How could they?

I stopped by the third floor of the hospital building today, ostensibly to drop off some errant mail that had been misplaced at my yoga studio space. But honestly, I’d seen mail before and not moved a muscle to return it. The hospital is spitting distance from our community building. The third floor houses the inpatient behavioral services unit.

Things have been touchy in our small rural county ever since the hospital announced it was planning to shut down its inpatient services. We don’t have much here, really. And now this was insult to injury, especially with reports of people regularly being turned away while the hospital claimed its services were being “underutilized.”

I don’t know what I expected, but the doors of the elevator opened into a box-like entry. On one side were lockers with tiny round key entries. The wall on the left was papered with a few posters, mostly telling me what I could and could not bring onto the floor. Lots of warnings. The lockers also had a typed note telling me what to do. Homemade food and flowers were in. Coat hangers and shoelaces maybe not.

It took me a while to realize that the doors in front of me, and one wall to the side, were covered in reflective glass. One way. I saw myself, standing awkwardly holding the errant mail wrapped in a rubber band. I looked around.

“Ring bell for front desk.”

I pressed the small round white bell next to the door. A tinny buzz sounded far off behind the doors.

“Visiting hours, Monday through Friday, 12:30 – 1:30 pm.”

And more hours I could and could not see my friend, parent, lover, sister, brother or grandparent on Floor 3.

I waited. I scanned the walls again. In the upper right corner of the entry box — no more than four steps from elevator door to entry door — there was a tiny camera. I moved closer to the door, thinking maybe I was out of frame. I wanted to be seen. On the left wall was a small mounted radio-like box. It was plastic with perforations for speakers, labeled RadioShack (HA! Telling me exactly how old it was), and instructions above. Press TALK to signal you want to speak. Wait. Press TALK to speak. Release to listen. I tried. Nothing.

No answer to my bell. No answer to my TALK.

I stood there, looking at myself in the mirrored doors. Forty two years old, wearing tight yoga leggings in purples and pinks and whites and icy blue. A jaunty white mesh cut-out on each fleshy calf. Running shoes. A long-sleeved t-shirt bought on our ski trip to Utah. I scanned the lockers, the signs, the NOT ALLOWED items, the strict hours and rules and instructions on how to TALK.

I felt my stomach drop. Tears pricked hot behind my eyes.

This was a goddamn jail, a prison. And my brother had spent many days and nights locked inside a hell like this.

On the wall opposite the lockers, there was a larger newer looking poster. Its message was along these lines: Have a complaint about these mental health services? Contact us. Sincerely, the NY State Office of Mental Health.

Why would anyone want to use these services? Even in my darkest hour, I would fight tooth and nail to be placed into a place like this. Treated like a criminal. Would it fucking hurt to have a nice, peaceful, pleasant entryway to this floor? Would it be okay to just have a person I could SEE and TALK to, instead of a mirrored wall and a speaker?

I know you go into inpatient services to stay safe. I understand that security is part of the deal. I know we have to prevent access to lethal means if someone is suicidal. Or if they are a danger to others.

But what about flowers and color and kindness and humanity? Do mentally ill people not need this? Deserve this?

All I can say is that it made me cry. And I’m not a psychiatrist with experience on psych wards but I’ve been in one. I was a teenager. I saw my brother flop inside without shoelaces. I saw him slump to mandated group sessions. And I saw the haunted young girls with eating disorders staring with mortal fear at their plates in the cafeteria.

I was a haunted girl with an eating disorder too.

I took the elevator back down to the ground floor and told the sweet, white haired volunteer at the front desk that no one had answered.

“That place is a prison,” I said, looking down at my shoes, still shaking a little.

“Have you ever been up there?”

“Oh yes, but if I stay too long, that space between the door and elevator makes me feel trapped!” she said.

I nodded. I handed her the mail. I got into my car and drove away.

Giddy, because I could.



20170711_203802.jpgIn the midst of the morning

about to eat the egg on avocado toast and reheat the last of my coffee


it’s a break in the chain of stories

In the midst of yelling at you to change, be other, try again, don’t do


i see it now

the chain reaction

the beliefs driving the gears of thought driving the actions

A diabolical Rube Goldberg device designed to ensure we sleep on the farthest opposite sides of the bed.

In the midst of looking at your life and body, the pain in my right hip, the tight shoulder and left knee that aches now sometimes.


smile to your knee

It’s just a miracle that I’m here at all.

Emptying the Rubbish


Could-have bin:
A storage container for memories,
like chalk outlines of Butterick patterns traced on your fabric,
making Halloween disguises.

Would-have bin:
A mesh basket holding your version of reality,
so full of holes it actually carries nothing,
except the smell of defeat.

