Nourish Hope

Chronic anxiety is a crisis of hope. It is the fear of a failed future. Depression is a crisis of hope. It is the belief in a meaningless future. Delusion, addiction, obsession — these are all the mind’s desperate and compulsive attempts at generating hope one neurotic tic or obsessive craving at a time.

The avoidance of hopelessness — that is, the construction of hope — then becomes our mind’s primary project. All meaning, everything we understand about ourselves and the world, is constructed for the purpose of maintaining hope. Therefore, hope is the only thing any of us willingly dies for. Hope is what we believe to be greater than ourselves. Without it, we believe we are nothing.

Mark Manson from Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope

How can we nourish hope within when we have lost, been disappointed, hurt or rejected? This is what the same author suggests,

Don’t hope.

Don’t despair either.

In fact don’t deign to believe you know anything. It’s that assumption of knowing with such blind, fervent, emotional certainty that gets us into these kinds of pickles in the first place.

Don’t hope for better. Just be better.

Be something better. Be more compassionate, more resilient, more humble, more disciplined.

– Mark Manson from Everything is F*cked: A Book about Hope

Wishing the few of you reading this a holiday season being better,


Take your emotional temperature

Just like a fever indicates a medical concern, anxiety indicates an emotional concern. What is your anxiety telling you?

Anxiety indicates that a conflict is ensuing, and so long as there is conflict a positive solution is within the realm of possibility. In this respect anxiety has been likened to the prognostic value of fever: it is a sign of struggle within the personality and an indication, speaking in psychopathological terms, that serious disintegration has not yet occurred (Yaskin).

May Ph.D., Rollo. The Meaning Of Anxiety . Hauraki Publishing. Kindle Edition.

As a sign of struggle normal anxiety focuses us on the present conflict by exposing the emotional temperature. Anxiety surrounding an exam, public speaking, presentation, meeting new people etc. simply points to caring. This is important to me, anxiety reminds us. It need to overwhelm the event in a negative, fearful and blinding light. Just as a fever tells us to rest, cover and care, a rise in anxiety does the same. Of course, in a hospital a fever is treated differently, and with alarm. This medical and emotional history maybe the difference between neurotic anxiety and normal anxiety.

To be sure, neurotic anxiety is the result of unfortunate learning in the respect that the individual was forced to deal with threatening situations at a period—usually in early childhood—when he was incapable of coping directly or constructively with such experiences. In this respect, neurotic anxiety is the result of the failure to cope with the previous anxiety situations in one’s experiences. But normal anxiety is not the result of unfortunate learning; it arises rather from a realistic appraisal of one’s situation of danger. To the extent that a person can succeed in constructively meeting the normal day-to-day anxiety experiences as they arise, he avoids the repression and retrenchment which make for later neurotic anxiety.

May Ph.D., Rollo. The Meaning Of Anxiety . Hauraki Publishing. Kindle Edition.

In order to confront anxiety, we need to recognize the rise in our emotional temperature. This is why mindfulness can help ease anxiety. We practice looking inward and measuring the emotional temperature of the moment. How can we avoid repression and retrenchment unless we recognize that we are simply appraising an experience? How can I succeed in constructively meeting day-to-day anxiety unless I mindfully engage it? Self-aware ease requires courage to confront discomfort and most importantly consistent practice.

What experiences raise your emotional temperature? How do you treat it?

Wishing you meaningful anxiety,


Rest, retreat, remove anxiety?
Photography by Nate Dale – New Adventure Production

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,


Exploded view of my now

Living forces honesty. Answers are seasonal, losing their sense precisely as they become scripture. You will die: this is the first meaning. The world around you seems to bear helpless witness to your wandering. Other people suffer in the same way, and yet this seems to increase loneliness. But you can welcome despair like gravity, for at some point the sheer pressure, tectonic in the soma, compels a violent break in pattern: running through the woods, making love with an utter loss of self. The reality of your condition offers a stark gift you accept through sudden discharges of rage and rage’s joyful shadow: this is the only life you know, and it fills you to overflowing. You live your life, yoga happens to you.

