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“But now that I am in love

with a place that doesn’t care

how I look and if I am happy,

happy is how I look and that’s all.”

– from Fleur Adcock, “Weathering”

Now that I am living from a place I call my Core of Peace, I see that it’s the very simple things that have arrived in my life that bring me all I need to stay connected to that sense of peace. Simple things like the feeling of a warm, furry cat. Things like full-bellied, out-loud, no-holds-barred laughter. Things like a scoop of ice cream enjoyed while sitting in the two best orange Adirondack chairs in the world. Things like the pure flavors of a good piece of meat prepared lovingly and unfussily.

These were things I had long ago written off as the childish or plebeian pleasures of someone I tried hard to “outgrow”. I thought that as my sophisticated pedigree accumulated items on its list, that my tastes and bodily sensations of joy should transform and complicate accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »


1. What delights you and brings you alive?
2. What breaks your heart?
3. What does healing look like?
4. What one life-affirming action will you do beautifully and consistently, with love?

These four questions, conceived by my Real Speaking teacher Gail Larsen, powerfully and succinctly capture the process of life coaching and personal transformation. They go to the heart of our own truth, and call us to look with clear eyes at what is etched in our souls.

For most of us, there is at least one of these questions we’ve been avoiding for most of our lives. It could be any one of them. Perhaps we have not allowed ourselves to want what we want, to feel the joy of being fully alive. Or maybe we have masked ourselves with a facade of “perkiness” and images of “happiness” which belie the deep caverns of unexpressed pain in our hearts. Even if we have done the work of facing our deepest truths, we can get lost there if we never look beyond these current realities into a vision of what our lives could be. And finally, all the dreaming and scheming in the world is no substitute for taking actions which are aligned with the truths we have uncovered and pointed in the direction of our brightest visions. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve written here before about “The Empty Elevator“. It’s what Martha Beck calls that period of time during your change cycle when you know you’ve really started to change. All of a sudden, the people who used to surround you and support your in your old ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to life begin to disappear. Some of them decide they don’t approve of you anymore (which really means they’re not ready to look at the part of themselves you’ve left behind in your decision to change). Some of them you find you just don’t want to interact with anymore. They no longer bring you the energy you desire to live from.

It’s a tough place to be in. You need real strength and courage to feel totally OK with yourself as you make changes from within, and then, almost like an observer, you watch the external elements of your life begin to dissolve and change as well. Starting in January, I’ve watched almost every existing relationship in my life begin to transform. Some of these people went away without any comment. Others fought kicking and screaming. Still others – the ones who truly love me – have been alternately approaching and avoiding me in an attempt to understand me. It’s been interesting to watch how the people who are closest to me have tended to want to rescue me from myself. I’ve interpreted this to mean that they don’t believe in my own ability to form desires and go after them. In reality I have no idea what their intention is, other than to make things OK in their definition of the word “OK”.

I bought two Jennifer Dahl charms this weekend. Read the rest of this entry »

Now THIS is interesting.

Today I was scanning my email and noticed that had posted its new Dream Board software for making your very own vision board online. I’d heard about it from Martha Beck and others, and wanted to try it.

So I spent about an hour and made My Wildly Improbable Life in 2011 and Beyond vision board.

I was quite proud of my creation, and I could feel the emotions behind the images soaking into me as I looked at it, rearranged, resized, added intentions to each image, and picked words that resonated with me. And right afterwards, when I sat down to eat lunch, I realized I was feeling like CRAP! Read the rest of this entry »

Returning from CIIS tonight, I am struck by how I used to be impressed by technical wizardry – how loud, fast, or difficult a person could play their instrument. I used to watch with an eagle’s eye when I attended concerts. I was alert to something, without knowing what I was looking for.

Now I appreciate a different kind of artistry, and that is the skill of a musician who chooses to connect with their audience, to form a relationship with them through the music, and to allow creation and transformation to occur in that space. This is a very delicate and sensitive art form, which requires mastery of your instrument, knowledge of the elements of music, and such skill as to be able to select the particular combination of sounds that will create a container to engage your audience (whether it’s one person, several people, or a roomful of people; whether they are happy, sad, sick, healthy, present, or distracted). Read the rest of this entry »

I got to hang out at a fabulous house party including many musicians – both “professional” and “amateur” – having a great time playing together. I loved getting exposed to the new sound of “Creole fiddle” and the genre of Western Swing, playing with the front man of the Bay Area based band The Saddle Cats.

from A Year With Rilke, transl. by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows

Spring! And Earth is like a child
who has learned many poems by heart.
For the trouble of that long learning
she wins the prize.