Should-have bin:
The metal lockbox in your closet,
lined with documents you preserve.
In case of fire, burn.

The Loss You Didn’t Lose

Illustration by Jim Cooke:

nipples, though at the time, I didn’t know it. I don’t have flat nipples anymore, thanks to my two children.At the time, the fact that I had flat nipples was devastating. I was trying to nurse my first born. It wasn’t working, because I was told, I had flat nipples. I remember looking down at my chest and wondering: is that what flat nipples look like? I hadn’t seen many other women’s nipples and when I had, definitely didn’t pay attention. So these nipples were not working. I was malfunctioning. Malformed.

We got Chinese take-out the other night and after everyone finished eating—or picking at their food—it was time for fortune cookies. My boys, now 7 and 10 years old, were so excited they jumped up and ran to the counter, grabbed all the cookies, and started ripping them open. Wait! Everyone gets their own cookie. They dole them out. Now: we can open. The youngest opens his first because he just wants to eat the cookie, which I tell him is pretty gross. My opinion, of course, but I felt like it was necessary info. His fortune is something about having happiness and being whole and I forget… My other son eats his and I don’t think even read his fortune. My husband doesn’t eat his cookie and I have no idea what his fortune was because I was probably too busy reading mine.

I threw them all away, but mine was actually thought provoking. It read something like: “The loss of that which you didn’t know you possessed is no loss at all.” Whoa. It’s funny; before I found out I had flat nipples, I never felt like I was missing anything. Or that I wasn’t going to be an OKAY mom. In fact, I felt downright prepared.

We lose a lot of things we didn’t know we possessed, usually finding out only once its too late. I was running with a friend a few years ago, who’s quite a few years younger than me, and complained to her about how slow I was, how out of shape I felt. I told her, “I used to be able to run a 5k no problem under a 10 minute mile!” She had long legs and long brown hair. She was tall and lithe. She looked at me, told me, “But that was your younger self. You don’t need to compete with her.”

She was also a social worker. Go figure.

The Loss You Didn’t Lose

What I’m trying to say is that I spend a lot of time ruminating on all the things I could and should be doing and being. I compete with myself. I try to recapture the moments before I knew my nipples were malformed; in those moments, ever so briefly, I felt whole. Perfect. And not perfect as in “ideal” or “best,” but simply resting in myself, oblivious to flat nipples or the time when I hit 35 that I’d only be able to slog along at a light jog.

I spent a lot of time worrying. Before I knew I was not pointy-nippled enough for my baby birds to latch onto with their tiny lips, I never gave those nipples a second thought. Just like I don’t give it a second thought that my eyes can see, my nose can smell, and I can feel the soft fur of my cat’s coat with not one, but two fully-functioning hands.

Oh shit. I DO possess those eyes and nose and hands. And I don’t give them a second thought. What I’m trying to say is that that stupid fortune cookie fortune was actually good fucking advice. Finally, a reason for those God-forsaken cookies.

You can’t lose—or worry about the loss of—something you didn’t know you had. For example, I kvetch and turn myself into knots worrying about what other people think of me, and whether I’m achieving enough. Doing enough. Whether it “looks” like I’m earning my keep on this planet, in this family. But if I step back, and read that damn fortune cookie again, it becomes clear. I don’t actually “have” the mystical level of supernatural respect and admiration from the masses of which my mind likes to convince me that I do. Nor do those people out there think about me and what I’m doing every moment of every day.

I have nothing to lose.

But my mind tells me otherwise.

This is one facet of living with anxiety. I want to bring it out that I may talk about how I’m trying to do this or that, or trying to get my spiritual house in order, but the main goal here—the main aim of all this shit—it acceptance and clarity. Acceptance of what is happening now. Clarity on what is happening now. I don’t know what I’m trying to say about the flat nipples and the fortune cookie. I really don’t. They just came into my consciousness and I wanted to say, Hey! You with the flat nipples! It’s gonna be okay! The other thing is that somehow everyone is trying to tell us where we’re deficient. Everyone being the voices outside us—media, friends, family. They’re not trying to be mean. Usually it’s masked as advice. And usually it’s rooted in their story, their perceived losses. Like not being good at sports in high school, needing reading help, being lazy, disorganized. What have you. It’s not about you; it’s about them.

So when I’m trying to calm down my breathing, my heart pounding, my solar plexus crunched up into a knot, my stomach roiling—I don’t want to hear about your problems. I’m afraid to even let you know I’m having a problem, because that’s vulnerable. That’s scary.


My yoga teacher said this on one day of our week-long immersion, and it stuck to me. She said, everyone comes into class with limitations. And that can be scary. So, honor your limitations and those of your students.

