2009 Themed Reading Challenge

I am participating in two group reading challenges this year.
My yahoo reading group Mostlygroups always has a monthly challenge. This Jan. I read Dubliners’ by Joyce for our classic month. Next up I need to pick a “chunkster” for the month of Feb. Something over 600 pages.

The other group challenge I am participating in is a themed challege hosted by www.caribousmom.com.

The Rules:

1. Books should be chosen from the reader’s TBR pile (this may be an actual physical pile or a virtual pile). The challenge will from February 1, 2009 – July 31, 2009.
2. The goal is to read 4 to 6 books linked by theme.
3. Overlaps with other challenges are allowed.
4. Readers may change their list of books at any time.
5. Readers may choose three different levels of participation:

– Read at least 4 books with the same theme.
– Read at least 5 books that share at least TWO themes.
– Read at least 6 books that share MORE than two themes.

I picked option one but I may try for option 2, read 5 books with two themes since I have three shared themes already.

I am reading 4 Buddhist books in a few short months. All books are from my TBR pile and are written by Tibetan monks who have in one way or another affected me in a very personal way.

My list includes:
A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night by The Dalai Lama
The Art of Happiness at work by The Dalai Lama
Destructive Emotions by The Dalai Lama (this could be my Feb chunkster!)
Ego, Attachment and Liberation by Lama Yeshe

Between these two challenges, my TBR challenge and school starting up again, I may be reading 24/7.

Ritual Cleaning and Jell-O

From the New York Times, Feb, 2008:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/nyregion/07nuns.html
Ha Tran was applying the final swipes on Saturday to a 20-foot Buddhist statue inside a Chinatown temple. It took two days, but Mrs. Tran, a 62-year-old Vietnamese immigrant, lovingly washed every one of the deity’s thousand arms and did the same for its 10 heads. Balanced on scaffolding, she painstakingly removed 12 months of accumulated dust and incense in time for the Chinese New Year on Thursday, her yearly rite for 22 years.

I am fascinated with cleaning rituals. I love the idea of starting over or as the saying goes “starting with a clean slate”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wait 12 months to dust or wait until the new year to give my home a bath, but I do feel there is a special significance in starting the New Year with some type of cleaning ritual. The Chinese feel it is necessary to sweep towards the door and on the front porch. This releases the bad luck and removes it from the house. The Jewish ritual involves a spiritual cleansing. The way 2008 turned out both types of cleansing sound right to me.

This January I started the new year with a renewed faith in myself, sort of a spiritual cleansing of my negative thoughts and actions. I have some medical battles to fight this coming year and I am determined to face them with a positive attitude. I am one to always look for ways to better myself and so I view this battle not as a health issue but as a spiritual battle much like the one Arjuna was forced to face in the Bhagavad Gita. In the end I am hoping for a victory for my heart (it will receive a new valve) and soul (it will be cleansed of negative emotions). See why metaphorical cleansing rituals are a fascination for me?

Today I decided to clean out my spice cupboard as part of my new year cleaning spree. I noticed lately some of my recipes have not been coming out quite right. The flavor is lacking in many of my dishes. Turns out many of my spices have been expired for a year or two! All of my “Italian” spices (rosemary, thyme, basil etc…) all smelled the same; like old grass clippings. No wonder my basil chicken is bland and my spaghetti is sub-par. And did you know Jell-O packets have expiration dates? It is true! Jell-O, the magic gelatin goes bad. Yes I call anything that goes from powder to dark chocolate pudding in five minutes magic!

So now I have one more item to add to my list of new year rituals. I will go through my pantry and spice cupboard looking for expired cans and jars. Buying new basil, rosemary thyme etc… will (excuse the pun but here it comes) add spice to the upcoming year!

Now it is your turn, tell me your new year’s rituals or of any cleaning rituals you may have. I am always looking for spring cleaning tips!