Keep Your Hand Moving

It was a snowy late December afternoon in 1986 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was pet sitting for a local filmmaker—away with his family for Christmas vacation—and I was browsing through the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that lined the wall of their living room. The one I reached for would change my life:  Natalie Goldberg’s now classic guide Writing Down the Bones, which had recently been published. I read a few pages, then grabbed a pen and my spiral-bound notebook and began to scribble, following Natalie’s first rule of writing practice: Keep your hand moving.  The instruction was to [...]

By |2024-05-05T20:59:58+00:00May 5th, 2024|Spirit of Creativity|0 Comments

Old Cat: A Story of Impermanence

My cat Tahini is halfway through her 21st year, which my vet tells me is equivalent to a human aged 98.  She’s skinny and arthritic and deaf, she walks with a stiff-legged limp, and she regularly gets disoriented and wanders around the house moaning like a foghorn. But she still savors life’s basic delights: laps, cardboard boxes, a can of food cracking open, a hand rubbing under her chin. Tahini spends much of her time napping at the foot of my bed on a folded comforter—speckled with fur, occasionally puked on, and—because she is prone to UTI’s--smelling faintly [...]

By |2024-03-11T22:54:58+00:00March 7th, 2024|Spirit of Creativity|12 Comments

Why Write?

I’ve set a New Year’s intention to jump-start my creativity by sharing a short blog post at least once a month—a reflection on some aspect of the entwined practices of dharma, yoga, and creative expression that I’ve been practicing now for over four decades. Intention setting is vital to establishing a regular practice of anything. I often begin my creative writing workshops by inviting participants to do a 10-minute free-write in response to the prompt “I write because…” while following my friend Natalie Goldberg’s golden rule of writing practice: Keep your hand moving. So [...]

By |2024-02-04T00:52:01+00:00February 4th, 2024|Spirit of Creativity|2 Comments

Let Go, Make Space

Almost every day this month, I’ve taken a little time to clear the clutter in one small area of my home—for example, my herbal tea shelf, where it was time to face the fact that for five years, no one has wanted a second cup of “Dry Desert Lime.” Clearing clutter involves peering into dark and dusty corners. For a few horrified minutes, I thought I had uncovered a dead bird rotting behind the recycle bin in my pantry—until I shone a flashlight on the clump of mildewed feathers, spotted a string coming out of its rear, and [...]

By |2023-12-31T22:23:23+00:00December 31st, 2023|Spirit of Creativity|0 Comments

True Confessions of a Mindfulness Teacher

You’d think that as a good Buddhist, I’d always click the Zoom option to “Hide Self View.” But no, there I was--gazing empathically into my own eyes, framed side by side in Gallery View with my mentee, a mindfulness-teacher-in-training, who was weeping as she lamented that she wasn’t mindful enough to be a meditation teacher. “The teachings are so beautiful and deep—and I just don’t live up to them.” (Note: This mentee is a 30-something lawyer and mom who at that time was caring for her six-month-old baby during the first months of pandemic lockdown while also offering free online [...]

By |2023-06-15T19:00:29+00:00June 7th, 2023|Spirit of Creativity|21 Comments

Love, Loss, and Solstice

As we dive into the longest night of the year here in northern California, I’m honoring the memory of my dear friend Janice Gates, who passed away in October.I know many of you have practiced with the two of us on yoga and meditation retreats and trainings. In my last message to you, I wrote about our joyful self-retreat together last June on the northern California coast. If this is the first you are hearing of her death, I’m so sad to bring you this news.For almost 20 years, Janice and I celebrated the winter solstice together at my home [...]

By |2022-12-22T00:24:19+00:00December 22nd, 2022|Spirit of Creativity|1 Comment

Wild Wisdom of Waves and Wind

Dear Friends, I just returned from a self-guided, weeklong meditation retreat in a cabin on the Northern Califonia coast with a dear friend and fellow mindfulness teacher. Over the past two decades, Janice Gates and I have taught dozens of meditation and yoga retreats and teacher trainings together, while raising our children like cousins in the same small town. So we’re comfortable gliding spontaneously between meditation in stillness and movement, in silence and speech. We’ve seen each other come undone at the seams many times—and helped stitch each other back together again. As we drove up to our retreat [...]

By |2022-06-28T11:17:30+00:00June 28th, 2022|Spirit of Creativity|1 Comment

What’s Your Word for 2022?

Dear Friends, On New Year’s Day, I hiked through a redwood forest along rain-gorged Lagunitas Creek, hoping to spot Coho salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The migrating salmon have been abundant here in northern California this year, as winter storms have filled drought-depleted rivers. I didn’t sight any that afternoon, perhaps because they were hiding from the (also abundant) holiday hikers. But I knew they were swimming nearby in the shadowy currents, making their pilgrimage back to the nest sites where they were hatched. Each January, I try to distill my intentions for the coming year into a single [...]

By |2022-01-12T16:16:00+00:00January 12th, 2022|Spirit of Creativity|1 Comment

Empty Before You Begin

I’ve carved out more than a month this summer for a personal writing retreat-- just before I lead my next Write Your Way Home women's daylong, The Power of Place, online on July 10. But for the first week of my retreat, I deliberately didn’t write a word. Instead I spent six days meditating in silence at an almost-deserted beach on the northern California coast. I spent hours each day just walking barefoot on the dark, gritty sand; watching the waves that tumbled turquoise or grey in the shifting light; delighting in seals bobbing in the surf and the [...]

