More About The Holidays

It’s in the air now or at least on the calendar that holidays are here. And some of us are stuck in the past. How can it be that all these cheery messages, movies and gifts can put so many of us into straight jackets of worry – we won’t be enough, we’ll be too fat, give the wrong gift or re-gift to the person who gave it in the first place.

I’m really lucky to have a photograph of our first Christmas night with Chandrika – thanks to Paula. It was probably the first time for me that I wasn’t totally self-conscious and wigged out about what I was wearing or how I looked – at least it doesn’t look like that was on my mind! It had been years since my older children and I spent easy times at home – when we didn’t go to the grandparents – and I spent a lot of the day in front of the stove in the livingroom.
Chandrika and I spent quite a lot of time on that floor with the couch at our back watching movies – over and over. The Little Mermaid and Annie were Chandrika’s ticket to the English language so our pose here is part of months of sitting right there learning language and culture.

She hadn’t seen much snow so we had a blast. Presents were not a big part of her life pre-us – Paula and I may have gone a l-i-t-t-le overboard! And we had so much fun. Oh, so did Chandrika!

It’s that kind of time I wish for all of us now. The kind of moments when you throw yourself into the snow, grab something with your whole heart, taste new snow, make snow angels, love the cool on your neck. When most of what we’re all worried about just doesn’t matter.

Have a long read, too much of something and remember love starts with us, loving ourselves. When we take the paths of our restraints too seriously we are not breathing into the moment of this here now, our heart beating, our breath in and out, our love matching and making the moment.


In talking with clients the issue of discomfort with a current situation is likely to come up. After all, I am called to make a difference in their lives. As humans we often get tied up and attracted/attached to what isn’t going right. We can be sure of what’s wrong, it’s obvious, isn’t it? So I’m often called to be the coxswain to a new life.

I, of course, can’t change direction but I give strategies and practices to clear a new path enforcing and re-enforcing the goals and vision of each person. In this lofty capacity the most important and really about the only action I take is to listen. Awareness is often what we leave behind while we are in an attitude of disappointment, discouragement or  hopelessness.

The mark I can make is fueled by attention. When you describe a reaction, a feeling, a situation that brings discomfort or dis-ease, my tuning in can make a difference. Accountability is the pen that can write the new path and compassion is its guiding light.

So often we let our minds be the spokesperson for tyranny. Where it came from matters less than turning away from the voices of discomfort and sorrow to allow what is. What is here around us is enough. When we can look with compassion at what disturbs us, we can see more clearly where change can happen. It’s not that things don’t change for the worse, they can, but dropping them without understanding, without vision can often lead to a repetition of the same circumstance.

Sometimes when we see green bitter berries, we forget they might be blueberries in a little while – given some sun and the right conditions. Not everything has a sweet ending and we don’t have to accept everything as it is. We can use our vision, compassion and intention to change ourselves and see where we really want to be.


Susan Griffin writes in her 2008 book Wrestling With The Angel of Democracy, “…whenever you restore what has been excluded or repressed from your mind, you also rekindle the vitality of your thought.”

Though the consequences are often concealed, exclusion has a deadening effect on our conscience, our affect. Whether we are talking about rape, race or religion, when we leave  our hearts out of the equation, when we distill a thing beyond its essence, we loose our morality.

Today new ways to read, to learn, to listen and be heard are invented and manufactured every second. We have i-Everything, Kindles, Nooks and all manner of distribution of ideas and images. No image will make us a better person, a wiser neighbor by itself. We must create our own humanity in every moment.

In this moment of democratic trials it is often hard to find democracy. Where in all the talk is freedom, where the Declaration of Independence? Emerson said, “you must Be the Declaration of Independence.”  Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Be Peace” has been a slogan and call to action.

Where are we if we are not “here now?” Where are our hearts and minds when we speak glibly of rape or inequity of pay or opportunity? Where is freedom if we are denied choice or we cannot love and marry who we choose? Where is liberty when we are denied the basic justice that comes from someone listening to us?

