Archive for category: Psychology

Lima: Tears of Joy & Sorrow!

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Gourmet, Mindfulness, Oncology, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Spiritual, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Prudencio, Tania Harriet & Margarita

Prudencio, Tania Harriet & Margarita

This emotional roller coaster, these tears of joy and sorrow, this laughter, all within 48 hours, this is NOT JET LAG. It is the joyous proximity to celebration of a new life, juxtaposed with the sudden confrontation of the possible death of a friend, both of whom we have specifically come to South America to visit.

But here and now, the poignant celebration of a new life. We touched down in Lima at midnight on Sunday, exactly one year to the day later than we were expected. After the usual scurry of pre-departure preparations for a six-week absence in So America and Cuba, we arrived in Lima after 22 hours in transit, and exactly one year after we expected to arrive. The surprise sight of Prudencio waiting for us with his bride Margarita and their baby daughter, Tania Harriet, my Aymara Indian baby namesake, awaiting arriving international passages straining at the rails, simply and totally dissolved me.

Loving Newlywed Parents

Loving Newlywed Parents

I had not seen Prudencio for ten years, not since I was the one at LAX awaiting at the rails for him among arriving international passengers after he’d returned to us from his visit home to his family in Chicuito,, his Aymara pueblo on the banks of Lake Titicaca, in Peru. But in 2004 Prudencio, even with the ten year visa we’d helped arrange for him to visit us, was quite harshly denied re-entry by US border officials.

That was one of the penetrating traumas that preceded my diagnosis of breast cancer, and that introduced me to the visceral experience of powerless disenfranchisement that the majority of third world people experience daily. As I waited eagerly for Prudencio to emerge from customs, the hours dragged on with no word. US Border Officials refused to reveal anything about Prudencio whom they had detained in a darkened room behind closed doors, while, I later learned, they threatened him and his whole Peruvian family if he did not confess to whatever trumped up charges they accused him of, before loading him on a return flight to Peru.
In the intervening years we tried several times to clear this up, to no avail. So this is the first time we have seen each other in ten years, and why, upon seeing him waving and smiling as we emerged from customs after midnight, I dissolved in tears of joy and relief.

Since then we have spent nearly every waking hour together while we are in Peru. They show up at our hotel mornings after what turns out to be typically long bus rides across several zones of the city of Lima on the Metro with Baby Tania Harriet. We spread out over the two queen beds and on the floor of our large hotel room for hours, sharing photos, catching up, exchanging presents, and reading aloud in Spanish from one of the dozen or so classic children’s books I have brought my namesake, year-old Tania Harriet, long before she will be interested in reading!.

Reading Curious George in Espanol

Reading Curious George in Espanol

Listening to Ariel's iPad Reading of "Ferdinand"

Listening to Ariel’s iPad Reading of “Ferdinand”

Margarita crotchets booties for Daughter Ariel and her partner Kate’s baby boy due in June. Ariel has recorded a dramatic video reading on my iPad of “Ferdinand” in her fluent Spanish; Prudencio read us my favorite story of “Frederick”, and we stumbled and laughed through pidgin Spanish escapades of “Curious George on His Bicycle”. We visited museums together and their immaculate modest house outside the city, appreciating anew the struggles he faces supporting his family with his work in housekeeping at the downtown Sheraton Hotel.

P1020506The last day we played in our shallow hotel swimming pool, introducing Prudencio, Margarita and the baby to their first time ever dog paddling and “swimming” before taking them out for a celebratory final dinner at “Rosa Nautical”, a fancy and delicious seafood restaurant on Lima’s Pacific shore.

All in all, a delicious and wonderful visit before we set out on the rest of our long awaited return to Latin America,, and next, our also long-awaited reunion with travel buddy and English Expat friend, Kevin Poulter in Santiago.

Silent Spring

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Buddhist Practice, Cancer, Conscious Living, Family, France, Health and Fitness, Horses, Psychology, Relationships, Travel

My life has been so blessed overall–but I/we surely got dealt our lifetime ration of yuck over the past six months!!

In January, my beautiful young Rocky Mountain Horse, Shambhala Sunrise, died ;  our local property “caretakers” did the opposite of taking care of us and our property, instead figuring out how to destroy our yurt, and bilk us and the state of California, no more said about them, but we don’t miss them; the son of a (unbeknownst to us uninsured) roofer fell off the roof of our ranch in the Sierras; my truck was vandalized and my wallet and ID was stolen by a ring of sophisticated identity thieves; we had to cancel our long awaited trip to visit our godson in South America when my beloved husband, Jim, was diagnosed (mis, fortunately) with colon cancer; my new horse bucked me off twice and fractured my collar bone.  I didn’t feel like talking much about it all!  IT seemed like a good time to observe “SILENT SPRING” and wait until the dark clouds passed over.

