Category Archives: intention

Brian Williams: Why? WHY?!?!?! NnnNNnnnnnnNnnn


My dad is a journalist; well, a columnist now. But he was a newspaper man from carrier to executive editor and reporter to columnist for all of my life. He still is. You can read him at this address if you’re so inclined. Now, he’s an op-ed writer. His topics vary wildly and he has a fatherly bent to everything he writes. He went to Brown, then he got a duly impressive Stanford fellowship for something government / policy / newsy-related (I’m sure I will hear about the details over the phone or on email) when I was born. But I love my dad because he’s my dad, and I respect his career choice and his education.

When I was younger and living in Buffalo, NY, Dad had a high-intensity job as an executive editor at a daily morning newspaper called The Buffalo Courier-Express. He often told me that he had the same job that Mark Twain / Samuel Clemens did at the same paper. The EE is the person who decides whether to kill the presses for a story and explain the massive loss of time and income to the publisher. I think I remember him telling me of ONE occasion when he decided that what was going on was worthy of shutting down the presses. And Brian Williams was there.

No, he wasn’t.

I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, my dad’s adherence to the code of truth and personal integrity was forged in me as how one forges a sword. I can’t stand lying. I see no need for it. My entire childhood was set on the stage between a truth teller (Dad) and a fabricator (Mom); were there inconsistencies of portrayals? Of course, because it’s a very thin line which separates them. But I’m not here to write about that.

It’s that division between truth and untruth in my father that put bread on our table, paid for my violin lessons, sent me to camp, educated me as a kid, then put me through college. Every freakin’ penny paid toward my betterment and the betterment of my brothers, was earned on the scales of journalistic integrity, the difference between truth and fallacy. We lived under the banner of the Fourth Estate and we did not live like Williams, earning stealing $10m a year TO LIE TO US.

My dad’s income was enough. We had a nice house, we had some nice things and luxuries that most people don’t have, so I’m forever grateful that my father told the truth, wrote about it, encouraged others to tell the truth and never gave in. Still. To this day.

So I hope everyone knows the story now about how Brian Williams “misremembered” the facts (because as far as he’s concerned, it’s really hard to distinguish a rocket-propelled grenade from a hand gun and being shot down versus fired upon) and is chalking his recollection of his antics in Iraq 2003, shortly after the start of our war there to “conflation” and “the fog of memory.”

Here’s me: Aren’t the events enough on their own? Isn’t the fact that he got to sit in his $5,000 suits on camera every night with his strangely shaped face (which I really don’t want to go into but it is off-putting and disarming: his crooked smile and weird chin and nose that wants to go its own way), and announce the news enough? That’s all he did, it’s all we expected. He wasn’t actually reporting on most of it, he was the lead who told us about the story to come that the other people did the reporting on. From that perspective, it’s ok, but once he got in the mix, started holding the mic, that’s when things get dicey.

When I first saw him take over the desk, I thought, “Meh. Ok. It’s apparent. He’s no Brokaw [whom I admired and respected]. He’s no Tim Russert [whom I REALLY respected (woot! woot! to my hometown boy, may he rest in peace)]. He’s Brian Williams… he’s perpetually tan, he’s white [shocker], he’s sort of engaging and monotone… he’s earned his stripes on that $300 Brooks Brothers rep tie.” My understanding now is that when he told that story about the RPG and the Chinook in 2003, Brokaw was still at the desk and no one called him on it. It was an easily verifiable claim.


NBC Nightly News “With Brian Williams” — that’s the part I never understood.

David Muir who may be on the 10th floor but his hair is on the 11th.

George Stephanoantolgoaphgouserolidocious.

Is CBS still a network? I’m 47, staring down the barrel of 33, so I refuse to watch anything on CBS.


Who cares? Why is the anchor name such an important part of the branding? When these networks hang their veracity on the singular entity (the news anchor) they blow it. It might as well be “NBC Nightly News — With Jay Gatz” (little shout out to my man, Gatsby) now.

It’s not “Apple iPhone — with Steve Jobs” or “Washington Post — with Jeff Bezos” (you do know that, right? You DO know that the Amazon founder bought the Washington Post … right?) or at least not yet.

The Fourth Estate is in trouble, my friends. It has been for a long time. Because of money, fame, camera time and all the rest. It seems that telling the stories that need to be told to the people who are willing to hear them isn’t enough anymore. We have to embellish, also known as LIE.

Why Don’t We Care?

What upsets me almost as much as Williams’ behavior is that some people just weren’t upset about it. That it wasn’t a big deal to them. In this world of fame-seeking and 15-minutes of YouTube, no matter how short the attention span, people didn’t seem to be terribly bothered by it. In fact, some people were rather blasé about the whole thing, “A journalist lied  … pass the chicken wings and butter sauce… Donald Trump’s about fire that housewife…”

That sort of freaks me out a little: have we become so desensitized? Are we that confused? Do we expect to be lied to? Or have we become a people for whom the truth doesn’t really matter so much anymore? That Williams’ Walter Mitty -inspired imagination is one thing, we all have fantasies of heroism or endurance, but that he went on to LIE ABOUT IT for YEARS again and again and again and again… and on camera, on Facebook on Twitter …. as recently on Letterman last week. It’s awful, and that people really aren’t too bothered by it is even more disturbing to me. This should be very disturbing to people.

Maybe he wanted to be caught.

As a person of a certain tribe which lots of Americans have clearly taken for granted, the so-called “Fourth Estate,” I wrote of Williams,

He’s a journalist who is supposed to just report facts. It’s one of those things that America has that other nations don’t, that we can root out corruption and write about it in our newspapers and magazines and on the television and on the radio.

And he lied about his Katrina coverage and what he witnessed. Again. And again.

But for him, the stories, just on their own weren’t compelling enough. He had to inject his bull into them and seek more attention. He had to Be There more than he was.

This isn’t just stretching the truth. It’s pathological and a major character flaw. But it’s not just him, Rather did it, and supposedly Brokaw and other major hitters knew about Williams and counseled him to stop. He wouldn’t. And he got busted last week on the NBC Facebook page by people who were there and it’s just gross. He only owned it when service members called him on it. He falsely claimed valor. And then chalked it up to the “fog of memory” and termed it “misremembered”; It’s really pathetic.

