Being with What Is

Mindfulness is being in the moment. Right here, right now.

Mindfulness practice brings awareness of what is, and allows us to experience the many perspectives and realities that are so often buried beneath fear, disbelief and resistance —beneath wanting things to be different, wanting things to change.

Yet frequently, change is the thing we’re fiercely denying and/or struggling to avoid. What we really want is control. We want to control the direction and timing of the changes life brings, which sometimes makes us view life as a series of problems to be fixed.

Mindfulness allows us to recognize this discomfort, to breathe a hint of stillness into the struggle. We move from I can’t do this anymore! to Can I be with this?!

Almost a year ago, the ophthalmologists told me that there was nothing we could do to improve my vision — that any progress that happened would be a result of the natural neuroplasticity of the brain.

This information was hard to absorb for a while, and really challenged me to surrender to what is. The ongoing practice became to simply be here — not doing anything, not going anywhere. To explore this moment, the way things are right now.

And my experience is that this moment is really quite amazing! I find that I’m moving more willingly through the ups and downs of life. Winding down Stress Less for Life, moving on to other challenges and joys, I’m grateful for moments of mindfulness…


P.S. Throughout this past year, my vision has improved significantly! And maybe more importantly, I’m growing more comfortable simply being in the changing flow of life.


Changing Perspectives

Four months post-surgery — I’m grateful for the ongoing progress, and challenged again and again to simply practice with each moment. My eyes / brain still perceive the world in unfamiliar ways, while my mind / heart contribute their own slightly skewed perspectives.


While the healing of the retina and the recovery of visual acuity are both quite amazing, reading is still extremely challenging. Sometimes when I look at a line of text, I see the words repeated above the original, skewed at an uncanny angle that reminds me of a weather vane on a barn. Other times, the letters, numbers, and whole words wander randomly into the lines above and below them, creating what looks like a scramble of circles and sticks, which can be quite difficult to decipher!

From a medical point of view, it’s actually fascinating. Apparently there is a microscopic “wrinkling” of the retina, imperceptible on examination, but quite visible to me!

From a personal point of view, sometimes I just want a different experience! Friends, and doctors, remind me that healing takes time. Sometimes, I can stand back a bit — take the long view. Sometimes, I can breathe into the reality that things rarely return to the way they once were, and often don’t come out exactly the way we want. Sometimes, I remember that there isn’t some fixed way that life is supposed to be.

Mindfulness practice offers me a way to work with what is — with the constant changes and uncertainty. Simply being in this moment allows me to cultivate patience, acceptance, willingness and courage. To trust the process, to relinquish my way, to remember that I’m not in control. And viewing what is as a challenge rather than a problem minimizes the urge to struggle against it. Not giving up hope — just giving up the struggle!

I’m greatly encouraged by current research into neuroplasticity, which indicates that the brain can rewire itself, forming new neural pathways to compensate for changes in existing networks. At this point, I can only hope that my brain will learn to bring the disparate images together — and work to create the optimal conditions for that to happen.

I can’t control the result, but I can practice with the not knowing, one moment at a time. And I can share my experience, which parallels the challenges of many folks who come to the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, seeking relief from chronic pain and stress, looking for ways to work with the changing nature of life.

I look forward to continuing this journey together, exploring mindfulness from the varied perspectives and experiences life provides.

The wheels on the bus…

I’ve been taking the bus a lot lately, since my vision in one eye is still quite distorted. Going to the ophthalmologist, the bank, the market. Dropping into the pace and rhythm of public transportation, this children’s song rolled into my mind.

The wheels on the bus go round and round,
round and round, round and round.

The wheels on the bus go round and round…

Pondering the uncertain nature of life — it’s simple, really. One moment is followed by another. Breathing in, and breathing out. Wildflowers along the freeway ramp, people hopping on and off the bus.

But the reality of life is complex, too. The wheels in my mind go round and round, turning out endless stories about what will happen, whether I’ll need another surgery, when I’ll be able to drive, to work, to offer the next MBSR program.

Coming back, again and again, to this moment, there is simply breathing, thinking and feeling. Just being. Stir-frying asparagus. Pulling weeds. Writing blog posts in my mind, and transcribing them to the web.

Just experiencing the cycles of life, being with what is.

And the wheels on the bus go round and round…

Reflections on a Bubble

A few weeks ago, the retina in my left eye detached from its customary position at the back of the eyeball. The surgical procedure used to repair it included the injection of a gas bubble into the eye, which exerts a slight pressure that helps the retina reattach properly. In time, the bubble will dissipate, but for now, in addition to its intended structural purpose, it provides a curious subject, and object, for reflection.

Literally, light reflects off the bubble, which can be quite challenging and disorienting. Imagine a long-lasting soap bubble bobbing around in your field of vision — a constant companion that fades only in the dark of night.

I alternate between being grateful for this amazing technology, and just wanting to get away from the thing, frustrated with my inability to see clearly. Not only is the bubble in the way, it also magnifies the distortions it creates!

Breathing into this moment, just being with what’s happening right now, and watching as my mind boomerangs from one warped thought to another. Only slightly amused that the projections of the mind are rather analogous to the weird shapes formed by the bubble.