Honor them.

I don’t usually do that. I don’t think I’m alone. We’re talking physical maybe here, but oh there are mental limitations too. I listen and hear women all around me talking about their physical pain like a weight to bear. I hate mine too. Or used to. I hate it a little less now. But the mental pain we don’t talk about so much. How do I approach my friend and confide in her that I’m isolating myself because I’ve gotten so anxious about leaving the house, or not getting my work done, or how I’ll never stop feeling depressed/angry/worthless?

Where is the space to discuss our mental pain, openly?

It can’t just be inside a therapist’s office (though God bless them). And I wonder, what favors do I do by not talking openly about my challenges? Who am I helping, hurting?

I don’t know what I wanted to say here. I think I wanted to write something that someone else would like and I wanted to help in some small way. In some small way, I wanted to help. To be of service. Instead, I wrote shit. Does that ever happen to you?

Holding It In

September, 2017

What’s the use of writing something if it lingers in draft-land permanently? I write these things, then I forget about them. Why? Is it not important enough? But this one; I read it again and it STILL speaks to me, so maybe it’ll speak to you too. Purging the draft folder. Even if these things aren’t finished…

November, 2015

My little experiment, I call it, started the beginning of September. I set an intention to do some kind of yoga—asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), or meditation—every day. I set not time goals; I laid down no progress markers. I first started learning about yoga and taking classes in my late teens. This was the first time in almost 20 years, even during times when I was attending regular classes, that I had ever explicitly set this intention.

On the third day of my experiment, I dragged myself to my mat, dragged myself to sit in meditation. I rebelled like a pig-headed toddler; I wasn’t exactly blissed out. But I did it anyway.

Magically (it seemed to me), a few weeks later I almost couldn’t wait to come to my mat or sit quietly in the morning before the kids woke up. I had joyful, open moments. I had dark, depressive moments. I had recrimination and judgement (always). I had days when I told myself, “You know, you should really DO something else. Yoga every day isn’t enough.” I did it anyway.

Two months later, it’s become a new habit. Yet, that “it” isn’t doing yoga asana or meditation. It’s something entirely different and not at all what I expected “it” to be: my new habit is to more fully inhabit and communicate with my body. Daily. Even minute by minute. For me, the “it” I’ve been seeking wasn’t outside myself, in the realm of subconscious. It was a set of instructions written in my body, waiting to be read.

I’ll give a concrete example. I was practicing yoga asana one day, and as usual, I was berating myself for not being able to attain the pose. It was probably a forward-bending pose, or extended pose—these have plagued me for years. After lots of experience with these anal, critical voices, I’ve learned to let them flow by; I don’t attach to them like I used to. At least, not as much. Instead, I closed my eyes and imagined breathing into the areas that seem not to budge, no matter what. Areas that seem closed off. Nothing happened. The voices got louder. “You are never going to be good at this!”

And then I did something revolutionary: I released my stomach. I let my belly expand to push out and gently over the waistband of my yoga pants. I felt my stomach muscles contract again—without a word from my brain. Huh, I thought. I relaxed them again. They contracted again. Before each contraction, a tiny voice deep in my head would shout: No! Suck that belly back in!

It all happened in a millisecond, and I would have never noticed it if not for my new daily habit. Point in fact, I had never noticed it at any point in the past 30 years, which is roughly how long I’ve been sucking it in for.


Dear Diary,

Do you know what I am. I’m fat! I’m so fat. I weigh 84 pounds and I’m only 9. Everybody thinks I’m fat. EVERYBODY. I’m a blob. I eat too much. I’m sooo FAT! FAT!

I’d been holding in my stomach for so long, I didn’t even realize it anymore. I vividly remember a trip to the pediatrician’s office and him talking to my mom about my weight. How I should weigh 20 pounds less than I did at the time, which was maybe two years after this diary entry. I wasn’t in the room, but I heard him clearly.

After my epiphany that day, I noticed it everywhere. I held my stomach in when I was standing in line, talking to someone. I held it in when I was doing other yoga poses that were about extension and lengthening. I held it in when I worked at my computer. I held it when someone took a picture of me. I held it in when I sat down, ensuring that nothing bulged over my waistband. I held it when I relaxed on the couch watching TV. I held it in when I was naked, in bed with my husband.

One day, when I was momentarily able to let go of my belly in a tough yoga pose, something shifted and I extended further than I’d ever been able to before. Minute by minute, I’ve consciously chosen to not hold it in any more.

