Life as a career

Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship. Everything else you’re doing is just focusing on a tiny subset of life in the attempt to give life some meaning. What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it. It isn’t any particular event; it’s the willingness to experience life’s events.

Singer, Michael A.. The Untethered Soul (p. 161). New Harbinger Publications. Kindle Edition.

Covid-19 has turned so many things upside down. The upside down, blurry vision sometimes offers glimpses of hidden perspectives. Like: since we can work from home, why were we “going” to work anyway? Why do 9-5 jobs exist? What is the relationship between time and purpose? Who do we shelter with, and potentially infect and are infected by? What are essential services? What is home when a social boundary as well as a retreat? What are we losing in this social distancing? What are we gaining? How do I connect to loved ones outside my bubble? How do I love from a distance? How do I have hope without expectations? How do I plan without hubris?

How do I show my willingness to live? How do I serve and do justice to life itself? How would I write my resume for a career in life?

The quote above reassures me that I don’t have to be anything. I just have to live life the best I can. Let life flow through me including all the questions, uncertainties and losses. It isn’t good or bad, its simply braving life, willfully.

Living well is an miraculous achievement.

Today I have eaten well, rested well, noticed my surrounding well, connected with those sheltering in place with me, I spoke, I shared, cooked and cooked, cleaned, contributed beyond my walls as best as I could. I did not change the world. I witnessed life lived in my tiny corner of the universe. That has to be enough.

I’ll admit, some days it feels easier to stay under the covers and hide from life.

We are all independent contractors invested in the career of life. We do better when we collaborate instead of compete.

Give yourself a performance review today. How do you rate your career in life ?

I wish you willingness to experience life’s events, beautiful and scary,


How to Eat Like a Yogi

A long time ago there was a yogini, Giri Bala who lived without food – Yogananda tells us in the in the Autobiography of a Yogi. At age 12 responding to her mothers-in-law taunts that she eats too much, Giri Bala with the help of her Guru stopped eating in order to prove that humans are sustained by spirit not matter.

To me, Ayurveda, as a holistic medicine practice, is related to yoga as another practice of cultivating connection with the universe, others and within. I am drawn to the view of eating as a cosmic event where elements collide.

There are too many conflicting accounts of yoga principles to account for here. The details are less important or interesting. The idea that I am a location where streams of cosmic energies like earth, water, fire and air whip up into a special climate is fascinating. My encounters with others shape my physical, emotional and spiritual environment, my personal reformed and reflected universe.  For example, spicy food can fuel my anger, yet energize another.

This is certainly not a medical prescription, for weight loss, Ayurveda is a way to use food as a spiritual practice.

Here are the principles worth considering:

  1. The principle of Power: Everything has qualities and powers.
  2. The principle of Balance: Like qualities increases like qualities and balancing requires inviting the opposite quality.
  3. The principle of Doshas: Eat things with qualities and powers that balance your constitution (inside)
  4. The principle of Seasons: Eat things according to the season (outside)

When we pay attention, we know when we’ve eaten too much or too little, we recognize that something is fighting us in our stomachs resulting in gas or heartburn, we know when something smells or feels wrong in our mouth. If we mindfully eat and digest, we feel when we need something heavy and grounding and when we need something light and soothing. Usually, we don’t eat mindfully or pay attention to our bodies, we eat with our eyes, our memories, our expectations and worse, our stress.

Your stomach is your internal universe that transforms matter into energy. What is it craving now?

Advice from a Recovering Academic

It was Valentine’s Day, 2013. I had waited all day in fear, as fellow tenure-bound colleagues celebrated with online posts conveying relief and joy. When I finally got the evening call from the dean of liberal arts, “I’m sorry, there just wasn’t enough,” he said. That was it, a quick and sudden death of my academic career. And, then came the tsunami of self-judgment that ripped through my soul. “I was not enough,” it viciously screamed.

During the previous fall semester, the school of visual and performing arts and the college of liberal arts had approved my petition for tenure. I had lulled myself into false confidence. And, so the university committee’s decision was a shocking end to my academic aspirations. Throughout the difficult year of 2014, I had applied for jobs, interviewed and been rejected. Multiple times. I was still not enough.

