Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsYour heart was long thought to be the center of your being, the seat of your soul. English physician William Harvey wrote in 1653 that "The heart is situated at the 4th and 5th ribs. Therefore [it is] the principal part because [it is in] the principal place, as in the center of a circle, the middle of the necessary body."

Andreas de Laguna wrote in 1535 that "If indeed from the heart alone rise anger or passion, fear, terror, and sadness; if from it alone spring shame, delight, and joy, why should I say more?" (Both quotes from A History of the Heart.)

To live in a heart-centered way, there are three main areas to consider: physical exercise, nutrition, and emotional intelligence.

Aerobic exercise is useful for the heart to improve blood circulation and subsequent oxygen saturation in the cells. We've suggested dancing and jumping rope before, now how about walking? If the weather happens to be getting warmer where you are in the world, consider walking outside. If you like jogging and your joints are happy about it, walking really fast is always an option! You can start small and run for 2 minutes, walk for 2, and up the minutes running while winding restful walking minutes down as you get fitter.

What we put in our bodies is equally as important as how much we move them. I thoroughly enjoy the recipes on blog.fatfreevegan.com, and we've tried many of them. For example, this lentil version of the traditional shepherd's pie.

(You'll note the instructions are a lot more detailed than what I've put before - perhaps an indication of Type differences in Sensing and Intuiting? ;-))

Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie

Nava writes, “There are no words to describe this recipe other than ‘a deep dish of absolute comfort.’”

Recipe is Copyright ©Nava AtlasVegan Holiday Kitchen, Sterling, 2011; pictures are mine. We used kale instead of spinach, soy instead of rice milk, added carrots, and didn't use oil, seasoning mix, or cornstarch. Now, the fresh thyme - that's what made the recipe. And rosemary.

Ingredients

Pre-assemble...

  • 8 large or 10 medium potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated margarine*
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil*
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • Two 15-ounce cans lentils, lightly drained but not rinsed (or about 3 1/2 cups cooked lentils with a little of their cooking liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine, optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos*
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning blend (such as Spike or Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 8 to 10 ounces baby spinach or arugula leaves
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs (gluten-free if needed)

Instructions

  1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. 
    Shepherd's Pie w/ breadcrumbsDrain and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Stir the margarine into the potatoes until melted, then add the rice milk and mash until fluffy. Cover and set aside until needed. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
  4. Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the optional wine, soy sauce, seasoning blend, thyme, and pepper. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve in a small container. Stir into the lentil mixture.
  5. Add the spinach, a little at a time, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.
  6. Lightly oil a 2-quart (preferably round) casserole dish, or two deep-dish pie plates. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom. Pour in the lentil mixture, then spread the potatoes evenly over the top. If using two pie plates, divide each mixture evenly between them.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

Susan’s Notes

*This recipe comes out equally delicious without the margarine or olive oil. Mash the potatoes with the rice milk only, and use a non-stick pan to sauté the onion, adding a splash of vegetable broth if needed to prevent sticking.

Most regular soy sauce contains gluten. Look for a specially-marked gluten-free version if you’re cooking for someone who’s gluten-sensitive and omit if soy is an issue.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s) | Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Emotional intelligence helps keep our hearts healthy in that we can apply strategies and learn e.g. not to worry incessantly about things beyond our control. Stress is man-made and has physiological effects on the body and the heart; it quickens the beat and raises our blood pressure.

Whether you have Thinking or Feeling preferences, everybody experiences emotions. Understanding and managing them effectively enables you to lessen their negative impact. Here's where I find Brené Brown's work so groundbreaking: she found that we numb ourselves to avoid negative emotions. Fear, shame, embarrassment - we deal with them by e.g. eating too much, drinking too much, taking medication, or vegging out in front of the TV. The problem is that we cannot numb emotions selectively: if you numb your fear, you're numbing your joy at the same time. If you numb your shame, you're numbing your love at the same time. If you numb your embarrassment, you're numbing your empathy at the same time.

To allow your heart to feel happy, you have to allow it to feel sad. To not let that drag you down a vicious cycle, you have to acknowledge that all emotions happen and have value without getting overly attached to them. Even the good ones. Dr. Brown suggests embracing vulnerability, and if you've seen her video before, why not take a few minutes to review it. If you haven't seen it yet, please take 20 minutes of your time and enjoy:

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