You thought you were alone. You tried to be independent. Then, standing in the market with your hand on an orange, children underfoot, traffic humming, conversations blendingwith the radio by the cash register, shoes you did not make on your feet and clothes you did not sew on your back, sun slanting through rips in the tin awning, you’re almost late for meeting someone, always almost too late. You know this orange will give you life, and that you did not grow it. Someone else gave it to you, it will become your flesh. Its colour adds immeasurably to your language and dreams while its name rhymes with nothing, and you did not conceive of it. The old grocer’s hands have become gnarled through a lifetime of handling boxes of oranges for you to eat. Someone else gives you your flesh. They could not give what they do not have. Someone else holds their flesh forth until it becomes your flesh.

A child triggers an internal laugh. A dog slaps her thick tail against your shin. Every single object that gives you life surrounds you. If you really were alone you would not exist. You did not make the air you breathe. You can’t say where the inside of your flesh begins. You are naturally reaching out as something reaches into you. No one and everyone taught you this. You surrender to the always-already-there, and yoga happens around you, through you.

– Matthew Remski, Threads of Yoga

Beautiful example of philosophical object orientation and mindful awareness, Ian Bogost style, maps, meanwhiles, lists and ontographs, Timothy Morton style thoughts of gravity, weird reality, shredded wheat magical simplicity.

Yoga invites us to the stillness of an exploded view of our present moment. Notice yourself, your body supported by the ground, your arms reaching to the sky, your breath, feelings, thoughts, sensations. All material, all fleeting. In stillness watch yourself move in thought and breath. Yoga offers such quiet power ❤️

Wishing you a weekend of mindful nows,


Yoga for Grief 2 (Off the Mat)

This was week 2 of Yoga for Grief at the IU-Arnett Hospice in Lafayette, IN. Thank you to new and returning yoga friends.

Yoga for grief can accompany each of Dr. William Worden’s four tasks of mourning: acceptance, processing, adjusting and finding a place for loss in new life. I am particularly interested in the role of yoga to help us make room for our loss as we continue to build a new life around and beyond. The loss doesn’t diminish or shrink. In order to endure a loss, we have to actively build around it. It requires constant mindful vigilance. Grief work is tiresome and exhausting. Rebuilding a life can feel overwhelming and daunting.

While mourning does not automatically imply depression, there are certainly days when one can find it difficult to get going, to move, to live this newly reconstructed life with focus and effort.

First, meet your mood. How do you feel? Notice your breath, energy, sensations, emotions, thoughts, the collection of experiences that make up your “now”. Are you feeling energetic, lethargic or at ease?

Grieving people are rarely allowed or encouraged to simply be, to feel what they feeling. Yoga, however, asks us again and again to simply be with what is, with compassion toward ourselves and others, being exactly where and how we are in the present moment. It encourages, allows and supports us in being exactly how and where we are, while at the same time giving us tools, support and space in which to adapt, adjust and accommodate who and where we are now that grief has visited a new and unwanted reality upon our lives.

Helbert, Karla. Yoga for Grief and Loss: Poses, Meditation, Devotion, Self-Reflection, Selfless Acts, Ritual (p. 21). Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Kindle Edition.

If you are feeling low on energy and finding it difficult to keep moving, maybe you are anxious at night, sluggish during the day, try these techniques to the extent that they work for your body and heart.

The path of grief is not a straight line; it is meandering and full of switchbacks. One moment you are sitting peacefully on your meditation cushion, then suddenly you are transported through time and space back to the worst day of your life. This is normal, but not at all comfortable. Such moments as these, when you feel the most stuck, are the moments where practice is most important.

Stang, Heather. Mindfulness and Grief: With guided meditations to calm the mind and restore the spirit (p. 94). Ryland Peters & Small. Kindle Edition.

Through gentle yoga practices, we can coax our body into a sense of action and energy. Add big movements with arms overhead. Add expansive breath that fills up the lungs. Add meditation that “moves.”