His “apology” — the transcript is more theatrically brilliant than his actual portrayal; if you have another person with you, I want you to click on this link and have one person read the transcript aloud and you try to listen … without canting your head or furrowing your brow. It’s a fun game. If you do it as a drinking game, I would suggest that each of you take a shot (ha ha) with each mention by Williams of himself (I, me, my and we). I counted 12. You should be good and hammered (as Williams should be by the establishment), by the end of the apology. If you’d like to just keep it to first person “I” mentions, it’s seven; still a lot.

The apology wasn’t full ownership. It was doubleplus speak and contextual semantic gymnastics; it funded as though it were crafted in a board room.

His apology should simply be this:

“I lied. Often. Repeatedly. About the same story. Again and again in an attempt to steal the thunder of the brave people who actually deserve it. Here’s your Emmy back. You can find me under a 30 Rock now…”

Williams talked about covering Hurricane Katrina: “Katrina offended me. It meant that every president from Lyndon Johnson on had either lied to me or had been betrayed by public policy.” NnnnNnnnNnnnnn at this link:

It’s a pleasant interview, but it’s where Brian Williams blurs the lines, continuously, in a way that I’m unsure (because I don’t watch TV all that often, frankly) other television news anchors or newspaper journalists have. He loves the stage. He loves the light.

Moth to the Flame

He’s been on other media — “30 Rock” — this clip is one of many from Williams’ random cameos on my beloved “30 Rock” sitcom.

It makes me squirm, watching him there. It always has, when I see him do things like that. It’s like Bill Clinton talking about boxers or briefs, or Michele Obama on Nickelodeon. There’s just… a wall or a line that is getting blurrier and blurrier.

I shared that link of Williams wanting an audition with people on a thread about this matter on my dad’s Facebook wall, primarily because he runs with an older set, and I think it’s important to really do what one can to show the whole picture of a person or his “media availability” in a situation like this and then I commented once more because I simply can’t abide what he’s done:

I’ll stop here, but I just wanted to add this last link (you can find more on your own); but any JOURNALIST / NEWS anchor who is willing to say these lines, even in jest as part of a script, needs to have his head examined:

Williams plays legendary newsman David Brinkley opposite Alec Baldwin as co-anchor Chet Huntley. The two of them play sexist newscasters who have a hard time understanding that their reporter Jamie Garnett — who was played by Tina Fey — is actually a woman. (Huffington Post)

“Look honey, you have a dynamite shape, but you’re gonna have to shut up and let a man tell us what’s happening,” Williams said. “Now, is your father or a policeman nearby?”

Here’s the link to that portrayal with Alec Baldwin:

I will submit, that it’s very funny writing, but it’s also sad that things were ever that way (moving on). Something about it though breaks the “fourth wall” of theater or parody, in that an active news anchor is playing an old, now-dead news anchor, in a way that is totally offensive. I mean, when is it ever ok for an established current news anchor to do that?

A long time ago, when I first started seeing him on “30 Rock”, I wondered about him… I thought, “One time, ok. He’s playing himself, it’s at NBC about NBC, so I guess it’s ok…” but the more and more he appeared on the show, the more he was willing to bend the reality, the oogier (that’s a word) I felt.

But this…. the Iraq and Katrina stuff… It’s insatiable, his need for attention, his need to lie and his need to inject himself into the story — that’s almost VERBOTEN? Is it verboten? Don’t inject yourself into the story? Just tell the facts? Isn’t that THE POINT of journalism?

It disturbs me.

Right now, I’m listening to his appearance on Letterman in 2012, and it’s really too bad, because he’s terribly charismatic. He is clearly a lover of the spotlight and he’s quite funny and entertaining and talented as an impressionist and where he went wrong, where lots of people who really belong in entertainment, who really should be on a stage or in front of a camera –not broadcasting the news– go wrong is that they … sigh (sorry, Mom) … should have nothing to do with truth, unless the character they are portraying, demands it.

Should We Be Surprised?

His pursuit of truth has never been dogged, clearly. Yet he sat behind a desk, where it is understood, and not tacitly in the least (but not for long because more and more people are losing touch with the meaning and importance of truth in all aspects of life because it feels to me that a great majority of younger people simply don’t care about truth anymore, they want to know about cat memes and Kim Kardashian’s kouture and other stupid stuff, because let’s face it, the truth is hard to experience) that truth is what matters most. Not opinions, not slant, not personal involvement, not allegory. Truth. His casual use of craft parlance, referring to helicopters as “helos” and “birds” is unnerving as well, seeing as how he hasn’t ever served in the military. He claims in that transcript link above that no one is trying to “steal anyone’s valor” but it sure doesn’t feel that way. Is it a case of “just wanting to be one of the guys”?


“Conflate.” If anyone has been conflating anything it’s him regarding his job with entertainment. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. It’s very simple:

Were you there or not?

Did you sustain RPG fire in your Chinook as other people did or not?

Were you in a flooded hotel in the French Quarter or not?

Did you see a suicide or not?

It’s that simple.

While this is a serious problem, as a nation, clearly, we will be OK. It’s Brian Williams who isn’t ok; but America has a short memory. And what he’s lying about is all to garner sympathy and to make him look more involved than he actually was, and people protected him and that’s a problem too, so he wasn’t exactly discouraged. The way he’s embellished the stories isn’t especially damning, it’s just wrong. That he had to do it is sad… So, I bet in five years, he will have a cooking show or a book come out and all will be forgiven, because as a morally just people, we should forgive him, but what he’s done to the field of journalism is wrong — it was selfish and wrong and for that, he deserves some punishment.

The cynic in me wants to suggest that it’s the whole concept of journalism –tell the truth– that is selfish and wrong, that we are all flawed and screwed up people for 1) expecting the truth and 2) leaving it up to other people to tell us the truth.

This whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I thank my dad though, he’s old school. The facts are enough on their own.  I didn’t even know that “misremembered” was a word. Man, some people will do anything to avoid the bare, real, actual, bone-deep truth.

Thank you.

PS — WHAT THE WHAT?! Here is Williams announcing HIS OWN DAUGHTER’S role on Peter Pan… it’s so so so so so WEIRD.

“Family members confirm she’s been rehearsing for the role since the age of three and they look forward to seeing her fly…”

It’s YOUR OWN KID, Williams! What on earth is the matter with you?

