The Golden Rule May Not Always Be Best

The Golden Rule says we should treat others the way we’d want them to treat us. Jesus had an even stronger way of putting it. We should love others as ourselves, he said.

Most of us would agree this is good advice. It seems if everyone followed it, we’d all treat each other well, get along, and thrive. But I’ve notice something important. We often don’t do it. I’m not even sure we can.

While we’d like to think we’re treating others the way we’d like to be treated, what seems to happen more often is we treat others the way we treat ourselves. On the surface that would seem like semantics. Same thing, right?


The Golden Rule Must Include Being a Good Friend to You

Self-help gurus often point out that we tend to be nicer to other people than we are to ourselves. The idea of the Golden Rule then, would be that we want other people to treat us better than we treat ourselves. And presumably, we will do the same for them.

But for the most part, we can’t. And we don’t.

It’s also pretty well established in psychology that people who dislike themselves (and by extension aren’t very nice to themselves) have a hard time loving others. Few people debate this one either. Sure, they might be superficially friendly to avoid conflict, but that’s only possible from a distance.

So, you see, the Golden Rule can mislead us.

You may have noticed the people you’re closest to are the ones who hurt you the most. The people you spend a lot of time with—even if you’re not close—are also likely to hurt you more often than acquaintances or strangers.

Why does this happen?

It’s said that hurt people hurt people. And while hurt people may also prefer to avoid conflict, they may bottle up that conflict until a safe victim to treat badly comes along. We know this is how playground bullies work. Bullies in the workplace and political bullies work the same way.

And so, unfortunately, do people we love if they’re hurting enough.

Of course this doesn’t mean everyone close to you will treat you badly. The key is how well they treat themselves.

Taking Care of You is Taking Care of Others

I think we treat others as well as we treat ourselves, not better. While we might want to treat them the way we’d like to be treated, we may truly not know how. If we treat ourselves badly, that’s what we know best.

How this plays out depends on the way we take things out on ourselves. For instance, if we’re angry with ourselves, we get angry at others. If we have trouble facing our imperfections, we avoid others who aren’t perfect (in other words, everyone). If we believe we need to be perfect to be loved, we hide our true selves to please others.

We learned to do this by paying attention to how people around us treated us or others like us, often a long time ago.

So while the Golden Rule makes sense, unless we’ve learned to be kind to ourselves, we’ll probably struggle with it at least some of the time, and certainly with people we’re close to.

The Golden Rule May Not Account for Our Differences

Another issue with the Golden Rule is it doesn’t address the fact that while we all want others to treat us well, we don’t all need or want the same thing. The way we treat ourselves depends a lot on what we need and whether we’re getting what we need.

If we need a lot of attention and validation, we treat ourselves differently than we would if we needed to be needed, for example.

We all need something, but we don’t all necessarily need the same thing.

If we live with shame and the belief that we shouldn’t need anything at all, that will affect how we treat ourselves and others as well.

One person might be clingy, another may lose herself in the process of meeting others’ needs, and a third might become distant.

When we don’t get what we need, a sense of lack often creates a vicious circle. And don’t believe people who tell you a mentality of lack is all your head. It may be to certain extent, but we all have needs. Denying that will ensure we never get what we need.

When we’re angry, hurt, or afraid because we don’t have what we need, we may lash out at people we believe should both know what we need and be able to provide it.

If we’re not conscious of this dynamic, we can destroy the very connections we crave, the very connections we need.

Do You Need What Others Need?

So even if we follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way we’d like them to treat us, we may not treat them the way they’d like us to treat them.

For example, some people like advice. Others prefer to vent to a friend who will simply listen. Some people enjoy lots of conversation. Others thrive in comfortable silence. Some enjoy humor, while others are more serious. Some like help. Others don’t.

You get the point.

So maybe we need to rephrase the Golden Rule a bit so the goal is to understand people and develop true connections.

The point is when we look beyond our own ideas and needs and try to see others for who they are and what they need, we form truer connections that help us grow. In a sense we’re all the same, but in another sense, we’re not.

