Reflections on Charlottesville and our Nervous System

Excerpts by David Whyte from Facebook post on 8/17/17. Shared with the author's permission.

"First, the easy part to address, our despair: the world at present seems to be a mirror to many of our worst qualities. We could not have our individual fears and prejudices; nor our endless wish to feel superior to others, nor all our deepest flaws, more finely drawn and better represented in the outer world than are presented to us now in the iconic figures and even the weather patterns that dominate our screens and our times.

This is a time for us to learn self-knowledge, which is always an examination of our blind spots, our vulnerabilities and our flaws as much as our virtues. Nevertheless, despite the inherited human difficulties writ large across our heavens and our screens, we have never lived in a time, when more people as a proportion of humanity have been as well fed or housed or presented with astonishing possibilities of which their ancestors could only dream. Looking at my daughter’s face I would not want her living in any other time in the whole of recorded history than this one; she has more opportunity, more chance of being treated with respect in her work than any of her long line of struggling female ancestors going back before the Neolithic. She lives in a world of feminine autonomy that Jane Austen, only two hundred years ago could only imagine. It is only a matter of time, if we follow through on this conversation, before most of her less fortunate sisters in the world have the same gift. Taking this last example alone, fully fifty percent of humanity has a more dignified, more empowered, more respected future than ever before. The present pseudo-science from a Google engineer, even if it hovered within stretching distance of the truth, ignores all the equivalent disabilities of the masculine in the world it has shaped, it is representative of a last rearguard shot before we embrace the reality of women taking a full place in the shaping of our society. As to the natural world, it is not all bad: in the North of England where I grew up, all of the polluted rivers of my childhood have been cleaned up and are beginning to burgeon again with life; Bald Eagles soar over my present house near the Pacific Ocean, where there were none just decades ago, and very personally; in this very personal human life, looking at the portrait looking back at me on my desk, my mother could come back today and experience none of the prejudice she would have felt as a young Irish girl on first coming to England in the fifties.

Science tells us that we are shaped biologically, very early on, to prefer the facial characteristics, the accents and the skin tones of those who nurtured us. But what is more inspiring and is also scientifically proven, is that we can learn to trust faces, learn to trust and even enjoy words that are at first not familiar, and learn to live with different tonal qualities other than those that first brought us into the world, and that this extends to the non-human world of nature of which we are also a part and which gives us the foundation of the very air we breathe. This necessary education into ‘otherness’ is mostly effected by parents or societies learning not even to name the ‘other’ people in our lives as black or white or anything in between, and that this radical act of un-naming inclusion, both in parenting and in our societies in general, might be the most central, the most difficult and the most courageous and crucial conversation of our times.

Life is fierce and difficult and gives us every excuse for defensive prejudice and easy hatred, but there is no life we can live without being subject to its griefs, its losses and heartbreak. Half of every conversation is mediated through disappearance. Thus, there is every reason to want to retreat from life, to carry torches that illuminate only our own view, to make enemies of life and of others, to hate what we cannot understand and to keep the heartbreaking world and the people who inhabit it at a distance through prejudicial naming -but – it therefore also follows, that our ability to do the opposite, to meet the other in the world on their own terms, without diminishing them, in celebration and in creating something new, is one of the necessary signatures of human courage; and one we are being asked to write, above all our flaws and difficulties, across the heavens of this, our present time."

You can read the entire essay here:

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After making a pair of sock puppets that were well received, I lost interest. I've felt some obligation to hold onto the stuff - the stick-on goofy eyes, the multi-colored yarn - but have no desire to craft anymore.  

Guilt has kept me holding onto to stuff like this. "I should do more."


When I let go my insides let go. And then I realize I've been holding on when really, maybe it's time to let go. 

On that subject, here's a poem, a gift from my neighbor Lisa. It speaks to the ultimate practice of letting go.
She Let Go


1. Respect personal history. Loss is a real deal. When we've lost much, little things seem to matter more.

2. Sometimes I can touch a good-bye lightly without getting swept away out to sea without a rudder.

At other times I've tried too hard and held more than I possibly could. Holding on for dear life.

This time can be different. Touching lightly, coming back, a steady moment again.

3. Celebrate love - good times -  caring - those moments of glueing the eyes on and seeing who those socks wanted to be.

4. Being held by all that is true and good. How it has been and always is part of us even when we have to leave it.

5. Saying good-bye, at times with help from friends and loved ones, with phone calls, taking breaks, not alone.

Simplifying with its own rewards - more room inside. Slowing down, letting that take hold. A deep breath. A new moment.