We’re not wearing corsets like we used to, but I wonder, is holding it in our modern equivalent? As soon as I started letting it out, I felt bigger. I was taking up more space physically, and soon enough, psychically. I was breathing more deeply; I had more room to do so! I was feeling the urge to urinate more frequently, and was acting on it immediately! [More on this topic in another post.] I was letting an entire host of emotions and fears surface inside and around my expanding belly. It felt liberating and terrifying.

Why? It turns out I’m not alone with this habit. I know this, but I’ve never talked with another woman about it—simply because I never questioned it before. I started digging deeper into my experience and realized that holding it in is kind of what women are taught to do from an early age. Hold in your emotions (don’t be overly emotional), hold in your appetites (for food, sex or experiences), hold in your opinions (lest you provoke discord among your community of women or make your man look bad), and hold in your body (unless you want to be seen as available, easy, wanton and stained).


A raccoon squashed on the New York State Thruway, going west.
It’s bright pink against black asphalt.
Everyone is trying not to run over it again,
Swerving even, to miss it.
Today the raccoon.
Yesterday the cat, dog, squirrel, skunk, opossum, deer.
Endlessly crossing the highway while we try to get somewhere.
Who’s fault really?
There are always more animals.
I heard once that the reason so many skunks lose their lives on the road is because
They have no natural predators.
They start crossing, see a monstrous growling metal animal hurtling toward them,
And they simply stop, turn around, stick up their tails, and aim.
We avoid the messes.
It’s a fact of life for the animals.
What’s one more cat, dog, squirrel, skunk, opossum, deer?
Yet, there’s keening and confusion in the dens and nests.
Junior had only wanted to see what was on the other side.
It was his time to leave the soft needle-lined safety of home.
While we drive around the mess of his mother’s brother,
Eyes closed momentarily to the bright pink death,
Wondering whose job it is to clean that up.

The Problem with No Problem, Part 2

Once I’d glimpsed the Truth about my Self—gotten just a taste of the inherent power I have to create the experience of my life that I want—it radically changed my perception. Suddenly (it seemed), I cracked open. Love flowed out of me and washed over my family, my life situations, my challenges, and even the laundry. I looked at myself in the mirror and literally saw a different reflection. I’ve hated my body since age 9 or 10, but now I looked in the mirror and saw a beautiful, living embodiment. I smiled at my wrinkles and sagging and non-perfection. The miracle of being born a human! It was an ecstatic feeling; not just happiness, but joy. I wanted to shout like MAD TV’s Stewart: Look what I can do! And when I looked at my children, all I could see was the light in THEM, shooting out all over. Kids! We talk about that energy they have and it’s the pure, unfiltered, dynamic, creative force of the Universe. 

I could see clearly when I needed to take action and when I did not; I had no story. I didn’t have to do this because I felt this way (or because someone else did), or because this always happens, or whatever. I could discriminate. Life suddenly seemed easy, simple. I had more energy. I just did things. For at least a week, I was able to eject those old tapes, the deeply held beliefs that no longer served me and clouded my view of things as they are.

I looked at my husband and really saw him, maybe for the first time. A mess in the mudroom was just a mess in the mudroom. Piss on the toilet seat was just piss to be cleaned up. Changing the sheets was just changing the sheets. Setting boundaries for the kids around screen time (and listening to their loud, angry, rude objections) was just that. I thought—Holy shit. This freedom thing is real! And it’s accessible whenever I want it. Nothing else in my life had changed; there were no conditions for this joy. It.Blew.My.Mind.

Then, I got bored.

It set in slowly and insidiously. At first, it was restlessness. I was having a hard time concentrating. I got cranky. Then the old tapes started creeping back in, like smoke from a smoldering fire coming in under the door. The stream of judgments. The self-hate speech. But this time, the messages were so, so subtle, I almost missed what was going on.

What was going on? 

It took me a while to figure this out. In the meantime, I started down the familiar road of suffering. I started down the road of anger and hopelessness. I went down the only fucking road I’ve ever known… [Cue the Whitesnake rock anthem.]

During my week of living from a more open, connected place, my ego started to freak out. It was all like, “What??” When I was simply experiencing things as they were, doing what I needed to do (or not), there was no drama. It was smooth. My emotions rolled along, but I didn’t grab onto them, or try to push them away. The thing is that I’m addicted to the usual drama, or really, my ego and mind are addicted. Without it, my ego was starting to realize that it might CEASE TO EXIST. That I might cease to exist! And that scared the shit out of me/my ego. As a quote on the wall of my yoga studio says, “Enlightenment is the ego’s biggest disappointment.”