If we’re only giving people what we need, we miss out on interconnection. It’s our connection despite our differences that creates a more vibrant, amazing world. And it’s more likely to create a world where people treat each other well, if not always, at least more of the time.

What do you think?

Caring What Other People Think May Be More About What You Think

Recently, a friend and I were discussing the idea of caring what other people think. My friend pointed out that even though many of us say we don’t care, we do. I responded by saying for the most part I don’t care—or at least I care a lot less—what other people think.

I’m not sure my friend believed me, but that’s probably because I may not have meant the same thing she meant by “caring about what people think.” It’s complicated.

She asked for an example, but before I could think of one, she asked me a question. How, she wondered, could she stop caring what other people think about a specific issue in her life.

If I’d had as much time to answer as I took to write this post, I might have come up with something better than the only thing I could think of on the spot: “I don’t know.”

Caring What Other People Think Depends On What You Think

What I meant, though, is I don’t know how another person (in this case my friend) can stop caring what specific other people (in this case, apparently, most of the people she spends time with) think about a certain thing.

I can, though, explain how I stopped caring what certain people think about some things that pertain to me. What’s interesting is I didn’t have a plan to do this. I can only look back and see how it happened over time.

When I say I don’t care as much about what people think as I used to, I mean that in a broad, general sense. I don’t mean I don’t care what people close to me think about significant things.

It’s probably clear that I’m talking about being judged poorly by others, not their specific thoughts about me. For example, someone might think I ask a lot of questions. Whether they see that as a positive or a negative isn’t clear. However, if I see it as a negative, I might assume they’re judging me poorly. 

I began to notice caring less about what other people think over the last decade. It happened gradually in a number of ways.

Maybe some of these apply to you.

Try not to react immediately.

Maybe the person who’s coming across as mean or judgmental is having a bad day. Or maybe I am. So before I react, I ask myself why I care what they appear to think in that moment.

Think About Why You Care

The why is often revealing, because if I sit with it long enough, there’s almost always a reason I didn’t see at first. (I’ll come back to why that matters, even though it doesn’t change what the person in question thinks.)

In other words, have I internalized the same negative belief? If I have, I can explore it a bit and see if I can change it. That takes time. Again, it doesn’t change the judgment coming from another person. But, in my experience at least, it’s the most powerful way to stop caring, or to at least to care less, what other people think.

If there’s a pattern of judgment, I ask myself whether the (presumably negative) thing I believe the person thinks is truly negative.

While doing this, it’s important to recognize that internalized negative beliefs are not a simple matter of you judging yourself. They came from somewhere, often a larger societal perspective that the person who’s allegedly judging you might even deny. If they deny it, be glad. It may mean they’re open to a different perspective. But here’s the thing. You’ll need to change your own internalized belief first. No one will do it for you.

Find people who get it.

Even though no one will change an internalized negative belief for you, you also cannot change those beliefs on your own. This is critical because when we think poorly of ourselves, we tend to hide in the shadows, believing we have a shameful secret we need to hide.

It’s only when we find others who truly understand—which usually means they’ve been in our shoes or are extraordinarily empathetic—that we can begin to change how we see ourselves.

For example, as a woman without children (not by choice), I spent years hiding before I realized I was grieving and living with the belief that my life was less important than the lives of parents. It wasn’t until I connected with a friendship and support group for woman without children that I began to see things differently. The reality is society as a whole has clear negative beliefs about childless people, even if individuals claim to not have those points of view. I know because the first thing I had to do was challenge my ideas about myself.

Reconsidering What Other People Think

If you take the steps above and begin to think differently about yourself or what people (might) think, you’ll be ready to get back among them and see if things change. There are a few ways to do that.

After changing your own beliefs, check again.

See if you still feel like people are judging you about things you no longer buy into. Sometimes—maybe often—they are. But it will probably stop seeming like everyone feels the same way. You’ll begin to find out who your people are. And you’ll have an easier time with almost everyone else as well.