Missives from the Mat 7 — Mission Statements, Tuning In, #Intention, #Neutrality, #Business, #Management


If you think this post is only about yoga, you’re wrong. This post is about life, intention, and something we all need some help with from time to time: staying focused.

When I was on the retreat (yes, I’m writing about the retreat again as a point of reference), we “tuned in” with a chant every time we did something new or began the day or the session.

The chant was usually “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.” If we’d already done that and took a break from a lesson but came back to the lesson, we’d do another chant, “Ad Guray Nameh” and that would be for the all-important purpose of: focusing, getting us all BACK on the same page, continuing the tone we set previously, and continuing the intention.

For the purposes of the yoga instruction, it’s not unlike the Pledge of Allegiance that is said in schools across the country. It’s not unlike the oath a witness takes with one hand on the Bible when in court. It’s not unlike “Amen” at church. It’s not unlike “to those about to die, we salute you” in the gladiator days. It’s not unlike singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” before a football, soccer, baseball, hockey game in stadiums and little league fields dotting America. Think: Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech.


Doing all those things Sets The Tone for what we’re all about to do. That’s all it does. It doesn’t change your religion, it doesn’t make a radical shift in your already unique personality, it doesn’t mean you’ve joined a cult. It means you’re simply On Board with what you said you’d be on board with… it’s basically committing: putting your money where your mouth is for the purposes of what you’re about to do. Y’know, “checking your ego at the door.”

So while I was on that retreat, I realized about halfway through it that I hadn’t seen a mission statement for the organization I’d just begun presiding: the high school rowing team’s Board of Directors.

This was a big deal to me because I’m big on communication and intention and orientation: not only knowing what the hell we’re doing, but also WHY we’re doing it, it’s part of my 3 thing (see yesterday’s post).

The lack of the mission statement (to me) highlighted many of the previous Boards’ struggles: dysfunctional behavior, personal agendas, bias, the lack of neutrality, and a host of other really random, toxic and odd behaviors befitting an entire season of “The Office.”

So for the two days I was home between the vegan yoga retreat I’d closed and the bacon beach bacchus I was about to experience, I’d decided to come up with a mission statement. I had based it on the PTA mission statement I used as my e-mail signature and posted on my bulletin board during my tenure.

Having that verbiage kept me impartial, it helped me to remember, at the time, that my clients were people who couldn’t open their own milk in the cafeteria, or who couldn’t yet tie their own shoes, or who needed to ask permission and then get a buddy to go to the bathroom with them. I’d often reminded the past principal of her clients during one of our many heated exchanges and I often got the sense that she didn’t like that reminder.

So for the rowing team, I needed to keep my eye on the prize here as well. Who are my clients as the president of the board of directors that oversees and manages the high school rowing team?

Are my clients the parents? No.

Are my clients the coaches? No.

Are my clients the other officers? No.

My clients are the at-times gangly, pimpled, awkward, loud, self-conscious, diamonds in the rough we call high school students.

So when I’d proposed my mission statement to the other officers on the Board, I began with a simple relative comment, “All of you were informed that I was on a yoga teacher training retreat for basically 20 days, in total. If you’re at all familiar with yoga, you might know that many classes begin with a chant, ‘om’ before the work begins.” I got a couple weird stares, and a couple self-conscious snorts from some of my fellow officers… that was about them, not me, so I ignored them.

I continued, “I’m not here to make you do that. I have no expectations that any meeting ever will begin with ‘om.’ The purpose of saying ‘om’ at the start of a yoga practice, group or solo, is to ‘tune in’ to get everyone / your spirit on the vibrational level of what you’re about to do. I won’t go into the energy and the vibrational effects of chanting because that’s not what this organization is about, but what I am here to do is to create a mission statement to do the very simple-sounding yet difficult act of creating neutrality and inspiring all of us to work in the best interest of the rowers, not our children who happen to be rowers, but all rowers. Capiche?”

The awkward glances and snorts were replaced with seating shifts, focused eyes, throat clearing and “great idea.”

So the mission statement I’d created for the rowing Board is open for discussion, editing, critique, and intention with the other officers. We will vote on it at the next meeting after everyone gets a chance to process it and think of how it might need any changes. I’m pumped. One of my goals all along, in all of my life actually (as it’s becoming stunningly clear to me every day) is to clear the lines of communication; to encourage people to be more aware of the words they say and more importantly, to hear the words other people say.

I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: 95% of all communication is nonverbal. That means eye rolls (contempt), shoulder shrugs (frustration), pursed lips (conflict, fear of speaking), pursed lips with puffed cheeks (‘you’re full of it and here it comes…’) dead stares (anger), fast nods (agreement, but rushing, ‘get on with it’).

I was speaking to my husband about this mission statement stuff this morning and we agreed that we should create mission statements for ourselves, on a personal level, to make sure we are honoring our own personal growth which will naturally affect the growth of the organizations we serve: our children, our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends, people in traffic with us, people in the coffee shop with us, people on retreat with us, our families of origin and … our Selves. Maybe when we get all that done, we can come up with a mission statement for our little team here at the house.

So, do you (at business, at home, on the street, in the car, at the water cooler, on the couch with your kid, in the bed with your lover, in the mirror with yourSelf ) have a mission statement?

What is your mission in life? To be world-class selfish or to be world-class awesome?

Mine is to be world-class awesome. As soon as I finalize it, I’ll share it.

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat — 1: All in Good Time #Yoga #Spirit #Trust #Intuition


I stayed up late into a bit past midnight sorting socks. It’s always the socks without the friends that I seem to vex over.

I spent a lot of the day yesterday catching up on laundry to prepare everyone for my absence, hence the socks at midnight. I am leaving tomorrow at 2:15 to drive to the airport to pick up people who will be joining me on the next stage of my yoga training.

Last weekend I attended at three-day children’s yoga teacher training with 18 other students. That was a 30-hour program and yes, it was 30 hours. Thirty hours of mostly sitting, often chanting, occasionally dancing and playing and working hard to remember BEING children ourselves. It was liberating. Shakta, our teacher, has this … energy that almost insists you be good to yourself.

I saw changes in people just in that short time. Profound changes. One woman (we were all women, I still find it unlikely that a man would endeavor to teach children’s yoga); many of us actual teachers, and I’d say our age averaged at about 37. As I type this, I’m actually very curious now.