Today we practiced 7 techniques:

Technique 1: Overhead arm stretches

Technique 2: Ujjiya breath/ocean breath (both calming and energizing from Yoga Skills for Therapists)

Technique 3: Pulling Prana (from Yoga Skills for Therapists) Arms outstretched arms move back on an exhale. 6 times.

Technique 4: Breath of Joy (from Yoga Skills for Therapists) Arms move up and out through a three-step inhale and exhale through the mouth by bringing the arms down as you bend your knees. 6-9 times.

Technique 5: Walking meditation (from Yoga Mindfulness Therapy) for homework. 15 minutes.

Technique 6: Backward and forward meditation (from Yoga Mindfulness Therapy) Imagine a time or place that brought you joy in the past. Can you imagine a time and place beyond the grief you feel now in the future?

Technique 7: Sense-awareness essential oils: Bergamot, Peppermint, Jasmine as examples of energizing, mood enhancing oils.


Listen, children: Your father is dead.

From his old coats

I’ll make you little jackets;

I’ll make you little trousers

From his old pants.

There’ll be in his pockets

Things he used to put there,

Keys and pennies

Covered with tobacco;

Dan shall have the pennies

To save in his bank;

Anne shall have the keys

To make a pretty noise with.

Life must go on,

And the dead be forgotten;

Life must go on, Though good men die;

Anne, eat your breakfast;

Dan, take your medicine;

Life must go on;

I forget just why.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 – 1950

Contact me with any questions 🙂

Join me for Gentle Yoga at Morton Community Center, Wednesdays 10 -11:15am and Monthly Meditation at Community Yoga, donation based and usually on the second Sunday of the month, 7:30 -8:30 pm (check for details and to register online).

If you are interested in individual or group grief counseling, let’s talk. As a certified Grief Recovery Specialist, I hope to nurture self-care and hope.


Wobblyogi Wednesday: Raisins and Meditation

Eating meditatively takes us beyond focused sensations of the tongue. Eating becomes an expansive experience of smells, textures, coordinated movements mediated by the body and received by the mind. What would it be like to “taste” everything for the first time?  Here is an excerpt from Full Catastrophe Living that explains the practice of mindful eating:

The first introduction to the meditation practice in MBSR always comes as a surprise to our patients. More often than not, people come with the idea that meditation means doing something unusual, something mystical and out of the ordinary, or, at the very least, something relaxing. To relieve them of these expectations right off the bat, we give everybody three raisins and we eat them one at a time, paying attention to what we are actually doing and experiencing from moment to moment. You might wish to try it yourself after you see how we go about it.

First we bring our attention to seeing one of the raisins, observing it carefully as if we had never seen one before. We feel its texture between our fingers and notice its colors and surfaces. We are also aware of any thoughts we might be having about raisins or food in general. We note any thoughts and feelings of liking or disliking raisins if they come up while we are looking at it. We then smell it for a while, and finally, with awareness, we bring it to our lips, being aware of the arm moving the hand to position it correctly, and of salivating as the mind and body anticipate eating. The process continues as we take it into our mouth and chew it slowly, experiencing the actual taste of one raisin. And when we feel ready to swallow, we watch the impulse to swallow as it comes up, so that even that is experienced consciously. We even imagine, or “sense,” that now our bodies are one raisin heavier. Then we do it again with another raisin, this time without any verbal guidance, in other words, in silence. And then with the third. The response to this exercise is invariably positive, even among the people who don’t like raisins. People report that it is satisfying to eat this way for a change, that they actually experienced what a raisin tasted like for the first time that they could remember, and that even one raisin could be satisfying. Often someone makes the connection that if we ate like that all the time, we would eat less and have more pleasant and satisfying experiences of food. Some people usually comment that they caught themselves automatically moving to eat the other raisins before finishing the one that was in their mouth, and recognized in that moment that this is the way they normally eat.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (pp. 15-16). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.