You have choices with judgmental people.

You can explain how their comments make you feel and offer another perspective, or you can distance yourself. If you choose to speak up, be prepared. Many people still won’t understand, and you’ll have to decide how much effort to make before giving up. In some cases you’ll know from the start there’s no point in even trying. Your decision will probably depend on how important the person is to you and whether there are ways you do connect.

You may need to step back from some people.

One of the hardest things about learning to love yourself more is it often means stepping back from people who make that difficult to do. When you begin to understand the importance of having people who “get it” in your life, you may have less room for those who don’t. This will also help you stop caring what other people think.

Keep in mind that self-love is just a stepping stone to being a loving person. So it’s not selfish. It’s imperative.

Sometimes You’ll Still Care

When people close to you—family in particular—don’t get you, decide if you can still have a cordial, more superficial relationship.

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who can completely stop caring what their family thinks. The tricky thing here is our internalized negative beliefs often come from our families in the first place. They are the people we spend the most time with during our formative years. Unless they change damaging beliefs along with you (a possibility), you may have to accept that you’ll always care what they think. You can compensate by sharing less of yourself so you don’t have to find out what they think all the time. You may also need to change some of your beliefs about them.

Don’t blame people who don’t understand.

Often, a person’s perspective is as ingrained in them as it was in you when their comments hurt more. If you’re a perfectionist and believe everyone should see life from your perspective, you’ll create more enemies than friends.

Accept that there’s nothing you can do about some people’s thinking.

Ideally, when you’re better at caring less about what people think, there will be few people left in your life whose thoughts about you matter. At least now you’ll feel better about you and have more good relationships than frustrating ones.

Consider thinking differently.

I mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating. To truly connect with people you’re having difficulty with, both parties usually need to take a new approach.

Accept that people aren’t thinking about you.

That may seem like a strange way to end a discussion about caring what other people think. But even those who truly think the worst of you move on to other concerns when you’re not around. A good idea, then, is to stop being around. Focus on the people who matter most and the thoughts and experiences that connect you with others.  

What Are Your Values? And Why Does It Matter?


A friend of mine is writing a graduate school admissions essay. You know the kind. You look at your life and explain why you want to get the degree or certification or credential in question. When he told me about the essay, we started talking about our values and how they align with what we do every day.

I thought I knew my values, but I was surprised once I started listing them that I have more values than I realized. If someone had asked me how many values underlie the things I pursue or the way I behave, I might have said four or five.

Of course, I saw an opportunity to write, so I started listing and describing my values. I came up with sixteen before I decided to stop (for now). After all, how much can I expect you to read!

Aligning Values with Actions

I try to align with my values with my work (writing or helping others write), my yoga practice, my spiritual life, and my relationships.

I enjoy things that align with my values, like nature, animals, music, the arts in general, and baseball. I’m not exactly sure where baseball fits in, so I’ll put it with family. It’s a connection I’ve had with my dad since I was eight years old, and in the beginning of our relationship, my husband and I bonded over our love for the sport.

I share my list not because I think you care what my values are, but because you may recognize something that resonates with you. If you want to share your list with me, I’d be honored!

My values are…

Spirituality – I value seeking and staying on the path to God or enlightenment (same thing in my mind). I’m not sure if spirituality is a value. Maybe faith in something greater than me is what I should call it. Or knowing who I truly am. I’m not sure how to explain this, even though it has been my primary value for as long as I can remember!

Silence – I believe that except when we have something useful to say, it’s best to be silent. It’s in silence that we learn to recognize truth.

Kindness – No one likes meanness. If you’re with people and you’re not helping them feel better about themselves, you’re better off being silent. That said, I recognize it’s not always meanness that prevents others from feeling good. Some people cannot accept kindness. They are the same people not likely to be kind. So, again, if your kindness is not received, be silent. The value of kindness is probably obvious. If you’re not sure what’s valuable about it, be still and notice what you feel next time someone is kind to you.

