Five Ways to Fill Your Well

I am re-blogging this fabulous post from The Practical Mystic because it resonates so much with me right now. Summer days are a time of high energy and activity, days are often full of social activities, events and trips. For me, the clear evidence that I have been letting self-care fall by the wayside is when I begin ruining those otherwise lovely, fun-filled times with friends and family by suddenly becoming a miserable grump and resenting everyone around me, including the dog and the cat (omg, especially the cat).

Part of the commitment to self, as the Practical Mystic points out, is carefully observing what your needs are today, in your body and spirit, and knowing that they will shift from day to day, season to season. My usual strong vinyasa practice is not serving me well right now and in the mornings my body is wanting to move more than be still for seated meditation. As the temperature warms and my life is in the midst of major transition, I am being drawn to more restorative or yin yoga practices, exploring tantric breath work and learning more subtle techniques for moving energy in the body.

I am thankful for the great resources offered in this post and re-commit to exploring new ways of nurturing myself in this season, paying closer attention to keeping my “well” from running dry (and I become a heinous bitch version of myself.)

And if it’s already too late and the train has derailed, don’t worry – here is some emergency first aid. I already used it this morning. (:

The Practical Mystic


One of the things that has been turning over in my head recently harks back to a recent post, where I wondered how it was that my personal practice could be tweaked so that I could avoid burnout and illness during and after a busy period. On a walking talk with my mother the other day, she suggested that now I am in my 40s, my daily routine may need to be tweaked to reflect my changing life. After all, she said, your 40s are a time of hard work out in the world, and these busy times are likely to become the norm. Your practice needs to incorporate filling your well so that you can embrace this time, a time that you have been preparing for over the last decade and longer, without burning out, getting sick or both.

Aha! The missing piece of understanding clicked into…

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The education of a lifetime: Karen Maezen Miller on Motherhood, Meditation and Anger

Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen priest and author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, Hand Wash Cold and Paradise in Plain Sight. I have written before about her profound book, Momma Zen, and how it inspired me more than any other parenting text I have ever come across. momma zen

And this interview by Shawn Fink of the Abundant Mama project is no different. Brimming with deep wisdom, humor and humility, Karen Maezen Miller penetrates to the heart of parenting as a spiritual path and delivers in a way that is both digestible and wholly compassionate. Listen to the full episode: AMPlify Your Life, Episode 7: Karen Maezen Miller on Meditation, Motherhood and Anger

There is just so much in this interview, I note some highlights here.

Karen speaks about raising her now teen daughter, how much has changed since writing “Momma Zen” and the essential process of staying with what is. She compares her work in Momma Zen as “premature self-congratulation”.

I am in trouble if I start to think that I know what the heck I’m doing or where I am going. We are consistently set adrift, washed up shore and we need one another.

Karen and Shawn chat a bit about how in this digital age we are more connected in some ways and much more disconnected in other ways which speaks to me in a big way. While on the one hand, many moms find community in online forums, groups and on Facebook which are great ways to find and share information they can never be a replacement for real human contact. In some ways, not living as close to family or having good friends nearby can make finding your “tribe”, your support system as a new mother can be challenging. Often online images of motherhood or fear of judgement makes it harder to ask, reach out and receive help.

Karen Maezen Miller on the biggest surprise in parenthood: “The real shake up for me has been the degree to which I encumber my daughter with the job of feeding my ego or emotional needs… [realizing how] “emotionally dependent upon my daughter being happy, doing things that I liked, liking the things that I do”.

Aaaahh, this one was a zinger. As a mother to an outspoken three year old, who feels at least as entitled as any teen to delivering every opinion and performance review uncensored according to his changing mood, whim and unspoken preschooler expectations. Still, I with no other rubric to go by, I sometimes find myself relying heavily on the irrational grading system of a little person still learning how to manage his emotional weather patterns and express his needs in healthy ways. After getting frustrated with him for not wanting to put on his clothes, I walk away to take a break. He finds me a few moments later, the storm between us has passed. He climbs into my lap and I see that he has put on his shirt and socks.

“Mama, are you happy now? Do I make you happy?” he asks earnestly, his face searching mine for signs that my earlier frown has faded. I am aware of his constant gauging of me, of this dance we do of reacting to one another, pulling away and drawing together – and what I may or may not unconsciously make him responsible for.