Having an Idea – Guy Claxton

The mother does not engineer her child’s intrauterine development, but she influences it enormously through her lifestyle and her sensitivity, her anxieties, appetites and attitudes, her history and her constitution. Who she is, and the physical and emotional environment that she herself inhabits, affects the nature and the quality of the sanctum that she provides for the growing form of life within her. And so it seems to be with intuition: there are conditions which render the mental womb more or less hospitable to the growth and birth of ideas; and differing ways in which, and extents to which, different people are able, wittingly and unwittingly, to provide thsoe conducive conditions. The more clearly we can identify what these conditiona are, the more able we shall be to see how they can be fostered.

From Hare Brain and Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less

Meditation and mindfulness are ways to foster intuitive awareness and intelligence. It allows our brain to synthesize and absorb information and feelings.  The book defends intuitive and creative intelligence, pooh-bear thinking, through an analytical “d-mode” rabbit logic. It shows the value of thinking differently as the need arises, “abiding in uncertainty” for fuzzy problems and seeking clear solutions for defined problems.

Deciding whether a problem is fuzzy or defined may require both.

Related to the complexity about how to think about X, Claxton explains the fallacy of dream interpretation according to James Hillman.

It is the very nature of nature of dreams to hint and allude. ‘An image always seems more profound, more powerful and more beautiful than the comprehension of it.’ To ask of a dream “What does it mean?” is as misguided as to ask the same question of a painting or a poem – or a sunset, come to that. “To give a dream the meaning of a rational mind is … a kind of dreading up and hauling all the material from one side of the bridge to the other. It is an attitude of wanting from the uncounsious, using it to gain information, power, energy, exploiting it for the sake of the ego: make it mine, make it mine.’ The proper attitude towards a dream, according to analytical psychology, is to ‘befriend’ it: ‘to participate in it, to enter into its imagery and mood, to …play with, live with, carry and become familiar with – as one would do with a friend.’ So, ‘the first think in this non-interpretive approach to the dream is that we give time and patience to it, jumping to no conclusions, fixing it in no solutions … This kind of exploration meets the dream on its own imaginative ground and give it a chance to reaveal itself further.’

Thank you, Kathy, my friend, for recommending this book! Looking forward to reading, Intelligence in the Flesh: Why Your Mind Needs Your Body Much More Than It Thinks.

May we all foster  creative conditions, have good  idea babies and befriend our dreams,


Inorganic Recipes from Artist Charles A. Gick


Don’t miss this extraordinary exhibition about ordinary things, like dirt and spoons. Here is why…

This local studio to gallery recipe grows out of a Catholic farming family in Indiana. Artist and inorganic chef, Charles Gick, has been perfecting the cracked earth recipe since his childhood on the farm, drawing with a stick on summer mud. The exhibition is a culmination of his first tastes of meditative marking, multi-medium expression and elemental reverie. His work is as primal as the first cave etchings and as contemplative as the black paintings in Rothko Chapel. Cracked earth, both atmospheric and sculptural, becomes the ground for offerings and incomplete messages that either hover above or sit unanchored. On the slabs of cracked mud we taste the farm in the collective labor that stretches between the trucks of earth, the mixing of wet mud, the drying until cracked. Through this strange and shared effort of working the earth Gick cultivates a meditative space. The broken earth’s hunger for the clouds reminds us of a simple farming truth: blooming requires others. Gick distills the bittersweet taste of this farming truth by framing raw, earthworm etched, air-dried, messy dirt with intentional clean clarity, like all sophisticated farm-to-table dishes that celebrate the ingredients. His skill as an inorganic chef finds full expression in his ability to balance the raw and the refined. Not only is he able to balance sorrow and delight, longing and union, vulgar and elegant, he is also able to offer these tastes in multiple mediums and forms. His work includes performance, painting, sculpture, photography, design and video, so people with diverse aesthetic palates can find something to savor. The slabs of cracked earth become meditative totems, prayers for clouds. It materializes, an ethereal longing for the other. Enjoy these recipes for cracked earth, empty… and full… and taste your own muddy and cloudy longings.