Who says all this and who listens? We become numb to inequality. We loose ourselves in vapid debate. We repeat and hear repetition, say what has been said to us, losing our souls in the process.

Let us not turn our hearts where our minds go. Let’s look ourselves in the eye and say, “I am intelligent with my heart and mind, I am curious and without judgement, I am loving and I don’t leave myself out of any of it.”

John Franklin Stephens, a young man with Down syndrome published this letter to Ann Coulter. It is a must-read!

Letting Go

I call this painting “Dancing Mare,” she’s my ideal for me the way she has her head and tail up forelegs ready for the push from behind. No turning back, she’s on the move.

The poem is one I’ve seen on people’s refrigerators, reminding them to embrace change. I wrote it when kids were little and I put it here now to remind me that change is the way it is and if I want support I can’t look back.


 Together our lives weave an intricate tapestry

of dreams and jelly on the stove.

Your hair is soft under my hand,

yesterday it was sticky with peppermint and gummy candy.

I smooth the curls, form them in my fingers

think of the times we’ve had though

you are still so young.

We sit together, struck by the same light

in a cadence of features though change

is the fabric of our bond.

Like old folk music we sound off key

sometimes speaking in strident unison,

each voice grasping to be heard

words pour out into the space between us.

In the next moment your face beams

up at me, sure of my thereness

my solid rock comfort and I see the changing

face of the child I love.

The hair I get used to goes dark or light

the teeth I know fall out, there is always

a newness about you I dare not call strange.

I never know what you’ll come home with,

a new pet, a friend, book or idea,

you’re open to the world, to change.

As you shift in your winds I flip back through my childhood,

trying on memory’s tangle. We aren’t there,

you and I, our picture’s aren’t ready.

While I’m looking back, your eyes seek mine,

you lean toward me, keeping the corners of my life snug

like the paper triangles holding pictures in our photograph album.

 Sometimes when the past comes to a point, like a death of a signature person or the unravelling of a totem being perhaps internal, the future is called to take the driver’s seat. Looking back is not as clear as looking forward. If the road is underfoot, best to look a bit ahead so as not to stumble, take a fall.

I watch my horse Sanne trust the moment and stride forward. Or the dogs and cats who share space and time with me. They look where they are going, where they are headed. There’s really nothing else to do, but we humans can be fooled.

Ingrid Schatz on the sea wall Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard.

Be A Safe Place

“The very purpose of spirituality is self-discipline. Rather than criticizing others, we should evaluate and criticize ourselves. Ask yourself, what am I doing about my anger, my attachment, my pride, my jealousy? These are the things we should check in our day to day lives.”
I saw this posted yesterday by the Dalai Lama on Facebook. It encompasses all life as I know it and it reminded me of the advice a friend got when she asked for help with her new husband and his children.

She had been suffering watching what she considered bad and confusing parenting that as she saw it was leading to behavior issues with children she now found herself living with. She didn’t want to put a charge in her new married relationship and when she asked a friend, who also happens to be a phenomenal therapist, she got the answer, “Be a safe place for the kids.”

What a good idea! It kept her out of her new husband’s and his ex’s faces and it allowed her some autonomy with new and fairly adult housemates. She also, on her own, decided she would not participate in actions she thought eroded the children’s taking responsibility for their actions.

Instead of getting enmeshed in the situation and adding to what was already confused, she added clarity and kept herself a safe place both for the kids and her husband. She did not tell him what she thought – a marvel of self-restraint. She didn’t tell him what she “saw” or describe or ascribe anything to anybody.

Her self-discipline kept her safe for everyone to go to – they wouldn’t be shamed or abetted, she didn’t take sides. Her role-modeling allowed anyone who could to learn and anyone who wasn’t ready to wait – safely.