He falls and bumps his elbow. I hold him while he cries. I offer ice, kisses, a drink of water. What would make you feel better? What do you need?  I ask, wanting to find the solution, the cure, the fix to end the discomfort. It catches me off-guard every time he answers me, annoyed with my well-meant but impertinent offerings , “No, I am cry-ing!” he says, as if it were obvious. He is already doing exactly what he needs to do. And I, in my discomfort with his discomfort, really seek to reassure my tender ego that I am the competent mother, the one who can comfort her child and ensure that moments of unhappiness are brief and remediable.

The common parental desire to control and make things easy for our kids, to keep them from struggle is something (even) Zen priest Karen Maezen Miller is not immune to. And as her daughter, at 16, begins pointing out often with alarming clarity: “It’s not always going to be easy for me, Mom.” Karen grapples with the implications of stumbling along indeed the crooked path of mothering a child-turning-adult, who without mincing words, continues to hold up a mirror for us to see even more places we have yet to let go. “If the only thing [your children] can share with you is the good news, the good times or the happy… well, that’s dishonest.”

KMM on dealing with anger as a parent:

Own your feelings. Approaching our immediate response with compassion instead of suppression (which perpetuates the feeling) or judgment is the way to extend first compassion to ourselves and all compassion begins with compassion toward ourselves. Identifying and stating our feelings out loud gives others a warning about our emotional state and gives us the chance to address what is happening in our physical/emotional body before we escalate to a place of reacting in self-defensive or aggressive ways. Taking the internal temperature without judgment, as if processing data, is how we take responsibility for our feelings without blame and recrimination for whatever we feel is the particular trigger. It gives us the chance to take space, acknowledge our unmet needs or expectations in tenderness and without attachment to a story around a particular emotional response (“If I was a more better mother, I would not feel so impatient/annoyed/angry.”)

Take what you need first in order to be able to respond in kindness. Take a breath, take time, take space. I often tell my son but less often myself: “You are allowed to have your feelings. You are not allowed to be mean or hurt yourself or other people.”

As much of motherhood goes, we don’t get accolades for those tiny moments of triumph when we chose to take three deep breaths instead of lose our temper. As KMM points out “no own is keeping score of the times I didn’t have an outburst.” Or in the words of Biz Ellis host of one of my favorite podcasts about parenting,  One Bad Mother“Parenting is hard and no one gives a shit.” Mostly, that’s true. Thankfully it also the most rewarding thing we ever do. Especially when we get to see our own growth alongside our child’s.

KMM’s offers a refreshing reminder to parents of tantruming toddlers: you’re in it too. Most parenting advice I read offers an imagine of the calm and unruffled parent patiently holding space for the outrageous emotional displays of a possibly foaming at the mouth, destructive and aggressive small child hell bent on getting you to react (my son went through a period of purposefully soiling himself in a desperate act of retaliation) but does not often acknowledge the very intense internal storm raging inside yourself. It would be great if tantrums happened only when we (the parents) were well-fed, showered, had recently slept 8 hours, didn’t have any pressing tasks or places to be or outside responsibilities, were not distracted by any other sort of physical discomfort or pain, had recently had great sex, a good workout or a fantastic date with a good friend or a good book — basically, if we felt our emotional tanks were always “full”. But we all know that toddlers and preschoolers are first are predatory creatures with a recently developed capacity for premeditated action. They have an uncanny sense of knowing when to flip their shit, bless them.

Another thing I love about Karen Maezen Miller is her lack of apology about needing space and alone time from her family. As someone who desperately needs alone time to recalibrate, I  relate to this so much. I am such a better mom when I get the chance to fill up, to take care of myself, to feed my soul and care for my spirit, body honor yourselfand mind. I’m a better mom when I get the chance to miss my kid.  KMM talks about getting away and finding retreat as a way of taking full responsibility for her own life and her own ongoing process of refinement. We simply cannot skip the part of parenting where we parent ourselves.

KMM on meditation practice as a parent:

Karen Maezen Miller’s work was one of my great catalysts to my recommitment to a daily sitting meditation after becoming a mom. KMM says, “If you say you don’t have time to meditate then the truth is you don’t.”

Here is her realistic advice on developing a meditation practice: “Don’t make it hard,” she says. “Don’t make it another thing that you can’t do, you don’t have time to do or you aren’t good at. Because that is the way you [probably] talk to yourself about a lot of things and it is self-fulfilling.”

“You have 5 minutes at the beginning of the day and you have 5 minutes at the end of the day to practice being present and aware. If you can’t sit for 5 minutes, sit for 4, if you can’t sit for 4, sit for 3.