Makes 2 (16’X16’ Slabs)

  • Local dirt 10 tons
  • Water 850 gallons


  • 1 Truck with a hydraulic lift bed to transport, deliver, and dump dirt
  • 3-5 Human beings to mix and transport the mud
  • 1 spade and 1 shovel to scoop dirt from dirt pile and place into buckets
  • 1 – 3’x3’ wire sifter to shift out dirt clods
  • Wheelbarrow to transport dirt to fill the buckets
  • 3 electric drills with dry wall mixing blades to mix the dirt and water
  • 25 – 5 gallon buckets to mix and hold the mud
  • A large cart on casters to transport the buckets of mud
  • 1 floor scraper to clean the floor of splattered mud
  • 2 commercial floor drying fans (additional small fans can be used as needed) to help expedite the drying and cracking process
  • 16 sheets of 4’ x 8’ – 5/8” plywood
  • 24 – 8’, 2”x6” pine
  • 8 – 16’, 2”x6” pine
  • 150 linear feet of pine screen bead board
  • 1 miter saw
  • 1 cross saw
  • 1 coping saw
  • 1 miter box
  • 150 – 7/8” metal brads to secure the screen bead board to edges of platform
  • 40 – 3” wood screws to secure the outside corners and end pieces of platform
  • 400 – 1-1/4” or longer wood screws to secure plywood to platform
  • 4 tubes of silicone calking and 1 calk gun to seal seams of plywood
  • 2 – 3 gallons of paint to paint the surface of the platform
  • Paint roller and paint tray
  • Wet/dry vacuum and a mop and bucket and broom to clean dust and water off of the gallery floor
  • 1 – 10’ x 100’ 6mil black poly sheeting to protect the gallery floor from moisture from pouring mud onto platforms
  • 4 – 16’, 1”x6” pine boards for the outer walls of mud mold
  • 2 – 8’, x 1”x6” pine boards to build a dam while pouring mud


  1. Build platform: First lay down a 20’X20” square of heavy plastic to protect gallery floor from the mud and water. It is imperative to be a considerate guest artist. Build platform, a 14’X14’ base with evenly spaced joists that can bear the weight of mud. Screw the 16’X16’ plywood top to cantilever over the base. Be sure to make the seams minimal. Each seam is an invitation for a water leak. Apply chalking over each seam in a futile nature-defying attempt at waterproofing.

Next add the 1” X 6” wood strip around the platform perimeter creating a frame to hug and constrict the mud. Apply black Gorilla Tape at the seam to prevent the escape of water to the floor. Now the platform is ready to receive the mixed wet mud.

  1. Mix mud: Ask politely for the dirt to be delivered and dumped outside. Shovel or spade scoopfuls of mud to be sifted and shaken. Much like baking a satiny smooth cake the sifting allows the removal of big clumps. If banana bread like texture is desired, leave dirt un-sifted. Note the difference in the two cracked earth slabs: The one holding the cloud dome is less sifted and has more texture while the slab under the earth and sky coat has less.

Using a wheelbarrow, transport dirt to the interior space closer to a water source. This transfer may also offer relief from hot Indiana summer days. Scoop dirt into 25 – 5 gallon buckets. Using a drill, mix 2 to 3 gallons of water to each bucket until a thick cake batter state is achieved. Relying on a table with castors and the energy of 3 people, push 25 buckets close to the platform in the gallery. Walk up onto platform as needed. Construct a sidewalk concrete pour-like dam that will permit a slow and controlled pour. Each dammed section will be limited by the stretch of your body. Pour mud until a thickness of 5” is reached. Repeat until the full 16’X16’ square pan is filled.

  1. Let dry: Do not be alarmed when water rises to top. The rising water allows for a brownie like crusty surface (a ¼ inch of water floating on top is fine). If a heavy spot of water develops use wet-dry vacuum to pull the water away without touching the surface.

Use commercial fans to hasten the drying process. Rotate fans around every couple days. Be sure to face fans in the same single direction so that air travels across the surface, like wind over the landscape. Do not create tornado conditions. Allow for 2 weeks of drying time.