May it be so in a way that heals, opens, releases.

Deepest gratitude to the life that we all share in this breath.

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Making room for each other

A personal prayer, centering or meditation practice is so important. Growing peace inside ourselves isn't something we can put off for another day. There needs to be room inside.

The most important thing is that whatever form of practice we choose, we feel it is a genuine expression of our heart. Our practice will serve us best if we feel truly aligned with it.

One example is Tonglen. Tonglen is a Buddhist practice aimed at relieving suffering. Our own suffering and that of others. This article guides a Tonglen practice, offered by Joan Halifax. She is noted for her extraordinary commitment to Social Justice and Hospice care. She's a Zen Buddhist teacher. 

Keep Reading

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Our front yard occasionally serves as daycare. 

It was 104 degrees here yesterday! I was out watering in the afternoon to cool the plants down a little. There's a a shady spot near the house where a rhododendron grows. Out from under it, a young baby deer, spots and all, stood up and gave me a long, curious look. 

I responded to this baby like I would a lost child. Where is your mother? And then I felt responsible. Do I feed a baby deer? I googled and read that moms often drop off their babies in a safe place while they forage. Sure enough the baby had been claimed later.

It reminded me of how there are tender parts in me that need shelter. The trust to acknowledge when I'm tender. And the wonderful beauty of being found.

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How to make Khichadi

Make a simple, nutritious dish to aid digestion

Special thanks to Susan and Jeff Turner of Living Ayurveda for this recipe and for sharing ancient wisdom. They introduced me to this recipe years ago. This recipe is how I prepare the dish for my family. It is a mild dish we enjoy all year long. There are many variations. This one is for ease in digestion. Consult with your nutritionist if you have special needs. 

This dish will feed a family of two for about two dinners. Serve it with white basmati rice and steamed veggies, and optional condiments: Coconut Aminos, chopped organic cilantro and fresh lime. It's a light but satisfying way to give your digestion some rest.

Here's a gift from my belly to yours!

Khichadi combines mung dahl, white basmati rice, a blend of spices and homemade broth (my variation.) I choose mung beans that are hulled (mung dahl); they are much easier to digest. It's also why white basmati rice is recommended for this dish. The picture above, shows hulled mung beans. I ordered online when our co-op no longer carried them. Soaking the beans and rice is important for digestion too.

To begin, measure 1 c. mung dahl and place in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add 1/8 c. white basmati rice to the mung dahl. Rinse until the water runs off clear.

Cover the top of the beans/rice with about 2" pure, filtered water. Soak 8 hours or overnight. If you have less time, soak anyway. Meanwhile, rinse and soak 1 c. white basmati rice in the same way.

Take out homemade broth from the freezer. 

Now, the beans and rice mixture are soaked. Rinse and drain them. Assemble what you'll need to prepare the dish. 

Get out your pressure cooker. We use a stainless steel pressure cooker that we bought for $5. at a house sale. It works great. Check that the inner sealing ring is in place, inside the lid. Look through the small hole on the top of the lid and be sure it's clear. 
If you don't have a pressure cooker, no worries, it will just take longer to cook. Plan about an hour to cook in a regular saucepan.

Take out a quart of homemade broth. If you/your loved one experiences distress with your gut, consider making your own homemade broth. Recipes abound online or feel free to contact me. I used to make this with filtered water. That is great too.

You'll need these spices. Assemble #1 into a small bowl; keep #2 in a separate small bowl.
1 pinch of hing
1/2. t. cardamon
1/2 t. ground fennel
1 t. cumin
1 t. coriander
1 t. sea salt

and #2:
1 T. turmeric
1 T. ghee. I buy ours in bulk from Ancient Organics.
Substitute coconut oil in the summer, organic butter, or healthy fat of your choice.

Turn the heat to low, melt the ghee in the pressure cooker. Saute spices in #1.
Stir to avoid burning. Saute about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the turmeric. Continue to stir for about 15 - 30 seconds.

Stir in the well drained rice/beans mixture, until the grains/beans are coated. Add a quart of liquid. Stir together with love.

Place the lid on the pressure cooker and lock it securely in place. The little pressure regulator sits on top. 

Cook on a low/medium heat. Gradually the pressure builds. When the pressure regulator starts to rock, count 30 seconds. Then turn off the heat, and wait for the pressure to drop. The small round air vent on the top will drop. 