I spent a good amount of time with two women in particular, one who is 29 and who has the most radiant skin and smile and good feelings, just like a bubble you’d blow with a wand. She has her own blog, and such style — nothing pretentious, just … a vibration that says “YES.” Our interactions were not very intense; I sensed a vibrancy about her that I was more interested in observing than engaging with; we are at profoundly different times in our lives and she seems liberated in a way that I can embrace for her but I daren’t get too close to it because I know myself too well: I’d end up saying in my head, “Well, enjoy it while it lasts” (about her freedom without the children she wants to eventually have). When I was her age, I was three years married and pregnant with my first son. She knows her realities before her based on choices she will make, and I look forward to watching her develop.

She’s a lovely person, truly positive. We stayed in the same hotel and I encountered her our second morning dashing to class on foot and although we are within walking distance of the hotel, I am not accustomed to waking at 5:45 every day so I drove; yes, lazy I know. But I wanted those precious six or seven minutes I’d save by driving. I picked her up along the way and we would ride back to the hotel for breakfast together at the buffet after our morning sadhana, which I later wrote on my Facebook page: “is Sanskrit for asskick.”

I spent other times with another gal who is a mom like me, also of three boys. She was a couple years younger and had a gentle kindness that I can only say reminded me of the actress Dianne Wiest; a tenderness and vulnerability that I fought a compulsion to scrape away; she seemed right on the edge of some form of emotional collapse. Despite this depth, I enjoyed being with her. She has a perseverance and fortitude that can only come from experience and those of us who have been there understand it. I hope to stay in touch with her; she’s an old soul and I enjoyed eating lunch with her for two of the three days.

Another woman entered the first day blustery and confident arrogant. She complained of her drive; she wore a bluetooth headset to disconnect herself from the rest of us. When she exited the building for lunch she was already on her phone and she said, “Hey! How are you?!” while smiling and looking at me, that I thought she was talking to me. I was in her way. She was talking to someone else. She spoke of her future and that on her way to class that morning, that started at 8:00 am (so it was an hour for most of us who lived locally), she had already read three separate offers to teach yoga, that her life is so busy, that she does Bikram yoga (hot yoga) six days a week, going on seven years now (yet oddly, she seemed completely lacking in awareness of her physical space, that’s called “prioperception”) and blah blah blah blah… I tuned her out. Her shields were up (like Michael Keaton’s “Batman” when he got into the Bat-mobile, he spoke into his glove, “Shields” and up went an armadillo-like covering around the car — still the BEST Bat-mobile if you ask me).

I thought about Jung (day 2), what he said about “often what irritates us in others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves” and I went there; I entertained it: her bluster, her bravado, her “pita” (yoga for “fire”). I used to be attracted to that kind of energy because it told me “that’s a CAN DO person! get to KNOW her! she has SUCCESS!” but now it tells me “there’s a lot there; it’s unresolved; it’s not yours…let her be; it’s a façade.” When we went to lunch the first day, she stood in line at the strip-mall NY-Style pizzeria (Antonio’s — and it was awesome) insisting that she not wait for her salad… she was expecting it to be ready in a plastic box I guess. It wasn’t ready when she had to have it (we all had 90 minutes for lunch, I don’t know what was up her butt … we had plenty of time) and she coarsely told the attendant that it took very long when she did get her handmade, fresh, to order, glorious Greek salad. She sat by herself in her lycra and $400 sunglasses, kept her lipgloss just so and spoke to no one but her invisible friend on her headset. By the end of the second day, she was well into her softening. Her energy was completely different. We’d done so many chants, meditations and kriyas (numerous poses repeated very quickly in a set with intense breathing) that her submission would be inevitable. Her smile was softer, she was on her headset less. She, gratefully, did not infect the pizzeria. I still have a sense that she’s unaware of herself, that her coarseness is a sense of pride for her, but all in good time… she will eventually get there. I hope.

Almost all of these other women have been certified, for several years, to teach yoga with the 200-hour training that I am starting soon. Many of them are much younger than I am. I started out looking at them, in their late 30s, remembering: I used to have that body… (it’s amazing what six years can do to you despite conscious eating, exercise and rest). My sister-in-law and I often joke about “middle age thickening” — this thing that seemingly happens to us without our permission. The slowdown of the metabolism despite your most fervent wishes it do otherwise. I am still “shapely” but I see “more” of myself than I am accustomed to seeing. (We will see what 16 days on a lacto-vegan diet will do to me…) I know part most of this “thickening” is a result of a drop in my “training”; I can still fit into all my same clothes, but it’s different. I don’t worry about it anymore. These things are how we age; we can fight them and be miserable or we can accept them and be mindful of our choices which will accelerate or stave off their aggressive inevitable advances. As I’ve determined over the past few months, especially with the Jungian series I just finished (go to the previous post to see the index) it’s not about looking good, it’s about feeling good.

As I wrote to an e-friend last night on a Facebook post she shared with me about how yoga fashion has gone COMPLETELY NUTS that “it’s about the pose, not the clothes.” There was more lycra and spandex and ripped abs and bulging deltoids in that room… the physical strength is great, but as I’m learning: it’s the mental strength, the strength of spirit that will bring you home. I suppose it’s all well and good for me to say these things, perhaps it’s an unconscious interest in saying to myself, “It’s OK, Molly. >pat pat pat< You can just admit you're sad you've softened a little around your middle…" and there is some truth to that, that my fantastically brilliant observations are just thinly veiled contempt at the youth and strength of some of these women, but then I counter with the sagacious side of me that says, "be strong, be fit, but loosen up a little too" because I recall quite clearly in my memory actually, a time when I was totally wrapped around the axle about my appearance and fitness and yes, it was good to be concerned about my health, but my concern was about my vanity, not my health. I feel I'm in a better place now. I can still run five miles if I decide to; I do a 5k all the time, with virtually no muscle pain or joint discomfort. I just realize now that I'm already there, that I've hit the lottery: I've got a fantastic husband, three great kids, a wonderful home, more solid friends and loved ones than I can count, a pretty strong sense of my purpose now, and that in the end, all we want or need, is love and smile and a gracious hug. Sounds completely woo-woo, I know, but it's true.