Today, in celebration of the end of that Silent Spring, we are back on track-marking the end of the winter of our discontent and celebrating our 30th Anniversary with a tandem bicycle trip following the Rhine and Moselle Rivers,  More to follow!

Eight Great Joys of Book Touring

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Travel, Writing - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We have crafted a book tour adventure to follow our sabbatical adventure journey, PULLING UP STAKES: STEPPING INTO FREEDOM.  To date Since the book’s publication in April, we have appeared in Los Angeles at two private events, then at READER’S BOOKS ( in Sonoma, BOOKSHOP SANTA CRUZ in Santa Cruz (, as a presenter at The DIVISION 39 Psychoanalytic Meeting in Santa Fe, at GARCIA STREET BOOKS  ( also in Santa Fe, at another private party in Santa Cruz, private events in NEW YORK CITY, and WASHINGTON DC, at the HARVARD CO-OP BOOKSTORE  ( in Cambridge, Mass, then at the VASSAR COLLEGE BOOKSTORE ( in Poughkeepsie, New York.








Most recently, we visited Colorado and made “Meet the Author” events at the BOOKWORM,( in Edwards Colorado near Vail, and BOULDER BOOKSTORE ( in Boulder, Colorado.  We have been having a ball!  (You can deduce that from my last blog entry: “How I Hit the Jackpot!”).

It has become clear to me that in this era of the explosion in books on the market brought about by self-publishing, that even those of us who are fortunate enough to have a publisher and a marketing team behind us, book promotion is a big job that falls primarily  on the shoulders of the author (and in my case, on my husband Jim Wheeler’s shoulders too!) I’ve told many curious friends that it is clear I’d better not quit my day job.  For one thing, it takes typically six months before accurate sales figures come in from the distributor and even longer before any dividend checks roll in.  And because the author’s cut from the retail sale of a book is fractional, I’m not counting on anything close to a windfall.  So, “What’s It All About, Alfie?”

It’s about having a new adventure!  I’m learning social media, beginning to blog, became the screenwriter and “star” in my own three book videos, and a travel planner for setting up the cities and towns Jim and I have friends in and would like to visit, so my publisher can arrange book store appearances.  This time, instead of traveling to the “back of beyond” we are traveling all over our own United States.  I’ve had to navigate an internal paradigm shift from my phobia and aversion to “sales”, substituting instead the notion of offering something of genuine value to people I may or may not know.  And that paradigm shift has been amply rewarded by making the acquaintance of so many interesting readers!  This tour has been a ticket to the global village and it has been, in its own right, another pilgrimage.

Can’t Sit Still? 7 Simple Tricks for Slowing & Centering

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Meditation, Mindfulness, New Age, Psychology, Self-Improvement, Spiritual, Yoga - Tags: ,

Welcome to Our World In The Fast Lane.  How many of us are caught up in what Wordsworth so sapiently described in an earlier, ostensibly simpler time, “Getting and Spending….” and he added, “We lay waste our powers.”   It is so easy to get caught, or hooked by the rush of deadlines, the press of demands of job, children, housekeeping, driving, financial insecurity, even keeping up on the internet.

But clearly, we know there is a better way–we need to find that off ramp to serenity and calm.  So, here are seven simple tricks I have learned as both a Buddhist mindfulness practitioner, and a clinical psychologist, that are sure ways to find that sweet off ramp to calm in the midst of storm.

They are so simple and so available that we can practice them easily in our everyday life.

The first one I learned from a wise old nun in a monastery.  Every morning she wakes in her cold cell before dawn and is called by a bell to meditate.  In order to come into the present moment and into centered awareness, on awakening, for just a moment before arising, she pulls on her earlobes.

1) PULL ON YOUR EARLOBES , Massage your ears ON AWAKENING.  This simple action where we have lots of nerve endings both wakes us up to the present moment, it also awakens our consciousness to the intention to be present to the new day.

2) HAPPINESS BEGINS WITH YOUR LOVELY SMILE.  The Second is one of many I learned from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. When you wake up, and you stand before the sink to wash your face in the morning, SMILE at yourself in the mirror.  Really SMILE.This is a brilliant trick to practice throughout the day.  Just stopping to smile to yourself, to feel your facial muscles move from tense to relaxed and smiling is a wonderful pathway to present centering.