Open carefully. Avoid having your face, hands, arms, body, in or near the steam.

Serve and enjoy!

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Therapeutic riding (TR) has broadened my world in wonderful ways. I began riding to heal some old Trauma related to loss. Learning to communicate with a prey animal that is both sensitive and so much bigger than me is helping me navigate other relationships with newfound respect for differences. As I better understand my horse's sensitivities, I have more respect for my own. Speaking "horse" is different than speaking "human." My brain and body get a workout!

Well, in TR, you start at the beginning.

It takes body and spoken language to communicate in "horse." I need to let my horse know what I need. Maybe you grew up with horses and have learned this already. Not me.

My knee jerk instinct is to hold onto my horse - hold on! In fact I need to learn to let go.

Whoa means stop. It's really important to know that I can stop. My horse needs to understand that "stop" is a priority command. STOP, don't take one step more, we need to stop NOW. I need to know that she knows this.

Squeezing in with my legs around my horse means "go."
Relaxing my legs and not squeezing in is part of the body language for "stop."

My knee jerk is to squeeze my legs in when I need to do something quickly like STOP.
I had been telling her "to go" with my body language, and "to stop" with my voice. 
She knew I was confused. Like, "what's going on?"

First I had to learn what I was doing then learn to do it differently.
Now I have the steps but boy, not the timing. I'm in Slo Mo:

I think it through:
Sit back in the saddle
Say "whoa"
Hopefully my horse has already stopped
If not, pull back on the reins

Ideally these happen lickety split. Not yet. 

In countless areas of my life, I have to go in Slo Mo, think it through, let go when my instinct is to hold on, recognize this moment NOW. STOP even for a moment. Pay Attention.

 Learning how to "whoa" really comes in handy in not saying the first thing that pops in my head, for example. Not being stubborn when I'm just needing love. You know.

TR is offered in many, many places. If you're considering it as a therapeutic modality to tend to some wounds of your own, I recommend going with certified teachers. My teachers are PATH certified. There's an application process involved. Go for it!

If you are interested in horses, I loved this book, "Chosen by a Horse," by Susan Richards. It's a true story about how caring for a horse that came from a neglected owner, helped the author heal old wounds and trust, as her horse had trusted her. 


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Business is Not Something Separate

Like the honeybee I have a role in my community. I am often enthusiastic about having this life/opportunity to be part of something greater than myself.

At earlier times in my life I've thought that business is about something out there. Something to achieve that is other than who I am. An image to uphold. What others need or want of me. 

Part of wholeness is that how I live is how I do business and vice versa. They are not separate. I overachieve for your needs and neglect my own. Nope. Business is an inside out process now.

I'm more confident to be the person that I am. The best gifts I have to give are being myself. I have sturdy shoulders to stand on. I know that now and want to share my strengths.

I continue to learn about this:

1. I want to reach for new goals. There is a voice inside that tells me to stop. I'm too old, I don't have what it takes.  Listening to that isn't the voice of my wise self. It's an old voice that wants to keep me safe. Staying safe doesn't give me room to spread my wings. I love to fly. And if/when I don't hit the mark, let me celebrate the pluck to go for what I really want.

2. Being good enough doesn't mean being perfect. Stop with the perfection thing.

3. Recognizing that to serve others my business has to serve me. I can give from my heart if my own cup is running over. I align and realign with my values - why am I doing this work? Does the goal that I am reaching for serve what is deepest in my heart?

4. Stumbling into ways that I am not kind or considerate toward others. One place this shows up for me is around comparing myself with colleagues and coming up superior in my mind, or inferior. My husband told me that either way I lose. I recognize a need for my own healing. I'm good enough. As I trust that I am good enough there is room for all of us to be good enough.

5. Money is not unspiritual. Wanting to earn money is a reasonable goal for a spiritual person living in this world. As I grow in abundance I expand the ways that I am of service.

6. I offer up my good enough work for the greatest good for everyone.

I continue to understand that my work reflects how I live my life, what I think and how I tend to my own needs and those of my loved ones. My values shape me and my work. Not separate.

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We are a vast system inside

I've studied how to make Yoga relevant for various needs. Here's a long winded quote that gives depth to what this means. Check out my comments, below. 