A simple (ha!) act of non-engagement can be our strongest stand. Taking our self in hand can be the most powerful step we choose. Vietnamese Vipassana master Thich Nhat Hahn asks us to “let peace begin with me.” He advises to take a breath when the phone rings, the door opens, any entrance into our physical space or our emotional mind, take a moment of breath connection before acting. We will be more ourself, and that is all we’re here to do.

Believe IN Yourself

Why did I capitalize the IN? Because it’s not always a good idea to believe yourself. To believe what you are telling yourself is often to listen to the voice of someone not necessarily on your side who wants to get you to do something they want you to do.

Believing IN yourself can be hard work. It means getting to know yourself. The old mantra on the Apollo Temple at Delphi – Know Thyself. Easier said than done. And the most important work you can do to live a life free from stress and longing.

In your mind be equal to others and you will find yourself less judgmental and more likely to give yourself the extra something you were going to give away to someone else – like your time or your effort. Being equal will let you be more compassionate, more giving, you’ll have more of everything you need.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa

By including yourself in the “people,” you will be taking the step toward belief that will carry you to your dreams. Be yourself, no one can do it the way you can.

Misery Loves Company, Companies Love Misery

A friend told me that she was helping someone who is lonely because she is lonely, “I am one lonely person helping another lonely person. Lonely people stick together.”

Maybe that’s true. It seemed a contradiction to me. There were two people who consider themselves lonely, they were together, helping one another. I only know how she felt and I know she was feeding and keeping her loneliness close to her. To the outside eye they were friends together helping each other. Would we have been able to tell who was helping whom? Can we ever?

Sometimes even when we have a chance it is hard for us to let go of what we might think of as a defining emotion – “I’m angry, I’m sad.” We name our dogs and our children “joy” but we rarely define ourselves as joyful.

Does happiness feel like a solo occupation when you know that misery loves company? It’s a real question for me, and one for which I don’t have an easy answer. For myself, when I find anger or sadness taking root I do find it hard to remember that my default emotion is joy.

I wonder if my lonely friend does not believe she can feel anything else. Looking around, I see stores filled with solutions for every aggravation. I would never have to find my own solutions if I believe what is on all the labels. It looks like I need to depend on everyone and everything apart from myself.

We’ve created a world of answers, but what are the real questions?


I saw this sign at Zucotti Park when I visited the encampment a couple of weeks ago. I guess it’s gone now, getting warm with the person who made it, waiting for another time to give the message.

Mayor Bloomberg gave all the protesters a break from the coming winter by moving them. I don’t know if it’s true but it seems to me that the level of protests has risen. I loved the image in Berkely, CA of the tents suspended by helium balloons – yea to the college students for being their creative selves and letting the ideas flow.

It’s my dream that we have this revolution peacefully and we commit to the opportunity to turn this economic disaster into fortune for us all. Taking responsibility for ourselves is a good idea. Having the freedom to make choices is great as long as we have the knowledge and foresight that greatness requires.

To become or follow our dreams requires a discipline of the soul this culture hardly touches upon. We are schooled by multiple choice, hardly having a chance to find our own expression.

At this moment in our history we are less likely to have a discussion with someone who doesn’t agree with us. We can choose what news comes to us, what songs we hear. What we miss is the vast area of unexplored consciousness where we might feel a little out of place, a little foolish, we might not know our way around. We’ve lost touch with the magic of the resilient edge of our resistance.

When you have feelings bottled up do you take yourself out for a walk, a scream, an art? Do you drink a stimulant, a depressant, blame someone? Expression is one of the most important keys to health. Lack of it might be the single most important root of disease.

How can we move forward to our goals and dreams, how can we change what we lovingly call “the system?” What we are fighting now was not created with love, and it was probably done in committee or in cadres. (think banks & investment firms, not Che Guevara)

The only way out is the way in. Each one of us in our own way can shape ourselves for the dream we have. We have only to be like Bloody Mary’s song in South Pacific, “You got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”


The innocence of the well-kept dog.

