The in-between spaces…

Photo by Ben Young on

I have just finished teaching my five-week course on the mindfulness trainings. Showing up for the sangha, the community of kindred spirits who were taking my class, as they showed up for me, was deeply rooting and grounding. Especially because it carried me through the month of March which always feels like a difficult (and long!) month for me. I felt nourished and grateful! I love teaching mindfulness – it helps me stay committed to my practice in an intentional way.

It has also been lovely this month of April to have a pause from teaching, to allow my practice to unfold more organically and take in the wisdom coming from many directions. Spending a few days in Washington, DC for spring break with my family was a welcome change. And as I return home, getting ready to go back to teaching next week (I am high school teacher), I feel energized and uplifted. And a sense of joy!

The joy is coming through from the constant stream of bird visitors we have had to our home – bright yellow goldfinches, pinkish red house finches, gray-black juncos, bright red cardinal, downy woodpecker, blue-gray nuthatch (I had to look this one up!) – it has been constant – and is bringing us much delight! I have been going out late evenings to hear the frogs and toads in the nearby swamp (thanks to a beaver family that transformed that eco-system!) and there has been such a raucous! One late afternoon last week, on my usual walk in the neighborhood, I caught sight of a beautifully gorgeous turkey vulture about 30 feet from me, taking flight and landing on a nearby tree. I saw the same (or different?) vulture at the exact same spot the next day while walking with my daughter – and we decided to name this special bird Majesty. Seeing Majesty made me literally stop in my tracks and stand in awe. That’s what nature does to us – opens us up to wonder and mystery.

I am fortunate to live in a beautiful landscape and the coming of spring, much anticipated by us, seems to be here. And while holding the realities of climate change and the terrible tragedies around the world that are coming from our ignoring the signs – the certainty that something is wrong if we go from winter to summer in a week – I am also holding this. This deep joy and gratitude for the life that surrounds me, right now. This moment. The daffodils starting to bloom and the day-lilies pushing themselves out of the ground. And I am remembering Mary Oliver’s words from Straight talk by Fox.

I see you in all your seasons

  making love, arguing, talking about God

as if he were an idea instead of the grass,

  instead of the stars, the rabbit caught

in one good teeth-whacking hit and brought

  home to the den. What I am, and I know it, is

responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not

  give my life for a thousand of yours.

Mary oliver

Please do check back for my next offering, which will be an intro to mindfulness course for the BIPOC community here in the Upper Valley and elsewhere in the world – the nice part of offering it online is that the world is suddenly a smaller place! And BIPOC or not, you are welcome to listen to the recordings of my guided meditations from my recent course, posted under the Guided Meditations tab.

Be well, take care and may spring be in your every step!



I am here…

I am back from a week away at Cancun, Mexico. Blue waters and sun-kissed sands… the sound of the ocean is so healing! And during this week, my practice was returning over and over to the mantra: I am HERE. 

Photo of sunrise taken on Solstice morning 12/21/22 in Cancun, Mexico.

Here is the word buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal offers for the first of seven factors of awakening that support the path of awakening and freedom. Coming back to Here for me was sensing the sand under my toes, the sounds of the rise and fall of ocean waves, seeing the blue of the ocean and watching the pelicans glide the wind, dive down into the waters and swim, so seemingly effortlessly! It was feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, tasting the tapioca pudding for breakfast, smelling the salty air and the receiving the water washing my toes as I stood on the beach. Here. 

Returning and sustaining our attention on the sensations of the present moment helps us stay grounded with change, and attend to our inner needs in a kind way and attune to the needs of others by reading their body language. Here allows wisdom to unfold in a way that feels so organic, tender and natural. Every time our attention wanders and we notice IS an opportunity to return Here. Here is laughter, ease, contentment, joy, bliss, awe, solitude, companionship and most of all: riding the waves of change with ease.

In his book Neurodharma, Rick Hansen talks about having a positive experience, enriching it and absorbing it so that it becomes an implicit memory and is more readily available during moments of stress. Perhaps, savoring the experiences of this past week by feeling them in my body and noticing the moments of ease, connection and beauty, I have deepened my own sense of well-being. This morning waking up without ocean sounds, I could remember them, recollect how they felt in my body and relax. And return to the Here now.

I am home now – in my daughter’s room as I listen to piano sounds wafting up from her playing Silent Night. Here is silent. No ocean waves. Here is wonderful! 

