Sunrise Ruby

Photo by Tommes Frites on

As a busy week winds down, it is time to turn inwards towards stillness. This cold weekend extends a perfect invitation to do just that! Even as mercury retrograde is over (astrologically, Mercury retrograde is a period to turn inwards) and mercury is leaving its retrograde shadow, we reflect on where we are and move towards embodying our deepest self. We move towards what is skillful, what nourishes us and restores us into presence. This movement requires a courage and willingness to look towards the places in ourselves and in our relationships where we still operate from fear and reactivity, and to bring gentle kindness, love and understanding. The intimacy with these dark places allows us to bring light in, and shine that light outwards into the world. And what a gift that is to the world!

I’m always surprised when I turn towards my own fear and reactivity. I notice the resistance towards this process of making this U-turn (as Tara Brach calls it) until I become conscious of the fact that the charge in my inner heart and the obsessive thinking in my mind is painful. And when I turn towards my pain, it inevitably brings me face to face with enormous love, care and great gentleness. The courage is simply making the choice to turn towards dukkha, the rest usually unfolds naturally. And this process of transformation from within brings such joy!

I have been thinking of Christina Feldman’s words on tranquility, whose course on Essential Mindfulness I have been grateful to take this January. She talks about tranquility as a calming of the agitation of the mind. This calming, this tranquility, this willingness to be with our own discomfort and the joy that arises naturally as a result, is the process of uncovering our own inner wisdom, goodness, our sweetness. I love the word sweetness – it reminds me of the sanskrit word rasa – meaning flavor. This sweet flavor, this nectar is both the result of our practice and the path itself. The more we take this in, the more we abide naturally here. And we become like the sunrise ruby Rumi talks about:

“There is nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
to sunlight.”

Rumi (translated by coleman barks)

May your path towards uncovering your own sweet rasa unfold with grace!

With Love, S.

The Middle Way…

One of the stories of the Buddha that I love is how he came to teach the middle way. He had left his life of pleasures as prince Siddharta, and he had tried many ascetic practices in seeking enlightenment – only to find his body weak and starved of nourishment. He had come to recognize that neither of them worked. And one key moment in this story is when a kind woman Sujatha passing by saw him in his weak state and offered him kheer: rice pudding. This spontaneous gesture of kindness led the way to the Buddha feeling nourished and sitting under the Bodhi tree vowing not to get up until he was enlightened. And enlightened, he did become – and taught for forty some years of this middle path to freedom and peace.

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The middle way of tending to our bodies and our minds and turning to our inner wisdom, discernment and compassion to lead the way forward is something that has always inspired me. Balance is the word that comes to my mind. Finding balance requires attention. It requires mindfulness to know when I am leaning too much this way or that. To know when I am stagnating or rushing ahead. This quest for balance has influenced many of my life decisions, and continually informs what I say Yes to, and what I say No to. Living a life that has balance requires intention and time to slow down. It requires turning to the stillness to guide me and it asks for a commitment to live in harmony with this world.

Peace in the world starts with peace in oneself. If everyone lives mindfully, everyone will be more healthy, feel more fulfilled in their daily lives and there will be more peace…

Thich Nhat Hanh

Too often, I am distracted, reactive and judging. And when I notice this, I can pause and remember. In Buddhism, the word mindfulness is a loose translation for the pali word sati and many dharma teachers point towards the word remember as a better translation for sati. So the practice is to pause and remember my deepest aspiration. And of course when we notice and get familiar with what out of balance feels like, it becomes easier to recognize the sensations and feelings associated with it, and easier to return to sati more easily! And the most wonderful part of this is our neuroplasticity – it becomes that much easier to return again!

I leave you today with a practice and a course offering. This practice I learned recently from Yoga with Adrienne – my favorite yoga teacher! Her new series Center is amazing, and is helping me be diligent with my practice in this new year. In the episode day 19 (Play), Adrienne demonstrates this short exercise of walking led by your center. It felt pretty amazing and somehow the next day, walking up the stairs to my classroom, I remembered her instruction and practiced walking led by my center. It felt incredible – grounding and centering!