What is my ego? It’s separation between me as the subject and everything else out there as the object of my perception. It’s two instead of one: “me” and “my life.” When I felt connected and open, I walked around acting and thinking: “I am.” Just being. But usually, I (we) operate in the world from my ego’s perspective, thinking: “I am … this, that, and the other thing.” And if my ego is the subject—the actor on the stage, thinking I’m manipulating the scene, the “things” of my life—then everything “out there” that is not who I think I am, or what my ego thinks it needs to be “fulfilled,” can be discarded. Thrown away. Or openly resisted against or criticized. The next logical step for my ego is to put itself, and it’s separate, special needs, above everything and everyone else. I’m not just talking about narcissists here. We (I) do this every day, whether we recognize it or not. This is where anger, impatience, fear and judgment come from.

I got bored and restless because, when I was resting in a space of wholeness, my ego’s incessant needs were no longer being met. But that’s the ego’s MO: it always feels incomplete so it looks outside to fulfill its needs.

I was bored because my ego did not want what was happening to be happening. Where was the drama? The excitement? Why was I not spinning those stories that I usually did? My ego, and its accomplice the mind, were trying to convince me that One-ness was bullshit. That it was the illusion. I know it sounds insane, but our ego is hell-bent on maintaining the status quo, even if that status quo sucks and feels awful. As another quote says, “The ego, our limited consciousness, likes to be comfortable in its suffering.”

Comfortable in our suffering.

And the cycle begins. The moment of forgetting, of noticing the boredom and the desire to turn outside again and again for fulfillment, is the moment we can either decide to go inward instead—or snuggle back down into our big heavy down comforter of suffering.

Which led me to this: Who am I if I am not my ego? If I am not my stories and my striving? My “issues” and my emotions? My past? My body? And if I believe that I am already whole and complete, then how do I live in the world without my ego? How does that work?

I was quickly finding that my mind wasn’t the best tool for answering these questions. I needed another way and to take this advice (from a badly paraphrased quote):

“You’ve already been hard like a stone. Why not try something different?”

The Problem with No Problem, Part 1

Me, going “full yoga.”

I’m just going to go “full yoga” here. I’m tired of being in the closet. For a while now, I’ve felt “bad” about pursuing a spiritual path. And by bad, I mean I’ve felt that it’s a baloney thing to do, an excuse for not “doing” something real, meaningful, and ideally, that makes money or someone else like or respect me more. I’ve felt like this a long time, but I never really named it until lately. Like the last week or so.

First, by way of introduction, here’s a sampling of my reading list over the last decade: Most recently, The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle,  a few versions/commentaries on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and almost finished a wonderful book called Tantra Illuminated by Christopher D. Wallis. Before this: Zen Mind, Beginners Mind; Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater; A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield; You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh;  The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz; Krishnamurti’s Think on These Things; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey; The Life-Changing Magic of NOT GIVING A F*CK by Sarah Knight; and Writing Down the Bones, Thunder and Lightning, Wild Mind, and The Great Spring all by Natalie Goldberg. Oh, and Natalie introduced me to two more wonderful books: A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Bones of the Master: Journey to Secret Mongolia by George Crane. Add to this list some others, like re-reading again Donna Tarrt’s The Secret HistoryPalm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata, Departures, a memoir, The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D, Toxic Parents by Susan Forward and Craig Buck, and Not My Father’s Son, a memoir by Alan Cumming.

For the past decade, every time I brought home a new book from the library, or ordered one from Amazon, or downloaded one on my Kindle—it seemed to fit this mold. This mold was what my husband called “self-help.” Even the memoirs could be viewed this way; maybe, by reading the life stories of other people, I would learn something that could change my life. Well, isn’t that why we read them? Anyway, he would point this out to me as a kind of reminder (I like to think, a loving one) that perhaps reading about all this stuff wasn’t quite the same as doing the things these books suggest. And with that remark—which at the time made me want to rip his throat out—my husband unwittingly (or did he?) launched me toward a more dedicated path of spiritual practice.

Who knew? You never know when you’ll meet your guru.

Oh, and don’t get caught up in that word—guru. It just means teacher. Really.

So, I started on the path feeling pretty yucky about it. And about myself. This, I’m coming to recognize, seems to be a common experience. I won’t call it universal, but then again, I’ve been studying the non-dual Saiva Tantra and could very well assert that this is precisely the case. If we humans did not have a limited experience of our selves (small S), we could never hope to have the unbounded, freeing experience of our whole Selves (big S). I would argue that most humans feel yucky about themselves, and not in a depressed kind of way, just a “why does it have to be this way?” kind of way. Which I’ll get to later.

I didn’t study my way into becoming a “spiritual person.” And I’m not just a super fast reader and can read more and therefore am way smarter than you (which is what my 7-year old would say). The books (and yoga asana practice—the postures—I’d been loosely following since my late teens) were merely pointers, sign posts. In and of themselves, they meant nothing. But without them, I would never have had the will to know or seek my own experience of what each author and person was trying to point to.