3) FACE WASHING:  Smiling, turn on the water in the sink and notice how extraordinary it is that this fresh clear water streams from our pipes, whether we are living in a backwoods cabin, a high-rise in the East, Middle or West, or a suburban motor home or house, this precious water flows for us and is available for us to WAKE UP–and refresh our faces==shaving, washing, whatever, an opportunity for gratitude practice!

4) TOOTHBRUSHING MEDITATION.  I have a timer on my electric toothbrush.  What a golden opportunity to practice mindfulness meditation.  Here we are, earlobes pulled, refreshingly present, we’ve smiled at ourselves, and now we are going to enjoy the refreshing zip of cool water, minty toothpaste in our mouth, and an opportunity to polish those amazing tools we rarely send our gratitude to, our TEETH!

5) During the day take time out to practice THREE DEEP, CLEANSING BREATHS.  This can be at your desk, at your workstation, in your car, wherever.  Just promise yourself that when you find yourself amped up, anxious, preoccupied, pressured, whatever, you will STOP, BREATHE DEEPY THREE TIMES.    Here is a lovely mantra to accompany your in and out breath:

“Breathe in, I bring calm to my body.  As I breathe out, I smile.  I am alive in this present moment.  This moment is wonderful!”

You may not think this particular moment in rush hour traffic or on a deadline or beset with the demands of children or boss, is “wonderful” but when you stop to think of it, it IS!! You are alive, you are here, you are present.  This mantra brings you back to the present moment. Whatever is going on within it. you are here , alive, and this too shall pass!

This is the CORE practice of these seven simple tricks.  Never forget it.  It is golden.  it is free!

6) STAND UP STRETCH, UP, DOWN, AROUND, RECONNECT WITH YOUR BODY. This is another key yogi trick for slowing and centering.  It is so easy to carry tension in our bodies without offering our precious bodies an opportunity to relieve their stress.

7) STEP OUTSIDE AND LOOK AROUND–No matter where you are, walk mindfully, periodically from whatever you are doing, to go outside, breathe the air–is it icy?  hot? humid? fresh? Let it into your lungs, let your breath become conscious and present, and celebrate the timelessness of the sky and the clouds and your surroundings. And don’t forget to practice tricks number 5 and 6 while you are at it.
I guarantee, if you practice these seven simple tricks on a daily basis, you will notice a palpable change toward centering and slowing and rejoining this precious present moment!


Adrienne Rich: Poetess Comet’s Passing

Categories: Conscious Living, Psychology, Relationships, Spiritual, Women's, Writing - Tags: , ,

Poet extraordinaire Adrienne Rich died this week in Santa Cruz. Her neighbor, Carolyn Brigit Flynn, writer, Poetess, and my editor, was moved to write this amazing tribute:  It is so poignant and powerful, I wanted to share it with you all.

On Adrienne

MARCH 29, 2012

I awake this morning to the stunning knowledge that came last night: Adrienne Rich is gone.

She died in her home within blocks of me, here in Live Oak, Santa Cruz. Jean met her years ago, at a Sunday afternoon poetry reading at Garfield Park Church, a benefit for our local Food Bank. She had heard that a good poet was reading; it was the girls’ weekend with their father, and Jean was on her own. It was 1997, the year that Adrienne refused the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton. Jean read that the poet had decided not to sit at the tables of power and please them with her work, saying that the administration was involved with cynical politics when too many in the country were suffering. Jean thought that was cool–and feeling her own poetry begin to swell within her, went. It was a brave thing for Jean to do, in her own way; something untold and even strange in her family, to choose poetry on a perfectly good Sunday afternoon, to choose poetry over errands or work or other ordinary weekend pursuits.

Jean had also read that the poet was from Live Oak. Adrienne Rich got up, small and finely honed.  A taut and spell-binding reader, she offered, among other poems, her stunning classic “Diving Into the Wreck.”  Jean went there with her, went all the way down, went down to see the damage that was done/and the treasures that prevail, went down into herself and felt the poet had transported her. Afterwards she walked up to Adrienne, with the collection in hand, and asked her to sign it, saying “I live in Live Oak too.  We’re neighbors.” “Wonderful!” Adrienne said, and they smiled together, unassuming and true, friendly and common as neighbors are.