Until recently, my eyesight has been reasonably OK, but from a philosophical perspective, I’m certainly familiar with not seeing clearly. Like most people, I’ve experienced my share of distorted thinking. This is one of the reasons I practice mindfulness — to cultivate clarity of mind, to learn to look at life from a different perspective. In those moments when I can release my hold on fixed views, I experience a fresh, beginner’s mind, a willingness to not know. And, I can’t hold onto that view, either.

So while the bubble and I are sharing space in my head, maybe I can use it is a practice prompt — a reminder to acknowledge and work with what life brings, and to recognize that there are unlimited ways of looking at the world.

That’s all I know at the moment. I’d love to hear your perspective…

Trees, water and rocks…


In its many forms, the natural world is a powerful source of energy and stillness for me. Having recently camped for three days in the southern Sierra, I’m grateful for time in the forest, and for the clear, cold mountain water. Simply being in the sequoias, breathing in the trees and wildflowers and stars, so refreshed my energy and perspective…

This has been a busy time! Just a few weeks ago, I was in Petaluma for eight days, participating in an MBSR Teacher Development Intensive — and intense it was! The full schedule, and the ongoing interactions with scores of people, were sometimes challenging for me, and also quite awesome. Exploring together was so rich!

In between trainings, many of us wandered the trails through the nearby marsh — an incredible bird refuge along rivers and creeks that rise and fall with the tides. Between animated conversations, we watched geese, ducks, swans and red-winged blackbirds. Watched the sun and moon crossing the sky, and the stars flickering.

This haiku, from the last morning of the training, barely expresses my thanks for the skills and wisdom of the senior MBSR teachers we worked with, and the wonder I experienced in this amazing gathering — this time for sharing, learning, and simply being

Rising tide nurtures
cattails and grasses, leaving
a rich, earthy silt



forgotOK, so I didn’t really forget — I just got busy.

Life is so rich and amazing that sometimes I feel like I’m juggling a gazillion things! And one of the tricks to juggling is that you can only do it one thing at a time!

I posted this video on facebook a few days ago, and wanted to share it with those of you on the blog.

Check out this short, inspiring TED talk by Andy Puddicombe, the man who created Headspace. All it takes is 10 minutes…

And a reminder, if you are on facebook, to check out the Stress Less for Life page for quotes, class information and links to other articles and videos on mindfulness.

Lastly, apologies to Roy Lichtenstein for the impertinent use of his cartoon.



Winter Solstice @ Spirit Rock

Winter solstice is an important celebration for me — a time for both embracing the darkness and welcoming the return of the light. I’m grateful to have just returned from the Winter Solstice Retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, to have had that time and space to enter into the stillness of the full moon and the solstice.

As it happened, this was a challenging and powerful retreat for me — a time of moving from physical and emotional pain into profound healing. It can be hard to put this kind of experience into words, but I wanted to share one rather subtle moment that really touched my mind and heart.

Of course, by sharing a moment of growth and insight, I am also exposing the ways that I could use some growth and change in perspective! So I’ll start by acknowledging that I am frequently rather picky about my environment, and have been known to circle ’round like a restless puppy while simply choosing a place to sit down.

At the retreat, I had been exploring and working with self-compassion — recognizing that this desire to control my own little world was deeply rooted in a childhood fear of not being taken care of.

Spirit Rock IOn this particular day, the chill in the air had warmed a bit, and I was looking forward to eating lunch on the hillside. I headed up the path toward an open spot in the dry grass, looking up at the meditation hall framed against the brown hills, oak trees and bright blue sky.

Coming over the rise, I was distressed to come across a cluster of (ugly) metal pipes, and quite agitated by this unexpected glitch in my plan for the perfect lunch spot.

Spirit Rock IIThose rusty old pipes absolutely ruined the awesome view I was seeking! And the judgments rushing and tumbling through my mind were quickly quashing any feelings of contentment or joy!

Waves of fear crashed through my mind and body like a raging tropical storm.

Not only was my rather picky nature front and center, I was also aware of some familiar critical voices! But suddenly another unexpected thing happened — another wave. In a moment of stillness, I became aware that the pipes didn’t ruin the view, and that “picky” wasn’t necessarily my only choice, or my nature.

Spirit Rock IIIStanding back for a wider perspective, I recognized that the awesome view still existed, and that it included the pipes. And I realized that calling a thing “ugly” is simply one way of labeling it, and that labels are merely words, merely preferences.

In that powerful moment, my heart and mind expanded to embrace the whole experience, the full catastrophe, and a deep contentment rolled through my entire being.

Standing on the earth, looking at the sky and trees — and pipes! — I wondered whether it was necessary to push away the things labeled “bad” and “ugly”. Maybe I could hold my preferences lightly, be willing to experience all of life, and cultivate a more trusting and grateful heart.

I sat on a rock and ate my lunch, grateful for moments of insight and clarity.

And speaking of being grateful, I want to thank Linda Karl for her kind permission to use (and adapt) her gorgeous photo of Spirit Rock.