This year, I started the process of getting a certification from Yoga Alliance to be a yoga asana teacher. It began with a series of immersions in yoga philosophy in general, and the Anusara yoga school’s philosophy specifically. It felt right. It felt natural. It felt like I was doing the thing that flowed naturally from my ever-growing will to know and experience my true Self. Not transcend it, but know it.

Clarity is a funny thing. The moment you open your eyes and recognize reality as it is, everything falls away. It’s the moment you recognize that all the stories you tell yourself about who you are—depressed, anxious, fat, lazy, a bad mother, lacking discipline, alone, mean, never going to amount to anything, a bad dancer, always screwing up, unable to sit still, etc.—are just that, stories.

Wait. What about people who are clinically depressed, with chemical imbalances in the brain? What about schizophrenics? Are you saying it’s all in their head??

Yes. Isn’t it? Aren’t all those diseases originating in the mind and its ability to discriminate between consciousness of this moment (as in, what is happening right now) and some other mode of consciousness, like when we dream during sleep, fantasize about the future, or remember the past? And lacking that ability, the person can’t choose appropriate responses?

Okay, I really have no idea about this, but I threw it out there because it is something I’ve been contemplating a lot lately. Because I have battled depression and anxiety, and suffered deeply from it, over many years. Because I have contemplated suicide. Because I have been looking back into my past for answers and working with therapists too. So yes, I would like to know. But here’s the thing. I am the last person to throw out modern psychology, neurobiology, etc. and have always embraced the idea of mental illness as a disease. I was a fucking Psych major in college, for goodness sake. Also, my brother killed himself after suffering his entire life with mental illness. So I am by no means calling the extreme suffering caused by mental illness a “figment of the imagination”; that suffering is terribly, horribly real.

Yet, I walked into my most recent therapy session, sat down on the little wicker sofa, and told my sweet therapist that “I had no problems.” She gave me a beatific smile and nodded her head, making her tight grey curls bounce. It was a non-verbal thumbs up. This isn’t some kind of Jedi mind-trick, power-of-positive-thinking bullshit. This wasn’t the result of brainwashing by a charismatic (but highly flawed) self-appointed “guru,” or of standing in front of the mirror and repeating positive daily affirmations. Oh, and it wasn’t because I lost that last 5 pounds either.

It was because I simply woke up. I woke up to the fact that at this moment, now, I can honestly say I have no problems (this taken from Tolle’s book, where he asks readers to contemplate this very question). It might be true that my left hip is hurting again, or I don’t agree with my mom about something, or that I got a speeding ticket, or have an assignment due in 1 hour when I really need three hours, or owe the bank money I don’t have: but unless, and until, my mind creates a story around that situation—and labels it “good” or “bad”—there is no problem. There is only the situation, as it is now, and my response to it.


Needless to say, along with this freeing insight has come some interesting things I call “side effects” of conscious awareness.

So stay tuned for Part 2, in which I realize that I am Universal Consciousness manifest, my marriage is wonderful, my children are angels of the highest divinity, and I am bored out of my freaking skull…

We Make the House

Cluster of arrows: A symbol of unity for the Haudenosaunee, representing the strength conferred by the nations joining together.

There is a lot of talk about action right now. I marched in the Women’s March in Seneca Falls, NY last weekend: the birthplace of women’s rights. Though there were native men and women there who offered an alternative history of women’s rights (not to mention democracy) in North America. That was inspiring; the story of the “great Peacemaker” of the Haudenosaunee (meaning “they made the house,” referring to the many nations coming together as one) traveling throughout the massive territory stretching from just west of the Hudson River to the Great Lakes and into Canada. The Peacemaker went from village to village, nation to nation, explaining his vision of democracy. A unified community in which all members could have access to clean water for drinking and cooking, fertile land for farming and hunting, and the support of the entire community in their lives—from birth to death. Regardless of status, ability, birth name, location. And they “wrote” these conditions into a constitution, a statement of agreed upon and shared values. But not everyone was convinced.

We stood on the street in Seneca Falls, next to the original Wesleyan Chapel where 200 brave women and men of America set down their list of “Sentiments and Grievances” in 1848. The native woman speaking was standing outside the chapel. The sun was out and it was getting hot; it was almost 60 degrees on January 21st in central New York.

