21 Day Body Love Challenge – The Whole Enchilada

Free Happy Woman Enjoying Nature. Beauty Girl Outdoor. Freedom c

“Know then that the body is merely a garment. Go seek the wearer, not the cloak.” – Rumi

It’s time to put it all together. The whole body. It’s all connected. Loving your feet and eyes but not the rest of you is like taking only your feet and eyes on vacation, leaving the rest behind, to what? Fend for itself? Rot? No, it’s a package and not absolutely loving every internal and external inch is no longer acceptable. You can still improve on areas, eat healthy, exercise, but without attaching to the outcome.

Without attaching to the outcome. A healthy lifestyle has more to do with how you FEEL than how you look. How you look is a by-product of the lifestyle.

I was at a farmers’ market recently. I waited at a local honey booth for the person manning it to return. She was a woman about my age – somewhere north of 30, okay 40, whatever – she had no make-up on, her hair was a wild mass of various shades of gray and her skin was glowing. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes sparkled. She exuded health. In that moment I thought, I want that. None of the packaging, but what was radiating out from the inside. Life force.

Your body is your vehicle for this journey and it was assigned specifically to you. It is yours to use and maintain. How well you do that will most likely determine the length of its service.

I like to think about new parents and how they are so careful and loving with the new life now entrusted to them. How they attend to her every need, caress her skin, feed her only the best food, use just the safest, most gentle products.  They wouldn’t dream of every harming her or uttering a harsh word in her direction.

Then I like to think about the Buddhist monks who help people die. There are homes staffed by renunciates whose sole (soul?) purpose is to care for those transitioning, who have no one else to care for them. They bathe and feed these patients, listen to them compassionately, rub their backs and tuck them in at night.

What of the intervening years? Scolding, belittling, berating, abusive. To ourselves. We treat ourselves and our bodies worse than we would ever treat another. Maybe it’s because we know they’re scolding, belittling, berating and abusing themselves. So we each act as the other’s support.

It has to stop. You’ve probably seen or heard of Dr. Emoto by now. If not, he is the Japanese doctor who conducted experiments on water. He yelled at it, called it names. He spoke lovingly and positively to it. The results were phenomenal. Mean = disorganized, sharp, ugly water. Love = soft, beautiful, clear water that looked like various snowflakes. His energy directly affected the response of the water. We are mostly water.

Be a snowflake. Speak kindly to yourself. Caress your skin with nourishing lotions and oils. Feed your body with food that’s alive and water that you have spoken sweet nothings to. Tell yourself how worthy and beautiful you are. How unique.

A friend of mine likes to say, “Two the same, one is not necessary.” Why would you want to be like anyone else? Better than and less than only exists in math, not in people. You are perfect. Every single cell is a divine gift. Accept it.

“The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free. – Swami Vivekananda


21 Day Body Love Challenge – Heart of the Brain Matter

Grey zen stone in shape of heart, on sand background

If you are reading this you have a heart. And thank you. Even if someone is reading this to you, you have a heart. It is one tangled mess of a muscle that we cannot live without.

But when you think heart, do you think of that dark red pulsing thing with its aorta and valves and ventricles? Or do you think of the simplified Valentine? Perhaps something in between. Or maybe you think more of energy and emotion. There are no wrong answers.

When I think of my own heart I first listen carefully, trying to notice my heart beat. Sometimes it’s making its presence known, at other times it’s quietly doing its job. But then I begin to attach stories and emotion to it. How many times I’ve had it broken, or put it out there. How it likes to love. Or doesn’t.

The heart knows stuff, but it’s the connection to the brain that helps us understand that stuff.

People who have undergone heart transplant surgery often report liking or disliking something they never did before. They have flashes, like someone else’s memories. There are brain cells in the heart. At the very least there is a connection.

Much research has been done in recent years on the heart-brain connection.  The heart sends more information to the brain than the other way around. According to the Institute of HeartMath, the heart sends signals to the brain that can influence perception, emotional experience and higher mental processes.

