seal, then remove from the pan. Repeat the process with the remaining tortillas and tofu.

Serve whole or cut in half.

Review of ‘Temeraire’ by Naomi Novik

Temeraire

Temeraire is set during the Napoleonic Wars, but in a slightly alternative history where dragons exist. The story begins just after Captain Will Laurence of the HMS Reliant has taken command of a French ship carrying a dragon egg. Soon after, the egg hatches and the dragon chooses Laurence to be his rider, a role he is at first reluctant to accept as being bound to a dragon means giving up his naval career, plans to marry his childhood sweetheart and his position in polite society as (despite their vital contribution to the war) dragon riders are largely shunned by the rest of society. However, a bond quickly develops between Laurence and the dragon he names Temeraire, and their relationship is at the heart of this story.

Once they have joined the British Aerial Corps, both Temeraire and Laurence feel like misfits as Temeraire discovers he is a rare breed but lacks the fire-breathing or acid-spitting abilities of the other dragons, while Laurence struggles with the informality of the Aerial Corps and the inclusion of female dragon riders. The dragons themselves are all wonderful characters, and the plight of one particularly loyal and brave dragon brought tears to my eyes.

This an engaging story, but there are some pacing issues as Laurence and Temeraire don’t see any combat until the last third of the story. Having said that, the aerial battles are thrilling and capture the danger and savagery of combat for the dragons and their crews.

I’m a bit apprehensive about committing to a nine-book-long series, yet I found Temeraire quick to read and a little twist at the end left me eager to find out what happens next. Have a lovely weekend. X