And I want to leave you also with the announcement of my next offering – in the theme of continuing to walk the middle way – of Life as practice series. You can find it in my course offerings page. Be well, take care, and may your life unfold in many beautiful ways!

With gratitude,



Life is full of surprises. Two days after we returned from Cancun, I tested positive for Covid. My symptoms have been more akin to a mild cold, and of course when you have a cold, you feel crummy, you try to take it easy and you drink lots of hot tea… It does mean that I have not stepped outside my home in about 6 days. My family has been so wonderful – while I isolate the best I can. Anji especially, who worried so much about Covid wearing her mask the entire time until recently, has been so caring and relaxed. We are all getting through it together. One day at a time.

I have been thinking of the word Buoyancy this week. Strange, isn’t it, to be thinking of this particular word at this particular time? Well, one reason I have been thinking of this word is that one of the particularly strong memories from my trip to Cancun was watching pelicans on the beach. Pelicans would soar, glide, ride the wind and then plummet into the water, landing gracefully into a swim. I watched many of these beautiful birds, took many photos and videos though they don’t do much justice to the beauty of the moments.

One of the words Pelicans stand for is buoyancy (and also cooperation) as per Ted Andrews, whose book Animal Speak is usually by my bedside! Which is really not a surprise when you watch these beings. Especially during the last couple of days before we left when there were heavy winds on the beach, you could really see how the pelicans glided on them, buoyantly, gracefully, effortlessly. They remind me that it is possible to ride the changes in our lives with buoyancy. It is possible to show up to this moment with an open heart and accept whatever comes along. It doesn’t mean that I have not had moments of stress or anxiety. Of course I have. It has been possible to meet them – the fear, the uncertainty, the worry with equanimity and compassion. This too belongs. Even in the midst of challenges, awe and beauty is present. And tenderness. For me tenderness is intimately connected to buoyancy, thanks to Rumi:

Feel the motions of tenderness around you. the buoyancy.


Peace is possible. So this new year, I wish you all a happy, healthy, easeful year with freedom and peace! To feel the motions of tenderness around you. Please accept this guided meditation from me as a gift, on setting intentions for this year, recorded on New Year’s day when a small group of us gathered to meditate together. Take care and be well!

With love,


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.

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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.

peace in the moment…

Photo by Matteo Basile on

I was lying down on a yoga mat on Sunapee beach – it was our last beach visit of this summer. My eyes closed, my body sinking into the floor of the mat. I could hear the voices of my daughter and husband in the background, chatting away. I could feel the movement of my breath and the warmth of the sun and the air touching my body – and my body molding into the shape that received this air, and the surface beneath me. I could feel the tension in my neck and right shoulder – and I felt no inclination to fix it. Just a subtle softening into the tension, a gentle acceptance.

I felt a deep peace. And also awe. This moment was perfect just as it was.

I was happy enough to stay still

inside the pearl inside the shell,

but the hurricane of experience

lashed me out of hiding

and made me a wave moving into shore,

saying loudly the ocean’s secret

as I went, and then, spent there,

I slept like fog against the cliff,

another stillness.

Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

I would soon feel the urge to move, to join the others. But not yet…This was the time to linger in this peace, to soak it in, to let it permeate deep into the cells of my body…

with gratitude, S.

To live each day as if it were your last…

Photo by Dylan Howell on

To live each day as if it were your last…these are the words that came to my mind as I was biking the last up hill stretch on the road leading to my home. My nearly 12-year old daughter had already made it to the top. We had taken a very pleasant bike ride on a cool summer cloudy afternoon when it had threatened to rain. It was one of our last days of summer vacation before school began for both of us. If this were my last day, would I be happy? Would I be content with the way my life has unfolded? Would I be at peace?