The woman said that there were plenty of people who didn’t like what the Peacemaker proposed. If we agree to provide for all, what about me? What about mine? She explained that among those villages, Clan Mothers of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga and other nations took up the Peacemaker’s proposal. These women spread the ideas to Chiefs in other villages; they talked with other women and men. They listened deeply to their fears. And in the end, these women’s intense presence and support of the Peacemaker’s vision changed the world. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy was born. If you visit the website link, you’ll read this description of the Confederacy.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy has been in place since time immemorial. The Peacemaker was sent by the Creator to spread the Kariwiio or good mind…Travelling from community to community they both succeeded in persuading the Chiefs of each nation to join in the Great League of Peace and founded the only government with a direct connection to the Creator.

I’m not doing this story justice. I was listening—to an Oneida  Clan Mother, a Mohawk-Iroquois author and speaker, and a women’s rights historian and author. A lot of people, I’ll be honest, were texting. Or they were taking photos with their phones, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, maybe posting a picture or tweeting about being at the march. They were connecting with people who weren’t at the march and with people who were. I won’t cast stones; I texted a picture of the crowd to a friend who was marching in D.C., to my mom, and to my best friend.

But did you read that description? “…founded the only government with a direct connection to the Creator.” I was listening to the Clan Mother and then she said something that was out of the normal cadence of her speech. It kind of broke through.

“Can you imagine if protecting the Earth for all people was written into YOUR constitution?”

Because this was part of the Peacemaker’s vision of government, along with systems guaranteeing representation, protection of rights, and accountability. The foundation of that accountability was honoring the One, Universal energy that manifests in everything on our planet, in the universe.

Can you imagine if our governments were founded on this, and not our fragile, frightened human egos? Our deluded minds?

Holy shit. Talk about a revolution.

I’m worried that right now, people are more concerned with doing something about the political climate than they are about being. We can get involved in all kinds of movements. Unlike some people, I do believe that marching can accomplish something. But it doesn’t accomplish change: we didn’t get a new president, cleaner water, introduce any bills, make anyone happier or healthier. We only did one thing; we marched. That’s it. And next time I am offered the opportunity to march, I’ll make another choice to act or not.

It’s important to act. But how? Do we call congressmen, write letters, protest, make signs, knit pussy hats. What do we do? I hear people asking this. I ask myself this. “I” ask myself this, as if I’m two people. I am two people.

If you aren’t two people, you don’t have to ask yourself what action to take next. There is only one You. It’s the same You that’s your dog, your cat, your son, your co-worker, and your garbage collector. It’s the You that voted for Donald Trump, the You that likes sushi, the You that owns a truck the boasts two Confederate rebel flags on the back. It’s the You that is divorced, drunk, homeless and pregnant. It’s the You who’s none of those things. It’s the You on an inflatable raft in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the You that your mind is convinced is NOT you.

If you can feel your breath in your belly just once, You will start to emerge. And when You emerge, You will not have to ask “yourself” what action to take next. You will naturally pick up the trash on the side of the road when you see it. You will listen deeply when you want to turn away. You will insist on staying present when you are facing: death, corruption, loss, illness, hate, anger, pain, happiness, boredom. Stay with boredom. Why am I bored? I’m resisting what’s happening now, right here. I get bored a lot.

Another thing the Clan Mother said that rang into my chest and made me tear up. She again stepped out of her speech a little, making this exclamation to the crowd in Seneca Falls (paraphrased as best I can remember):

“We [the Haudenosaunee, the native people and their culture] are not a myth! … And if you are not satisfied with your leaders and have no way to redress your grievances, consider renouncing your citizenship and becoming a citizen of our nation.”

Unlike the war cry of “Two things are certain: We’ll get out asses kicked and We will win!,” made by another speaker, this line got little applause. There was a smattering and some murmurs. Renounce our citizenship? My friend leaned over to ask, “Do they really have their own nation?”

Apparently, this idea was too radical for the group assembled. Too out there.

But I thought about it hard. Did she really want Americans to leave their country in protest? It seemed like she was asking us to give up. Then I read The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. This book popped into my life in the last year or so; a friend here and there recommending it, an article or other book referencing it. It showed up and I finally read it; somehow it was time. Whatever you think about Eckhart Tolle—is he enlightened, insane, or both?—well, don’t think about it. So I read the book, kind of absorbing it instead. Softening my mind because I didn’t like the title. It rubbed “me” the wrong way.

I finished the book this week, a mere 240 pages, and it hit me that the Clan Mother was saying something even more fundamental when she suggested we “renounce” our citizenship. She was calling on us, collectively, to reject the corrupted and unconscious ego-based world we have created and full on create a new fucking oneCreate one, that like the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, is directly connected to the Creator. The Universal. From whence we came and whither we’ll return. You don’t have to believe me. In fact, don’t believe in anything.