I’m lucky – to live on the land I love. I’m lucky because today on my walk I saw a fox. What wasn’t so lucky was that the reason I saw the fox was because my dog chased it away from its nap. What was lucky is my dog, Cho, yes the one who ate the salmon and disrupts so many wonderful things, didn’t get him. In fact the fox ran across the field while Cho was sniffing behind the barn where the fox had been resting up for his early evening stroll down to my neighbor’s chickens.


And that was lucky for the fox and me because as I watched the fox run across the corn/rye field I noticed he was slower than Cho. That would have been awful, but I think our erstwhile Cho was looking for our feral cat Momacita (mother of our previously feral kittens) and that was a lucky thing. She outsmarts him every time and is faster than he is. Lucky her.


I’m lucky to have a neighbor whose organic chickens give wonderful eggs. And did you know how the color of an egg is determined? I didn’t – it’s the color of the chicken’s ear. A bit easier to find than her teeth. So my neighbor at Dashing Star Farm has many wonderfully eared chickens and the best and most beautiful eggs ever.


Lynn at Dashing Star Farm and I have different views of the fox. She has sheep which the fox loves almost as much as the chickens. She also has a very elegant electric fence so the fox will go elsewhere. In this case fences do make good neighbors because I know she would see that the fox eats no more and it would not be pretty. As it is, we are all lucky.


The fox has our field and all the famers’ fields for all the possible hunting that he and the lucky coyotes who live here can handle. We all live in harmony except when Cho gets out and goes on a tear – but he is so beautiful when he runs and he loves it so much and we’re all lucky when he runs back and forth, leaping the tall bushes and stays in our sight.


Today, in case you hadn’t noticed is a day for counting blessings. Every day is such a day, but today is a veritable rant. A good thing to do pretty much any time. Too often I let myself gnaw away at my worry bones. They don’t clean me up or soothe me the way they can soothe my dogs – but I don’t think theirs are worry bones, I think they are the real deal. Just like the dogs, the real deal. And the fox, and the chickens, and the sheep and the coyote and the cats – we are all the real deal in our own way and I learn from all who do not use thinking as a “tool.”


We are all perfect as we are, but we can always use a little help. So says Thich Nhat Hanh and every meditation teacher I have studied with.

Cho in sheep's clothing

just a little sly

Who Are YOU

I just came across a file on my desktop I had completely forgotten about; it said, “Nobody is in a position to tell you who you are – except you.”


If my cat had seen that on the floor she would have shredded it. Rightly so. I wish she could get into my computer desktop and have at it.


My high school English teacher would have called that “jejune,” and looked at us all so smugly knowing we hadn’t a clue how to take it. He also knew we were listening at least a little because we didn’t have MP3 players anywhere near us – they would be decades away.


But back to my cat. The requirement for knowing who you are can be stated so simply, as it was above. I take credit for my own facile responses to questions asking who I am – think “Alice In Wonderland,” smoking a hooka atop the mushroom – “Who are YOU?” I’ve said quite a few things to avoid the question.


But whose business is it anyway? It’s mine, and I’ve spent a lifetime answering it, but rarely to myself. The times when I thought I answered for myself I was often looking over my shoulder and answering to some past Someone who was important at the time.


But who’s here now? Me. Even now I’m not sure I’m the first person on my list of whose opinion matters.


Pretty sad, but back to my cat. That is not her problem. Nor is it my dog’s, though she’s more apt to try. But my horse’s, he’s there looking for my truth and if he doesn’t find it he bites me, he wants me to play my way to my true self.


That’s his idea – play will lead to self. Play breeds curiosity. Play strangles habit, give Chance a chance. Rigging Play is not a good idea, let it Be. The quote my cat is resting on right now is the one she lives by – “dance as if no one is watching.”


Don’t worry how to do it, just DO it. (that’s next to her ear)



above is my horse Sanne, one of Paula’s (best) dancers.