Even though I have been practicing metta and mindfulness for many years and now am training to be a mindfulness teacher, there are many moments in my day when I am not awake. I am in a trance/dreamlike state where it feels like I am here, but life is not in full focus. I only realize this when I return to the present moment – and how fresh and alive it feels! And here is an opportunity. To realize that I am NOW awake – instead of berating myself for being away. As Joseph Goldstein points out in a recent 10 percent happier episode, this is a helpful way of practicing. My teacher Tara Brach says this over and over again – this (moment when we return) is a moment of re-member-ing and re-relaxing in the body.

‘It does not matter how long we have been unconscious. We are groggy, but let the guilt go. Feel the motions of tenderness around you. the buoyancy‘.


So as I rode up the hill, I remembered this question – what if this day were my last. Would I be ok?

I think I would be very grateful! For having a life more beautiful than anything I could have imagined. For having just enough suffering and pain for me to reach for and stay on a spiritual path; for having more than enough joy for me to have balance; and for having equanimity – the letting go of wanting anything more! More than anything, for being present, here and right now. If this were my last day, I would be grateful to be here and be with the people I love.

How about you? Are you living this day as if it were your last? If not, what is in the way? Can you ask this question with great tenderness and kindness so that you can really listen to the response from your heart?

In kindness, 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.

Upside down…

Photo by Sam Kolder on

This summer, I signed up for a 6-week yoga series on inversions. It was an impromptu decision. I figured that after my weekend at Kripalu, it would be nice to keep my yoga practice going. Even though I pull out my mat at least a couple of times in a week, my practice has also gotten more gentle and restorative lately (my nice way of saying that I have become lazier!). Increasing my strength has definitely been a goal for me, and without a structured class setting, I knew that this would not be possible. So, without even meeting the teacher, I signed up for the series!

I liked the teacher when I met her at the first class. She was going to show us a very specific way of training for handstands. And even if I didn’t make it to handstands, I would at least have a solid foundation to work on! I was optimistic, especially after bringing more dance into my life lately.

Unfortunately, the foundation is all I am going to have, I’m afraid. I have done four classes so far, and it has been a humbling experience. I am by far the weakest student in the class, and I say that with a laugh! There are significantly older women than me who seem to be stronger.

But I’m learning so much as a teacher, by being a struggling learner! Here are some of the lessons/reminders I have had so far:

  • When you tell your students to seek out what they struggle with and to practice, practice, practice, know that they may not know what they struggle with. You need to help them narrow down exactly what it is they are having trouble with, with compassion and kindness and help them arrive at a sustainable plan!
  • Appreciate what is going well! Taking a few moments to say a silent thank you to my body for what it is doing well has been more important to me than observing all that it cannot do!
  • The journey is more important than the goal! Yes, I was there to learn handstands, but if I continually focused only on that, I would be very disappointed and frustrated! But when I remember to enjoy the process of learning something new with my body, I can actually relax and go deeper and also have more fun!
  • The idea of going upside down was used in yoga to get a different perspective. A reminder to keep being mindful of observing my mind and witnessing the effects of going upside down (even if with the help of a wall!). How do I feel afterwards?
  • Savasana is important. After all the hard work, letting go is the sweetest part for me. But somehow that wasn’t part of this particular yoga class. I missed it sorely, and in my latest class this past weekend, I actually did let go of wheel pose in favor of having a longer wind-down. It was helpful to me, and it felt so sweet in my body. So, make time to celebrate the small and big achievements. Each one is a sweet moment that comes after a lot of hard work!

This yoga series feels like a professional development workshop of sorts! Probably because I have always found it immensely satisfying to be a student, and more so this time, being a struggling student in class. This weekend will be my last class of the series; I hope that I can remember these reminders and to have fun and not take myself so seriously! Maybe I will even make it upside down, who knows! 🙂

With gratitude, S.