Ten thousand flowers in Spring…

It is May – and Spring has announced its arrival here in the upper valley where I live. The trees are bursting with blossoms and yesterday evening, my daughter and I walked in the neighborhood with the special purpose of smelling the lilacs. Growing up in India, I read about lilacs in novels, but I could not have imagined the incredible scent they carry – rivaling the heavenly scent of the jasmine flowers I grew up with in South India.

When I think of jasmine, the images of freshly picked fragrant buds hand tied into little strings sold in the market comes to my mind. Adorning the braided hair of Indian women, it reminds me of weddings and special occasions and temples. Lilacs on the other hand bring to mind long leisurely walks in New England with my daughter, taking in the heavy clusters of little buds that so freely give their fragrance. Between the two, a whole world lies – ties to the old and opening to the new. Isn’t that what life is all about? This balance between the old and the new, and the potential in this moment for transformation, curiosity, openness and mystery.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

I have been thinking recently of change. Listening to Joseph Goldstein’s recent talk on 10 percent happier on the last three steps of the eight-fold path brought this into the center of my attention. Of course, the season of Spring as well as having a growing child both make it impossible for change to leave my attention fully! Anjali, my 12 year old, is growing like a tall tree – shooting straight up. She takes after her Dad and the women in his family – this morning waking her up, I noticed that she might outgrow her bed at some point! Each day feels precious, each moment when I’m truly present, a moment of awe. How does one hold all of this in one’s heart?

Even as I wonder, I know the answer. One moment at a time, one breath at a time. In this way, we steady our attention and then our attention can attune deeply to change itself as it is unfolding…And as we cultivate the steadiness of mind and heart that can attune to change itself, we uncover the wisdom that comes from a direct experience of this change in our own experience.

We often have a like-dislike-relationship with change, depending on what has changed. Change itself however is impersonal and the very nature of life. Indeed as the quote goes, the only constant in life is change. And the Buddha taught us this radical practice through mindfulness, of turning towards change instead of resisting it. And even when we notice resistance, there is a learning – a direct experience of dukkha, of the suffering that comes from resistance. And this too is important – in recognizing and getting to know dukkha in this intimate way, we cultivate wisdom.

The funny part in all of this dharma (or truth) is that to truly open to wisdom, we have to let go of our agenda and timelines! All we can do is have the intention and let it guide us…As Joseph Goldstein encourages us, our intention sets the direction for our journey, and through the journey of mindfulness and wisdom, we learn to trust that our path will lead to wisdom and freedom. And we appreciate the many moments of beauty along this path.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,

a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter

If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,

this is the best season of your life

Wu Men

May this Spring bring you many moments of ease and beauty!

With love, S.

ps: There is still space in my Intro to Mindfulness course for BIPOC, check it out under my course offerings!

The in-between spaces…

Photo by Ben Young on Pexels.com

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!



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.

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.

Mindfulness teacher training program…

Photo by Arulonline on Pexels.com

From the time I attended my first meditation retreat, I have been drawn to the practice of sitting and looking within. When I sit on my cushion, everything becomes clearer. Initially, I tried my hand at zen meditation, mindfulness in the Thich Nhat Hanh lineage, meditation with Sally Kempton and other techniques before I found the insight tradition in 2007. Each of these practices have their own wisdom and flavor. With insight meditation, it just felt like home; perhaps because it is less structured and more flexible than other practices. But it wasn’t until my first metta retreat in 2008 that I really felt like I came home. Perhaps it is Michele Mcdonald’s way of teaching, or the timing, but my soul deeply recognized the need for the loving-kindness, for unconditional love as a practice to cultivate mindfulness and wisdom.

Becoming a mom in 2010 changed my life profoundly in many ways and you can read about my first year for free on Kindle! In particular, I had less time for longer retreats, and more opportunities to practice mindfulness in daily life! With kids, especially when they are younger, you run into the same challenges over and over and there is plenty of opportunity for the practice of starting anew!

Anjali will be nearly ten this Fall. Time has flown by. And somehow organically, it feels like the right time to deepen my own practice. I’m excited to share the news that I have been accepted into a two-year mindfulness teacher training program, that will begin in Feb 2021. I learned about the program from Doreen Schweizer, my teacher with Valley Insight. It is taught by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach and the way it is structured appealed to me immediately! The application and acceptance happened quickly! And while the program won’t begin until winter 2021, I’m currently doing one of the prerequisite courses this summer, a seven week course called the Power of Awareness.