 …You can’t be attached to somehow doing it the “right” way, or getting the maximum benefit or being “good” at it or trying to turn yourself into a saint or even a better mom. Do it because you have to do it for own wellbeing and so that you will hurt people less.”

self care

(For more about self-care practice, watch: 5 Steps for Better Self Care for Moms). You can learn more about Karen Maezen Miller’s work, online teachings and upcoming retreats and events at karenmaezenmiller.comAlso check out all the podcast episodes from AMPlify Your Life: Podcast for Busy Moms.

The only true thing.

A couple months ago I got this message from the Universe (I know, one of those). The message was that I needed to get start getting up earlier.

Now, let me tell you what the big deal is about getting up early.

I have this kid, you see. This sweet, wily, hilarious and over-the-top crazy little human who controls my life. And this little human from day one pretty much wakes up at the butt-ass-crack…no, before the butt-ass-crack of dawn because it’s like he has to get a front row seat or something. (If you are wondering when the “butt-ass-crack of dawn” exactly is, it is 4:45am. Or at least it was between 4:30 and 5am for almost a solid year. And before you start assuming anything: YES, I TRIED THAT. NO, IT DID NOT WORK. )

What I learned over that year was acceptance, sometimes through tears. But all of my resistances (which included strategies to “fix” the problem) only in the end caused suffering whereas accepting what was happening just meant that

1) I was tired.

2) It is hard being tired.

Tired is one thing, suffering is another. Tired can miserable, but suffering is what I was causing myself by trying to fight the truth of what was going on: I had a kid who woke up early no matter what we did.

But here is the truth we all know: things change. This is the one truth you can tell a new parent that is actually helpful: It will change. It always changes. Don’t try and tell them when! “Oh, when he gets to 3 months….when he gets to 6 months…a year…18 months… 2 years…” No one knows when because they don’t know your kid, they only know their own experience or worse, what they heard.  People want to help and say something positive but it is really just a set up for bitterness and despair when the promised milestone is reached and you are…. still in a shit-hole. So lets just stop doing that to parents who are having a hard time.  Let’s not even say “it will get better” (because you don’t know and sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it gets worse. Or whatever is hard is replaced by something even shittier and harder.)  Eventually, it probably will get better. But no one knows when and I have never found the idea that “better” is somewhere out in the distance floating around very comforting. It’s like telling someone who is dying of thirst, “Don’t worry, someday it will rain. Try not to die until then.”

Things change. Another way to say it is right now is the only true thing

Holding on to this has made the hard moments softer to bear and the high moments ever more sweet because I know: it may change tomorrow, in an hour, next month or in five minutes. Cultivating continuous presence is the key that unlocks the ability to see what is true right now, what needs to shift and what I know I can breathe through, and what I better slow down and soak up.

So about six months ago things shifted and the little Acorn Scout started sleeping until six … SIX!! SIX AM!!!! A fucking miracle and nothing less, let me tell you. It is life-changing. I am reborn. Out of the darkness and wretched despair of night wakings, I rise victorious and the world is a beautiful place again and I am full of love for all people. Overall, things have fallen into a comfortable routine around here these days; no major struggles with bedtime, naptime, meal time. Always on the go, always talking, the little monster is generally content and increasingly independent. My work and school schedule, as well as my partner’s schedule have settled into predictability which is really nice. I feel like we are officially out of the “baby haze” and the survival mode of the first couple years. Life has lent us a bit of reprieve from any major crisis for the moment and of course, most of all, we are all sleeping. 

So when I hear this little tug I try to swat it away. For two and a half years I have been fitting in my meditation and yoga practice where I can. A few moments here and there, and at naptime or in the evening.  Juggling work and childcare and an opposite schedule from my partner meant constantly shifting things around, like an endless puzzle where there’s the inevitable jamming together of pieces that don’t fit just right and then left over pieces with no place to go. But for awhile there’s been the feeling that I want to take my meditation practice deeper and I was still struggling to make space in the day for myself.

So this inner voice pipes up (as it will do) and tells me to start waking up at 5:15. And I immediately answer with “You are f***ing kidding me.”  

Let me skip to the end of this argument (which I lost, or won, however you look at it.) When the Universe asks something of you and you say yes, all the support you need is in full supply. I go to bed early. I am usually asleep by 9pm these days. And 5:15 is quiet. It’s sacred. It’s all mine.

By the time I hear my son stirring (6am on the dot, that kid is never late) I am in a completely different space, heart, mind and body. I am able to give from a place of fullness instead of scraping the bottom and feeling the prickly irritation of having to give more than I have. And THEN this other miracle happened: My partner and I had been trading off mornings and since I have committed to every morning he has agreed to do bedtime every night which means I suddenly have a 30 whole other minutes in the evenings to do something for myself. Holy crap! What?!

