• On Strength, Health, and Sanity

    The day after Paying Attention was published, I received a thoughtful email from a friend and faithful reader of my posts. She usually writes back to let me know what the post meant to her, ask me questions, and at times challenge me to go deeper. These email conversations have become our little ritual and I love it. After I posted Paying Attention, I sat with what I had written. I felt that the post was incomplete. There was more to be said about how each of us is handling the tremendous stress and pressure we’re experiencing. There’s nothing simple or straightforward about our current, collective experience. When I received my friend’s reply to the post, something she said gave me pause. I asked her permission to share one of her comments and decided to jump-start a conversation based on her experience. This is what she said … I have found lately that I have wanted to be less introspective. I think I am less willing to look inward now even though the time is…

  • Paying Attention

    Is there anyone among us who doesn’t know by now that we’re being shaken to our core by immense social and global changes? There’s the ever-evolving pandemic, the chaotic political landscape, and the recent, long-due protests that the NY Times is calling “the largest movement in the country’s history, according to interviews with scholars and crowd-counting experts.” Although we all inhabit this world at the same time, our individual experience of the crises are not of the same intensity. Yes, our lives have been disrupted and our rhythms and rituals upended. But then, there’s loss of life, livelihood, and security. There’s a thundering, universal demand for letting go. Letting go of old belief systems and destructive behaviors. Letting go of our attachment for things to go back to the way they’ve always been. Letting go of our need to be comfortable. Letting go of our tendency to turn a blind eye. Letting go of our illusions, among other things. The ground underneath our feet is shifting and emotions run high. Everything’s up in the air,…

  • Jack of All Trades

    Thirty plus years and what seems like a lifetime ago, someone made two statements that have stayed with me. You’re made of stuff that changes, she said and proceeded to tell me that I was a Jack of all trades and master of none. I remember my breath stopping as I took a pause, trying to figure out why the latter felt like an insult. Time passed and I came to understand and appreciate that, yes, indeed I am made of stuff that changes. Not that I can’t be stubborn or blind to my failings at times but I do try to stay open to possibilities. I am curious and willing to change. As for being a Jack of all trades, I have to confess that I felt the sting of this comment for many years. But why? Let’s see. I have always contended with a heightened sense of perfectionism. At times it worked for me, most of the times it worked for everybody else, and often it left me in conflict. I can blame…

  • What’s in a Day

    A couple of days ago I was listening to Tara Brach as an intro to my morning meditation. In her talk, she referred to RAIN: Cultivating Mindfulness in Difficult Times; a four-step process we can use when we find ourselves in the grip of difficult emotions. When we can’t see the forest for the trees, RAIN can help us cut through the stress and confusion by: Recognizing what is happening. Allowing what is to be. Investigating our experience, gently without judgment. Nurturing what needs to be nurtured, with kindness. As I listened to Tara Brach walking me through the four steps, I found myself at a place of honest recognition and raw vulnerability. I was able to sit with whatever was triggering me and allow it to exist without trying to change the narrative and distract myself. It was a rewarding experience. You can play with RAIN anytime and anywhere. Right now, as you’re sitting, just close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and scan your body. What comes up for you? Is…

  • The Eye of the Storm

    We're being hit by a powerful storm. We're asked to take cover and wait it out. We're trying to care for our family and keep healthy, while working from home. We're trying really hard to keep our perspective and maintain hope. Staying calm, sane, and present with ourselves in the midst of chaos is not easy.

  • Breathing Through the Storm

    Only a few months ago, our family entered yet another phase of endings and new beginnings. Our twin daughters, having graduated college, found jobs, moved out of the family home, and launched their new lives in earnest. Three weeks ago, both of them, having being asked to work from home, made the trip back to the family homestead to weather the storm. There are suitcases lying around and a dining table covered in laptops and paperwork. One of them begins the day with an early video conference call, at the end of which she’s joined at the table by her sister, who also begins to work. Neal too is working from home, distance teaching, and meeting with his students and staff members over video. I’m doing my best to keep a sense of routine for me while making sure there’s food for all and keeping the house in relative order. Our little dog is confused. So many people, so much traffic. What happened, mom? We had just started to settle. Surprise, surprise… To top it…

  • Here. Now.

    Today is the first day of Spring. Only this day of new beginnings is like no other that I remember. We are in the middle of a global epidemic. The world is taken over by a crisis and we’re all trying to muddle through a situation we hardly understand. There’s fear, anxiety, panic, and information overload. There’s also denial and indifference. Supermarket shelves are empty and human nature is laid bare for all to see. There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. I was in a store yesterday staring at empty shelves when a young employee came to see if I could find what I needed. No, I said, the shelves are empty but it’s okay, I’ll come back. He said his mother, who can only go shopping when she gets her paycheck, is not able to buy extra supplies. He’s worried about her. I didn’t know what to say. I felt sad. I’ve been feeling increasingly sad and I know you are too. I’m thinking of the people whose livelihoods are being endangered…

  • Saying No: An Act of Self-Care and Self-Respect and It Doesn’t Have to Be Hard.

      Imagine a stream of water. Its source begins at the top of a mountain. Down it travels toward the sea; its water supply renewed by rain and melted snow. The stream winds through villages and towns and soon it takes the form of a strong, plentiful river. The people who live along its banks use the water to grow their crops and sustain themselves. They’re grateful, but soon, they begin to take the river and its abundance for granted. They’ve come to believe that the river will be there forever, filled with cool, clean water for them to use and support their lives. Then, things begin to change. There’s a long period of drought and the river is not renewed. In the meantime, the villagers continue to draw water as usual. Their needs are met. This goes on for some time, until the river becomes a stream, a trickle, and finally dries out. Now what? What if I were to tell you that you’re the river? And . . . if you’re the river, whose…

  • You Got Rhythm

    My mother loved to dance. She taught me how to listen and feel the rhythm of the music. “You can’t dance if you don’t have rhythm,” she used to say. She taught me the waltz and the tango and some folk dances. The Flamenco from Spain, the Kalinka and the Cossack from Russia, the Tarantella from Italy, and of course a number of Greek regional dances.  Music and dancing were a big part of my childhood and the main form of entertainment duringfamily gatherings, national holidays, seasonal celebrations, and informal gatherings.  Folk music and dancing are deeply rooted in the collective experience of the people in world regions. They tell a story — of how people lived and loved, of hardship and triumph, love and betrayal, desire, disappointment, and heartache — and when the music begins you can feel the emotions in your body. The story takes over when you dance.  When I became a mother, my daughters showed me that there is contentment in personal rhythm. They were two of the happiest babies and…

  • Off To College Already? How’s That Possible?

    Five airports, three hotels, thousands of miles, two car rentals, five college tours later, we got back home at 1am on Saturday morning. I was tired and sleepwalked through the day. Neal and I went to New Haven to return the rental car and took the opportunity to go and sit at our favorite Mexican restaurant. There were margueritas involved. We needed this down time but, of course, we still got to talking about . . . well, the girls and colleges. The thing about having twins is that there’s no dress rehearsal. For those of you who have heard me saying this before, I apologize for being repetitive. You see, they do everything together . . . or, almost together. This togetherness can be a blessing and a curse. For us parents, it’s been sink or swim. We’re raising two first-born children . . . in every possible way:-) As for the girls, they can’t wait to get away from our little town and each other, and experience the world alone! I understand. After…

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