Are you Here? Take a few moments to sense your body, your breath, the sounds, the temperature. Are you comfortable?  Are you safe? What does your here feel like? 

I leave you with this beautiful track – one of my favorites on Insight Timer. May you be safe, and may your Here be filled with ease.

With love, S.

Gratitude is the open door to abundance…

Frame on gratitude quotes, purchased in Ogunquit, ME

This frame resides in my meditation room, and often inspires me to hold the intention to have an attitude of gratitude. Each time I read it, depending on the state of my mind, a particular sentence stands out to me. For example, one of the sentences I love in this is about Piglet. I loved reading Winnie the pooh to my daughter, and we both love the stories so much that we have continued returning to them often. Piglet’s character in particular is one I can resonate with: like Piglet, I am afraid easily – I am scared of roller coasters, of swimming in the deep, of horror movies and when I was a child, I was afraid of loud fire-crackers, of the dark and many other things. And yet Piglet experienced what it was like to be brave and to be accepted for who he was. And Piglet’s heart can hold enormous amount of gratitude.

Our capacity to take in the beauty of life, to pause and savor the sweet little moments and to show up with openness for the difficult moments strengthens the heart. Gratitude connects directly to this: it helps us incline our attention and how we pay attention (wise effort) and it arises when we reflect on our experiences and take in the blessings in our lives. Indeed, ‘life is a series of thousands of miracles’. The invitation is to notice them.

When suffering falls away what is revealed is not a big blank but a natural sense of gratitude, good wishes for others, freedom and ease.

Rick hansen (in his book: Neurodharma)

Indeed sometimes gratitude arises spontaneously and at other times, we can cultivate this gratitude. Cultivation is the word Gil Fronsdal uses to summarize the seven factors of awakening that arise through mindfulness practice. Like cultivating a garden, we tend to these qualities with kind attention and care.

So how can we cultivate gratitude? One way to practice is to notice the moments of ease and peace and spaciousness in our lives, the ordinary moments when things are right, when there is absence of clinging or aversion, when conditions outside our control have conspired to create something beautiful for us. Another way to practice is to use what one of my teachers Tara Brach often reminds us of which is the Bodhisattva intention: ‘may this serve to awaken’, or the inquiry: ‘what is the opportunity here?’. This is particularly helpful in difficult moments and help us reconnect with gratitude and the kind compassionate attention that can hold all that comes along, like a mother’s warm embrace for her child. When I remember this inquiry, it helps me return to my intention to hold gratitude in my heart for all that comes along.

I leave you with this beautiful quote from Rumi:

“Be grateful for your life, every detail of it, and your face will come to shine like a sun, and everyone who sees it will be made glad and peaceful. Persist in gratitude, and you will slowly become one with the Sun of Love, and Love will shine through you its all-healing joy. The path of gratitude is not for children; it is path of tender heroes, of the heroes of tenderness who, whatever happens, keep burning on the altar of their hearts the flame of adoration.”


May your day unfold with many moments of gratitude!

with metta, S.

Renunciation as a practice in turning towards what we love…

In Buddhism, renunciation has an important role in the development of an ethical life, it is one of the ten perfections of the heart, also known as paramis, and it is the underpinning of the five mindfulness trainings, as I understand them. However, renunciation often has this tone of severity associated with it – it indicates that giving up is a sort of punishment or self-denial that we should do to be a good citizen, a good meditator or a good person.

Personally, I tend to turn away from anything I should do. However, increasingly I find that renunciation actually protects my mind and heart, and makes me more mindful when I am making choices, so that I can make choices that are skillful. For example, in choosing not to shop/browse the internet/watch late night TV when I was tired on Monday night, I ended up listening to my body and going to bed early. I woke up feeling nourished, less distracted and it helped me enjoy my next day with more energy for the things that mattered to me.

Notice, I said, choosing not to. Sometimes, when we can’t choose skillfully, and are driven through reactivity to act in our habitual ways, like I was last night, I noticed that I could still renounce judging and limiting thoughts by letting go and choosing to forgive myself.

And when I choose to let go of self blame, I notice that I have more kindness and compassion for myself and others.

Renunciation can be through big or little actions. It can be giving up wanting to make our tea or food exactly the way we like it, so that we can simply enjoy the tea (or dinner) for what it is. It can be giving trying to have the house perfectly tidy and spending time with our loved ones instead. It can be giving up trying to make this piece for the blog perfect, so that it can simply be what it is. Honest, authentic, imperfect and alive in this moment.