Her teacher was strict. We loved the white
of the old man’s beard. Now we can ask her
the many names of green, of blue,
and she knows them, she knows them!

Earth, school is out now. You’re free
to play with the children. We’ll catch you,
joyous Earth. The happiest will catch you!

All that the teacher taught her – the many thoughts
pressed now into the roots and long
tough stems: she sings! She sings!

Tonight we had an amazing lecture at CIIS from Erik Larsen, the creator of the CymaScope – a research tool, analogous to the telescope and microscope, used to “make sound visible”. The science behind the effects of sound on human bodies and human consciousness is both ancient and in its infancy. In some ways the study of sound has been going on since the beginning of human civilization. Perhaps sound is what gave birth to the universe. But we still have only rudimentary models for understanding what we all know intuitively or through experience to be the powerful, holistic effects of sound on the human body as a system.

These and other mysteries are what bent our minds tonight as we watched astounding images of different sounds transduced through water and visualized in still photos and high-definition video. Read the rest of this entry »

“Today I wake up empty and frightened. Don’t go to the door of the study and read a book. Instead, take down the dulcimer, let the beauty of what you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground, there are a thousand ways to go home again.” – Rumi

Last night I was reminded of the importance of ritual. There is a reason that the word “practice” implies some regularity and frequency at which you revisit a set of actions repeated in order to bring you into the present moment in your body. There is a difference between “getting stuff done” and “practicing”. I prefer to practice.

I went into the recording studio after missing my usual session last week. My shoulder had been feeling tweaky and I decided to let it rest. It was a great decision, and my body thanked me for it. I was fresh and actually craving the session last night a little bit as I walked in. I could feel my body getting into the mode of listening and playing as soon as I entered the studio space. I knew where to put my violin case, my coat, my bag, my water bottle. The tracks were already queued up on the recording system. I put the headphones on.

And it flowed. It was such a joy! I wasn’t trying to DO anything. I was just grateful to be back in my practice. See, I’m remembering that practice is the stuff of life. As a violin teacher, I spent hours answering questions about “how to get someone to practice”. In that process of trying to explain what practice was, I got lost. I got steered into other people’s reward-and-punishment systems, bribery tactics, making up false promises, all in an attempt to portray “practicing” – which was perceived as a necessary “evil” – as something palatable.

The truth is that the soul craves practice. Read the rest of this entry »

When I was in medical school, “drug of choice” was a term used to refer to the most widely accepted medicine (pill, injection, whatever) for a particular condition. There were usually alternatives if patients were allergic or the drug of choice was not available. As a medical student, you were golden if you could immediately name the drug of choice for a given situation when quizzed by one of the doctors.

I now realize that for most of my life I’ve been high on my drug of choice – the drug of approval. It’s been an easy drug to become dependent on without even knowing it. There are plenty of systems in our society that are set up to get us hooked on the smiles and impressed looks on Other People’s faces when we do something that they approve of. It starts as soon as we are born. Our parents and other caretakers are our first encounter with what it takes to get approval. Then, when we’re handed off to the next big system of socialization – school – we quickly learn exactly what we need to do to earn approval. It comes in various forms – attention from the teacher, gold stars, stickers on our hands, nice comments written at the top of our homework, maybe a “Student of the Year” prize at the end-of-the-year assembly, or a row of “A”s on our report card. We adapt our behavior to this system. Some, like me, find that getting all the approval from the system is much easier than expressing what’s real. Starting in first grade, the reality was that I felt like an outsider in almost every way. Not just the fact that I was the only ethnic minority in my entire elementary school class for many years. Or the fact that I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t say in English the names of the things I had eaten for dinner most nights, when I was asked the next day at school. Or the fact that sometimes my mom would pick me up from school and say things to me in Chinese in front of my friends, which further highlighted the gaps between what I experienced at home and what was being presented to me in the great system of American socialization – public school. I just felt both an incredible longing to fit in, as well as a deep knowledge that I never would. Read the rest of this entry »

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Days I Reflected Here

August 2019
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