How do I describe what it is like to dive into this course? It is like smelling a rose all over again, as if for the first time. Or sinking into the soft sands of the beach after being away. Sure you have been in ponds and lakes, but we are now talking about being back at the ocean! You know that feeling?

The lessons involve talks, instructions for home practice, journaling and guided meditations as well as community mentoring zoom sessions. It is forcing me to be more disciplined about sitting for at least 20 minutes everyday, which sometimes feels like a challenge. And yet, what I am discovering is a joy, a happiness, even a delight, in doing something I have always loved!

I think of this practice as remembering presence, or maintaining a continuity in the train of mindfulness, during the course of the day. There are more moments in each day that I am aware of my body and emotions. Of course, there are plenty of moments when familiar patterns of reactivity still arise, and sometimes I am able to see them more clearly. I’m noticing resistance at times to new ways of meditating, while at other times, the mindfulness practice feels very complementary to metta. As Rumi reminds us, ‘There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.’

Sometimes I wonder how I could possibly train to be a meditation teacher! I love meditating but I don’t always like talking afterward! Will I have the wisdom necessary? Or the patience? On the other hand, there are definitely moments when I am day dreaming of what talks I will give as a teacher! LOL! And I haven’t even started the training program yet! When that or this happens, I notice, smile, and let it go. Come back to this moment, right here, right now. And begin again.

With love, S.

The spiritual communities that sustain us…

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COVID 19 has not been pleasant. It has been a tremendous period of uncertainty, struggle, death and transformation in the lens with which we view our lives. Nothing can ever be the same, surely! It has also brought some unexpected blessings into our lives. Perhaps, a slowing down, or a pause from the frantic pace at which we drive ourselves. Or forced time with loved ones. Solitude or togetherness in unexpected ways. A deep immersion in compassion, because how else can we get through this?

One of those unexpected blessings for me, is a reconnecting with my mindfulness community. I have been part of this sangha (buddhist word for spiritual community) for over a decade, and my teachers have influenced my path and my practice in indescribable ways. Since I became a mom, I have struggled to attend the sits regularly. I have tried and given up several times during the course of the past decade. The evening times seem to coincide exactly with when my child needs me for homework, piano lessons or when I am making dinner. I love my routine and giving up my evening routine and dinner with my family felt too difficult.

After reviewing the stress it caused me, I came to peace with my decision that I would forego the weekly sits, and try to attend the weekend gatherings whenever possible. I still managed to pop into the weekly sits once every few months thanks to spring break or summer break. But for the most part, my sits with my community and teachers happened during a Saturday or Sunday retreat. That said, it didn’t seem to matter how infrequently I sat with my sangha; every time I showed up, I was greeted with the same benevolence, kindness and enthusiasm as if I were coming every week!

During COVID 19, the sits became live on zoom and my teachers led sits virtually. And what a blessing! Sitting again with my sangha regularly, with people who share the love and passion for the Dharma, has been like dipping my feet again in the soft sand by the shore line. So beautiful and exactly perfect! And always such a pleasant surprise to feel the connection when we sit with beloved spiritual friends. The sit usually lasts about 30-40 minutes followed by discussion on the text or talk we have been reading/watching. So, on Monday evenings, when I can enter the refuge of my meditation room, I take a pause from everything else in life. Life resumes as normal after the sit, but as always, we are changed, transformed by the gifts of mindfulness and loving-kindness. The lens becomes just a bit clearer!

Another life-line for me has been Jurian Hughes’ kripalu yoga. I met Jurian at Kripalu last summer at the Dance into Joy workshop, and immediately felt a connection to her teachings and her presence. Kripalu is too far away for me to see her regularly and I missed the yoga, so I leapt at the chance to practice with her when she started teaching via zoom. Her Wednesday morning gentle yoga is just a perfect way to re-enter the week. She also sends a recording of the yoga class which is valid for a week, so that I can practice with it multiple times if I need. And what makes Jurian’s classes so enjoyable is her warmth, groundedness, chanting and the energy she brings into the practice and into our lives.

I feel so grateful to be part of a rich spiritual community where we can support each other with the practice of mindfulness, movement and compassion. With a bow of gratitude to all our teachers, who influence us, inspire us and keep us going on this path to liberation!

I leave you with these words from Rumi:

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where?

Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck

we could have. It is a total waking-up.

Why should we grieve that we have been sleeping?

It does not matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We are groggy, but let the guilt go.