For vulnerable and soft areas, mix thicker mud to make a stronger mold. Also note that the gallery will become humid as water escapes into the air, creating an invisible domesticated cloud.

The poured wet mud of 5 inches will shrink down to 3 inches. The mud will become hard enough to walk across and hang up watches or place a cloud dome. Limit walking to protect brownie-like crust. Once mud pulls away from the platform wall about a ¼ to ½ inch, lift the 1”X6” form away without hurting or pulling the slab. Now the cracked earth is ready, hovering over the platform, broken and waiting to receive.

Serve the Slabs of Cracked Earth with:

The Earth and Sky Coat

The Cloud Dome

Charles A. Gick’s Recipe for Empty

  1. Locate 20 square feet of wall space
  2. 241 unfilled teaspoons will make 2-1/2 pints of absence. Gallons of restless meditations can gently perch on each cusp. Breathe deeply to give life to each possibility.
  3. Form a 5’ diameter circle filled with 8 concentric rings of emptiness

Charles A. Gick’s Recipe for Full

  1. Locate 20 square feet of wall space
  2. 241 teaspoons of sifted dirt will make 2-1/2 pints of presence

Find a willing gallery director, not afraid of heights or dirt, to stand on a lift, hold cup under each spoon, sprinkle dirt over each until a tiny mountain forms within each cradle, let the dirt granules comfortably settle. Do not apply wind to the fragile dry earth. Hold your breath. The teaspoons cannot hold anymore.

  1. Form a 5’ diameter circle filled with 8 concentric rings of fullness

‘My fathers’ globe knocks on its nave and sings.’
‘This that we tread was, too, your fathers’ land.’
‘But this we tread bears the angelic gangs
Sweet are their fathered faces in their wings.’
‘These are but dreaming men. Breathe, and they fade.’

Excerpt from I fellowed sleep by Dylan Thomas

For recipes and tastes like, how to cage a cloud, how to sew an earth & sky coat and more, visit Charles A. Gick’s Dirt & Flowers: and other things we eat and breathe… at Wabash College.

Recipe developed by Charles A. Gick and written by the Hungryphilosopher

Wobblyogi Wednesday: Happy Place Escape


Has yoga helped me find my “happy place”? Will it help you find yours? Confessedly, my definition of happiness has shifted from being associated with joy, laughter, passion to being associated with ease being in my own skin and ease being with others in this often unkind and unpredictable world. Today I ended our morning yoga practice with the words of my grandmothers. I’m sure some of my readers have heard the phrases: Shuke Thako, Bhalo Thako. Stay in ease (or happiness, here is the confusion again), Stay in goodness.  I feel bad now for taking those words so flippantly or sometimes even mockingly.  The simple advice to “stay” is basic yoga. Afterall, we are all trying to stay in our bodies, in our minds, in our hearts, in our world, through moving, breathing, focusing and meditating.

Most of all, I’ve learned that yoga is not about escaping to a “happy place” but about being able to just stay in unhappy, uneasy places without becoming unhappy or uneasy. There is unhappiness and there is happiness but I am not happy or unhappy. I am more than my feelings at a given moment, more than a sum of my feelings, more than my existential condition that gives rise to those emotional responses. Meditation does not help me escape my feelings but rather helps me sit with them without being constrained, defined or imprisoned by them. I watch my feelings and say, there is sadness, there is worry, there is joy, there is love, there is anger and so on and so on. Congratulations, I’m human. I’m alive and aware. By tagging and releasing the feelings I emerge lighter. The nagging emotions that refuse to fly away and keep returning to take up space in my mind and heart need more attention, more meditation and sometimes more action. The amount of emotional energy I release always amazes me. So few things are worth lingering over. If I can’t change it, devoting my mind to it won’t help. If I can change or affect it then my concern shifts to practical struggles of how:  from awareness to thinking.

