Your Life is a Poem: Vulnerability

Your Life is a Poem: Vulnerability

Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you.”
– Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

We continued our month-long look at poetry for our MLUC Meditation Group I with the theme of vulnerability. As we went around the room sharing our own experiences of vulnerability, it was ironic to note how that act alone was a way of sharing our vulnerability. In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown writes,

“If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of what we’re supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is the greatest single act of daring greatly.

As a participant asked, “What if we envisioned vulnerability as a lovely soft landing?” We began with a mindfulness practice that cultivates a balance in our body, heart and mind that can open us to vulnerability:

Listed below are some of the poems and readings that were shared:

  • Weathering by Fleur Adcock – “now that I am in love with a place which doesn’t care how I look, or if I’m happy, happy is how I look, and that’s all”
  • At A Safe Distance by John Mark Green – “They say that love is blind, but I just can’t take the chance
  • What We Need by our own Mary Stromquist – “We need to fall in love with the warm pain of closeness
  • Tell Me by Sandra Belfiore – “You will not drown. You were born swimming
  • What If I Knock by Danna Faulds – “What if the door has been open the whole time?
  • Vulnerability by David Whyte – “To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature
  • Unconditional by Jennifer Wellwood – “Willing to experience aloness, I discover connection everywhere

0a56b8fecb83dfaf375fdef4ae677ca9--the-circle-circle-of-lifeWe will continue on Sunday, August 26 at 8:30 a.m. as we work with the poetry of pain and suffering. Click here to join us and bring your favorite poem on the topic. Each week will include a short talk and will invite participants to bring and share their own favorite poems on the week’s topic.

August 12 – Intimacy
August 19 – Vulnerability
August 26 – Pain & Suffering
September 2 – Beauty

If you can’t make it, please visit to see what else we are up to including Meditate4SelfCare online meditation every Sunday at 9pm.



Your Life Is A Poem: Intimacy

Your Life Is A Poem: Intimacy


Front yard garden box
Your hands deep in darkened soil
Planting life in me

-Woody Sheetz-Willard, MLUC Meditation Group Participant and Poet

A recent episode of On Being featuring Naomi Shihab Nye struck me and inspired me to facilitate a month-long look at poetry for our MLUC Meditation Group I. Nye shared the concept that we are all “living in a poem,” and reminds us how poetry can tell a story that elevates. She writes, “you’re not battered by thought in a poem, but you are sort of as if you’re riding the wave of thought, as if you’re allowing thought to enter. You’re shifting. You’re changing. You’re looking. You are in a sensibility that allows you that sort of mental, emotional, spiritual interaction with everything around you.” Listen on below:

Poetry invites an intimacy that is akin to the intimacy one can cultivate in meditation or mindfulness. It is not about changing things or making them a certain way but instead helping us see what is happening and how we might be with it.

Listed below are some of the poems and readings that were shared:

  • The Cure For All Of It by Julia Fehrenbacher – “Go gently today, don’t hurry
  • Intimacy Issues by our own Greg Gaul – “sometimes it starts with a glance
  • A Moment Of Happiness by Rumi – “You and I unselfed, will be together
  • The Sound of Silence by Paul Simon – “Hello darkness, my old friend
  • To You by Walt Whitman – “now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem
  • Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye – “like a shadow or a friend

0a56b8fecb83dfaf375fdef4ae677ca9--the-circle-circle-of-lifeWe will continue on Sunday, August 19 at 8:30 a.m. as we work with the poetry of vulnerability. Click here to join us and bring your favorite poem on the topic. Each week will include a short talk and will invite participants to bring and share their own favorite poems on the week’s topic.

August 12 – Intimacy
August 19 – Vulnerability
August 26 – Pain & Suffering
September 2 – Beauty

During suffering, everyone prays to the Lord, but when experiencing happiness, we forget to thank God. If one were to pray to God even during the good times, can the bad times ever trouble one?” – Kabir




9780517543054Be Here Now, declares the title of Ram Dass’ seminal work. But what does Be Here Now mean? It seems wherever one looks, they will find the mindfulness trend encouraging one to be present, to be in the here and the now. I think it is more than that. The goal isn’t to just be present but to use that presence to bring a wiser, more discerning set of choices to our experience.