Photo by Pixabay on

Choice is freedom. When we choose the path of wholeness and ask ourselves if we really need something, and connect with a sense of abundance and gratitude, we find it easier to let go. And when we let go – whether it is thoughts, emotions, stories, beliefs – that release feels so good! Suddenly we are not so caught up in our stories. We are free. And when we notice how pleasurable this feels, renunciation gets easier. We do it not because we should, but because we want to. And we find increasing freedom in this way.

Welcome everything, push away nothing…

Daughter Anji on the beach in Cancun, 2018

After listening recently to a talk given by Frank Ostaseski, co-founder of the zen hospice project, I was inspired to read Frank’s book, ‘The five invitations‘. The second invitation in this book is to ‘welcome everything and push away nothing’, and it has been the theme of practice for me this past week.

School began this week in full swing and I held this intention on the opening day, to welcome everything, all my students and all the experiences. I found that it is easy to welcome everything when things are good! The first day was magical. The excitement, the hope, the possibilities.

With school beginning, there also came the familiar worry and anxiety of the virus, especially for my daughter Anji. The choice of masking and the dependence of her well-being on conditions outside her control. I was listening to her while washing dishes, feeling my own impatience as I was listening – when the invitation cut through. Welcome everything, push away nothing. This too was okay. I could welcome this and make space for it. I loved her and that also meant welcoming her tendency to worry.

With first full week of school, inevitably there was tiredness and feeling exhausted. And for me, with tired often comes judgment. I noticed how quick I was at self-judgment! Welcome everything, push away nothing meant that judgment too was okay. I could notice and listen to my thoughts with kindness and patience – like listening to a child who is hurt and wants attention. I was lying in bed early in the morning, wishing for more sleep, noticing the thoughts of ‘if only…’. And remembering the instruction, I could soften with tenderness and welcome the experience. And just like the child calms down when listened to, the kind attention was enough for the judgments and thoughts to release.

So welcome everything, push away nothing is really an instruction to accept things just as they are, not wishing them to be otherwise. Even when we wish them otherwise, there can still be kindness, instead of aversion. Gil Fronsdal talks about this in the third awakening factor of mindfulness, effort. Wise or skillful effort is in paying attention – not just what we pay attention to, but how we pay attention.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


Choosing a welcoming, grateful and kind attitude strengthens this response so it becomes increasingly available in the future. And then we start to notice the exquisite joy, the beauty, the love, the abundance that comes our way when we welcome everything. It opens our hearts.

With kindness, S.

The life-changing in-betweens…

It has been so long since I wrote in this space, that today when I looked at the title of my blog:

Dharma notes…

…about life, being a Mom, and all the craziness and life-changing awesomeness and the in-betweens!

I realized that right now is the life-changing in-betweens: a period of uncertainty that is also be life-changing. It is difficult to witness the changes in our lives and those around us, especially those who are struggling to keep their livelihoods and their lives. When we encounter the stress of living with uncertainty, in ourselves and others, quoting Sylvia Boorstein, how can we be anything but kind?

Kindness can come in many forms. One way I’ve been mindful of practicing kindness is by paying attention to my speech. What am I bringing into this world through my words and action? The Buddha’s advice regarding skillful speech is to practice speech that is truthful, helpful, kind and timely. It is something that we have to keep holding in our minds and hearts. Are our words timely and helpful, rather than fearful or blameful. Do they help others? Are our words necessary? Sometimes silence can be more helpful than unkind speech. How can we practice non-judgment towards others? And can we hold ourselves with compassion as we navigate this all new terrain of living our lives within our homes and practicing seclusion and solitude.

I have been thinking of this zen poem recently:

My daily affairs are quite ordinary;

but I’m in total harmony with them.

I don’t hold on to anything, don’t reject anything;

nowhere an obstacle or conflict.

Who cares about wealth and honor?

Even the poorest thing shines.

My miraculous power and spiritual activity:

drawing water and carrying wood.

Layman P’ang

So simple, this instruction in mindfulness. next time you are washing dishes or cooking for your family, when you are zoom-ing or working out, can you be in total harmony? Being present is the antidote to a frantic and anxious mind. We train to keep coming back to this moment, to the daily affairs so ordinary, to the poorest things that shine. And we do this with gentleness and compassion.

May we all abide in loving-kindness, and may be abide in the clear mind that comes from practicing skillful speech,