The following year, I was in a fog debating my commitment to academia. If only I published a book, I would be enough. But it didn’t feel right. I would present at conferences as an independent scholar. I felt like a player without a team, without a home-base. These foggy days were also full of possibility. I started a blog to help me find my non-academic voice. I volunteered widely. I explored whether I’d like to go to culinary school or high school teaching, all the while wondering whether I could ever find my way back to an academic post. Thanks to my husband, I wasn’t starving during this period of anxious self-exploration, a luxury I’m lucky to enjoy.

At one point, my goal was to become a food writer. So I blogged more regularly, wrote short pieces for a magazine and as an afterthought to soothe my wrung out academic heart I worked through a yoga teacher certification program.

I stopped asking what could I have done more. Instead, I relaxed into the thought that I had done the best I could. I had done enough. But there was still anger and hurt.

It was a month into teaching yoga that my heart’s grip on that lead-heavy pebble of hurt began to loosen. I was thinking and reading about the power of narrative, of being able to notice without attachment or judgment, of being able to cultivate a witness consciousness. I wasn’t trying to apply these thoughts to my tenure hurt that in my mind I had already addressed and contained. But somehow, as I slept, these perspectives traveled through my mind and heart to find and envelope that hard pebble of hurt. I woke up with a new thought. A thought I can’t believe I hadn’t seen before.

There were clues all along. I had been hired to the new position of Design Historian. I was not trained in design history. I came to the post with a Ph.D. in philosophy and an undergraduate in architecture. I taught and developed my curriculum from the perspective of material philosophy. I was an outsider in every way.

Clue #1: The US government, in my application for a work visa, asked for clarification regarding my academic background as it related to design history. To this request, my Ph.D. advisors replied with a defense of philosophical analysis in creative pursuits and my new supervisors reassured them of my ability to teach the classes. Here was my first missed clue from the universe. I was to first defend philosophy, not expand the critical parameters of design history. I had dismissed my commitment to philosophy all too quickly to find a home in design history and in the U.S.

Clue #2: Quite a few years into the position, my department head warned, that I was investing too much time in curriculum development. Focus on research and publishing he encouraged. How was I to split my energy in two different directions? Here was my second missed clue: my teaching and research agendas were already fueling each other if only I had noticed my internal narrative instead of trying to adjust to a misperceived outside agenda.

Clue#3: An editor was interested in my book project comparing the philosophies of two early twentieth-century immigrant designers. It was about difference at the heart of American design. Because much had already been written about one of the two, the editor asked that I focus the book on the one, less discussed designer. Again, instead of listening to my inner narrative, I complied. Ironically, once I had done so, the book was categorized under a different editor, who no longer found the book publishable. My third clue offered by the publishing world exposed the commercial limits of my philosophical pursuits.

There were many other moments, besides political citizenship, academic bureaucracy and commercial demands, when the universe was nudging me to notice my internal narrative. Finally, the unexpected shove, that spun me out of my orbit. As I floated unanchored, searching for a spot to land, I began to notice my own emotional, intellectual and physical landscape. I had told an imaginary other’s story, instead of my own. This change in perspective was the beginning of healing. I was beginning to recover my own narrative beyond the dreaded tenure document.

Here is my advice as a recovering academic, find ways to ruthlessly and courageously defend your inner narrative. Yoga, prayer, meditation, walking, whatever helps you hear the inner voice that leads you to question everything. Do it. Listen to the clues, sit with the anxieties, be slow to react, watch your own responses, notice, notice and notice. Academic, research thyself.

I am still stung by the question, “What do you do?”

“I’m a recovering academic,” I mumble under my breath, as I say, “aspiring social worker with a side of yoga.”

It is enough.

I am Dr. Enuf 🙂 and so are you.


How to make a proper cup of tea

“Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.”

– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

In her book The Wisdom of No Escape, American Tibetan Buddhist, Pema Chodron discusses the above quote as follows,

The quotation really made an impression on me. It was completely true: if you can live with the sadness of human life (what Rinpoche often called the tender heart of genuine heart of sadness), if you can be willing to feel fully and acknowledge continually your own sadness and the sadness of life, but at the same time not be drowned in it, because you also remember the vision and power of the Great Eastern Sun, you experience balance and completeness, joining heaven and earth, joining vision and practicality. …..One can hold them both in one’s heart, which is actually the purpose of practice. As a result, one can make a proper cup of tea. …..

Making a proper cup of tea means that you thoroughly and completely make that tea because you appreciate the tea and the boiling water and the fact that together they make something that’s nourishing and delicious, that lift’s one’s spirits.

When I feel in small daily chores, like washing dishes, folding laundry or making tea, a sense of ritual, a sense of awareness, a sense of sadness and light, the chore becomes a moment of presence. This is so difficult to remember when we are rushing and impatiently waiting for water to boil.

Every morning I make myself tea. I use a red kettle that whistles instead of an electric water kettle or the microwave.  This process takes a few extra minutes. The clicking turn of the gas stove, the small explosion of blue and orange light,  the cool feel of metal as I release the water waiting at the faucet, the weight of the kettle as I lift it and place it over the colorful circular flame, the blossoming heat that grabs the kettle, the hissing steam and eventually screaming whistle, all together compose a strangely active yet calming morning ritual.  How can I expand this sense of ritual, as awareness and presence, to the rest of my day? This is the challenge of the proper cup of tea, especially on days I find myself waiting for water to boil.



An Architect, a Philosopher, and a Social Worker walk into…

An OSCE (Objective structured clinical exam). For, “social work?” you might be asking. Indiana University uses the OSCE exam to assess student’s clinical assessment ability. It is a way to document and measure how responsive, intentional, empathetic and helpful, I can be as a social worker.  Of my first four classes in the MSWD program, this was my most challenging. And, in beautiful irony, one where I learned the most.

Throughout the semester we were given scenarios to practice and play out with our peers. The contexts (after all social work is all about context) varied, for example ranged from client escaping domestic violence arrives at a homeless shelter, to diabetic client admitted into the ER or woman gives birth to a baby with marijuana in her system. The final exam involved serving a homeless veteran suffering from PTSD.

In learning how to listen to others, I learned so much about my own strengths and resistances. I learned how I think and how I might think differently. Here is an example:

In responding to the interviewed veterans statement “I feel overwhelmed and unable to do anything…..” I had three minds working at the same time………

My architect, beautiful problem solver mind wanted to fix it as soon as possible, as uniquely as possible for the client. Where and when do you feel overwhlemed? What do you need to not feel overwhelmed? What makes you feel better? What does being overwhelmed look like?

My philosopher, existential examiner mind, wanted to understand the condition as shared human struggles of alienation and dread. Why do you feel overwhelmed? What kind of overwhelming sensation is it? Why are you unable to do anything? What stops you?

My budding social worker, empowering listener mind, needed to wait for the specific, unique and individual experience of ‘being overwhelmed’ without assuming that the experience needed to be fixed, or that it was universally shared. In either case, I am reducing the person to a problem needing to be solved or a diminished example of a larger event. I needed to hear the expression ‘ being overwhelmed’ as if for the first time, with the curiosity to ask, how do YOU feel overwhelmed? How does it feel for you to be unable to do anything? Tell me more. It required the humility to drop all assumptions about the word “overwhelmed” and its meaning. This is hard for a recovering academic. I want the security of knowing things!

Certainly, these three disciplinary perspectives can overlap and reinforce each other. In best circumstances it should, I should work to find the client a home, I should work to connect the client with help related to PTSD but first and foremost I should be the client’s advocate, holistically, contextually. As a social worker, I am tasked to understand and intervene in a particular context in which this human being, here and now in front of me, is not fully self-realized.  I sigh as I type this. This seems an impossible task. Who among us can claim such completion. As long as we feel we are moving, even if slowly, in the positive direction, all is well. Case-work is not to just designing the shoes or giving directions but walking a few steps with. As an architect and philosopher, I designed and analyzed. I haven’t been trained to be with others.