David Foster Wallace describes this choice to move away from our habitual set of reactive patterns in This Is Water, embedded below. I also highly recommend the 22-minute version which doesn’t have the video accompaniment but builds on the themes of the edited clip below:

I can be present while try to ignore or compartmentalize my regrets of the past or my fear of the future. That will only get me so far. But to be fully present, we must include the past, the present and the future in conversation. We must include the pleasant, the unpleasant and the neutral. In meditation, we can do this by allowing our experience to unfold with a curiosity. You might try it out below or find this and other meditations on the Your Mindful Coach Podcast on iTunes..


Mary Oliver’s poem, Messenger, begins, “My work is loving the world.” This work, she writes, “which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.” Seeing the world with fresh eyes instead of our natural default setting where we are the center of the universe and any roadblock in the way is a global conspiracy primed to keep us from getting what we want.

We can only really do that in the present.


Join Center For Self-Care for any of our numerous upcoming offerings by clicking here. We have programs for everyone and programs specifically aimed at men & dads.


The Tragedy of Speed

6087023127_3e0d61c40a_b.jpgThe other day, I tried to be in two places at once. And I found myself nowhere. Literally sprinting with a thermos of hot water to a tea meditation I was supposed to be hosting and which had “started” five minutes earlier. “I must hurry so I can slow down,” I thought to myself.

The great tragedy of speed, writes David Whyte, “is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We start to lose sight of any colleagues who are moving at a slower pace, and we start to lose sight of the bigger, slower cycles that underlie our work.”

And this has been happening for centuries. James Joyce wrote of middle class Ireland in the early 1900s, offering the famous line, “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” The practice of meditation brings us back to a single place. The here and the now. We might not stay there very long but it is a practice. We catch ourselves and return. Beginning again.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 7.15.54 PMWhen you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Join Center for Self-Care this summer to explore together. We make time to come to stillness and silence in order to tap our intuition and wisdom, then share it with each other. Visit to learn more and register.

Whyte speaks of the inevitable times in our lives when we are “waking everyday into the great to-do list of life. And the first thing that crossed your mind are all of the things that you have to accomplish throughout the day. But the accomplishments are all logistical, there all strategic and there is very little in the way of imagination. And you don’t who is going to be there when you clear away that list and so you simply create another list for the following day.” I recently found a fabulous morning meditation from David Gandelman on Insight Timer that short-circuits that impulse to do and first asks: what does the world want from me today and what do I want from it? ”

Our culture pulls us into this orbit of speed. That said, we can pause most any time. Or slow down. Do less better. In an interview with Krista Tippet, poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye describes the concept of Yutori. Its something worth checking out. An example of Yutori is “leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.”

clock.jpgBut we have no time for this! Or do we? There’s an old tale of the student who asked a teacher how longer she should meditate each day. “20 minutes,” declared the wise teacher. The woman replied, “but I don’t have time for that.” The teacher sat quickly then responded, “then sit for 40 minutes each day.” It is exactly in the moments when it feels like we don’t have time that it is imperative to slow down. It could mean stopping to say hello to a stranger, taking the dog for a casual walk without our phone, or writing a note to a friend you haven’t seen for awhile. It is up to you. The world can speed along without you for awhile.


Building a Practice

Building a Practice

As I sat in the chair opposite the therapist, I realized that I would be doing this for the rest of my life. In the midst of suffering after my father’s passing, I found that not much worked to ease my pain. Exasperated with my narrative, she gently guided me to the chair and told me to close my eyes. It took 38 years but now I was meditating for the first time. The practice was as simple as the one below but I experienced a complex peace that was unfamiliar. So I set out to build a practice. Sometimes it goes great, at other times, I have to “start over”, returning to the basics of a simple discipline. So I return today.

weight.jpegI am pleased to introduce Center For Self-Care’s 28-day Meditation Challenge. Beginning May 1, Your Mindful Coach and C4SC will offer several supports to build your own meditation practice. Through guided meditations from our podcast as well as Sharon Salzburg’s 28-day challenge, electronic discussions and virtual and in-person events, you’ll have the opportunity to explore and be curious while committing no more than 10 minutes a day to meditation.

To participate, simply visit this link daily and select the date. You will be taken to a site that offers a daily meditation. Click “Read More” and then press play to meditate. Then share with us – email to receive a daily reflection and learn together.

