Thursday, 2 February 2017

You Don't Need To Be Happy...

"Akira, my beloved, I see sweat beads on your forehead. Is there something that bothers you?", asked the wise old sage.

"I guess... I'm unsure. I don't feel like myself anymore.", said the concerned Akira.

"This 'myself' that you mention, what is that self like?", the sage enquired.



"Well I guess, I used to be crazy, full of life and always happy. My friends say I used to exude happiness anywhere and everywhere I went, you know, like a bundle of joy. But, now they tell me I have changed. They tell me I have lost my spark. I wonder if this is real, you know? Have I really forgotten how to be happy?", said Akira as he poured his heart out.

A faint smile subtly painted itself on the sage's face as he looked at Akira and disclosed, "Akira, you don't need to be happy. Just be content."

_____

Happiness is extremely overrated. The word happiness, with its simplistic connotation of pleasure, has gotten the whole world chasing and running behind an illusion of a perfect, happy life. People are inescapably judged based on their degree of happiness, and the amount of pleasure they derive from life. But really, one should watch out for this vicious circle of societal judgments and the need to acquire happiness as a measure of one's well-being. In this society, we are all just blind, leading blind. 



In the above interaction of Akira with the sage, those few wise words reveal how happiness is not what one's end goal should be. It should rather be contentment. One should work towards deriving satisfaction from their walk of life, rather than blindly running behind what society proclaims as happiness. Learning the skill of contentment is generally neglected as we have been taught to focus on attaining what we don't have instead of finding fulfilment in the realisation of what we do have. Contentment leaves you feeling fulfilled, satisfied and grateful, whereas happiness is fleeting, temporary and always accompanied by sadness. Hence, don't run after happiness, but rather work towards a well-balanced and well-prioritised life comprising of both materialistic and spiritual goals. 

People's perception of your well-being is not important, yours is. Don't worry about forgetting how to be happy, as long as you remember how to be content. 


#LaughingAnanas











Monday, 10 October 2016

Namo's Peanut Butter Banana Jelly

Snacking is probably a commonly shared favourite ritual of many of us. Now where healthy eating seems to be such a chore, most snacking choices are bound to be picked by unhealthy desires. 

My friend Namo, however, transferred her sweet tooth fetish on a nutritious banana by adding to it a generous spread of peanut butter, a pinch of cinnamon and a zigzag drip of brown rice syrup. 

Ingredients:

Banana
Whole Earth's Crunchy Peanut Butter - made of only peanuts and contains no added sugar!
Biona Organic Brown Rice Syrup - a healthy, yet sweet, alternative to maple syrup 
Cinnamon powder

I just tried it out myself (pictures below), and it tastes as beautiful as it looks. 
Happy snacking!







#LaughingAnanas #VeganVarieties

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Zizzi goes Vegan!


Pizza. Everyone knows pizza, everyone eats pizza. Kids grow up eating pizza, in fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, kids between 3 to 11 years of age prefer pizza over all other foods. Americans alone eat about 100 acres of pizza each day, translating into 350 slices of pizza eaten each second. Crazy? Not at all. It's only normal. Pizza is like the world's staple food.

In fact, in going vegan, I'm sure one of the biggest concerns one can have is how they will ever eat their pizza again. It surprises me how some of the mainstream restaurants don't take the dietary requirements of their vegan customers into consideration. They're not naive or unaware, just ignorant by choice. I make this claim based on experience. Last year, I wrote to PizzaExpress about the growing customer concern for restaurants to get their dietary needs right, in the hope they would take my recommendation of pizza infused with vegan cheese into consideration. And now, a year has passed by and I'm still in the hope of a surprise announcement from PizzaExpress introducing vegan cheese, or at least a reply to that email. 


Anyhow, the patience of the vegan community hasn't gone unanswered. Zizzi has done it! Can't believe I'm just finding out about this! In their March 2016 update, Zizzi announced a whole new vegan pizza with actual vegan cheese for their vegan customers. This is way beyond exciting! Zizzi is also the first restaurant chain in the UK to offer a vegan pizza with a mozzerella substitute. I highly recommend other restaurants to follow their lead, and I absolutely cannot wait to try this one out! #HappyTimes

Meanwhile, check out some Instagram pictures of people who tried it and reviewed it to be 'amazing':










#LaughingAnanas

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Perspective; To Each Their Own

In a conversation...