And the only way to create that new world is for each human on this planet to realize their connection to the Universal. From connection comes right action. From connection comes compassion. Not “I wish you well” compassion, or “I know what it’s like to be in your shoes compassion,” but an essential, deep recognition of the fact that we are not just a collection of individual minds wandering around competing to survive: we are just the One.

So if you march, march. If you stay home and cook dinner. Cook dinner.

If you write a postcard to your representative, do that because now, this moment, it is the right action for you.

If you find yourself worrying about “the movement,” or being depressed about the news, or obsessively checking to see what new evil Trump has dreamed up—stop and close your eyes for three seconds.

And when you open them, look around. Do you have a problem right now?

No, there are no problems right now. Now is as it is. And from that clear, open space you can choose. And there is immense strength in choice.

You can choose to do nothing. If so, do nothing 100%.

Or you can choose to act.

Whatever you do, Being has to precede it.

It’s fucking revolutionary. And frankly, it blows my fragile little limited mind. Exactly as it should.

Wild, Wild Onions

wildoniondraw6x360It’s one of the first nice days of spring. The sun is out and everyone is wearing t-shirts even though a stiff breeze is blowing cool air off the lake and into our fields. The boys are keeping themselves warm running around outside (Hallelujah!) and I’m washing vegetables at the sink in a contemplative mood. All’s right with the world.


“Mom! Look what we found!”

Ian flies into the mudroom with a rush of cool, earthy air.

“Wild onions! Tons of them!”

His fists are clenched around bright green stringy bundles. His smile is so wide, he might pop. He drops the bundles on the floor.

“Oh wow! That is a lot,” I say, trying not to sound too disappointed that it looks like an Easter basket exploded on the floor. I give Ian a paper bag for his bounty. He snatches it and runs back outside.


“Will!” I hear him shout to his brother. “I have a bag, let’s get more!”

I contemplate my vegetables.

Wild onions are the odor of my childhood. I played outside a lot as a kid; I hated dresses and loved dirt. I built tepees and forts with sticks and old blankets, played “Kick the Can” every summer night, road my bike, rolled in the grass.

I also made mud pies, for real. I turned the red Virginia clay of our backyard into primitive pots, cups, and saucers, drying them in the sun on our back deck. I pretended to be on my own: hunting and gathering. I managed several archaeological digs in our woods. I found a shoe-shaped rock, cracked precisely into two halves, containing prehistoric shell fossils. My mom showed me I could eat dandelion greens. Nasturtiums. Tiny black caps. Wild onions.

Maybe because they were everywhere—or maybe because they were weeds—I picked lots of wild onions. I harvested them like they were the first crop after a long, cold winter. I nibbled on them. I felt a prick of pride being able to fend for myself. Could I live on wild onions and dandelions alone? Yes, when you’re seven years old, you can.


Ian rushes back into the mudroom with a full bag. I’m not paying attention; I’m making dinner. He takes off his shoes and squeezes between me and the counter. He gets a storage container and a lid from the drawer. He shoves his harvest into the container and closes it. He puts it carefully in the refrigerator.

“Now we can save them for later, Mom,” he says.

I want to tell him that squeezing the onions in like that will bruise them. That I really don’t need a bunch of stringy weeds, barely the size of a chive. That I can’t think of a thing to make with them and they’ll just rot. Instead, I just stop cooking, watching Ian’s blonde head in constant motion moving away from me. Constantly moving away.

I’ve got to find a recipe for those onions.

A year later and spring isn’t here yet, but in between grey, wet days of winter cold, we’ve been blessed with sunshine and warmth. It made everyone giddy to go outside, especially me. I’ve been talking about building a fort with the kids forever; this time, we were going to do it.

It was a real team effort: me, me, and a little more from me.

To be fair, I had a wonderful time. I smiled a lot. We dragged dead tree branches around. Prickers scratched my gloves and coat, burrs covered our socks and pants; we lost track of time (I lost track of time!) and finally wandered inside as the light faded only because we were starving. Ian went off alone at some point, creating a special path to our fort. Will got bored and made a make-shift baseball tee from some deadwood.

We had a roof and walls, and we could sit inside—sheltered.

They lost interest after a few weeks in my plans to expand the fort. It got cold again and wet. I didn’t push it. But one day, while they were at school and the sun came out, I walked into the woods to our fort and crawled inside (the benefit of never growing taller than most of today’s 6th graders).

It was cozy. Safe. Quiet. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more than my kids did. I felt exactly like my 8 year-old self and remembered why these spaces are so special to children. Spaces where adults (usually) cannot go. Spaces created in a passionate frenzy of joy. Or out of necessity.

I did make that recipe with the wild onions. I made a quiche, I think, and the kids thought it was pretty damn cool.