Exploring mindfulness


Lately I’ve been noticing that “mindfulness” seems to be everywhere these days –including mainstream news.  As the term is bandied about I’m often surprised by where I’m seeing it or who is talking about it, but as I look at much of what is being said, I question how well many people really understand mindfulness.

In many places I see people speaking of it as if it’s only about controlling your mind as an act of will. To me mindfulness is so much more, I feel a little sad every time I see someone settle for such a narrow idea — or for the particularly American tendency to want to control everything, including the mind.

After sitting with a vipassana group for a year I began seeing how many forms of practice there are in which you can quiet your mind into a single focus and achieve more mindfulness:  yoga practiced with breath, or yoga nidra when followed with focus, or chanting when concentrating on the words of the chant,or pranayama while noting only the breath, etc.  To me the point is using practice to learn how it feels to be in the moment in a state of “empty mind” and peacefulness.

When you keep practicing, your mind starts learning to stay more quiet all the time, the state of calm begins to expand throughout your life, and your whole perspective shifts.  It’s so much more than just wrestling my thoughts into submission in a given moment.

When I complete a practice I’m in a space or a zone that has its own feeling tone.  I feel it in my heart.  I feel the calm throughout my body.  I feel in tune with something larger than myself.  Tapped into the Universe.

To me, mindfulness is more about surrender than controlling or willing anything.  In emptying my mind and flowing with the chant or pose or breath or silence, I let go of managing and fall into what Wayne Dyer called “the gap”.  Over time I also learned surrender involves letting the practices take me wherever they lead.

Plans have gone awry and life has unfolded in ways that would never have crossed my mind if I’d kept trying to follow a blueprint designed long ago.  Sometimes it’s uncomfortable.  Sometimes it’s scary.  I wouldn’t change any of it.  I like the person I’m becoming.  The change from being mercurial to finding equanimity, from neurotic to peaceful, from anxious to calm…

The quiet mind achieved in mindfulness practices doesn’t involve controlling thoughts.  It’s a space encompassing the moment and peace and higher consciousness.  With practice the space begins to fill life more and more with presence in the moment.  From that place of presence, you can choose to hold onto a thought or let it go.

But you don’t learn true mindfulness if you just try to force your mind regularly to moments when you pick different thoughts.  You’re missing so much if you don’t let yourself be taken to the place where mindfulness is a way of being present, calm, connected and new.


New Year Challenge: the positive view

Louise Hay Affirmation

In surprising ways the unfortunate outcome of the 2016 U.S. election wound up leading me to a transformational year in 2017.  One change arose from the outpouring of vitriol that started appearing on social media.  The constant dire warnings, fake news reports and generally combative tone that filled my Facebook wall led me to turn in the other direction.  I began looking for positive news every day and after a while it changed me.

When people write or speak about the terrible problems of the world today, I now just think, “you’re not looking in the right places if you think that represents the majority of the world.”  Seriously.  The media has chosen to emphasize things that frighten people and it suits the powers that be because the fear helps them collect funds for military, police, etc. and to distract people from the real causes of problems by giving them “others” to point the finger at.

We pay a price for the focus offered by our leaders and the media.  It shapes our world view and keeps us from seeing or acknowledging the multitudes of good people and good events that happen all around us.  Julia Bacha discussed this brilliantly in this short piece:

I started hunting around and found The Good News Network, the Positive News Network, the Huffington Post’s good news section, and SunnySkyz.com, to name a few, where I can find stories of heroism, altruism, innovation, environmental turn-arounds, etc. on a daily basis.  I also found groups working for peace and compassion, people promoting compassionate discourse, etc.

After months of looking for good news every day (along with a lot of chanting and meditating), I suddenly realized I could look at the mainstream news and just shrug because I no longer believed it represented a true picture of the world.  My whole outlook has been shifting and the more I seek and find amazing stories of kindness, heroism, ingenuity, etc., the more I believe the world is filled with more good than we let ourselves see.

So my challenge to you for 2018 is:  Look for the good.  Every day, find a story that uplifts or inspires you.  Check out the We Are the World blogfest, for which people post positive stories from around the world every month, as well as the above links to find great stuff.  Search for groups and/or organizations that are working for peace or to help people.

Then I invite you to write about how it has affected you personally to explore the positive side every day.  Sign up here for a month in which you would like to post and when your month arrives, put up your post, link to this post, tag it 2018PositivityChallenge and link to the next person on the list.

I’m starting it off with Feb. 20 to give the first person time enough to search for positive stories and see how it affects him or her.

Feb. 20, 2018

Mar. 20

April 20

May 20

June 20

July 20

August 20

September 20

October 20

December 20

January 20, 2019

Let me know in the comments if you want a particular date.