Feel the motions of tenderness around you, the bouyancy.

Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

Have you experienced any unexpected blessings during this time? Have the teachings of loving-kindness and mindfulness spoken to you in new ways? I would love to hear about your journey, through any comments you leave me.

With love and a bow, S.

Coming home…

It is my first day of school vacation. My second year of teaching has flown by, and it has brought me such learning, and growth and appreciation, I feel grateful to find something I cherish and love doing everyday. I love my students, and my colleagues, and I love that I am paid to do math everyday!

And I also love my school vacation.

On this beautiful quiet morning, after dropping off Anjali, now 4 and ¾ as she reminded me this morning, I walked on the meandering roads near my house and I couldn’t help marveling at how my life has unfolded here in the upper valley. I came here as a graduate student to Dartmouth college, when I was 21. And I just never left. It has been nearly 14 years now. It wasn’t a love affair from the beginning, I can tell you that for sure. In fact I cried those beginning months, to be back home, to be around people again. And then one starry night, I walked outside from a show at the Hopkins center, and that’s when I knew. I was going to stay.

It is amazing to me that such a small place can hold so much. The beautiful magnificent fall – in all its triumphant colors that change everyday, culminating in a rich golden dance of leaves that lead into nothingness. And then the beauty of pure white snow and the trees clothed in white, the snowy banks and mountains and the feel of icy cold air on the cheeks. Everything feels so still in the winter. And then the melting and the nothingness in between – before the buds shoot forth and miracle of life happens again. The trees and plants grow leaves, and somehow in a span of a magical month, everything is green again. And now, as I gaze around me, I’m greeted in all directions by the lushness of green. Who knew there were so many shades of green? Not to mention the flowers. Each walk I go, I discover a new bloom, a new kind of flower, a new scent. My heart is made so happy! And I am in awe of this unfolding that happens every year without fail, and that I get to be the witness to this beauty of transformation.

Each year seems to bring something new. This year, after living in our home for over 7 years, we saw a black bear in our back yard for the first time! It wasn’t large, but it had come to find seed at our bird feeder, which we then had to take down. In the last year and half, we have seen and learned the names of over 10 species of birds come to our yard, and listened to their calls and watched their way of patiently waiting for their turn at the feeder. In the roads around my home, I have taken countless walks. I have walked with friends, I have walked as a pregnant woman, as a new mother with my baby snug in the wrap next to me, as mom pushing the stroller with my child, more recently walking side-by-side with my daughter, and then sometimes like this morning, alone by myself. Life has come a full circle. And as I take each footstep up the hill lined with purple and yellow wild flowers, I know I am home.

So here is to the place closest to my heart, my home, the place I have lived longer than any other place in my life, the place that bears witness to my own transformation. I bow to you in gratitude and joy!

With love, S.

Giving thanks…

Today I’m struck by how much love I have in my life. How much love I have had in my past and how much love there continues to be in my life. Surely if I were to believe in past lifetimes, this must be a special lifetime. When I pause to think of gratitude, I can only have a sense of marvel, of awe. Wow. This IS really my life. This is really the result of the choices I have made in life. We make choices at each juncture, each moment, on how we want to live our lives, what matters to us most, and what brings us most peace. Not every choice is an easy one, and many require great courage of heart.

Maybe that is why I have always had a hard time choosing a famous person as a role model. I find the ordinary person to be as much of a role model. My greatest role model is my husband who brings kindness and patience and steady presence into his life every single day. He is funny, fun, kind and positive, no matter how stressful his day. He always stops to give way to others, while driving. He always writes a thank you note for the server. He always greets me in the morning with such sweetness and love. He adores his daughter and has never raised his voice with her. And he has his share of stress for sure, like any of us. Like all of us.

My inspiration is also my daughter, my 4 year old, who is so profoundly wise and so tender and loving that my heart opens every day just a little bit more. Sometimes, it is hard to bear – like when we are having gelato and she wants to try mine but won’t let me feed her, so she spoons herself a bite from my spoon. How much she yearns for independence and how brave she is to be willing to try so many new things in life and never let things get her down. She is my angel, my darling and my shining star.

So many people have loved me with their hearts, and accepted me and embraced whom I am inside. Words cannot express how awesome that is. And I have allowed myself to receive this love – and I am only now beginning to realize what a gift that can be for others.

So, on thanksgiving weekend, here is giving thanks to all the people near and dear, family and friends, far away but not far from the heart. Thank you for being part of my life.