This practice-based education pushes me in ways I hadn’t imagined. In a way teaching yoga better prepared me. In learning how to teach yoga, I learned to move with others, to sequence sensations and feelings, to encourage each person to find their own pose, to notice what their body needs regardless of what I am proposing.

So I suppose the title of this blog post should be: an architect, a philosopher, a yogi and a social worker walk into an interview……. to support human dignity and individuality.

Hmmmm….how does the hungry philosopher, eating and cooking fit into this? I’m quite sure it does, just haven’t thought about it yet 🙂

I learned a lot. I’m both afraid of and looking forward to semester 2. Sometimes this disciplinary dependence on others feels overwhelming and confusing to me. Muddy.

I’ll take yoga teacher Susan Lasater’s words to heart……………… may I be like “the lotus at home in muddy waters.”

May you be too!



Attending, listening Yoga-style

“The art of listening is the marriage of ear and space.” – Remski interpretation of Patanjali’s sutra 3.41

In my Theory and Practice Course for Social Work, we are learning the art of interviewing. Step one involves achieving a compassionate and empowering balance between attending and reflecting. Here is an ancient yogic way to develop the super power of deep listening by being mindful of our tendency towards “automatic self-referral” as explained by Matthew Remski,

Internal space is also utilized to broaden the gap between “your story” and “my story”. This space is most commonly disrupted by communication habits that fail to nurture the gap of otherness. For instance, if one friend begins to tell another friend of her marriage problems, the second friend can begin to “hold space” for the first by simply reflecting the feelings she hears. This allows the first objective of communication — being heard — to be fulfilled. But if the second friend begins to “false-empathize” with the first by immediately saying, “Oh I know what you mean: let me tell you what my partner did”, she has blocked the space of otherness through a pattern that Miles Sherts (2009) calls “automatic self-referral”. The first friend will not feel heard, and her feelings will become more isolated and compressed, a combination that invites suppression.

Remski, Matthew. Threads of Yoga: A Remix of Patanjali-s Sutra-s, with Commentary and Reverie (p. 180). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.

I’m still working on this super power. Maybe you are too.

Happy listening to “the gap of otherness,”



Sway, Sweat and Sip in Costa Rica

Think back to memories where you were so immersed in the experience that either you couldn’t or wouldn’t stop to take a picture. For this reason, cherished memories of my recent trip to Costa Rica doesn’t make for a good social media post.

For my own sake, I’ll try my best to share and reflect on a few moments. Prepare to use your imagination…

Gentle swinging in a hammock: It was warm and quiet except for the chirping birds of all colors and sounds. The hammock was soft and enveloping, enclosing me like a cocoon. (It wasn’t on of those horrid ones that flip over as you try to find your balance. So awkward.) Above through lacy vibrant green leaves, the sky was cloudy blue. Rain was approaching. There were a few moments when I did feel a few raindrops but by then I was too relaxed to be bothered. Of my two session hammock afternoon, the first involved quiet rocking with friends reading books in other hanging hammocks, while the second session, after my tea break, I was joined by my beloved, who swayed across from me as we talked about our time in Costa Rica. I have never enjoyed a hammock supported afternoon so much.

Temezcal Sweat Lodge: Darkness, stones, heat, ancestors, sweat, doors, herbs, sweat, intentions, chanting, sweat, wash off, cool pool, return, darkness, hot stones, steam, sweat, confusion, darkness, screaming, fetal position, sweat, cool, heat, forgiveness, love, sweat, cleansing, heat, steam, sweat, friends, ease, OM.

Sacred Cacao Ceremony with Tibetan Healing Bowls: Mindful sipping for unsweet hot-chocolate-like liquid in a circle with friends, rest, sound resonating through us. Sipping, rest, heart pulsated with stronger beats, melted emotions for some, reassurance for some, just relaxing for some, talking stick, offerings, invoking ancestors, parents. Who knows whether the ceremony was authentic or not? What ceremony is? As a tourist, authenticity of experience is always suspect. Does it matter, if it leaves you feeling good and joyous?