Here is my challenge to you: What is your truth right now? Not the story you are telling yourself about what things “should” be like but what is true? What is being asked of you?

Remember: the Universe never asks you to do anything without being ready to rush in with full support. 

And unexpected blessings and gifts await you. It never fails.


Samputa mudra  – For cultivating truth (Satya)

The left hand is slightly cupped, the right hand rests on top with the fingers along the left thumb, created a space as if you held a precious treasure within your hands. Your truth. The voice of your true inner being.

Mudras are gestures of the hands, face or body that are used to evoke certain spiritual, physical or psychological qualities and have been used for over 2,000 years but they can also be found in various religious,  cultural and ritual practice around the world dating back thousands of years. The hands and fingers contain more sensory and nerve-endings than almost anywhere else in the body. This makes them a powerful tool for communicating directly to our brains and the rest of the body.  The subtle position of our hands and bodies have the capacity to alter the geometry and circuitry of the body, shifting vital energies. They are a powerful tool for any mediation practice.

When using mudras in meditation we hold the core quality of the gesture in our minds lightly and simply watch the effects on our breath, body, energy, thoughts and emotions that arise. We don’t try to change the breath or battle the thoughts or feelings that come. We just notice and gently steers our awareness back to the gesture and what we are awakening within ourselves. Because there is truly nothing we need that is not already there, waiting to be called forth.

For more an amazing resource on Mudras check out: Mudras for Healing and Transformation by Joseph and Lilian Le Page 

This very moment

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When I come to sit, I always find what I need to find. I see what I need to see.

So often we seek to rise above, to access a different plane of experience. I want to be filled with heavenly light and waves of unconditional love, of understanding and otherwordly-peace. Instead, I see my irritation with partner.

I see my guilt about not being more present with my son.  I see the way I am beating myself up for something insensitive I said to a friend. I see my resentment that my weekly schedule seems full of tasks that meet other people’s needs. I see my disappointment that the day hasn’t gone the way I wanted, that I don’t feel the way I expected to feel or that I aspire to feel or that I think I “should” feel.

And I see my doubt that in this imperfectly perfect moment, beauty is here for me to find.

As seekers we can’t help but want the transcendent experience that will take us out of these earthly bodies with our infantile feelings, sweep us up out of the mundane intricacies of the human life, and set us back down with transformed awareness. And sometimes we do get blessed with profound spiritual experiences.

But the most powerful and subtle work is the commitment to being with the moment just as it is. Only the longer we sit the more the surface layer starts to peel back and — oh! look at all we were missing!

The compassion I have been withholding from myself. The gratitude I have for recent provision. The honoring of my own process of working through and letting go. The comfort of the sun’s rays. The rustle of a soft breeze. The gift of encouragement from a mentor. The trees, the earth, the sky, the aliveness all around me. The things I have to look forward to. The celebration of recent accomplishments and new endeavors. The realization that everything all the time is in transition.

And right now is “it.” There is nothing I seek that does not exist within this moment. And now I can smile at it all, I can see that it is all part of the ever-changing landscape, a kaleidoscope of light and dark and every color on the spectrum.

We don’t have to wait for something outside to break through.

The magic of being with what is transforms our vision. It means that I honor my experience, whatever it may be. Throughout the day, whether my task is pleasant or tedious, whether the moment feels trying, mundane or profound, I extend permission to my resistance, disappointment or restlessness. I tell myself “You would rather be doing something else and that’s ok.” Dishes still need to be washed and dinner prepared and phone calls returned.

As Pema Chodron says that “this very moment is the perfect teacher”, just being with what is. It may take some strengthening of muscles we aren’t used to using but in time we increase our endurance. Instead of looking for an escape route we can stay where we are, we can stand our ground, we can breathe through it and see it is not bigger than us. We can see that they are just feelings about doing the dishes, not the dishes themselves. And they pass. Like the tantrums of a toddler, fierce in their wake but quickly receding.

The magic of coming to sit again and again to come fully awake, to remind myself I am alive. and that this is a truly grand thing.


“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly despairing, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” 

~Agatha Christie

The power of befriending the mind (and occasionally, chocolate.)

It was just one of those mornings when nothing could fix it. Whiny and tearful over every little thing, the little Acorn Scout had been moping and pouting since he woke up. It became clear that no matter how much I tried to help, whatever process was taking place in his two and a half year old world was going to take it’s own time to work out. I pulled him into my lap.