November challenges: the mindful way…

November the 1st. How this year is flying by! One of the books that I have been reading and rereading three past couple of months is the ‘happiness project’ by Gretchen Rubin. I have found it a fun read and also incredibly useful in reminding me about intentions and resolutions. I can really relate to Gretchen and I think it is helping me keep some of my controlling behavior in check and let go a little more. I have tried to become more mindful of my complaints and criticisms, especially in my relationship with my close ones. I have become more mindful of bringing in more lightness into my life. I am trying to pause more and take in more. Especially more delight around Anjali. Many small changes, and now I am ready for two big ones. Here they are!


1) Take care of my body. I used to be a serious yogi – yoga everyday, classes twice a week, retreats and so on. Becoming a mom changed my priorities hugely and in unexpected ways. And somehow I have drifted away from paying attention to my body. My yoga practice has dwindled to mostly supportive poses to offer respite from busy days,  but not strengthening in any way. My massage today was as usual, an eye opener to how much stress I carry in my body. I would like to change this relationship and take better care of my body. So here is my challenge for November:

To do yoga everyday,at least  five poses. The five poses I have chosen are: child’s pose, downward dog, plank, forward bend and triangle or tree pose. I could certainly do more if time permits, but I got to do these five at least once everyday for the month of November. It has been ages since I challenged myself, and I think I am ready to do so now. Anjali can be a witness if she would like, as she usually is, to any major happenings in the house 🙂 

2) keep a gratitude journal. What better month than November, the month of thanksgiving? I journal frequently and often write about what I am grateful for. But writing for myself makes me lazy sometimes and I hope making this a deliberate and more public resolution will make me more accountable. I’m sure I will have thoughts to share!


If you would like to join me on one or both challenges, please do so and let me know through the comments! Your support is always appreciated. I don’t intend to make my posts on these public on Facebook, so if you would like to follow, please sign up on my blog!


Wish me luck,

With peace, s.



The montessori way…

One of the best decisions Abhi and I have made for Anji is to send her to the Montessori preschool. I feel so very grateful when I see the spark in Anjali – the curiosity, the questioning, the kindness and the confidence. Anjali was a shy kid and until she started going to Montessori, dropping her off at a preschool meant tears and hard goodbyes. But with Montessori, from day one, when she walked in, it was like she understood at some deep level that she belonged. This was her kind of place. The atmosphere that the teachers create here of trust is something the children seem to understand immediately. They are at ease, and when they are at ease, they create. They are fully themselves. and this is a gift like no other!

Seeing Anjali’s confidence in doing things for herself, and being a valued member of the society with something to contribute makes my heart full. Last night, she dressed herself fully after her bath, including choosing her clothes before I got out of the shower. I did not expect it! She also cleaned the chairs, of her own volition, by finding a towel and making it damp. and she was so proud! A joy to witness is her increasing confidence in her motor skills – the ability to draw, to write her name. The amazing thing is we have not pushed her in any way – it is entirely of her own interest and her incredible teachers. We don’t ever have to say – do you want to practice writing? or drawing? She loves it and hence she does it.

Her teacher, amazing Ms. M expects her children to take responsibility for who they are and their choices. She expects perfection. and they give it. These young children from 3 – 6 years. Once last week, when Anji finished a half-hearted attempt at her job (in order to get on to eating and play), her teacher made her go back to her work and try again. Anji grumbled about it at home. We did not venture any comment. The next day, she was so proud when she finished her work ‘the right way’. She came home and said, ‘today my Ms and Os were beautiful!’. Ah! To take pride in one’s work! As a teacher myself teaching high school math, this is something I think of everyday. And of how to give my kids the tools to excel and develop confidence in their own problem solving. Seeing the Montessori teachers inspires me to be a better teacher myself. To remember always to be kind, non-judging and to expect more from my kids. And then they miraculously seem to deliver!

So it was my pleasure to spend the morning at Montessori along with a couple of other indian families to bring in the spirit of Deepavali, the festival of lights, into the classroom. Though the students had already done their bit – by painting diyas! what a beautiful sight walking into the school. Making the coconut ladoos was work – but seeing them devoured by little angels was awesome.


photo 4

Pictures courtesy: Montessori children’s school.

There is a feeling of ‘rightness’. I don’t know how else to explain this – this feeling that this is right. exactly right. The way things should be. Thats the feeling I get when I think of how fortunate we are to have this incredible community to support Anjali in her growing up.

May you appreciate the rightness, wherever it is, in your life.