They are in cahoots. To fall in love with your own heart would be to also fall in love with your brain and ultimately your mind. This is the mind-body connection. When we are able to fully connect to both in harmony, we begin to find synchronicity in life and are treated to serendipitous moments and magic we like to think of as coincidence. We’re aware and present.  In love with life.

When our heart gets broken we disconnect. We don’t want to feel the icky feelings. Not right now. If we don’t think about it, it doesn’t exist. We’ll come back to it later when we’re feeling better, which is a lot like saying you’ll join the gym as soon as you lose some weight. The disconnect only stalls things, it doesn’t fix them.

Staying connected, even through the pain, maybe especially through the pain, allows us to live more fully. If we begin to disconnect during strong emotional times, we’ll also miss the absolute joy that is available to us.

Feel the feelings. Think the thoughts. Let them find their way to each other, then let them work it out. It’s integration and it brings with it a tremendous feeling of grounded joy.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” – Paramahansa Yogananda

Romancing the Comma

photo (14)

Today’s Daily Post asks us to consider punctuation. To do that, I must also consider words. And I love words.  I love to read them, write them, and type them. I love to ingest them, rolling them around on my tongue, feeling their edges, tasting their sweetness, pain or bitterness. Swallowing them, feeling them.

Words have tremendous power, whole laws have been created to protect words and protect against words. But unless a sentence is well crafted, unless it is properly punctuated, words can become listless.

In our technology driven society, we have lost some of the formality of punctuation. Sentences are fragmented, even reduced to a few letters. Emphasis is indicated by a plethora of exclamation marks or all caps.

A part of me likes the shorthand, it’s concise and quick. But the part of me that romanticizes language is already starting to mourn the loss of an art form.

In my own writing, I overuse commas, listing things a lot. I’m still shaky on the use of semi-colons, but brave enough to insert them where it feels right. I favor dashes over parentheses, and I’ve been known to employ the … Exclamation marks rarely make their way onto the page unless it’s in dialog or a really strong point I’m trying to make. But overall I’m a huge fan of proper punctuation.

Punctuation slows the reader down, allowing them to observe their thoughts about what they’re reading; enchanting them with their own imagination. It’s the magic of the written word to evoke so many emotions that keeps me reading and for that, we need good old fashioned punctuation.

21 Day Body Love Challenge – She’s a Brainiac, Brainiac

Brain Cells and Deep Space

My brain is in love with itself. Yours probably is too. We can have a grand old time making up things to think about. Boredom? Never, we keep each other entertained, but we can also get into trouble.

My brain is brilliant; it tells me so all the time. My elementary school teachers told my parents so too, but they used phrases like, “so much potential,” “if only she’d focus,” “if she applied herself,” “if she’d just stop talking.” They were thinking Mensa, probably.

I am fascinated with the inner workings of the brain. Not enough to become a neurobiologist or some high falutin doctor, but enough to pay attention to how people are. It’s so interesting to me that people make the same decisions over and over again even though they know those choices are harmful to them. Smoking, drugs, over-eating, playing in traffic, watching the news.  Me too. Why do we do it?

What makes some people more successful than others? It’s in the brain, I’m sure of it, I just don’t know where or what it looks like. Maybe it looks like a stern father or a disappointed mother. Maybe it’s just wide open space that the brain can roll around in like a child rolling down a hill on a spring day.

How different must Hitler’s brain look from Einstein’s? Does it even?

There is a place where science and yoga intersect on the topic of the brain. Quantum physics tells us nerves that wire together fire together. Meaning if we repeat the same behavior often enough, we will continue to repeat it. We have created a neuro-pathway that is wired to do that same thing again and again. We’ve taught it.

In yoga they are called samskaras. Deep grooves held in the sub-conscious that prompt us to keep repeating the same behavior. Good or bad. Sometimes we don’t even know why we’re doing that silly thing we always do. This is why.

The good news is we can fix it. We simply have to create new grooves, new pathways with the good habits we’d like to foster. Simple, right? Simple, yes. Easy, no.

My brain has had full arguments with itself over whether or not I should have the oh-so-tiny piece of chocolate. I’m not sure which one is in charge of the mouth, but that’s the one that usually wins. If I want to change that, I need to train my brain to go for water, over and over again. The mouth controlling part of my brain is on the floor snorting with laughter right now. See what I’m up against?!