By |2021-06-25T11:07:33+00:00June 24th, 2021|Spirit of Creativity|1 Comment

Exhaling into a Brighter Future

“I feel like the world has just gotten a little smaller and my heart has gotten a little larger.” As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, I keep remembering that comment from Luciana, an educator and small business owner in Brazil, during the first online meeting of our small, mindfulness-teacher mentoring group. One of the great gifts of my teaching life over the last few years has been my role as the director of mentoring for an online, international mindfulness teacher certification program led by Buddhist teachers Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. As a mentor, I meet face-to-face via [...]

By |2020-03-23T22:54:48+00:00March 23rd, 2020|Spirit of Creativity|1 Comment

Memories in a Bottle

Right around the time my now 19-year-old son turned two, he became obsessed with a collection of thumb-sized bottles of essential oils that sat on a wide, tiled window ledge in our bathroom. They were already dated even then, their labels smudged and oily—the remnants of two different aromatherapy kits that had been sent to me as promotional packages when I was an editor at Yoga Journal in the early 90s, many years before my son was born. Back then, I had brought them home to the hilltop house I rented with three other 20 and 30-somethings. I had planned [...]

By |2020-02-26T05:24:58+00:00February 26th, 2020|Spirit of Creativity|1 Comment

What’s your word for 2020?

In the last week of December, I went for a walk with a few of my beloveds around nearby Lake Lagunitas, one of my regular nature refuges. As we squelched through puddles under the redwoods (careful not to step on the wandering, mud-colored newts), we reflected on our intentions for the coming year and how we might distill them into a single word—something we could carry with us as a reminder like a river-smoothed stone in a pocket. One of us chose “expand.” One of us, “stability.” Another, “centered.” My word was “simplify.” I want to have less on my do-list, [...]

By |2020-01-10T16:39:01+00:00January 10th, 2020|Spirit of Creativity|0 Comments

Rain, Fire, and End of Year Reflections

The winter rains have arrived here in northern California, and the creeks are rushing again in the hills and canyons near my home. As the shortest, darkest day of the year approaches, I’m grateful for the chance to put on rain gear and hike through dripping redwoods and madrones to sit on a boulder by a waterfall. Last month, we went in just a few days from red-flag fire danger to flash flood alerts. During the three days of my "Telling Our Stories: Meditation and Creative Writing for Women" retreat at Spirit Rock, we were in the middle of a [...]

By |2020-01-10T16:33:27+00:00January 10th, 2020|Spirit of Creativity|0 Comments

Sangha-ing in Harmony

This spring I dropped the ball for a while on my New Year's resolution to free up my singing voice. My first excuse: I spent nine days teaching in Germany, where I didn’t want to bombard my hotel neighbors and meditation students with my arpeggios and sirens. Back from Germany, I went straight into teaching another retreat at Spirit Rock. Then came a book deadline, a family visit, a week of online mentoring for a mindfulness teacher training—and suddenly I couldn’t connect with my original inspiration. There were just so many things on my to-do list that felt more urgent [...]

By |2018-06-01T15:09:04+00:00June 1st, 2018|Spirit of Creativity|1 Comment

So What If I Look Ridiculous?

In my newsletter last month, I announced my new creative project for this year: learning to sing! In the weeks since then, my daily assignments in the Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program have gotten me doing a lot of things I definitely wouldn’t have done otherwise: Breaking down the musical theory behind “The Happy Birthday Song.” Leaping up and down in front of my computer, an invisible mic held to my mouth, as I mimic YouTube videos of David Byrne (“Life During Wartime”) and Blondie “One Way or Another.” Singing arpeggios while sounding them out on the piano. Driving down [...]

By |2018-03-06T01:55:16+00:00March 6th, 2018|Spirit of Creativity|5 Comments

Don’t You Ever Ask Them Why

"Say 'Eh!'” commands my new voice teacher, Pollyanna Bush. She’s slim and elfin, with huge dark eyes and a waterfall of red hair that tumbles past her hips. She’s seated at a piano in her Fairfax studio, MusicWorks. I’m standing facing her, a space heater blowing warm air at my knees. “Ay!” I repeat, obediently. “Louder! Shout it! Like you’ve just seen someone on the other side of the parking lot trying to break into your car.” “AYYY!” “You’re saying 'A-ee.'” Make just one sound, 'Eh!'" “EHHH!” “Better. But you’re putting too much air into it. Louder, but no air!” [...]

By |2018-02-12T19:48:34+00:00February 12th, 2018|Spirit of Creativity|0 Comments

Your Voice is Full of Surprises

I just finished my first week of  "The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program,” whose slogan is “Learn to Sing Even if You Think You Can’t Carry a Tune” (that would be me). The teacher, Nancy Salwen, starts at the absolute beginning, which is perfect for me. The daily online lessons are short, just 5 to 10 minutes. We spent the first couple of lessons just singing “drone notes,” simple aaahs and ooohs and eees all on one long monotone. Then we moved on to exploring the voice by “sirening” up and down the scale. All the principles she’s naming [...]

By |2018-02-02T03:19:15+00:00February 2nd, 2018|Spirit of Creativity|4 Comments

Learning to Sing

Dear Friends, Here’s my New Year’s resolution for 2018: I’m going to start singing. I pretty much stopped singing in sixth grade, when my elementary school music teacher eviscerated me in front of my entire class because my off-key warbles were ruining our rendition of “The Happy Wanderer.” (That’s a horror story I’ll tell you another time, if I’m brave enough. Let’s just say that I still shudder at a merry chorus of “val-deri, val-dera ha ha ha ha ha.”) I’ve endeavored over the decades to regain some confidence in my voice, to the point where I can now [...]

By |2018-02-02T21:29:56+00:00January 25th, 2018|Spirit of Creativity|5 Comments
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