Over Christmas?

For some years now my mother and I look at one another periodically through the holiday season and declare, “I have no Christmas spirit at all.”  I’m not sure why I lost my Christmas mojo other than too many years of less than no energy and a dwindling budget though I have a feeling the energy transition occurring now is part of it.  I can’t even decide if I care, if I’m numb or, more likely, if I’m just in a space where the hoorah of it all doesn’t matter to me any more.

I used to get excited.  I’d shop for a tree after Thanksgiving, decorate it and the house and enjoy every minute.  I also spent much of my adult life living away from my parents (both when together and later singly) and traveling at Christmas, so there was a big trip to add some excitement, which often meant also seeing other family members or old friends.

Since I am an only child and never married, there haven’t been children or grandchildren to enjoy the holidays.  When my mother first moved back here and I visited, there were lots of friends and family who gave parties at Christmas and we’d hop from one event to another.  Then, when I moved here, I added a few annual parties given by friends of mine.  Mom’s friends and many of the relatives have died or grown too old to throw parties and my groups have kind of given up, so no big festivities to attend.

Aside from watching too many Hallmark movies, I’ve developed a tradition of attending a candle lighting service at a local “center for spiritual living”, a non-denominational “church”, with a friend of mine.   It’s always very moving and filled with love but otherwise Christmas just seems like a slog of buying and trips to the post office.

I managed to create a nice breakfast casserole and then a nice dinner for the day so my mother and I had a couple of special meals.  But my father lives far away and I worry about him, always alone.  This time he had a Christmas dinner invitation so that was a cause for joy for me.

At this point I mostly feel relief that we’re past another one.  All the decorations and hype make me feel like I “should” be experiencing some some sort of gaiety or euphoria for the season but I just don’t care that much about it any more.  I can’t even quite decide if I want to try to find the “Christmas spirit” again or if I prefer to just let it go…

I’ve been reading some channeled posts telling me that letting go of Christmas as we’ve known it is part of the move forward into the new  world/age.  So I’m curious whether this feeling of being kind of removed from Christmas is something others are experiencing or whether I’m just turning into Scrooge 🙂 ?

Book News

Three pieces of news on books to report:  new updates on two of mine and a free e-book on compassion.

I decided a few weeks ago that a revision and update was overdue for my little relationship booklet, Relating Heart to Heart.  It has some new material, including a little suggested reading list, and a new price point of $.99!

Exciting news from Barbara Franken at Me, My Magnificent Self, where she has completed a compilation of guest posts on compassion from this year.  The free e-book is called What is Compassion.  Click on the book photo below to go to the download page.



Finally, for anyone who knows a Wizard101 player, I did a massive edit, revision and update to my guide book to Wizard101 earlier this year.   It’s the most comprehensive guide to the game for players at levels 1-50 available and at only $2.99 on Kindle, it’s a bargain.  Click on photo to be taken to the Amazon page.



The Blessed Project 2017

Susie at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride has invited us all to create a post about our blessings and link to her post by Dec. 19.  Since I’ve been practicing gratitude and noting blessings, seems like a perfect project.


Another view from my spot

The last couple of years I began making a concerted effort to spend more time on our sun porch.  I love lots of light and our tree-surrounded house tends to be on the dark side except for the sun porch which not only has lots of windows and skylights but is blessedly the only area not shadowed by a big tree.

This year I managed to be really faithful about setting up for an hour or three of computer and/or reading and/or writing time out there most days and the light and airiness have really been a blessing!  Lifts my spirits and keeps the positive mojo working.

Ever since last year’s (U.S.) election, I’ve been focused on living from a place of lovingkindness and compassion.  I’ve been blessed to have learned many great tools for such a journey over many years and from some great teachers.  A number of teachers made videos and books available for free this year and I purchased some books that have helped as well.

As a long-time fan of Sharon Salzberg’s Lovingkindness:  The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, I was pleased to add Real Love.  Louise Hay offered me a book on mirror work and I meditated with Deepak and Oprah too.  Blessings all.

Coffee Love

When the coffee revolution began in the 70’s, some of my college friends pulled me into the world of fine coffees. Honed over the years as I lived in the land of the original (and far better) Starbucks and was privileged to spend time hanging out in cafes in Europe, my taste is pretty picky and I LOVE a great cup of coffee.  I’m able to order really good coffee from La Coppa (founder originally worked for Peet’s and then founded San Francisco’s Spinelli’s –which I loved when I lived there) and my daily pot of espresso is one of my most treasured moments every day.