When I try to meditate, the bratty part of my brain – the one with all that potential – sits behind a table and holds up score cards. Usually they are failing marks. When I try to concentrate on one task, focus, really focus, the other part can be found semi-crumpled whining, “Come ooooonnn.” I usually go.

Full disclosure: As soon as I typed the word ‘go’ in that last paragraph, my head snapped to look outside to see what was going on. Nothing, by the way. Nothing was going on.

Creating a good habit seems more difficult than the bad ones because we usually view it as a corrective behavior. If we reframe it as just something new, the brain is likely to be pleased and pick up the new habit more easily.

So, I think I’ll go grab a big glass of water. Still laughing.  Oh, big beautiful brain, how I love thee.

“The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” – Robert Frost


Writing Spaces


photo (13)

When I first read the topic for today’s ‘postaday’ my mind instantly went to the right corner of my living room sofa, where the perfect mold of me awaits patiently each day. On the table to my right, an ebony wood Buddha holding a chunk of amethyst is overseeing my efforts, quietly cheering me on, as Buddhas are known to do. Surrounding him are my mug of steaming hot joe, a camera – I never know when I’ll be called outside by the sound of a cardinal or mocking bird for a photo shoot – and one of million journals. To my left one or two of four bite sized doggies snores softly.

A French door leading to the back patio swings in the gentle morning breeze as the sun reflects off the glass bouncing back into the living room. Occasionally the breeze brings with it the rich smell of the earth, still damp from the previous day’s storms. My painted toenails peek above my laptop screen. Somewhere nearby the coffee maker makes clicking sounds. The light and energy are good here.

But I also saw myself lying on my belly, propped on my elbows with my iPhone wedged between my hands, recounting the day’s events while in India. At a Starbucks on that same device in London as I waited out a spate of rain. I saw myself reaching into my purse for that flat little notebook I bought in a museum, that receives the freshest ideas that I may or may not act upon later. I saw myself sitting on my yoga mat in the middle of class begging that perfect sentence to stay somewhere within reach as I simultaneously tried to let go of everything.

My writing space is fluid, portable. It is my mind, my imagination. It’s between the ears and beyond my vision. It starts with a ping brought on by a word, a sight, a muse, then I just follow it. My writing space is everywhere. I couldn’t write of travel, insights, enchantment and experiences if I stayed in one place. My preferred typing space, however,  is in that light filled living room surrounded by four little dogs, the sound of birds singing in my backyard and the hum of the refrigerator in the next room.

But then, I haven’t had the opportunity to lift the lid of my laptop at a café in France yet.

21 Day Body Love Challenge – Breathe Easy


I wanted to talk about the systems of the body, but trying to get people excited about their periods and bowel movements had my own nose wrinkled. So instead, we’ll talk about a few key organs in these last days of the challenge.

Today we’ll breathe a little life into the lungs.

Most people, especially in this fast-paced society, do not breathe enough and do not breathe well. We hold our breath when we think, when what we really need is oxygen in the brain to fire up the neurons. We breathe in the upper lobes of our lungs most of the time which keeps us in stress response making it harder to relax. If not impossible.

On the contrary, when we breathe deeply into the belly we are compressing our internal organs and as we exhale, freshly oxygenated blood rushes back into the organs. Refreshing them if you will.

The quickest way to change your emotional, mental, or physical state is to change the breath. Did you read that? If you’re freaking out, change your breath. If you’re upset or sad, change your breath. If you’re tired, change your breath. It’s that simple.

The breath and the lungs are also closely connected to the heart chakra so breathing fully and deeply can help dislodge some of that energetic detritus, moving it up and out. Perhaps that’s why when we engage in pranayama or breathing practices we feel lighter and calmer.

I have made my own breath my friend. Not that it wasn’t before, it was just more of a boarder. Now it works for me. It soothes me in traffic, entertains me when someone is telling me the same story for the tenth time, helps me fall asleep and lets me dance longer.

The next time someone says, “Take a deep breath,” just do it. It will change everything.

