Archive for meditation


By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

A few days ago I took the risk of being honest with myself. I sat down and wrote about everything that hurts right now: all the pain that follows me around, all the unfinished business and emotional uncertainty that causes my heart to shrink into a tiny, hard ball. My heart is a peach pit these days.

I wrote it all down, and I vowed to tell it to at least one person. I decided not to publish it here. As much as I trust my fellow bloggers, I don’t want the whole world to have access to my soft spots. But I know that I’ll only release the pain when I share it, so I promised myself that I wouldn’t keep that piece of writing to myself.

Then I decided to make a Risk List. In spite of all the stress and pain in my life right now, I realized that I have taken a number of risks just in the last month. I deserve credit. A badge of courage would be nice, if the Wizard of Oz is still handing them out.

Here goes:

I worked closely with my sister to move my mother from independent to assisted living, and I gave my mom physical and emotional support on a daily basis. I faced up to the changes in her cognition. I committed myself to a new way of life, with her well-being as a top priority.

I planned and carried out a long-weekend trip with my daughter to see a musician she admires perform in Philadelphia. I decided it was essential for her to know that her mother is here for her, even when Grandma’s needs are great.  I trusted my sister and my husband to care for my mom while I was gone (and they did, beautifully). I trusted the airlines, and the rail lines, and the kindness of strangers to see us safely there and back again. I trusted that my daughter’s life would be enhanced by the trip, and that it was worth it to go out on a limb, even at a stressful time.

I maintained a commitment to travel to Haiti in early December with others from my church. I attended meetings, got my shots, and asked my doctor for prescriptions for malaria and cholera. I still don’t know if we’re going; we are meeting next week to discuss safety issues. As of now, I’m still in the group. I don’t let myself think about it all that often, and when I do think about it I get scared. I am stepping into completely new territory. (For the record, if I come to believe I’m risking my life, I’ll stay home. I have too much to live for here.)

Those are the risks I’ve taken. I’ve also begun a list of risks I want to take. I’ll mention just one of them: I want to risk stepping out of my religious tradition and visiting a Buddhist meditation center. I need help staying grounded and peaceful. It feels like a risk to seek help in this way — not through the church, or yoga, or therapy, or coaching, but through a spiritual tradition I know almost nothing about. I wonder if I’ll dare.

Maybe my current heartache is leading me naturally to a tradition that acknowledges suffering as one of life’s basic truths. Time will tell.

Carolyn Cook is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship.

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Om-azing Grace

By guest blogger, Andrea Lea

I have been practicing yoga off and on for fourteen years now. More off than on, quite frankly. I cannot explain why there has been more off time, considering how much I love yoga and how yoga has always been there for me (when I showed up), but it is the reality. Because of the emotional turmoil of my teen years I developed an odd resistance to things which were good for me. I gave many of those “off” years to cigarettes and depression, I suppose, and let me tell you, you cannot have a consistent yoga practice and be a depressed smoker at the same time (make no mistake: this depressed smoker was disguised as someone having a lot of fun). In fact, I’m pretty sure that smoking cigarettes is the exact polarity of a pranayama practice!

We all make these trade-offs along the way, and usually we know when we are giving ourselves the short end of the stick. I knew ten years ago that I had a special relationship with yoga – that I could bring yoga to people, or translate, if you will – but I was so unwilling to part with my last little bit of teen angst and petulance that it didn’t seem worth it at the time. It felt like sacrifice. It felt like giving up something I loved. It did not feel like freeing myself from the enslavement of addiction and rewarding myself with something that brought me true joy and calm. So I lit another menthol and decided to think about it a little longer…

In early 2009 (no longer smoking or depressed) it occurred to me that I wanted to teach yoga to teenagers. Those are the years during which so much of our programming gets locked in, and many adults never seem to transcend it. I want to help kids find the strength and balance – in body, mind, and spirit – to navigate the white squalls of high school life with their dignity and identity intact. In August I got my first yoga teacher certification, and today – November 2nd – I taught my first kids’ and teens’ yoga class!

Here’s what I learned (which I believe applies to all risk):

1 – Leap!
2 – Have a detailed plan – be very prepared.
3 – Forget your plan. Go with energy flow in the room.
4 – Laugh.
5 – Note the net that appeared when you weren’t looking. (Moment of gratitude for net)
6 – NEVER convince yourself that ANY group is a “tough audience” – only outpicture the best possibilities
7 – ALWAYS remember, in every situation, that people are people. If you look them in the eyes, smile, and be authentic, you will experience the best of everyone you meet.
8 – Stop punishing self for “wasted time” or anything else that rings of mistake- or regret-like energy. Those lessons will become tools if we let them.
9 – Ten minutes of meditation (or quiet centering) can open ten doors in your heart, your mind, and on your path. Never once have I wished I hadn’t taken the time to meditate!
10 – Loosen your white-knuckled clinging attachment to a particular outcome. Indulge in the satisfaction of a risk well-taken and start planning your next one…

…which is, for me, to escape to a north Georgia cabin alone to complete my first book.


Andrea Lea is a writer who is cracking the code of the symbolic and recording the spiritually hilarious. Her adventures so far have included several years and a cooking show in post-Apartheid South Africa, a stint in rural south Georgia, a brief but sparkling singing career which she intends to revive, and a glorious indigo daughter named Dom. When she’s not painting, taking photos, writing, singing, or doing laundry, Andrea can be found in her kitchen, channeling her grandmother through new recipes, and feeding folks.

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