I learned to mindfully sway, sweat and sip during my trip to Costa Rica.

Thank you, Community Yoga for organizing the retreat, Thank you Vida Asana for being a welcoming place and host.

Here are some moments with pictures of beautiful things, places, and people.







Self-Examination, Yoga style

Yoga helps,

  • “the seeker excavate the tensions of inner life in a self-directed manner”

(Look inside)

  •  us be responsible for our own spiritual health

(Be responsible for your own peace)

  • “relocate the unseen within us, invites us to introvert, to open our eyes to why we are who and how we are.”

(See your hidden motivations)

  • “elevates the capacity for internal observation to the level of a virtue previously occupied by notions of “godliness”.”

(Accept Self-examination as cosmic responsibility)

In doing so, yoga exposes the power of internal authority through self-awareness.

In my opinion, and setting aside the accidents of its publishing fame, the yoga sūtra-s deserves our continued attention as a wildly exciting text for four interweaving reasons.

Firstly, it breaks with most previous paths of spiritual growth in its attempt to help the seeker excavate the tensions of inner life in a self-directed manner, without reliance on gurus or corporate bodies of authority. It is openly ambivalent to religious attitudes, going so far as to equate breath-awareness (1.34) with religious devotion (1.23) as a technique of evolution. From the outset, it contains no self-validating list of lineages, no creation story or deference to divine power: the text is a non-denominational and impersonal list of quiet discoveries.

Secondly, the sūtra-s generally (if we remix pāda three) move away from the magical thinking directed at cutting deals with unreachable gods and invisible spirits for a better life — an approach that continues to pervade our current spiritual milieu, from the remote prayer experiments of evangelical Christians to the “think methods” popular in this new age of The Secret.

Thirdly, Patañjali offers a substantive and startlingly modern map of psychomentality, dividing out conscious faculties for our observation, and alluding to how the unconscious shadows that seem to motivate our actions might be illuminated. I render saṃskāra and vāsanā as “trace” and “pattern”, following Feuerstein, who describes saṃskāra as a “sublimilinal activator”, and vāsanā as a “chain of similar karmic activators” (1998, 241). Bursting forth from the Vedic tradition, which sought to pacify the external forces of adṛṣṭa (“unseen” gods and energies), Patañjali relocates the unseen within us, invites us to introvert, to open our eyes to why we are who and how we are. This puts the notion of “trapped memory” front and centre, allowing a clear reckoning of karma: our traces, habits, and grooves. Patañjali suggests that we can slowly free ourselves of the unseen. This relentless excavation of hidden thought as the source of our pain, this dive towards whatever is unconscious, represents a clear displacement of his ancestors’ obsession with the whims of external gods.

This leads to the fourth gesture: the opening chapter of the yoga sūtra-s elevates the capacity for internal observation to the level of a virtue previously occupied by notions of “godliness”. The sincere human no longer needs to adhere to a perfect ideal, whether social or philosophical, to attain wisdom. She simply needs to watch her experience unfold, and to enrich her action with tender watching.

These four gestures amount to a broad gift: the text places implicit value on the power of internal authority.

Remski, Matthew. Threads of Yoga: A Remix of Patanjali-s Sutra-s, with Commentary and Reverie (pp. 42-43). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.

Book Image from

Yoga for Grief 4 (Off the Mat) – Insomnia

Haven’t we all suffered nights of restless sleep? I still do sometimes, but now without the added anxiety and self-judgment. I don’t feel like a victim of my restless thoughts, emotions, and imagination.

Knowing a few relaxation techniques gives us tools to try while lying in bed, eyes wide open, instead of stirring up anxiety with questions like, “Why am I awake? What is wrong with me? If I don’t sleep I’ll be tired tomorrow, ……I can proactively relax. Hmmm, sounds like a contradiction.