“What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.” – Emil Brunner

21 Day Body Love Challenge – Skin Deep

Third grade

What color is your skin? It’s not white or black or yellow or red. It is on the spectrum of brown, everyone, everywhere. Some darker, some lighter, but all part of the brown family. Family. I’m a peachy ecru I think. My husband is a sagey tan. My yoga teacher is a light mocha and my date to the sixth grade banquet was 72% cacao dark chocolate.

If you thought this was going to be about sagging skin, smooth skin, wrinkled skin or freckled skin, you are mistaken. We have much bigger issues to address than the natural process of aging. We have a world to change.

So much ado over something that can’t be changed, but oh, how we try. If you’re pale you want to be tan. If you’re dark you want to be lighter. If you’re somewhere in the middle you want to be different or just like…someone else.

It’s very difficult to hide the color of your skin. I had an epiphanous experience in India a couple of years ago. Our little group of 20 white Americans was walking through the streets of a very small town of Indians. Everyone came out onto their stoops and balconies, got out of their cars and rickshaws, stopped what they were doing, lined the streets and stared at us. They were smiling and excited to see us, but it was still unnerving and, for the first time, I got it. What it’s like to truly be a minority. It changes your behavior.

I can only imagine what it would have felt like if we had been greeted with hate and ignorance instead of joy.

From fourth grade on, I grew up as a middle class white girl with blond hair in a Virginia suburb of Washington, DC. I was surrounded by people who looked a lot like me, different hair colors and slight variations on skin tone, except in the winter, we were all pasty.

Before fourth grade we lived in Maryland also in a suburb of Washington. Here, I was bussed to a “black school” so that we could integrate. It was the 70s. I was 7 and so I just got on whatever bus they told me to and went to school. Half of each of my classes from kindergarten through third grade was on the pale end of the spectrum, the other half the darker end. But to each other we were just kids. I don’t recall really knowing the difference.

My best friend was Monica, she was dark. She came to my birthday parties and was the darkest girl there. I went to hers and was the lightest girl there. We played with each other’s hair, roller skated together and played Barbie’s – white Barbie’s – together. She lived in a neighborhood with people who looked more like her and I, the same. We wished we lived closer together. I did not realize what an anomaly each of us was in the other’s lives until I looked back at photos from my birthday parties.

When we moved to Fairfax County I could count on one hand how many people in my class looked like Monica. Still I didn’t really notice. When do you suppose the prejudice gene develops?

As I was considering what to write about for skin it occurred to me that we are all just a shade of earth. Dirt. From pale sand to rich loamy soil, we are born of the earth, and back into the earth we will go. Dust to dust. To say I am white is to conjure an opposite of me. There is no opposite of me. There is only different from me. But our human brains struggle to categorize and parse, it helps us to understand. Somehow, somewhere in endeavoring to understand we picked favorites. And in so doing, we created prejudices.

Judging a person by the shade of their skin is like judging flowers based on their height. It just doesn’t make sense.

Go out, find the soil that matches your skin color and plunge your hands and heart deep into it. Become grounded in your own skin. Then go find soil that is far from your color and do the same. Blend them together, marvel at the beauty in the combination, plant new seeds and grow great magic.

“It doesn’t matter how long my hair is or what colour my skin is or whether I’m a woman or a man.” – John Lennon

[Photo: My third grade class. Hint: Monica and I are both in the middle row. She is on the left, I am on the right. I look pissed or mysterious, probably has something to do with what I’m wearing.]

21 Day Body Love Challenge – Hairs the Difference


I always wanted great hair. In high school there was a whole subset of girls who had this thick, luscious hair. Every time they’d tilt their heads or turn around, it was in slow motion. Boys would stop whatever they were doing, drop their jaws, then drop their algebra book down in front of their jeans.

I was not one of this subset. Oh, how I longed to be.

I tried. I had a shag in fourth grade, the Dorothy Hamill wedge in 7th, a perm in 11th so that I could look just like Julie Christie in Heaven Can Wait. I spent entire summers marinating in Sun-In to lighten the mousey blondish brown my hair had become. I frosted it – remember that? – pulling strands through little holes in an attractive plastic cap. If there was a way to process my hair, I did it.