4be87162-6ce5-42c5-bdd1-cffa321868a6Every Sunday (9pm) and Tuesday (8:30pm) evening, we offer a live virtual guided meditation that can be accessed online through your computer or cellphone or by calling in on your phone. We also have workshops on May 6 and May 24 as well as our men-specific regular offerings. Learn more or register at our website.

Our first meditation focuses on the breath. The breath serves as an anchor to our attention. We become distracted and gently return our attention back to this anchor. Our only task is to pay attention, noticing the rhythm, the movement and the quality of each breath.



“The more you can be completely now, the more you realize that you’re always standing in the middle of a sacred circle. Whether you’re brushing your teeth or wiping your bottom. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it now.” – Pema Chodron, Comfortable With Uncertainty

pexels-photo-459846.jpegMindfulness is a practice of wisdom and compassion. As Jonathan Foust writes, mindfulness asks two questions: what is happening? and can I be with it? In order to get to the second question, you must acknowledge the first. This doesn’t mean you have to like it. Instead, a curious awareness of what is happening right now pulls us out of our rumination about the past and our anticipation of the future. It reminds us of our radical resilience in the face of the circumstances and conditions that characterize our unique experience.

The video below, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, was presented by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College’s commencement in 2005. For me, it suggests that our presence, our dwelling in the now, gives us a choice in how to respond. We can choose to stay in auto-pilot, a default mode of avoiding boredom and seeking novelty, or, we can observe with an open, optimistic mind and heart. Most of life is the ordinary. But it becomes extraordinary when we actually live it. Really, really live it.

Pema Chodron shares a story of an arrogant, proud lady who was seeking enlightenment. Asking around, she was told to visit a wise old woman who lived in a cave atop a high mountain. “I want to attain enlightenment” she declared, “show me how.” Chodron continues, “Whereupon, the wise old woman turned into a demon, brandishing a great big stick, and started chasing her, saying, ‘Now! Now! Now!‘” And that’s our reminder.

What “gets you to now?” In our Sunday Meditation Group, participants shared the following: people’s reactions, snuggling, nature, birds, sounds, morning, light, meditation, reminders (mindfulness bell apps), luminous beings, and weather.

When we make time for ourselves and set an intention to do one thing at a time, we arrive at now. In this moment, we have everything we need.

Please visit Center For Self Care and Your Mindful Coach for plenty of great upcoming events!”

This Lousy World. And Being With It.

This Lousy World. And Being With It.

To give a cow a large spacious meadow is the best way to control him.” – Suzuki Roshi

I sat in practice. The feeling arose. Somewhere between uncertainty and overwhelm. This feeling didn’t bring a lot of content with it. Somewhat ominous but not quite imminent. Like something lurking in the distance while I rested comfortably behind the reinforced walls of a fortress in my mind.

Sometimes it feels like I’m just a bag of bones meant to carry around this overactive thinking machine of mine. My friend Jim describes it as a “mind tornado”. Rumination, reflection, anticipation and regret. What to do?


I sat with it. It became a form in my mind, a jagged red shape, not quite circular, rhythmically heaving. It held heat and energy. But it wasn’t me. I imagined myself pulling up a chair next to this feeling. Not quite attending to it, but observing it. “What is this?” I asked. No answer was forthcoming. But I didn’t sense it needed an answer. It just needed to be seen.

From the silence emerged a response, “You don’t know. And that’s OK.” The shape retreated, the mind became still. I found myself at peace, if only for a moment. Psychologist, author and Holocaust-survivor Victor Frankl wrote about the importance of creating space for this peace. This space opens us to choice and possibility. Like the cow in Suzuki Roshi’s quote, making room for our experience allows us to flow more freely through life.

There’s an awful lot going on. Some local, some universal, most repeating and some truly unique. No wonder Jon Kabat-Zinn’s pioneering thome on mindfulness is entitled, Full Catastrophe Living. Our human instinct for survival drives us to make sense of it all and eliminate threats (perhaps foreclosing risk-taking and exploration). But we can find a stillness, if only for a moment. Sitting with our experience. Taking a breath. Being present.

The practice below begins with instructions for quieting and softening the body. An invitation to explore the present experience is offered and a question is asked. Try it out for yourself!

Make some time for yourself to learn and practice in the coming months. Join us for our co-ed full-day retreat, Connection and Reflection on Sunday, April 8. Enter the promotional code “EARLY” for a 10% discount. 

20369 (2)000