Akira conveys, "You know what the problem with my life is? I never have anything I want. I've been dreaming to become the richest villager so I can finally afford to buy cattle and maybe a bullock cart and–"

"Dear Akira, look at this tiny snail gliding away on his path. Do you know the purpose of his life? He travels all day in the search of juicy leaves, and reverts back into his shell at the sight of predators. That is all he needs to survive. So Akira, do you have everything you need to survive?", the sage questions leaving Akira speechless. 



_ _ _ _

Perspective. When I think about this word, I remember a beautiful scene from the movie Ratatouille. If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, well, see below. 


Perspective is the most individualistic and personal something. Everyone we know is half a glass of water, and the remaining glass is their perspective. It's your perspective that determines whether you see yourself as half a glass full of water, or half a glass short of water, whether you focus on what you have or what you're missing. Either way, it plays a very important role in our lives. 

More often than not, we outlook the role of this important aspect. We forget that it exists and we forget that it varies for every different person. For instance, an hour long workout may be a blessing to someone, and yet dreadful to someone else. Let's think of the caring husband who always remembers to bring red roses every Valentine's. If ever, he misses out on conducting the ritual, the wife is sure to conclude that with the forgone roses, the husband's love too is forgone. However, does this wife stop to think about the husband's day and probable stresses that may have been a factor behind his slip of mind? Maybe, maybe not. If she does, she's engaging herself in widening her own perspective to reach out to and see through that of her husband's, in which case she weaves a happy home. Contrariwise, if she doesn't, she's allowed dominance for her own perspective in disregarding his, leading to nothing but negativity and resentment, gradually weaving a discontent home. But, what's the point?



   
Is there really much point in feeling the need to change everyone's perspective to match your own? Where one can never have control or dominance over other people's thoughts and perspective, such feelings will only cause pain and suffering in the long run. In that case, isn't it much better to rather work on widening our own horizons, and so, our own perspective? 

Ask yourself, do you go about your life like Akira, counting only your misfortunes and losses? Or do you step away from that every now and again, and grasp the snail's attitude of counting your blessings and achieving a sense of fulfilment in your bare necessities? 

#LaughingAnanas









Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Sunflower's Ego

"Akira, my beloved, why do you look so frustrated?", asked the wise, old sage. 

"Because I am! I'm extremely frustrated and angry!" exclaims the furious Akira. 

"Oh dear" says the wise, old sage as he comforts Akira. "What is it that makes you feel like that?"

"It's my friend, Habiki!", exclaims Akira. "He tires me, makes my head hurt. Whenever I tell him something, he resorts to an argument and we always end up fighting rather than resolving my problem. I do so much for him and I'm always being the bigger person. And Habiki? He only thinks about himself. He's selfish!" 

"Akira dear, come sit next to me," said the sage welcoming Akira into his space, "I would like to tell you the story of a sunflower.




"Once upon a time, there lived a sunflower who was the King of his kind back in the day. He was as bright as the Sun above us, and his charm had every flower in the field blush at his mere sight. He attracted the bees like no other, and flaunted his beautiful yellow petals all day long. His tall, sturdy stalk supported his large flower head, just as it also supported the cucumber vines that grew alongside. 

"The sunflower's pride was larger than his head, and he despised the cucumber vines growing on his stem. He would always complain that the cucumber is good for nothing, and all it can do is using his sturdy stalk to provide himself with a natural trellis. 'I am the mightiest of all,' he would say, 'without my shade and support, this cucumber would never be able to grow. I am done being used by him for his own selfish reasons, I want my freedom!' 

"With this thought, the sunflower decided to kill the cucumber plant by moving his petals to an angle and withdrawing his shade on the plant. The cucumber slowly starts to shrivel and burn in heat, while the sunflower is overjoyed with his victory. 