“You sound so sad today, buddy. What’s going on? What’s making you so sad?”

“My buh-wain, Mama!” Pressing his face into my shirt. “My buh-wain is making me be sad.” (Buh-wain = brain, in toddler-speak)

“Your brain?” I asked, charmed and bemused.

“Yeah.” He sniffed into my chest. 

“What do you think you need to help your brain not be sad?” I asked.

“Anudder one! I need anudder (another) one BUH-WAIN!” His voice started up and his anguish was palpable.

Oh, my son. How many times in my life have I felt betrayed, encaged, even tyrannized by my own mind? Few of us have escaped the tormented idea at some point: There is simply something wrong with my brain. This one is defective. I am broken and I need fixing. 

Om nama shivaya. I honor the teacher within. 

“Well, there are ways that we can help our brain to feel better. First, we can take some deep breaths, right?”

We did some deep breaths. Spontaneously, he added a big “OOoooooooomMMM” at the end which us made us both smile and we chanted OOooooooommmmm together a few times.

“Now let’s try and think of all the things you love the most.” I said. “Let’s fill up your brain with all the things that make you feel happy! If we fill up your brain with all the happy things there won’t be any more room left for the sad. What are some things you love?”

He thought.

“Do you love… Papa?”


“Do you love….Dixie and Kitty?”

“YEAH! I love Dixie and Kitty!”

“Do you love….going to the beach?”


“What else?”

“I wuuuuv…….bunnies!”

Pirates. Bananas. His friends at school. Going on adventures. Going camping. His cousin. Doing art projects. Helping Mama cook. Trumpets. Popsicles. His train set. Birthday parties. Grandma and grandpa. Picking tomatoes. Tigers.

The list kept going. And it worked. His mood lightened. Whew. I thought, I think I really might have aced that one. 

And for a moment I glimpsed how far I had come in my own journey of mind. I have a history of depression and anxiety dating back to my teens.  There were moments in my twenties I felt so tormented by my own thoughts and that if life meant fighting that kind of oppression then I did not wish to continue. The path to peace with myself and my mind began with being still. Turning to face the shadows instead of running from them.

I began meditating in 2009. It did not solve all of my problems but it opened something. Even with an irregular practice, the universe saw it’s opportunity. That opening is what allowed healing to take place and transformation process to begin. It brought teachers into my life: people and books and experiences and ….miracles. I wasn’t afraid anymore. It didn’t happen overnight it happened through incremental shifts, big leaps and foolish ones, breaking through, backpedaling, testing the limits of grace (there are none), friendship and dignity (there are some),  and stepping in some dog shit along the way. And some days are still a struggle. But goddamn  it, if I can’t stand here today and say,
“Wow. I am so glad I didn’t give up back there.”

It occurred to me then and I have wondered since, “Is befriending our mind the whole purpose of our lives?”

Suddenly in that moment with my son, I was aware that the most valuable gift to come from those years of darkness and suffering is the ability for me now to teach my son at so early an age the power he can have over his own mind and with reverence and profound gratitude my heart beats out, Thank you.

A long winding road stretches ahead and there will be many more moments. I will not ace them all. But we have made a good beginning.



“I thiiiink…. if I can have a wittle tw-eat (little treat) and my bwain will feel SO HAPPY!!”

And then, of course, there are always chocolate chips.



Check this great article: How to Teach a Child Emotional Intelligence.

“…I showed her that it is okay to experience emotions. Sadness and frustration are normal emotions to feel. By not offering her any tactics to stuff them down or any distraction, she was able to fully experience the emotion and feel what it is like to move completely through it. This is strengthening her ability to navigate strong feelings on her own…” (Read more)

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Yoga has changed my life. More accurately, I feel like it gave me my life because it gave (and continues to give) me myself. Through the shifting sands of motherhood, it has remained a faithful anchor.

Since attending my first yoga class in 2001, yoga offered me something my that both my body and spirit craved. Though my practice remained on and off for ten or so years before I became serious about making it a daily habit, I attribute the principles and tools of yoga with healing and transforming my relationship with my body, giving me mastery over my mind I didn’t know was possible, drawing me deeper into relationship with myself and sparking in me a romance with meditation.

Now, fourteen years after my first yoga class, I am enrolled in a training course to become a certified yoga instructor. The more I study, the more awe struck I am at the never-ending-ness of the learning process. Suddenly I feel like I need multiple lifetimes (ha.)