I also looked at these women with a twinge of regret in myself for getting started "so late" in life. I'll be 46. I'm definitely on the downward slope now. Lots of the women already have their businesses beneath their belts, they just added the children's yoga component because it is in such high demand. My personal sense is that if you can teach and instill in children the ability for them to learn they can self-regulate their emotions, that they can go to a quiet place in their minds, that they can feel safe expressing themselves physically in a safe and creative way, that they will eventually take it forward with them. That they will be able to calm a room, just by walking into it.

Each day began with a "tune in" that we all chanted to get the room or the energy ready for all of us. The chant (I'm sure my father and brother would be freaking out if they read this, thinking I'm joining a cult, which I'm not) is "Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" which means something like … I can't remember. But it's physical effect no different from singing a nice long traditional "Amen" at the end of the Eucharistic blessing in Mass; it's just a way of getting everyone in the same mental space. So chill, Dad and brother, I'm not about to start worshipping long-lashed, eight-limbed elephant women (not that there's anything wrong with that…).

We did lots of amazing things in this program and I’ll share the three most personally profound; one on each day.

Day 1: Shakta introduced for us “The make the bad thoughts go away” meditation to bring us a bit closer to our inner children. I’m sure it has a real name, but for kids (as well as the kids inside us all) that’s all I have. This is a simple exercise but maaaan, I had to keep it together, during it because it is profound and we had just begun the classes. The physical action is to “make like” you are spitting, but it’s your air, not saliva you are expelling. It takes a little practice. The sound is like a pointed, decisive “pih” or “puh.” The breath is powerful, but controlled, coming from the belly, not the lungs. So you have to breath from your belly… it’s very different. (I’ll write more about that in another post.) Practice it a little.


Simply: sit comfortably. Close your eyes and cup your hands in front of you with your left over your right. Bring your hands about 10 inches from your face. Think of a bad thought or bad memory or bad feeling from your life (it could be from your youth or five minutes ago at the exit ramp); a moment when you felt fear, shame, guilt, rage. Anything. Hold that thought, feeling and memory in your head until it’s right there, literally, in your mouth. You repeat this breath for a minimum 26 times; you can go to 54 or 108 if you need. But for beginners, I’m thinking 26 is fine. Prepare yourself, you might get swept away and feel it all. Let it come and let it go. I felt a lot of stuff and I looked forward to being able to do it privately so I could let it all process.

On Day 2, Shakta’s husband Kartar came in to spend some time with us. He is tall, he dressed in white traditional Sikh clothing. He is very mellow, chooses his words with discernment and has a lovely wafty yet grounded way about him. He’s like a willow. He had a long white beard and talked to us about Masaru Emoto’s HADO “Healing And Discovering Ourselves” exercises that he performed with water a couple decades ago. HADO is based on the effects of words and energy on all living things. Basically, if we use kind words, things are lovely; if we use ugly words, things suffer. Check out the link (in red above), it’s pretty amazing. Some people think it’s a hoax. I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think those people who think it’s a hoax are sad. There. I said it. Kartar didn’t stay long; but he played some games with us, one in particular that was really neat:

The “find the feather with your intuition” game. I don’t know why we used a feather, maybe there’s something spiritual about it; but the colors of these feathers (day glo green and pink) suggested they were not originally that color.

Basically, get a group of people together and sit in a circle facing one another. Put the feather in the center of the circle. Everyone looks at the feather. Everyone tunes in. Start by being really quiet together for a moment once seated or sincerely saying some cool thing like “Om” or “Amen.” The deal is that it’s a good idea for everyone to say it so the energy of the vocal vibration is received not only by everyone’s ears (provided they are not deaf) but also their bodies, their rib cages, or “chakral center.”

Someone leaves the circle and goes to an area where s/he can’t see anyone at all. Someone in the circle takes the feather and sits on it. Those in the circle close their eyes. You call back the person who left, and you let that person stand in the circle. S/he can close their eyes (in fact it’s best if s/he does so that the body tells you what’s going on, but you have to be open, you have to be ready to truly listen to your body) and slowly turn (while still standing) in a small circle “greeting” each person’s energy. Those in the circle all (woo-woo alert): “send” that person positive thoughts like “find the feather” or “let your intuition tell you where the feather is” or “key in to your intuition,” Something general like that; don’t think, “The feather is under Bipsy.” or “Help Bipsy find the feather.” It has to be general. It just does. As the feather finder, when you feel like you’ve felt all you can near a certain person, like you’ve gone around a couple times and you just “sense” (not think, you


it) you can tap that person on the head and say, “Do you have the feather?”

I got it on the first try. I was the first to leave the group and I got it. I was amazed. I actually felt it at one person; a person I’d not yet interacted with. I was amazed. This was on day 2, so we all were a bit tuned in to one another. This was probably our 18th hour of being together in that room for lessons. I suppose if you wanted to try this with just one other person, you could do it and the person could hide the feather on their person and you could let your hands hover and guide you; it would likely feel magnetic — at least that’s how it felt to me. Like a gentle pull. I am very grateful for that exercise. Peggie, if you’re reading this, my freckles on my thumb mound are almost gone…

Anyway, each person in the group got to be a seeker. Only one out of our five didn’t get it on the first guess.

On Day 3, Shakta’s son Ram Dass came in to meet us. He works somewhat nearby and he generously left work early to speak to us. It was lovely. He went off to India to live in an ashram and go to school when he was eight and he left when he graduated from their high school (it’s somewhat like an International Baccalaureate school) at 16. He graduated from college, my alma mater, at 20.

Shakta and Kartar, his parents, are American-born, white. His father is a former Christian. Shakta looks to be of German or European descent to me; she is still quite “dirty blonde.” I suspect their birth names are something as “normal” as Stephanie and Richard. They met at a cooperative, sort of like a commune of those on the yoga journey in the 70s. They wanted a child for many years. Finally, Shakta became pregnant and so as a child, their only child, their son Ram Dass, would wear turbans and dress in traditional Sikh garb.

Shakta had told us well before she asked him to join us, that he loves to wear suits now; that he is a businessman, that he works for a large government contractor; that he doesn’t do yoga anymore, that he’s a “DJ” for hobby; that he works out and runs for his health, although he still meditates quite a bit. I smiled inwardly at the irony: here is this young man, born into a yoga ashram-like community, in a communal living way, who left his mother and father for eight years to live in India (as was the path for those living in that way), whose “child” spirit was very much honored and revered and encouraged, who comes back to America to end up working for one of the largest, lucrative and most influential government contractors as an analyst….