You have to find what works for your specific form of insomnia. Try everything. What have you got to lose, except for feeling like a helpless victim of your exhausted and spinning spirit?

Here is what we practiced this week at the hospice sponsored Yoga for Grief session. Join us.

“Yoga nidra is a form of meditative self-inquiry that, while relaxing the body, opens the mind to greater discernment and self-awareness, and the heart to love and acceptance of what is. It is a powerful tool for clearing away our limiting beliefs and emotions and for living from a more balanced state of mind.”

Weintraub, Amy. Yoga Skills for Therapists: Effective Practices for Mood Management (Norton Professional Books (Hardcover)) (p. 160). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Today we’ll practice 7 techniques:

Technique 1: Body scan, Mindful Breathing and Crocodile breath from Yoga as Medicine, What keeps you from resting?

Technique 2: Chest Expansion Breathing from Yoga and Mindfulness Therapy

Technique 3: Turn off electronics, same bedtime, stretches before bed, nutrition, dark room, warm bath, prepare your body to rest.

Technique 4: 3 poses. If you find yourself awake, supported forward bend, or legs up the wall pose may help lull you back to sleep.

Supta Padangusthasana I Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose Benefits and How It Works: By stretching the golgi tendon organs within the hamstrings’ tendons, these muscles are induced to relax. The pose brings a sense of floating to the legs and definitely signals “relax” to the entire central nervous system.

Fishman, Loren. Healing Yoga: Proven Postures to Treat Twenty Common Ailments—from Backache to Bone Loss, Shoulder Pain to Bunions, and More (p. 170). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Technique 5: Lengthening exhale, Left Nostril Breathing, sleep on your right side allowing your left nostril to dominate from Yoga Skills for Therapists

Technique 6: Meditation “good-bye to the day, affirmations and calling back your energy

Technique 7: Yoga Nidra- Body part awareness. Or imagining body as a house, “turn off lights”

Technique 8: Sense awareness essential oils: Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium

Wishing all of you restful sleep and sweet dreams,


Social Work Warnings and Yoga

The course, Introduction to the Social Work Profession opened with a module, not about the glories of the profession, but rather the demands and the emphatic need for self-care.  Symptoms of “compassion fatigue” as one of the embedded TED talks warned was to be monitored on a daily basis.  Compassion fatigue unlike burn-out characterized by dispassion is a form of PTSD that retains and absorbs emotions from clients that results in derivative anxiety or secondary traumatic stress, like second-hand smoke.  The “cost of caring” the module warned can involve:

  • Intrusive mental images
  • Avoidance, detachment, social withdrawal
  • A loss of sense of safety or control
  • Feelings of disillusionment, anger, fear
  • Losing sleep and/or having nightmares
  • Lack of energy and/or emotion
  • Loss of concentration
  • Cynicism
  • Over-identification with clients
  • A sense of “self-entitlement”

Antidotes to this list of unpleasant symptoms involve physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, relationship and workplace self-care. Notice the needs your body, spirit, and mind. Ask for support. The antidote to secondary traumatic stress is primary and secondary stress-relief. Yoga and meditation help with almost all of these symptoms through movement, breath, and stillness. I feel well prepared.

Now that I have a daily meditation practice, I feel the pause it brings. I need it. It does make a difference. If meditation is not your thing, no problem, just take time to notice yourself and ask, what do I need today? How can you address your own stress if you don’t recognize it? How can you ask for help? Find a way to see yourself regardless of your profession.

For those of you saying I don’t have the time or what’s the point I can’t do anything about it, consider the quality of your life that doesn’t allow you to be present in your life. Hmmmmm…

In the end, you don’t want to be an angry victim of your own life.

This module also warned that social work is a thankless profession with little pay. From philosophy, a profession of outcasts and corrupting non-conformists, a low-paying thankless job is an improvement!  What, there are jobs for helping others and being punished for it? Perfect.

Sign me up.

Hoping you take three full breaths right now and notice yourself,


P.S. Shout out to Community Yoga in West Lafayette for my teacher training and preparing me for this next step in my evolution.