In my late 20s my hair began to turn gray – I was expecting it, DNA being what it is, but I wasn’t ready for it. I dyed my hair red, brown, almost black, blond, platinum blond, golden blond. Keeping up with it was messy and expensive. But it felt necessary.

Then one day, in my late thirties, I stopped. My mother, who had held onto her youth with various shades of red from Miss Clairol, had decided to stop dying her hair. What came in what pure white. It was beautiful. So naturally I was curious what my hair was up to under the layers of golden blond.

I decided to let it go, see what nature had in store for me. My hair was shoulder length. I could see the new color coming in at the roots if I pressed my hair down, separating my part. I did this periodically over the next two years and several haircuts until I realized what I was looking at was my hair, just the way it was supposed to be. Somehow I missed the whole growing out thing, the dye that was in my hair simply had nothing left to hang onto and so it all faded seamlessly.

The number one question new acquaintances sheepishly ask me? Is that your natural hair color? My own hairdresser told me to tell everyone she did it. It’s this great color of white that works well with my fair skin and blue eyes.

But it was more than a great color, an easy transition; it was a release.

I remember when I decided to stop painting my nails. It was equal parts laziness and wanting to be more natural. Not too long after that I let go of eye shadow, then came the hair, then I stopped wearing so much jewelry. I have been slowly stripping away adornment and camouflage over the past decade or so. I’ve come out. As myself. I feel clear and seen and understood.

I remember a friend in college who swore no one would ever see her without her make-up and hair done. NO ONE. And I just thought, “How exhausting.”

The realization that I could just be who I was came slowly and I’m still working on it. This challenge has shown me where I still have some work to do. And by work I mean letting go. There’s no need to add anything, I’ve been doing that my whole life. This is about revealing, allowing bits of light to break through. Taking it back to basics. We all start out pretty perfect, the rest is just window dressing.

“I used to have straw-colored hair. Horses loved it.” – Jarod Kintz

21 Day Body Love Challenge – Listen Up


I never really gave my ears much thought until I met someone who hated theirs. Isn’t that usually how it works? Can you really hate or even be disappointed in a body part if you have nothing to compare it to? Comparison and competition, that’s where all the struggle lies – wanting things to be different than they are. Ah, the human condition.

My ears are smallish, flat against my head and hear well. I don’t see much need to elaborate. Although I do have this small section on the upper outside edge of my right ear that somehow grew shut when I was very young. You would never know it even to look at it, but q-tips find the darndest things. Despite that one anomaly they still hear just fine, although they haven’t always listened.

It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I really learned to listen. Up to then I had always been so busy sharing my awesomeness with others, telling hoards of people who could not care less how I mastered some task or grew up in a great city or learned to fly. They were busy awaiting their turn to share their own embellished adventures. I would weave tremendous yarns masking my desire to be seen and adored with witty anecdotes and the appearance of self-deprecating humor to show how humble yet magnificent I was.

Then I was taught to listen, it was an accident. I’m sure this lesson had presented itself before but I was unprepared to see it for what it was. I was taking a series of classes on nutrition that were actually leading to a certification as a coach. And coaches have to listen.

And so I did. And it changed everything. Once I shut my mouth and quieted the thoughts that wanted to leap out of it, I heard so much.

So often we listen with the intent of responding, crafting our retort as the other person bares their soul. We’re not listening, we’re thinking. Selfishly. About how we can trump what they’re saying, solve their problem or redirect attention back to ourselves.

Maybe all they need is to be heard. Mostly that is all anyone wants. Waiting until someone was done talking, instead of interjecting my clever solution, allowed me to pause a full minute after they were done to actually consider if they needed me to say anything or if they had just worked out whatever it was. It was a game-changer for how I was in the world.

I find this to be so true of men and women. We are different, it has to be said. In general women want to talk through whatever is going on in their lives, not for it to be solved but to air it out, put it up on the line to flap in the breeze, let some of it blow away and whatever’s left deal with it. Men think we want them to fix it, whatever it is. We really just want them to agree or sympathize with us. We want to feel understood. I’m not sure how this works in same-sex relationships, I’d be interested to know.