He walked into the room, comPLETEly self-possesed. Tall, elegant, quiet, serious, clever. He looked at and considered his mother with a respectful detachment, that they are peers… such is the way of a 21-year-old, I mused inside. I told him this — I wanted to tell him that he is like an “old soul” because he is SO VASTLY unlike any other 21-year-old I’ve ever met. But I countered it with “But I can’t say you’re an old soul, because you’re not — or maybe it’s that you’re so old a soul that you seem new again” because again, he had confidence and a sense of his place in this world that was frighteningly unshakeable. He had the kind of quiet, reflective, sincere, easy smile, and real steadiness that maybe 1:10,000,000 people possess; and of 21-year-olds? Cripes… 1:700,000,000. You can say “reflective” about some people and it sounds as though they’re neurotic. like Woody Allen. No. Not this guy. He knows who he is and you could feel it. It was stalwart. Shakta beamed with love and pride for her son. Yet it was in a way that said, “I was the one who simply carried him to this world… he is not ‘mine‘; he belongs to himself…” and maaaaan, you had no doubt.

I know lots of people who think they mean it when they say that about their own kids. I know now, myself included at times, that they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re not even close.

The Day 3 exercise that affected me profoundly was the “trust circle.” Basically nine people form a tight circle (almost touching each other) facing one another. They are the “receivers.”

Another person (bringing the group size to ten) stands in the middle about 18 inches from each person / receiver in the circle with her/his feet almost touching, they are close together, maybe an inch is between the toes. The arms of the person in the center are like a mummy’s: forearms crossed on the chest with the hands touching each opposing shoulder. Each receiver in the circle grounds her/himself in a gentle lunge and their hands are gently cupped and facing the person in the center. Arms are engaged, but soft; they are “ready.” Make sure no one is wearing socks and that the floor is not slippery.

The person in the center closes its eyes and grounds. Takes a couple breaths and grounds again. When the person in the center is ready s/he asks the receiving group, “Are you ready?”

The receivers say “yes” because their hands are ready and their eyes stay fixed on the person in the center and because they ARE ready. You can’t help but take this with reverence: another person is about to trust you to not let her or him get injured. It’s a big deal. This exercise is mostly performed at grades 5 (maybe some 4th graders are ready) and up through high school… through graduate school … through the mortgage years, and into senior living if you catch my drift.

When s/he is ready, s/he — the “truster” — will begin to fall into the receivers. It is best for about three receivers to have hands on this person (mostly the upper body, mostly the shoulders and crossed forearms) when s/he leans into them. The physical sensation is not to reject or push back the leaning / falling / trusting person in the center, but to “welcome” and guide back to the center and let the truster’s sense of balance and equilibrium guide them or rest them on to another area of the receivers. I couldn’t help but think of those swinging pendulums over those little sand gardens that some people have on their desks.

At moments, the truster’s falls can become fast, a little out of control; that’s up to us, the receivers, to slow down and reassure the truster in the center that “we’ve got you.”

I watched four other women go before me to do this exercise. I answered, “we are ready” for three separate women; I was a receiver three times and then I stepped back. I wanted others to receive the truster and I privately yearned to be the one who could summon the courage to do it. I privately yearned to be a “truster.” This isn’t just about the game, I said to myself. This is about my life. This is a metaphor about everything I’m dealing with. It’s a metaphor about me trusting ME. With each passing person I saw my chances go away.

Shakta said, “one more time. We will do this one more time.” I asked squeaked, “Will we be doing this next week at the retreat? Because if we are, I’ll do it then; but I don’t want to take away this opportunity from someone who might want to do it today because I’ll be doing it again for sure at the retreat…”

Shakta said, “No. We won’t be doing this next week.”

The room grew quiet. The metaphorical light was on me.

“I’ll go then. I need to do this. I’ve got major trust issues. And I’ve been a receiver; I know these women will get me.”

So I did it. I nudged myself into the circle. I visually inspected everyone’s footing, their hands, their deltoids and triceps, the cuts of their jaws and the intensity in their eyes. They were ready. They all said it. They all looked at me with love and intention and a femininity that only other women can understand. One in particular, with eyes like black coffee said, “We’ve got you. We are already here.”

I cried a little inside. I knew they wouldn’t let me “down” — not figuratively, not literally. It was truly up to me.

Do I trust them?

I barely know them, I quickly said to myself in what seemed like nanoseconds; a quiet, private moment.

I closed my eyes. I breathed in and breathed out.

I breathed in and breathed out.

“Are you ready?” I asked.

“We are.” They said.

I submitted. I began to lean into the women; their hands were warm and kind; soft and strong. The room was silent. I was stiff at first.

Then I felt a shift in my consciousness; I felt free.

I “let go” and someone whispered, “wow, she just let go…” and I let them carry and receive and welcome and suspend and guide me for another minute until I was really OK with it all. It changed me.

They later told me they could see it in my face; a loosening, that I had submitted; no more fighting, no more control, no more forcing.

We closed the classes about an hour after that. Did some exercises on “deeply listening” which is listening without reacting, interrupting, smiling, nodding, or anything. No relating. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Each person shared and the other listened for five minutes straight. You are deeply aware of yourself at this time while also working hard to honor the speaker without facial gestures, judgment or relating. I heard everything my partner said. I realized then how little of that I do.

The problem with “nodding” or gesturing, as Shakta explained, is that it interrupts the speaker’s flow and it turns it into an exchange. Also, if we wince, we can make the speaker self-conscious, or feel bad for making us feel bad. Same goes if we laugh, we make the speaker feel as though the good feelings must continue. I shared deep stuff. It stayed confidential. I felt heard. She shared her stuff, I didn’t react. I let her spill. Talking to someone else, even though they’re not reacting also helps you feel like you’re not talking to no one; that you’re not crazy.

I pack up today and drive out for the next big stage tomorrow. I have never been away from anyone I’m related to for 16 days straight. I commuted to college, so this is going to be entirely new for me. But I am ready. Suddenly, this isn’t really about yoga anymore; it’s about me.

I will write more while I’m there. WiFi is available, but limited; so it might be like the Jung series — written in the moment, but loaded later … I don’t know. We’ll see when we get there, won’t we? V

Thank you.