The word yoga means “to come together”, to unite mind and body. The breath is the most expedient and powerful way to draw into unison the wayward meanderings of our thoughts with the sensations of our physical bodies. Another interpretation of the word yoga is to “be one with the divine.” In yoga, we honor the divine nature that is already present within each one of us, that is higher than us and that connects us all. You can call it God or Shakti or Spirit or whatever you like. The postures of yoga are just one manifestation of the practice of yoga, which is truly a path of self-discovery. It is attentiveness to our actions and their effect on the world. Therefore anything we do with mindfulness can be yoga. When we practice non-violence in our speech and actions we practice yoga. When we practice truthfulness with ourselves and others, when we find contentment with what we have instead of looking at what others have, when we practice moderation and strive for balance in our lifestyle, in our effort, diet or relationships – this is yoga also.  Yoga is not something you only do on a mat or in a class or in downward facing dog.  Any time we release attachment and settle into what is this very moment is the essence of yoga. 

My daily practice looks different every day. Every day I strive to find time to sit in meditation and most days I find at least a few postures to help me begin or close the day, but there are days when neither of those two things happen. Luckily, the opportunities to practice yoga throughout my day are endless.

It is as simple as 1, 2, 3.

No matter who you are, you can make this your daily practice. It can be done anywhere, at any time.  Here it is: pause in whatever you are doing and take 3 deep mindful breaths.

The first breath is to remind yourself that you are here and now.

The second breath is to wake up every cell of your body. 

With the third breath, extend compassion toward yourself. 

Practicing self-compassion even for one moment is a powerful practice. Don’t wait until you think you’ve earned it. You can’t afford that kind of time.

Self-compassion credit

If you can breathe, you can practice yoga. If you can fully engage in life with all of your senses for just even one moment, you are practicing mindful awareness, you are really present, you are really alive. Sister Simone Campbell, laywer, lobbysist, author, poet and Zen practitioner says her most important prayer is , “Please God, wake me up.”

We wander through the world, leaving behind a footprint here, a whispered prayer, a fingerprint or an indentation there, an imprint where we sat with a friend for awhile, a reverberation, a note. Those relics of our presence, some dissolving instantaneously, others becoming fossilized in time –

it is not entirely our business what it is all for.

It is just for us to being paying attention.

So I too say, “Wake me up! Don’t let my mind get in the way of the holy work I have to do today. The work of living (wholly.)”

Amen. Namaste. Aho.

You Are Your Own Oracle.


On the side of Mt. Parnassus in Greece lie the ruins of the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi. From 1400 BC -381 AD the temple was visited by leaders and kings and people from far away seeking wisdom and divine guidance from the Oracle of Delphi. Animal sacrifices, divination and rituals were performed by priests who sought messages from the god Apollo. The ruins of the sacred site is still visited today by people from all over the world. Inscribed over the door of the temple through which countless of spirituals seekers have passed are the words, “Know Thyself.”

While millions seek divine direction, look to sages, search out prophets and oracles, the time-tested maxim still lies etched in eternal stone above the entrance to the temple within. Our hearts, our bodies, our minds have infinite information to give us if we can learn how to listen. Maybe the secrets of the universe, but certainly how to better exist in it. My whole life I have spent searching for wisdom outside of myself and now I find that it has all been within me the whole time.

I want to spend my life learning how better to listen.


When I skip my daily sitting practice now I have started to notice the effects pretty quickly. After a couple of days I am feeling off-balance, unsettled, generally more anxious and less patient. After 2 or 3 days my family feels it too. I have become so grateful for this efficient feedback system. In the same way my body responds when I have not been feeding it well or resting or moving like I should, my mind and spirit give me similar clues to my state of health and alignment. Without these signposts, I might have wandered further away.What a blessing discomfort can be! As physical and spiritual beings we have innate wisdom about what serves our highest good. And sometimes you don’t see the full benefit of a habit until you veer off course for a little bit.

Since the beginning of my meditation journey, daily life, the season, our schedules have evolved and I am now finding time in the evening for a longer practice. With the summer sun lingering a bit more in the sky, I can watch the evening descend from my front porch after I have said goodnight to the little Acorn Scout and my partner is settled to his writing. As tempting as it is at the end of the day to zone out with a movie, on the computer, or even with a good book, I have begun to tease myself outside instead. Instantly I am rewarded: there is no bliss like the light, the air and sounds of summer evening. Sometimes I work with a mantra, a mudra, or a pranayama (breathing technique) like Alternate Nostril Breathing. Sometimes I just sit and listen the world around me and then inwardly – at what is bubbling and churning around inside, find longer spaces in between the thoughts that come and go.