"As the weeks passed after cucumber's demise, the sunflower lost his charm and colour. Bees lost their attraction towards it and weeds took over all its soil, along with the nutrients in it. More so, the farmer's continuous over-watering loosened the soil in which its roots were engrained. The sunflower fell feeble. One day, his stalk wasn't able to sustain his weight anymore, and as it let loose, the sunflower clobbered down forgoing his life and his pride."

As the sage finished reciting his story, he looked at Akira fondly and said:

"Being a bigger person is not about validating our position, but rather forgoing the need to be right in every instance."


____

The sage's story depicts a powerful sunflower who saw nothing beyond himself. He felt mightier than the cucumber, and this feeling translated into his perception of being bigger and better than everyone else. The doom of the sunflower is a metaphorical representation of people who are deluded into believing they're always right and virtuous, failing to see the value of the person they're in conflict with. In the story above, the sunflower failed to realise that it was the cucumber plant that reduced the growth of weeds and assured the soil doesn't remain over-watered. All he could see was the support it provided the cucumber, and not the value of cucumber vines on its existence. 

The story portrays that strength, power and believing one is always right does not make them a bigger person. All this can achieve is the validation of one's own position, in victimising others with their own bitterness and insecurities. 



Thereafter, a person who aims to resolve a conflict and comes out of the battle feeling empowered as he confirmed to himself and to others that he was a bigger person by taking the charge of solving a conflict even though he was victimised, is still not a bigger person. 

On the contrary, a bigger person is someone who doesn't see himself as bigger or mightier than others, whether it's in their power or their action. For instance, if someone forgives the other and comes out as feeling like a bigger person because they let go of the issue, in reality hasn't let go of the issue. All they're doing is identifying with their ego of, in this case, being a bigger person and empowering it by conducting the action of forgiveness and directly or indirectly letting the other person feel indebted to them. Hence, a bigger person is someone like the cucumber plant, who goes on performing his duty without seeking any attention or having the need to feel superior than others.  

A bigger person is someone who forgoes the opportunity to be right and lets go of his attachment to the conflict situation. It's the one who understands that being right will not translate into peace of mind or any sort of fulfilment, and knows that in setting off to prove ourselves right, all we can ever end up doing is prolonging our own suffering. 

To end this type of suffering, one needs to train themselves into disidentifying from their ego and practice ceasing the need to always be right. 



#LaughingAnanas










Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Bella's Battered Tofu #VeganVarieties


Vegans are frequently misunderstood as abnormal herbivores who choose to eat grass and miss out on protein, despite having the choice to do otherwise. Alongside this popular belief, they're also termed as boring individuals who'd rather live on supplements than eating a living, breathing animal. 

There is a severe lack of awareness about vegans and veganism. The goal of this post is not to impart more knowledge on animal cruelty than we already have out there, as let's face it, most of us are content playing the role of informed ignorants. So let's sidetrack from the primary motivation of veganism and have a go at raising awareness beyond animal exploitation, and against the so-called 'boredom' of a vegan diet. In all honesty, vegan food can be as varied as you would like it to be. All you have to do is start creating!

Every now and then, I'll post featured recipes of food you wouldn't imagine to be vegan, along with their health benefits that'll assure you keep away from supplements and attain a well balanced diet. So if you have a great recipe, a signature meal or anything that's fancy and vegan, you can share it with me for a feature on Laughing Ananas. Find my contact details at the end of this post. 


TODAY'S FEATURE: Battered Tofu, by TheVeganSurvivalGuide 




Ingredients

Battered tofu:
1 brick firm tofu
3 cups vegetable oil (this quantity may vary for every individual)
1 cup brown rice flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp of salt
Pinch of pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup sparkling water (cold)

Veggies:
4 heads baby bok choy, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces 
1/2 cup button mushrooms, chopped 
1/4 cup trimmed and chopped spring onions
1 red bell pepper, chopped  
Sesame seeds to top 

Sauce:
Sweet and sour sauce (store bought or make your own) 