Dear Boys: If I Were Dying, Here’s What I’d Want You To Know


Dear Boys, 

I didn’t want to do this, to write a post about mothering before mother’s day because I felt it was self-indulgent, that I would be promoting myself through your existence or making you my “muse.”  Vaunting myself through your experiences. Trust me, it happens. I’m also not gonna lie, this is a long one. It’s really three posts in one. 

That said (Ha!), I had the most remarkable morning because I consciously changed my intention last night. I hope you’ll understand by the end. (And remember: my ring size is 6 and my birthstone is sapphire.)

It’s clear I love to write; it liberates me, enables me to say things better than I would with my mouth. I have a tremendous fear that I’m not good at it. People tell me I am, but maybe one day I’ll believe it. That doesn’t matter. 

Here’s what matters: Your uncle Alb has a friend whose wife died of cancer quite suddenly. About six years ago, she was diagnosed one day at stage four (it had spread through her body, it was inoperable and terminal) and six weeks later she was in heaven. That story broke my heart. It still does. 

When she knew she was dying, she gathered her four children by her bedside and told them what was happening. She left them video messages and they filmed their lives together as they always had, but obviously, these newer moments had a different tone to them. She wrote them numerous handwritten letters and notes and they all savored every moment. The youngest was so wee, maybe two because she is around our youngest’s age now, she had little comprehension. They were a family and of course they bickered, I’m sure. They laughed, I’m sure. They loved and they lost each other in one another’s embraces. They stuck together. 

Their mother had tremendous, I mean awe-inspiring and humbling, faith in God and her love of God helped her be strong and a mother. I’m not here to preach in what you should believe in; that’s a private journey, but I will say that if you don’t believe in something, you only believe in you and while that’s cool and all that, it’s pretty bloody selfish too (sorry, had to go all Mom on you there). I also know in my own heart that her maternal love and her commitment to her children spurred her on. There is no greater love. 

So during her final half of a spring (essentially) she even more actively mothered them as best she could. She was a homeschooler so she was with them all the time anyway. (I love you very much, but I can’t home school. Can you imagine?!) 

She inspired me to create this blog. I think of her almost every time I strike a key to write my blog posts. 

It’s hard to talk about death. We talk so much about life and so much about what we haven’t done with it that I wonder why we don’t talk about death more often, in terms of what we would do if we knew we were dying in order to live richer, smarter lives. 

So almost 18 months ago, I started this blog with the complete intention of leaving you slices of me: what I thought, what I saw, advice on how I messed up and how to learn from it, and how I expressed these things. I love you all so much, it’s really hard to quantify, so I won’t bother. After all, “It’s the quality, not the quantity” right? 

About five months ago, my intention with writing got confused; it was affected by outside influences. It’s not the outside influence that gets “blame” rather than myself (if there is any blame to go around, which there isn’t) for straying and not adhering to my main intention. I lost myself in flights of fancy, thinking beyond the moment, thinking of fame, which is ironic because I’m pretty private. Trust me: peer pressure exists when you’re 44. And when people tell you the world can be a cold place, brush it off. But when they tell you that only you can make your own happiness, believe them. 

It was all messed up, guys. Those vainglorious thoughts stole from my spirit to simply write, create and enjoy: God did not give me talent to write to simply achieve status or fame. God gave me talent to write to communicate. But I lost my way and I started some fiction and started doing things to “keep up” with someone else’s ambitions; I have no doubt that experience inspired me and stretched my wings, but in the process, nothing became good enough, everything had to have an angle, I couldn’t simply just write for the sake of writing anymore. This went on for about three months. 

This has been a hard transition. A difficult lesson to learn. But an important one because it brought me back in.  

About three weeks ago, when I was in the tail end of this transition, and when I’d sort of passively decided that while what I was writing was actually OK to do, I was still wrapped around the thoughts of it still being “not enough, do more, do better, do all the time…” I woke at 1:18 am on 4/18/12 to a phrase in my head and it wouldn’t stop repeating until I recorded it. 

I don’t want you to think I’m having psychotic breaks, I’m not. But I know that phrase came to me because I’d been thinking a lot about how to get back to center; I’d been waiting for a sign of how to get back to you. How to get back to me. How to just . . . y’know, get back. Y’know? Do you ever get lost like that? Like that you love what you’re doing and that’s great, but then you start to lose focus of why you’re doing it either because someone suggests you could do it differently or promote it (more)? If you love what you’re doing, does there have to be a reason? I don’t think so. I think love is reason enough. (I have to go all Mom on you again: the things I’m talking about when I talk about what you love to do must be legal, good and harmless to yourself or others.)

Ok, I’ll stop. Do you want to know what the phrase is? Well I’m gonna tell you anyway. I’ve never written it publicly. I feel though, that based on how my morning has gone, that maybe it’s time and that maybe it will help you and anyone else who could be feeling lost and who reads this post (maybe they’re lost because they read my stuff!). 

“Do not stray from your initial motivation and essence of what you excel at doing what you DO do. Keep the flow to a trickle until you know that the world is ready for what you have to offer. You will know when it is time.” 

That “DO do” was pretty emphatic like that; ALL CAPS and whatnot. It was purposeful. After all, how do you argue with a thought like that? Especially at 1:18 in the morning? It wasn’t meant to say the things that you do that are someone else’s idea or as a reaction, like your homework or picking on your brother(s). It meant the things, the essences that you EXCEL at DOing, like for Thing 1: play and love your guitar or write your wonderful stories and how you have a keen sense of how things go as you laugh at irony; or for Thing 2: how you can make people think about themselves and feel good inside and share how you actually feel and be real, so real with others or how you love small things and love to create and aren’t afraid to stand on a stage and sing, act and create; or for Thing 3: to be dreamy and soft and cozy and be OK with being alone and who you are and not make excuses for who that is and how you are always so honest, sometimes painfully so, but it’s up to the grown ups to deal with it because you’re still so young. 

Lots of people talk about how much they might have learned what to be from their parents . . . but once you become a parent, it’s what you’ve taught me: HOW to be that is more important. How to live with integrity and honesty and honor, how to be present, and how to be careful with my words and your beloved tender hearts. 

Bahhh. I’m crying right now because I feel so humble for how you’ve taught me already and you’re only so young still! You mean I have more to learn?!

. . .