Simplicity – I think the more we have and do, the more crowded our minds become and the lower our vibration becomes. If you’re a spiritual seeker, you know that vibrating at a higher frequency is the key to transcendence and enlightenment. So, I don’t want a lot of stuff or too many places to be or too many superficial relationships. I don’t want a house full of things or a closet full of clothes. I want the energy to flow, and that requires simplicity.

Being organized – Clutter and chaos slow the flow of energy as well. I was born with the ability to organize, so maybe this is more of a trait than a value. It’s also another reason I value simplicity. It’s easier to keep things in order when you don’t have a lot of them!

Discipline Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today tends to be my motto. In my case, it might even be don’t put off until noon what you can do at 8 am. I know this makes me unusual, but it’s who I am. I’ve never been able to procrastinate.

Listening – You will learn much more by listening than speaking. You will grow much more by listening than speaking. And interestingly, you will help more by listening than speaking. If you have ears to hear (as Jesus said), do so. Listen. Hear. Reflect. And then you will know what to do.

Gratitude If you want to be happy, be thankful. I learned about the power of gratitude gradually, mostly from my yoga teachers, who speak about it often. They do this for a good reason. Gratitude has the power to fill your life. The less you think you have, the more you’ll gain from being grateful. I’m serious.

Following through – If I say I’ll do something, I do it. And I do it by the time I say I’ll do it. In my work, I never miss a deadline. Of course, because I value being reliable in that way, I’m also careful not to commit (or appear to commit) to things I’m not sure I can do.

Learning – In the past, I would have said education. I come from a family of educators. I earned a master’s degree but didn’t think that was enough. I wanted a PhD. I now realize I wasted a lot of time in school meeting requirements when I could have been out there actually learning something. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to learn.

Integrity – Integrity is a kind of honesty that isn’t so much about conveying facts versus fiction but honesty in intention and staying true to my values when I make choices about what to do or what to say.

Care of Creation – I try to value all of creation. It all deserves to be treated with awe and respect. This includes inanimate objects in my care, such as books, my home, and my yard.

Helping others – This is certainly a value, but I mention it with a caveat. We often think helping others means bending over backwards to do everything for anyone who asks, even things that don’t align with our natural gifts. Our natural gifts are ours for a reason. We have them to serve. When we align with them, helping others comes naturally too.

Animal rights – One of my favorite quotes is Gandhi’s quote about animals. The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. The more I explore this idea, the more I see the truth in it. We can learn a lot about life from animals and a lot about compassion and kindness from people who treat them well. Unfortunately, we also learn a lot (mostly about greed and selfishness) from people who mistreat them.

Family –  Here, I expand the definition of family to anyone—whether related by blood or not—who you love and who loves you as close to unconditionally as humans are capable of and who is as committed to your well-being as you are to theirs. And by that definition, of course, biology is no guarantee that you are a family.

Health of body, mind, and spirit Here is another way my work aligns with my values. I should also say that my interest in health is mostly holistic. Mind, body, and spirit are intimately connected, and I’ve explored that from every angle for decades.

Humor – Without a sense of humor, life would be much more boring and difficult than it needs to be. I sometimes think talented comedians do the most good in this world.

Creativity – I don’t have a great way to explain why I value creativity, but if I value creation, then I guess it makes sense that I value creativity.

I encourage you to think about your own values, and maybe make a list (be prepared for it to keep growing). If you do this, you may be surprised by how much bigger your life feels and how much more sense it makes.

If you don’t feel that, it may be because you’re not living in alignment with what you value.

Love is Never Having to Define Love

need self-love

After my mom passed away, I wondered: Can I still love her? After all, doesn’t love imply some type of action?

Well, that depends. Is love a verb?

As a child, I loved my mom by doing my chores, being a good girl, and doing my best to get along with my siblings. As an adult, I loved her through our conversations, trips to the mall when she didn’t want to go alone, and daily visits when she was ill.

No what can I do?