“I liked her,” Jean says. “She was nice, just ordinary folk.  She knew I didn’t know anything about her fame and I think she liked that. I didn’t really learn who she was until I started writing with you, and you read us her work.”

I didn’t know who she was, Jean says, but perhaps we all can say that, all of us who have read her for three decades and owe her some part of our lives. She lived in our town, she died right down the street. I remember turning from the deli counter at the local market once and seeing her choosing her bread. Startled, I almost called out. I saw her head rise, saw that she knew what had happened within me, saw her pull into herself, a kind of dread– I smiled as if at a stranger and moved on. I wanted to build a kind of zone around her, something to protect her from all she was to us, so that she could simply be all that she was. She had said too much, broken so many silences, she had opened so much in us. She had been fierce in her insistence upon intimacy and truth–not only with others, not only between women, but within the self—she insisted we dive into all the false layers to something intimate, secret, true, unspoken. She was speaking what we had not spoken, not even to ourselves, perhaps most particularly not to ourselves.

This morning I opened her collection The Dream of a Common Language at random, and this was the first poem I came to, from Twenty-One Love Poems:

(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered)

Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine–tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face had come and come–
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there–
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth–
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I have been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave–whatever happens, this is.
Adrienne Rich

Stunning. And stunning to imagine that she published this in 1974, almost forty years ago.  She broke the world open. Already an accomplished, award-winning poet of national stature, she defied the literary canon that marked women’s lives as uninteresting and unworthy of poetry.  She wrote of the intimate and the daily, she wrote of marriage and of divorce, of politics, of violence and injustice; and then, having fallen in love with a woman, wrote the truth of her own eros.  It literally broke everything open.

Yesterday, sitting in the car eating lunch–before I knew Adrienne had left us–in my private worries, I listened to a woman on the radio speak about walking the Pacific Coast Trail. She was asked how she did it, what she carried, her food, the wild animals she encountered, and the ungodly weight of her overlarge pack. Then she was asked what she read. She listed any number of literary writers, Nabakov, Faulkner, books she had packed up and shipped to various stops along the Trail to replace as she walked. But the book she carried all the time, which she read daily and which became, as she put it, her sacred text, was The Dream of a Common Language.

Ah yes, I thought, my book–and how many of us feel that way about one of Adrienne Rich’s many collections of poems, or about some other of her works and essays–that they are ours, we are intimate with them, that she pulled something out of us that we were missing, the touch of our own skin, the love we might offer ourselves, the turning to our woman’s body, saying Yes, here now, you are home.

This small moment in the car brought her to me yesterday. I thought how I never see her around town any more, how she no longer offers readings, and I wondered how she was. Of course, even then, she was gone. Then last night, I heard the news. Now I wonder how she is, how this journey of life takes her and moves her anew. I awoke to fog, and The Dream of a Common Language, which I’d put by my bed. For an hour I read her, before I moved out of bed, moved yet again–or in a new way, for I know more now–by the intimacy of her language, the voice below the voice that called me back into something intelligent and solid in my own heart. How petty our inner miseries can sometimes be. Then a writer can call us into attention. She speaks what is true, in a new/old language, and we are back with life.

This morning, I wanted her words. Before the obituaries, the essays and tributes in the media in the next days and weeks, which I will read hungrily, I wanted only her words. Her words, and my own musings, what my mind might burnish and find gleaming among her memory. Last night an email arrived showing that Adrienne Rich was trending seventh among the top ten Twitter posts worldwide. That means millions of people were sending out homages at her passing. And too, millions more will hear her name for the first time in the coming weeks, and will go searching, reading, and she will be born anew.

Deena Metzger once wrote that when a person dies, their life is thrown shimmering up into the air for a time with great clarity, greater than even was possible when they were alive–and the truth of their being rains down upon us all. And thus, strangely, for a time, we have them more in death than we did in life. In the next months, Adrienne Rich’s life will be thrown up into the sky. Millions of people, like me, will take her work off their shelves and re-read what she has left us. And many of them, I hope, will write. I hope they will write poems and essays and journal entries and blogs and musings on the backs of envelopes.  I hope they will write of Adrienne and her memory, of their grief, of their mourning, of all she gave, of her life, so tender and hard. One might think ruefully that these poems and musings will mostly be unknown writers and poets writing about a great poet. But the creative energies of the universe don’t hold things in that way. The Creative simply wants to move through as many hands and hearts as She can find. And Adrienne would not have wanted a writer to think that way. She would want anyone who is drawn to the pen and to the page to dive within, to search deep, to be unafraid to name shame and ugliness, to name the bedrock strength, and to write their own truth.