Wayne Dyer, a wonderful present-day philosopher talks a lot about spirit, intention and living with intention. It sounds sort of lofty and highfalutin I suppose, but actually it’s quite simple. My midnight message reminds of what he says. 

What he says and what my message means is: get back to basics, to our essence of what it means to live honestly and purely for ourselves today, now — not in a selfish way, but to live for ourselves so that we don’t live for others and the past or future. Ok, I could be doing a better job of explaining this. Here goes: the life we have is abundant and robust on its own. To live with other people’s troubles, or joys (in our minds) detracts from the power that is in our own lives; we simply don’t have the bandwidth. Let mother nature be the ultimate multi-tasker. 

Need an example? Ok: yesterday was a hard day for me. I’m not going to parentalize you and tell you what went down. Parentalize means to make you my parent and tell you my adult stuff: you’re my kids and I really should never tell you adult stuff because well, it’s inappropriate and it steals your right to be a child, a dependent, not a supposed adult; my troubles are not yours to “hold.” (I’m going there again, all Mom on you: “infantalize” means the opposite: to treat you as infants and be all cutesy talk and coo-coo to you because that also robs you of your achievements and growth and puts you in a box where I’m most comfortable.) 

It was a hard day because I lived outside myself and I let my reactions spool up my EGO (not my spirit, which was probably hiding in a corner) to a point where I was literally shaking with anger and I could feel the adrenaline (which is so unbelievably powerful a chemical, holy crap, I can’t believe we make this inside our bodies) literally flood and heat my body and amp up my heart rate which geared up every muscle I have to fight a tremendous physical battle.  All I can say is your dog is a wonderful buddy and speed-walking while talking to our friend behind the fence on the phone was essential for stage 1 of my recovery. 

The thing is, guys, you’re gonna get like that. You’re gonna let ego-driven reactions and stuff that other people do get to you and you might feel so incredibly offended, violated even, that you’ll want to hunt down and hurl an Army tank 50 yards in no direction at all (“HULK SMASH!”) just to make you feel better. But you know what, it only helps a little. What helps a lot is just letting it go. Letting it all just blow away… 

It was a hard day. But then you all came home, and well, my distraction didn’t really stop. I was still pretty miffed. I banged on my keyboard and wrote and wrote and wrote. Even though I called that wonderful friend and she helped me so much, I was still miffed. Still in that moment. Then a cousin called, and she helped me a lot too to get back to me. That was the beginning of stage 2 of my recovery.

So I did. I came back to me, but that wasn’t enough. I had to cut the cords that connected me to that negativity (real or imagined) so I put down the smartphone. I logged off the mac and I came back to you all. I lived with intention to excel at the things I DO do. Thing 3 and I inadvertently made three batches of brownies (I know, nice problem to have, huh?) because he said to add 3 eggs and a cup each of water and oil to one packet. The result of that was fudge drink (I’m gagging at the thought) so we had to add two more packets; I know, we’re champions because we took one for the team there (I’m just glad we HAD two more packets…). Then Thing 2 and I played Appleletters on the floor beside the barstools and had a laughingly good time because neither of us had any vowels for a while and then finally in the end we did, but not enough consonants (life is like that) to do anything. Thing 1, you were jamming “Stairway to Heaven” in your room and making progress. It was all very good to be alive. 

As I put my head down on my pillow last night, I resolved to not pick up the smartphone or log on until after I come back from walking you to school. 

Remember this Rockwellian walk to school; we did it rain or shine, almost every day. 

I thank God, T3, that you needed to go in late today to write your reader’s response and for my pledge to not take my phone because if I had, I would have surely missed the following: the talk we had about playing Bananagrams later today and the mommy fox we saw in the woods as we walked up the hill behind the Sullivan’s. Do you remember seeing the breakfast in her mouth for her kits? I think it was a chipmunk (maybe our cats caught it for her and left it somewhere). If I hadn’t stayed with you to unpack your stuff and walk you to Spanish, I would’ve messed up the timing of: seeing the deer eating new weeds near the ravine. I would have missed the fox again, as she left her kits to look for more to eat. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to stand on the new wooden bridge to watch her silently trot with her fluffy white-tipped and rust-colored tail bouncing as she scanned her beautiful amber eyes to follow the sound of squirrels until they met me. Her head was perched just so, revealing her lovely white chest and black outline of her mouth and whiskers. She came closer and when she was about 20 feet away, I cleared my throat. (I love nature and all, but well… c’mon, she’s a wild animal.) Our eyes met. She stopped and she lifted her left paw to just hover above the path. We stared, regarding one another and I was grateful I was alone without Murphy or your dad because our talking would have surely scared her off. I wish I had a camera: The fox right in front of me, the deer still nibbling in the sun about 40 feet behind the fox, oblivious to the din of traffic above and I heard only the birds and squirrels leaping from tree to tree. The fox stood totally still, for what seemed an eternity, but was only 20 seconds. I never looked away. She did, I won. 🙂 She turned right and trotted. Stopped, looked at me again, looked ahead again and continued on her way.    

. . .

I’m almost done here… 

A great (and excellent published author – I try not to give names here) and longtime friend of our family’s, said to me about three months ago when I was feeling quite down about myself and my own family of origin, that it doesn’t matter anymore if the family that made me loves me or honors or aids me. What matters is that I have the family I made with your father, us, to do that — that we are here to do that for each other. Her loving words were forcefully delivered, to wake me up I think, and they slammed me like a fierce wind. I can still feel it now. What’s done is done. What’s now is ours. 

So it’s about balance: stay on task at what you love to DO. Don’t compare yourself with others, compare yourself with you. Don’t live for someone else’s dream (even if it’s for you), live for yours. 

There are wonderful mothers who grow their own food and mill their own wheat. They are good people and I am not one of them. So it doesn’t matter that I cook home-made anything, what matters is that we eat it together. 

It doesn’t matter that I write a book or a blog or a movie; I’m not in this gig to get rich. Sorry, but you’ll have to buy your own Lamborginis. What matters is that I do so purely and with love of the craft and intention to stay grounded. While ambition is good and can keep us on the job, active authentic intention keeps us focused which ultimately helps us get the job done.

Always, always come back to center. Figure out what why you’re doing what you do (but it must be legaland stay there.  

Oh, and if I can’t complete whatever I’m doing online while you’re at school, it’s not meant to be. I gotta get off the grid when you walk through the door. 

Thank you boys.