Thinking about this led me to consider the question no one can really answer: What is love? The word is probably the most over-used, misused, and possibly meaningless word in our lexicon.

Here are just a few of the ways I’ve seen the word love used:

Love is the opposite of fear.

God is love.

Love is a decision.

Love is extending oneself to nurturing one’s own or another person’s spiritual growth.

If you love someone, set them free.

Love is never having to say you’re sorry.

I’m in love with my husband.

I love coffee.

I love cats.

To love another person is to see the face of God.

Love hurts.

All you need is love.

Be love now.

Looking back over the list, I can see that some of the statements involve action (extending one’s self, deciding, setting someone free) while others are more states of being (God is love, or love is the opposite of fear). Still others involve feeling good in some way (about cats or drinking coffee). In one case, it even feels bad (love hurts).

So, what is love?

Part of the problem in defining love comes from the fact that it’s not a concrete thing. I can’t define love—or describe it even—the way I can tell you about a tree or a candle flame.

Is love an emotion? Is it a behavior? Is it a state of mind?

Maybe we need more than one word for love. Or maybe we should forget about the word entirely. We do have more than one adjective to use with it, as in agape love, romantic love, Divine love, etc. In each of these cases, though, we assume the word love refers to the same thing.

Another Definition of Love

A definition of love that works well for me is love is the driving force that propels beings toward union with their source. So, for me, God is love, be love now, and love is the opposite of fear are the most useful descriptions. If I live in union with God, I become love, and I am no longer afraid.

My behavior can change based on my ability to experience love. I can make decisions or extend myself or enjoy someone or something once I’m in tune with my true, higher Self.

For a while, I had no idea why anyone would make a statement like “love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Then I realized the beloved, not the lover, was the one who needn’t apologize. Love means forgiving our loved ones when they act in ways that are not so loving.

Love is Beyond Words

Love, like God really cannot be defined. No one knows for sure what it is, but most of us believe to some extent that it exists and that it matters.

Maybe there are as many ways to love as there are ways to describe it. Rather than settling on a single definition of love, I think I’ll just work on getting better at it.

The Trumpet Shall Sound: Daring to Live in Awe of Mystery

trumpet shall sound

In 1983, my dad took me to hear Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall in New York City. It became a holiday tradition, and he and I have attended a performance of Handel’s masterpiece almost every year since. Many years, my mom came along as well, and when I met my husband, he also became part of the annual tradition.

This year we weren’t sure we’d get there. My mom was very ill as the holidays approached, so we put off buying tickets.

A few weeks after Mom went home to God, we decided we’d go ahead and attend the performance. I’m glad we did.

The Magic of Messiah

Handel composed the music for Messiah in an astonishing 24 days. If you’ve heard it, you know what an awesome feat that was! I’ve never doubted, as many who love this music agree, that the composition was divinely inspired.

A tuned-in listener can’t help but feel comforted, hopeful, and full of faith when experiencing Messiah. That same listener might also feel challenged in a way. It is, after all, the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, beginning with the prophets foretelling the birth of a Savior.

You’re probably familiar with at least a few of the choruses or arias (solos). Most people have heard the Hallelujah Chorus, for instance.

One aria has always held me captive, but this year it was especially significant. That solo is “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”

Toward the end of the performance, the music features passages from the Acts of the Apostles about the resurrection of the dead. The lyrics are taken from 1 Corinthians 15. The bass soloist sings a recitative:

Behold, I tell you a mystery.

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye

At the last trumpet.

And then, the magnificent aria. If you haven’t heard “The Trumpet Shall Sound”—or even if you have—take a few minutes to listen to it here.

Then come back, and I’ll tell you my story.

Did I Really See That So Clearly?

As you might guess, the words were especially significant for me this year because we attended the performance only a month after my mom’s passing. And there’s just a little more to it than that.

As a multi-focal contact lens wearer of a certain age, I’m rarely able to make out details of performer’s faces or instruments when I attend a concert. That was the case at Messiah…until the trumpet sounded.