Recipe

Drain the brick of tofu and cut it into bite-sized cubes. Place on a paper towel to absorb excess water while preparing the batter. 
Prepare the batter by combining the flour, cornstarch, salt, garlic powder and pepper all together in a mixing bowl. 
Now, prepare the vegetables in a separate saucepan with heated oil. Add all of the vegetables and cook for 5-8 minutes, adding the sweet and sour sauce towards the end. 
During that time, add the sparkling water to the batter mixture and combine well.
In a medium pot, heat the vegetable oil. This is to prepare the tofu, the quantity of the oil is dependent on how well you want to fry the tofu. The healthier option is obviously lesser oil and less frying. 
Using your hands, coat 3-4 cubes of tofu in the batter and drop each one (carefully) into the frying oil.
Fry for 2-3 minutes or until crispy. 
Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and let them sit on paper towel to absorb excess oil. Continue this process with the remaining tofu cubes. 
Add the tofu cubes to the sauce and vegetables and mix together before serving with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. 
You can have this with brown rice, or on it's own.



Health Benefits

Tofu is made from soybeans curds which are gluten-free and low calorie, contain no cholesterol and are an excellent source of protein, iron and calcium for vegans. 
It is also an excellent source of micronutrients such as essential amino acids, and contains the minerals zinc and vitamin B1. It is well acknowledged to provide the protection against cancer and heart disease in the same way soya beans do. Soya protein also helps lower the levels of bad cholesterol! 

Bok Choy is a rich source of vitiamins C, A and K. It also contains important proteins and dietary fibre. It is very nutrient dense which helps promote strong bones, a healthy heart and protects from cancer. 

____

Hope you enjoyed that recipe. For a feature, contact me on: laughingananas@gmail.com or you can also follow me and DM me on Instagram
And don't forget to follow Bella on TheVeganSurvivalGuide, she's great!




#LaughingAnanas


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The snake and the peacock

"O knower of all things born, I come to you with great despair in search of answers. I feel... I feel like I might die soon!", says the panting Akira.

"Akira dear, I haven't seen you in a while", says the wise, old sage as he greets Akira while peeling his apple. "Would you like an apple?"

"Apple?!", exclaims Akira. "I'm telling you I feel like I'm going to die and you're offering me an apple? How does that help?"

"Akira, my beloved, come sit next to me and have some of this apple. It's juicy, you know?", the sage emanates a comforting smile. 

Akira manages to calm down a little, grabs a piece of the apple and questions the sage, "How are people able to live so long? I feel like I might die soon. With each new emotional trauma, I feel that the poison of my negative emotions continues to spread through my body, slowly squeezing the soul out of it. I feel so weak, and I am certain I will not be able to take another blow of poison disguised in my negative emotions. And there's nothing I can do because one's emotions are obviously out of one's control, just like the weather, and obviously even if I try I-"

"Dear Akira, look at that beautiful peacock flaunting his feathers", the sage interrupts Akira. 


Akira looks at the peacock and remarks, "I'm surprised to see him so calm despite the deadly, venomous snake slithering his way towards him."

As the two indulge themselves in seeing the exchange between the snake and the peacock, they notice that the snake rises up to infiltrate his venom into the peacock's body and steal his life methodically. But just before the snake can fulfil his destiny, the peacock promptly grabs the reptile by his beak and gobbles him down like he never existed. In devouring the snake's venom, the peacock shudders and quivers, but then miraculously exudes colours all the more vibrant and plumage all the more beautiful.

"Whoa!", exclaims Akira. "I've never seen something like that!"

"Yes, quite fascinating indeed.", the sage agrees. "Poisonous snakes are the truth of life. But to die with poisonous bites is certainly not our destiny. The choice is ultimately ours, to be bitten by poison or to bite the poison."

_____

We are swarmed by, what we perceive as negative emotions, in our daily lives. And to be honest, these feelings of anger, anxiety and pain will never cease to exist as they're a part of our existence. They only get stronger with each blow as we allow them to feed on us. So, do we have a choice?

The peacock in this story sets a great example. Instead of being bitten by venom, he chooses to accept the venom. He recognizes the venom, ingests it, digests it and transforms it into beautiful colours. Just like the peacock, our challenge is to recognize our negative emotions, gulp them down and accept them, and use them to empower our minds rather than being empowered by them. 



Read a book, feed a dog, go for a walk. There are countless means of harmonizing selves with universe again, despite the blow of negative emotions. Take the initiative and transform, just like the peacock.

#LaughingAnanas