"Yoga approaches the individual from the inside, through the mind. Yet the individual is not simply a mind, but a system. A vast system. The system is more than the body, which is nourished by food. It is more than breath, more than my relationships, more than my faith. Any influence upon one aspect of the system will affect every other aspect.  What we experience in Yoga is a conscious influence and change in the overall system. We may choose to begin with the body, the breath, our food, or our relationships. Whatever the point of beginning, we change the totality of the system. It is impossible to overstate the possibilities of this gradual approach to well-being in our lives.  

~ TKV Desikachar

I like Desikachar's reference, "Yoga is a conscious influence and change in the overall system." Yoga isn't about "being twistier than your neighbor," as Tom Myers said.

Yoga is a way of integrating this human experience, which truly is a system made up of various parts like: circulation, digestion/elimination; respiration; musculo-skeletal; mental/emotional; neurological. Yoga suggests that this integration happens through bringing more clarity to the mind.

This system idea is cool. If we're prone to migraines we might find relief from becoming more conscious of stress in our gut, how we're digesting things. Or feeling  confidence come back right away when knee pain (or hip or back pain) clears up. Or understanding that I wasn't a bad person; it was just that my hormones were going crazy with menopause.

"Any influence upon one aspect of the system will affect every other aspect."

We get going so fast in our lives. It's tricky to maintain some connection with these different systems inside. The great majority of us haven't been taught how to feel connected with our own body. And it takes time, when the body has gotten out of kilter, to get it back on track. And there's no guarantees, no refund policy, you can't send your body back if something stops working - like your nose falls off.

That's where the next line really speaks to me: "It is impossible to overstate the possibilities of this gradual approach to well-being in our lives."

Maybe you have a mechanical way of going through the motions, how to stretch, how to exercise. Your body is listening. It might even be talking to you. If you can pay a little more attention to her voice, then your approach to well-being can be gradual. If something happens suddenly, though, a change that affects how you walk let's say, or there's accumulated wear and tear, the body's voice is not so subtle.

What I keep noticing is that the body responds to loving kindness. Subtle signal or not so subtle alarm, the body is doing his best to be your friend. Even if your nose falls off. 

A distinction needs to be made. We can promote healing. We can't control the outcome. We can do our best and at the very least, find more peace inside of ourselves to manage what life presents.

An approach like Yoga Therapy can be useful. Yoga Therapy is a way of applying tools for the uniqueness that is you, and for how that uniqueness that is you is always changing. You start to recognize what you might have not understood before. And maybe pick up some new pointers about how to communicate through simple awareness; getting enough sleep; being in nature; stretching after spending concentrated time working at your desk.

This has shaped me so deeply. I squared the benefits of becoming a better friend to myself when I began bringing new feelings of self-care into my workout. 

However your "Yoga" looks to you, apply these ideas. Become a better listener to your body. Get acquainted with practitioners that you resonate with and get some regular tune up on your listening-to-your-body skills.

An extra set of eyes and a caring presence is a big part of how these teachings were passed on for generations. We're not meant to do this life alone. Our bodies know that.

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We're connected

We are wired for connection. The fastest way to soothe a baby is with safe, warm, caring touch.
We never lose the need to feel connected.
Read more in an article written by Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0. She's researched positive emotions and how we are impacted by them. Click to be redirected to the full article: What Is This Thing Called Love? A Whole New Way of Looking At It.

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Looking Out, Looking In

Nature gives me opportunities to look inside in new ways.


Instead of thinking about them and evaluating them, for what might feel like an eternity, I've gotten out of bed and walked outside. The moon was in her waxing phase, moving toward full.

In the yoga therapy tradition that I'm certified in, the full moon light represents soothing energies, gentle and kind.  In meditative practice we might imagine taking in the light, letting those qualities wash over any anxieties, busyness of mind, too much thinking.

For me spending too much in my head doesn't help work out problems, especially if my wheels are stuck spinning around in a mud puddle. To soothe myself when my mind is agitated is to be dedicated to my own well-being enough to not dwell too much in my head.

Standing in this circle, feeling the bright, gentle moonlight, I gave myself a big hug. It was a hug that for me as a nature lover, was filled with full moon light; filled with the care of so many friends and loved ones. That love went right in, comforting those tender places inside.

It's kind of cool to see how much there is to focus on in nature that lets my attention/energy/mood shift, to come back to the present, to Things As They Are. I wonder how and where this shows up in your life?

This taking in kind of practice begins to rewire our brain and makes a stronger groove each time we do it.