When the bass began to sing, I suddenly realized I could see him very clearly. I thought, Wow. Why can I see that so clearly?

And then I thought about what I had just thought.

Perhaps you think I’m grasping for meaning in a time of grief. Maybe I am, but that is what I experienced.

Living in Awe of Mystery

The story of the resurrection—not just the resurrection of Jesus but the idea that we too shall be changed—is hopeful and awe-inspiring for many. Many others doubt it or flat-out reject it. But no matter where you stand on the matter, can you find a way to live in awe of mystery? Do you believe only what you can explain, or do you accept there is something more?

Without belief and trust in what we cannot understand, we are small, pathetic creatures. But when we dare to take leaps of faith and connect with mystery—with the idea that there is a greater truth and a purpose for our existence—we embody the meaning of the Christmas season: The awesome became accessible to us if we choose to accept it.

A Sign From Mom: The Mourning Dove and the Cross

dove and cross

My mom loved to tell the story of a memory she had from when my nephew Matt was a toddler. Mom and my dad cared for Matt—in fact for all four of my sister’s kids—while my sister and brother-in-law were at work.  She had a favorite memory for each of them.

Her memory for Matt was of a day when a mourning dove was cooing in the yard. Mom pointed to the sky and told Matt to listen for the sound of “the owl.” (Eventually, she realized it was not an owl, but a dove.)

The dove cooed, and Matt asked, “Grammy, if I point to the sky will it do that?”

The night before my Mom passed away, Matt, now 19, had a dream about an owl. Or maybe about a dove. The next day, as our whole family sat with her during her final hours on Earth, my sister told Mom the dove would be our sign.

“Send us a sign,” she whispered in Mom’s ear.

Mom passed away peacefully with her husband, children, and older grandchildren by her side. We’re heartbroken, and as I write this, it’s hard to imagine the pain will go away. But I lean on the words of my dear friend who told me that despite the pain and stress, this experience would also bring us the key to a new kind of love. He is right.

Our Sign

After Mom’s funeral mass, as we left the church and got into our cars for the drive to the cemetery, my sister said aloud, “Mom, you were supposed to send a sign!”

At that moment, she looked up and saw a mourning dove in the sky, “sketched” from clouds.  (“Mom really couldn’t draw,” she joked, though later when she sent me a photo of a mourning dove in flight, I thought it wasn’t such a bad sketch after all.)

mourning dove in flight

A mourning dove in flight

And that wasn’t all. Next to the dove was a giant cross. It followed our cars all the way from the church to the cemetery. Another sign, we’ve decided to believe, that Mom is okay and with God.

Our Mom’s Christian faith was the cornerstone of her life along with her love for her family, friends, and students. So, it’s fitting she’d use the cross along with the dove as our sign. The days ahead will be difficult, but we choose to believe that not only is she with God, but that both she and God will always be with us.




How to Cultivate Passion for Your Life

Last weekend, I attended the second of a year-long series of monthly yoga and aromatherapy workshops at a local studio. The theme this time was passion, so I decided to prepare myself to explore this theme by asking myself the obvious question.

What, exactly, is passion?

After some thought, I decided passion is a strong connection to someone or something—so strong that you lose yourself in the object of your passion. I have a passion for writing, yoga, and The New York Mets, for example. I also have a passion for certain relationships.

The type of passion I’m describing isn’t always there, of course. Sometimes I’m not lost in my writing or I’m watching the clock in yoga class or I turn off the game because the Mets are losing.

And of course there are times when I need a bit of space between myself and a loved one. I was excited about the workshop because, I thought it would be great to discover some tools for cultivating more passion for the people and things I love.

Passion for Everything

To my surprise, Jan Jeremias and Dee Andalkar, the workshop presenters, went a step further with their take on passion. In fact, Jan described something that in a way was the reverse of what I was thinking. She suggested that, rather than think about passion as coming from the things we’re drawn to, we can be passionate about everything.