I’m working through Jon Kabat Zinn’s book, Where you go, there you are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. I found the chapter titled, “Meditation: Not to be confused with positive thinking” particularly helpful in relation to the notion of  a personal “happy place.” First, a food reference:

“Not only is it [our fundamental nature] not limited by the potpourri of our thinking mind, awareness is the pot which cradles all the fragments, just as the soup pot holds all the chopped up carrots, peas, onions, and the like and allows them to cook into one whole, the soup itself. But it is a magical pot, much like a sorcerer’s pot, because it cooks things without having to do anything, even put a fire underneath it. Awareness itself does the cooking, as long as it is sustained.You just let the fragments stir while you hold them in awareness. Whatever comes up in mind and body goes into the pot, becomes part of the soup.”

Kabat-Zinn concludes the section with these words about the limits of positive thinking,

“If we decide to think positively, that may be useful, but it is not meditation. It is just more thinking. We can easily  become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It too can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self-serving, and wrong. Another element altogether is required to induce transformation in our lives and take us beyond the limits of thought.”

Don’t get me wrong. I often retreat to my happy place (usually when threatened by loud places filled with restless children and rushed adults like, amusement parks). But, that is not meditation. That is escape. I want to be able to escape from my life less and less. So I try to meditate more and more. Become more aware of my pot of soup instead of the peas and carrots.

I want to tweak the  Socratic dictate to,  the unaware life is not worth living.  The difference between the examined life and aware life is worth exploring in another post.

For now, I wish you easy awareness of your own unique pot of experiences,

The Wobblyogi

For a look at the Image and a good article about escapism and meditation visit:

Wobblyogi Wednesday: Jon Kabat-Zinn

Here is a food poem from third century China referenced in Jon Kabat-Zin’s book, Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life:

Prince Wen Hui’s cook

Was cutting up an ox.

Out went a hand,

Down went a shoulder,

He planted a foot,

He pressed with a knee,

The ox fell apart

With a whisper,

The bright cleaver murmured

like a gentle wind.

Rhythm! Timing!

Like a sacred dance,

Like “The Mulberry Grove,”

Like ancient harmonies!

“Good work!” the Prince exclaimed,

“Your method is faultless!”

“Method?” said the cook

Laying aside his cleaver,

“What I follow is Tao

Beyond all methods!

“When I first began

to cut up oxen

I would see before me

The whole ox

All in one mass.

After three years

I no longer saw this mass.

I saw the distinctions.

“But now I see nothing

With the eye. My whole being


My senses are idle. The spirit

Free to work without plan

Follows its own instinct

Guided by natural line,

By the secret opening, the hidden space,

My cleaver finds its own way.

I cut through no joint, chop no bone.

“There are spaces in the joints;

The blade is thin and keen:

When this thinness

Finds the space

There is room for all you need!

It goes like a breeze!

Hence I have this cleaver nineteen years

As if newly sharpened!

“True, there are sometimes

Tough joints. I feel them coming,

I slow down, I watch closely,

Hold back, barely move the blade,

And whump! the part falls away

Landing like a clod of earth.

“Then I withdraw the blade,

I stand still

And let the joy of the work

Sink in.

I clean the blade

And put it away.”

Prince Wen Hui said,

“This is it! My cook has shown me

How I ought to live

My own life!”


Kabat-Zinn continues to explain that,

“Meditation is synonymous with the practice of non-doing. We aren’t practicing to make things perfect or to do thing perfectly. Rather, we practice to grasp and realize (make real for ourselves) the fact that things already are perfect, perfectly what they are. This has everything to do with holding the present moment in its fullness without imposing anything extra on it, perceiving its purity and the freshness of its potential to give rise to the next moment.”

He calls this awareness, being able to detect the “bloom of the present moment in every moment, the ordinary ones, the in-between ones, even the hard ones.”

I like the ideas of welcoming “The bloom of the moment” and “letting the joy of the work, sink in.”

Right now, I’m reading, writing and sharing a moment of discovery. As are you.

I’ll stop writing now and just let this moment sink in.

Wishing you many moments of bloom!