If you don’t have a daily mediation practice but are wanting to begin, here is a great article to get you started: 5 Tips on How to Meditate for Beginners (You can also read my post: DIY.) Start with 5 minutes twice a day and work up to 10 minutes twice a day.Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Like with any practice, every day is different. And you get stronger with time. Keep a journal for things that come up. Be consistent. Just see what happens. I would love to hear about your experience.


            “We seek to know the moving of each sphere,

            And the strange cause of the ebb and flow of Nile,

            But of that clock within our breasts we bear,

            The subtle motions we forget the while.

            “We that acquaint ourselves with every zone,

            And pass both tropics and behold the poles,

            When we come home, are to ourselves unknown,

            And unacquainted still with our own souls.”

~John Davies, from Nosce Tiepsum: of Human Knowledge

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(In this photo I am using Surya mudra: Gesture of the Sun, for activating radiant energy and the element of fire. This mudra is useful for balancing the third chakra, for kapha and vata doshas, supporting digestion and metabolism, cultivating self-esteem and personal power. For more information on mudras check out Mudras for Healing and Transformation by Joseph and Lilian Le Page.)

Walking Meditation

My son woke extra early this morning. So we went out for a walk and watched the sun lighten the sky.







“Wherever we walk, we can practice meditation. This means that we know that we are walking. We walk just for walking. We walk with freedom and solidity, no longer in a hurry. We are present with each step.

Walking in this way should not be a privilege. We should be able to do it in every moment. Look around and see how vast life is, the trees, the white clouds, the limitless sky. Listen to the birds. Feel the fresh breeze. Life is all around and we are alive and healthy and capable of walking in peace.

As we walk, imprint our gratitude and our love on the earth.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh



Mama needs space – or else!

It is getting harder and harder to practice in the morning with my now two-year old… because well, he’s TWO and its pretty much hard to do anything you want to do for more than 5 consecutive minutes or risk potentially hazardous situation.

I mean, could just open the back door and set him free in the woods – I’ve heard they are ready to be released into the wild by 24 months. (No but really, I saw this story recently: Police find 2 year old missing girl. So … yeah, losing your kid for almost 24 hours is the most terrifying thing imaginable. It really happens. It can happen really easily and some kids are found safe and some tragically are not. That being said, looking at that little girl’s expression of exhilaration in the photo and imagining her informing the cops “I love it in the woods!”brings me no end of amusement… and keeps me on my toes about my own curious little explorer. That’s not to say I don’t entertain thoughts occasionally. But I keep the back door secure.)

So lately in the morning, I have managed to get a good 5-10 minutes of sitting practice before I have to stop and pick up again later in the day — these 5-10 minutes are deliverance, by the way. If I have even one minute to sit it can be pure saving grace.

And even though I know our schedules and needs evolve and shift as life with children warrants, I refuse to give up completely on trying to sit in the mornings. Especially right now as the little Acorn Scout and I have been working on what it means to “need space” for ourselves. I hope I can teach him from early on how healthy and essential it is to have time away from other people, to regroup, to learn to be alone, to recognize his own signs of needing time with his thoughts and feelings. Especially since there is heavy indication that he’s been blessed with a double-dose of the sensitivity gene. My partner and I have discussed how we both wish we had developed this skill much earlier in our lives. Learning to exercise personal boundaries, identifying my own needs and comfort level would have been life-altering tools for me had they not remained foreign to me until well into my twenties. So we have been teaching him to use these words “I need space” asking if he “needs space” or to “take a break” at times when he’s getting frustrated or overwhelmed.

And as any mother of a toddler knows well, Mama needs space too. This is a little harder for him.

But I’ve got to model it. AND honoring my needs allows me to be there to meet his.

Today I discovered a dirty little trick to getting a little bit more time. The other thing we are working on right now (ok, for the past 15 months) is diaper changes, which he kicking-screaming-practically-foaming-at-the-mouth HATES. With only a slightly guilty conscience I have discovered  that I can wield this weakness against him for the benefit of a little more borrowed time. Just 10 or 15 minutes, say. When he approaches me I ask him if he is ready for me to change his diaper. He immediately runs away yelling “Nooooooo mama! I am PUH-WAY-ING!” (I’m playing!)

Oh my, maybe I am a terrible mom. What would Momma Zen say?? (;


This morning was special though.