Once I went to one of Adrienne’s poetry readings at Bookshop Santa Cruz, and we in the audience lined the walls and the chairs and aisles and sat cross-legged on the floor, women mostly and a good number of men, of every shape and size, and many young women in their studious glasses and punk hair. Adrienne was impressively introduced with her lengthy list of honors and awards. Then she came out to us, small and pale and dark-haired. She had a pile of books in her hand. These books were not her own. She was painfully aware, she told us, of the privilege that came with her white skin, with her academic upbringing, with her command of what Audre Lord called the master’s language. Too many women of color, too many unknown, working-class poets in small towns were unread and unpublished. For an hour, she read them to us.

So write about Adrienne Rich today.  Write it out, while her life is shimmering all around us: how she and her work are in some way part of your life. Share your writing with a friend.  Send it on to me.  Throw her life, as it lives in you, glittering into the air, for all to see.

(for Adrienne Rich)

Yesterday mist cloaked the far
pine tree, which had once
gleamed with sunlight on the smallest
needle, suggesting to me
the possibility of new vision.

But yesterday you were gone–
though I didn’t know it yet–
and were you gone?–
You who gave voice to the dead,
(should I say voices)
you who gave voice
to dead women

whose lives floated like ragged wires
or bits of forgotten cloth
until you took them up,
braided them together
into something alive and singing.

Are you gone?–and not to say
your work, for which you gave and gave,
and which will never leave,
or your power, for which
you dove mercilessly, to which
you cleaved, unwilling to release it
to men, to the trappings of
motherhood, marriage, the academy
even prestige, honor, awards–

No, you are not gone,
rather you have slipped below bedrock
into somewhere unknowable to us–

in that place now
you are among the voices,
as you could never have dreamed
when this life held and throbbed
your frail body, so small to contain
all your fierce devotions.

You have left us your poems
which I will finger and etch
until my eyes fall prey to mists.
Like holy texts (though you would not
wish to become canon) I will study
and follow your intimate language,
your poetry of dailiness, the musings
of your mind set to track each raging
thunder, each skein of yarn, each
crack of brilliant light,
each small sediment of rock
laying wait in the riverbed.

Love was your topic: love and power.
And how a woman finds
her work, her art, how we,
any of us, dare to defy even
the broken effigies
we hang loosely about us
for the world to see, while something
true rages within–

you, you

you always dug in, to the swollen
red place pulsing
the true pain–which always
led to something gleaming,
as a shell shining in mud,
upturned suddenly by the torrent
to which you invited us,
to which you now turn,
saying Ah, I have seen you,
I have known you,

and still, this love, so new,
in the end I did not know,
not like this
–another sinking
past bedrock, into all that is real.

Carolyn Brigit Flynn

Prometheus Chained On a Blorock

Categories: Conscious Living, New Age, Personal Growth, Psychology - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro!  Got gazillions of initials after my name, managed to make  soufflés rise and even found my kid’s kindergarten’s runaway bunny that time we bunny sat him over the Valentine’s weekend.  But this is way HARDER!  I feel dumb, antideluvian and crippled, sometimes completely overwhelmed by this social media project.  Anybody else out there ever identify with me on this?

I love to write.  That’s not the problem.  I love to communicate with friends. The problem is I was just born too many decades too soon to believe I’ll EVER feel at home tweeting and posting and linking.  It’s humiliating.  I remember back in the day when I bought my first answering machine and my dad (probably my age as I am now) was so flummoxed whenever he’d call and instead of a live person got that “newfangled piece of…”, that he’d just shudder into the phone, take a huge end-of -the-world sigh and thrash the receiver into the cradle.

And here I am, shuddering and whining and ready to toss my mouse.  I feel like Prometheus Bound, chained upon a rock, doomed to perpetual angst in an unending time warp.  Not that I’ve brought anything like fire to mankind, but chained to the rock resonates for me today, trying to figure out how to swim into the 21st century of social networking.  I’ve made a vow to join the world and learn this stuff.  But my computer is scaring me, like Pandora unleashing a box of undecipherable cyber evils .


Hmmm, I may feel chained to my rock but I just realized…Wow! it’s a great relief to be able to vent in a blog rant.  Maybe I’ll even hear back from some empathic readers.  That would be encouraging to learn I’m not alone here. Now, will I ever be able to figure out how to send this out into cyberspace!?