The ear itself is like a fingerprint. No two are alike. Immigration photos in the U.S. used to be taken in profile and full face so that identification can be made by the ear if necessary. Today ears must show in passport photos or risk rejection.

Ears are used as identification in many cultures, although in a more aesthetic sense. How they are pierced or tattooed or painted or left completely unscathed help determine tribal membership. This is true in places like Africa and the Amazon of course, but also here in the U.S. If your ears are gauged and you see another person with gauged ears, there is a common interest and recognition. You get each other.

Ears are a little like knees; on their own they’re not so pretty, but as one of the sum of your parts they are appreciated and useful. Love your unique ears. Pierced, tattooed, big, small, long, wide, flat, extended. They are an organ that has a very special talent and rare ability to make others feel understood.

“How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself anything less than a god.” – Alan Watts


21 Day Body Love Challenge – The Eyes Have It

little gigi

My eyes have always been my favorite feature. No matter how young or old, thin or not so, I have always been complimented on my eyes. It is an accident of birth that I have blue eyes. Everyone in my family has them. They are also shaped like everyone’s in my family which is to say, eye shaped. Not too big, not too small, just right for my head.

Eyes are the windows to the soul. At the very least they can indicate the level of life or crazy in a person. I’m sure you have looked into someone’s eyes and had the following experiences:

1. You can’t look away. There’s depth and love and you can see right through to their soul and their soul is your soul. Or perhaps you’re drunk.

2. You can’t maintain eye contact. There’s something judgmental and disapproving in their eyes and it makes you extremely uncomfortable. Or maybe you’ve been drinking.

3. You look into someone’s eyes and it’s vacant. No one is home. Energetically they have checked out. Or maybe they’re drunk.

All drinking aside, I’m sure you’ve had incredible experiences looking into another’s eyes. Felt things that you can’t explain, a familiarity, a jolt of energy, even love, even from a stranger.

If you are someone who simply cannot look another in the eye, start by looking yourself in the eye in the mirror. A person who does not make eye contact is generally thought of as untrustworthy. Maybe. I also believe there are a lot of people out there that don’t have the first clue who they are and they are scared to death they will  learn that they are bad people. This is almost never the case. So gaze deeply into your own eyes and fall in love!

I am an extremely visual person. Most people will tell you they are too. And it’s true for many, but I seem to have a keen connection between what I see and what I remember. Not photographic or eidetic memory, but certainly situational. And daily, not just big events.

It’s my super power. One of them, perhaps the most impressive.

For instance, my husband will leave his keys on my dresser, which he almost never does. I notice them there, without really paying attention. The next morning as I am journaling or maybe fresh out of the shower he will shout from the front door, “Hey,” unable to finish his sentence before I respond, “On my dresser.”

Clairvoyant? Yes, in the truest sense of the word – clear sight. I cannot predict the future, except to say I see many more opportunities to amaze my husband and some of my co-workers with the location of their lost objects.

My eyes are sensitive to light. This is true of people with light eyes. The less pigment the more sensitive. Same with skin and hair. I’m a little like Casper the Friendly Vampire. White hair, pale skin, light eyes, ghostly white, hissing at the sun until I can hide behind sunglasses.

At high noon in the middle of summer I will close my eyes against the brightness if I don’t have sunglasses. This does not bode well for the other drivers. So I must have many pairs of prescription designer sunglasses. It can be no other way. It’s a public safety issue.

As I get older my eyes are beginning to look more like my fathers. My eyelids becoming heavier, hooded making my eyes appear smaller and tired. Or like I just woke up after sleeping on my face for 12 hours. Unlike my dad, I can use a few magic wands, known as concealer and mascara to create the illusion of well rested eyes.

I like the wrinkles around my eyes, they convey a life lived happily. When I was young I couldn’t wait to have those little lines on either side of my mouth. I thought a nice set of smile lines with a matched set of crow’s feet made people look friendly and approachable. And I could see nothing wrong with that.

Still don’t.

“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye.” – Charlotte Bronte