After seeing Paul Hawken on Charlie Rose (not a blessing, btw, to have lost the pleasure of watching his show…), I got his wonderful book, Drawdown, which outlines the path to ending the climate crisis and, most important, argues that the seeds have already been sown.  I found it so uplifting and encouraging, I recommend everyone to read it.  Truly a blessing.

For some years I’ve talked about heading to Henry’s Clay’s estate, Ashland, to take a walk once in a while.  This year I finally made it something like 4 times (hey, better than the 0-1 times previously 🙂 ).  Childhood memories link me to the place and my love of history finds satisfaction in walking the lovely grounds of this historic place.  Blessed that it’s so close to me and each walk was its own blessing.

L Perfume

One of last year’s Christmas presents was this little perfume with a prominent scent of tobacco.  I wrote a longer post about it,  but the short version is:  it reminds me of driving around Lexington in my childhood at certain times when tobacco dried in lots of barns and the sweet scent filled the air.

Blessed healing journey

Sunset2 Dec 3 2017

A couple of friends recently commented on my ability to tune into patterns opening in my body.  It’s always nice to hear, but initially I didn’t give it much thought.  Last night, however, I was reflecting on this long healing process in light of their thoughts and noticed how I’ve mostly considered it and written about it as torture.  Now, I often look for the up side and I’ve written posts indicating some positive thoughts, but over all I must admit the general misery and discomfort of unwinding muscles and sleepless nights for the most part fill my focus.

Suddenly I could see more blessing in it.  Not only that the process has forced me to pay more attention to my body than I ever would have given it.  Not only that I have been able to mark progress on many fronts even while many people don’t quite believe healing in this form is happening.  But also a blessing because I seem to be on a very unusual path in this whole unwinding/healing muscle thing and I’m seeing that I’m in the privileged position of being a path finder.

When I first began complaining of fatigue and issues with my muscles, western medicine was swearing up one side and down the other that neither chronic fatigue nor fibromyalgia existed so their diagnosis was that I should see a shrink.  Period.  Alternative practitioners began providing answers and naming the two major issues they found [fyi: when western medicine acknowledged fibromyalgia they also defined it so my symptoms didn’t seem to fit although alternative therapists have often felt my muscles and said I have it…].

According to my first serious therapeutic massage specialist every muscle in my body was wound up like a steel cord, all the muscles in every muscle group were glued together and the groups were also glued to my bones.  Eventually, after many of the larger and surface muscles were in much better shape and most unstuck from the bones, another practitioner saw and helped me realize the underlying intertwining and complex patterns remaining in the smaller and connective muscles.

I’ve been at it for three decades. Some practitioners have been dismissive of what has gone before because they felt it should have all been resolved quickly – and then they failed to resolve it.  I had to accept a long time ago that my muscles were in trouble at a level that was way beyond most practitioners and too complicated to resolve speedily.

It has taken many types of body work, inventing my own exercise program (combining the Psychophysical Method with yoga), emotional release work, past life work, ancestral healing work and more to reach a point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel pretty brightly.  The process has taken me deep within, led to multiple transformative experiences, taught me a huge amount about how we hold onto the past – not only our own but our past life and ancestral pasts as well – and changed the trajectory of my life dramatically and overall I would say for the better.

After a few decades of being told by one practitioner after another  they’ve never seen this, that, or the other thing as bad as my… psoas, neck, hip, whatever, I know most people don’t have physical issues of the same magnitude.  I also know from learning to move and to observe how others move, that millions of people walk around with tight muscle patterns interfering with their movement, their ability to process emotions, their capacity to feel energy, etc.  And I feel as though talking about my journey and process might help some of those people to open some channels and pathways for their own lives to receive more healing.  In fact, I hear every now and then from someone who says it has helped them take better care; what a great feeling.

As I survey this history, I feel this glow of blessing.  For once, instead of viewing it only as a burden I have unfairly had to bear, I can see the Universe entrusted me with an unusual but important journey and what a gift it is that I have been able to explore all these nuances and share my experience.  Which is not to say I won’t be back whining about my uncomfortable muscles or being kept up all night 😊  But more than ever I also feel gratitude for being sent on this journey of healing.

We Are the World Blogfest Nov 2017

We are the world logo

I love this story, which seems perfect for a We Are the World entry.  A group called Thirdage that started primarily to offer assistance to seniors noticed an influx of immigrants and their isolation and set up a program for seniors to teach language classes for the immigrants.  Simple and brilliant.  Check out the story at The Positive News site.

This month’s blogfest is co-hosted by:

Sylvia SteinSusan ScottInderpreet UppalShilpa GargAndrea Michaels and Damyanti Biswas.