This morning we got through the diaper change. And I set the timer. I said, “Mama is going to sit for awhile and you go play. When the timer goes ‘Beep!’ then Mama will play with you, ok?” He said “Ok.”

But five minutes later I heard him shuffle over. “Mama?”

“I want to sit with you, Mama.”

So we sat together. We listened to the morning. We watched the candle flame, we talked about it how it dances and flickers. We enjoyed stillness….for about five consecutive minutes.

But it was enough.


In sickness.

We are deep into week two of sickness. One bug followed by an even bigger, meaner bug and day five of the all-night brigade to alleviate breathing passages, soothe, and pray desperately for the much-needed mercy of sweet, deep healing sleep. This is only the second major bout with illness for my son but our first experience with the awful choking cough that in the middle of the night would send a lightning bolt through maternal slumber a hundred miles away. Add an infection of the ear.

People outside your mucous-plastered, sleepless dark hole of a sick-house mostly do not really understand what you mean when you tell them your kid is sick. It sounds like just another fact such as, “it’s raining today” or “I locked my keys in the car this morning” but what it really means is that your world has temporarily entered some sort of time warp. Your are living temporarily in a parallel universe. Your child being sick IS the only fact, is the only thing that is happening in your life. You are processing little else. Perhaps it is because I am a first-time mom and my son is still kind of little and so real sickness is still scary. Though I know that it is something that will pass, I know that it is not tuberculosis or pneumonia or whooping cough – at 2am trying to comfort the flailing, hacking, miserable baby (to me he suddenly reverts to being a “baby” again, instead of almost a preschooler) it looks and feels every bit like tuberculosis, pneumonia or whooping cough.

I called my mom friend of three little ones and pleaded with her to divulge any time-tested antidotes or strategies. I told her all of my $70 worth of herbal treatments and tinctures and teas. “Keep going if you feel like they are helping” she said, “But you know, friend – those are mainly for you.”med

Uuuuuuuggggggghhhh. She was right.

As I write I am preparing to depart for three days for a work conference 85 miles away. I am packing to leave my snotty, sorrowful, sleepless son in the midst of his suffering, whom, day or night, only wants his mama. Once again, I recall one of the many precious things my midwife said to me shortly after my son’s entry to the world. All he would do was scream, fall asleep for 45 minutes and wake up again, try to eat and scream. For days, for weeks. It was a bitter, steep learning curve for both of us.  

And there is a way this wise woman, my midwife, speaks that makes you drop everything and listen. She gives you her whole-hearted presence and attention. Her eyes shine with that acumen born from having seen tremendous loss and returned stronger in the broken places. And yet with other-wordly joy as if the flames of suffering have somehow burned away the outermost layers to reveal the bareness and beauty of the soul, without the mantle of fears and insecurity most of us walk around in. We’ve all get to know people like this, if we are lucky. “It is not possible nor is it your job to protect your baby from all forms of suffering. But you make the commitment to be with him through it.”

All week I had been running around, trying to finish up work projects, preparing for my trip and keeping to a rigid schedule of home cold and flu remedies, certain that I would find the right combination for relief, that I would “fix” the discomfort, I would find the right thing to do. I looked at the kitchen table, littered with cardboard packaging that promised to make my kid feel better and then I looked down at him. “Mama, hold yoooooooooou.” he sniffed.

I tried hard not to feel like an asshole.

We used all those little colorful cardboard boxes to built a tower and then with scotch tape, made a tunnel for his toy cars to drive through. We played on the floor for a good part of the afternoon. After awhile I realized it was the most content he had been all day. He didn’t really need me to fix anything after all. He just needed me to be there with him, okay enough to be present in his discomfort, to hold space for him to find his way through to the other side.

I wonder how many times I will do this for him. How many times will I grapple and resist and fight and flail and finally having tried it all, resolve to simply sit and stay? Having faith, holding space for his own organic process, offering just the comfort of my commitment to be there in the struggle.

Oh, grant me the serenity. Grant me the courage.

sick boy


Beloved Buddhist nun, teacher, and author Pema Chödrön notes that parents with young children – especially when they are ill – have the most natural capacity for the practice of Tonglen: connection with the suffering of others. We most effectively experience this identification with our own children and the desperation for the alleviation of their afflictions but the goal is to expand our compassion to the suffering of all beings, including the ones we find least lovable. Pema offers some beautiful, and simple instructions on Tonglen practice to alleviate suffering of loved ones, oppressed peoples of the world, nations, or animals on our planet. I love Pema. This short video is really wonderful, I hope you watch it:

Pema Chödrön: Tonglen Meditation Practice