Really? Everything? Can I really be passionate about doing the laundry or the tedious job of editing a technical document or listening to a loved one rehash a problem for the sixteenth time this week?

Maybe I can. It turns out passion is presence. And when we do things with passion (that is, when we are compassionate), we are simply there to experience those things fully. And when we do that, we come alive.

Here are some ways to cultivate passion for everything in your life:

1. Practice yoga, of course.

To make your yoga practice more about living with passion, do the poses with more presence than ever. Of course, we yogis know being present is a key aspect of the practice, but we really do need to be reminded of this often. So when Jan led us through poses, she made sure we were present by cuing us to slow down, breathe first, and even to add movements purposefully—for instance stretching our arms out to a “T” position and pausing there before reaching them up in high lunge.

Try this when you practice, and you’ll begin to appreciate each pose even more. Then take that off the mat and into your everyday life.

2. Use essential oils.

We were treated to a beautiful essential oil blend called Passion, which is a combination of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, clove, sandalwood, jasmine, vanilla, and damiana leaf.

I couldn’t help noticing most of those ingredients are the comfort spices I associate with autumn. I don’t know if there’s a connection, but I do notice an extra energy for life in the early part of that season. Another oil combination we sampled was ylang ylang and wild orange. This is a simple blend, but its effect is amazing.

3. Chant the mantra “Ang Sang Wahe Guru.”

Dee led workshop participants in this Kundalini Yoga chant that celebrates passion for life. According to Spirit Voyage, the translation of the mantra is, “The dynamic, loving energy of the Infinite Source of All is dancing within my every cell, and is present in my every limb. My individual consciousness merges with the Universal consciousness.”

Every cell. Every limb. It’s hard to think about that and not to have more passion for your life!

4. Be present!

You can’t be passionate about a life you’re not there for. So to connect with this simple truth, we did a short mindful eating exercise. I’ve done this before, and although I usually do make an effort to eat mindfully, it never hurts to be reminded of the power of attention to the simple things in life.

I chose a slice of juicy tangerine and noticed the not-too-sweet burst of citrus flavor that filled my senses when I bit into it, then very slowly chewed it until only the pulp remained to swallow.

A few days after the workshop, as I finish writing about it, I realize I’ve gone through the first part of the week with a noticeable boost in my passion for life. I’ve started two new exciting projects, so that helps, but it’s more the overall feeling of connection to my life that I’m noticing.

When passion begins to wane (I’m human; I know it will), I have these awesome tools of yoga, essential oils, mantra, and mindfulness to turn to. And for that I’m grateful.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

With all the bickering and sometimes outright anger over whether or not it’s appropriate to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, I thought I’d cover both bases. Merry Christmas to you, and if you prefer, Happy Holidays!

I don’t know why people get so bent out of shape about this either way. Look, if I’m going to a birthday party for my nephew, I don’t wish my neighbor a happy birthday, unless I happen to know that it’s his birthday too. But if my neighbor wants to wish me a happy birthday on his wife’s birthday, I’m cool with that too. This is really not something to get upset about if we truly want to keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts.

And speaking of birthdays, that is, after all, what Christmas is. You know that, right? It’s a birthday party, or at least it’s supposed to be. If you’re not celebrating it as such, than don’t be offended when people wish you a generic happy holiday.

So, the birthday boy, as you probably know, is Jesus of Nazareth, a man born a couple thousand years ago, give or take, in the Middle East. Whatever you believe (or don’t believe) about this man, the fact remains that Christmas is a celebration of his birth (though, we know, not his historical birthday).

Jesus was a man on a mission to save humanity. How you interpret that is up to you. For Christians, he was the Savior, which is a bit difficult to explain, so I’m not even going to try.

Over the many years I’ve paid attention to stories about the life of Jesus, I’ve come to believe a few very important things.

Jesus did not intend to start a new religion.

Now don’t misunderstand my point; a great religion grew as a result of his existence on this earth. But Jesus’ goal was more to reform the religion of his followers. They ended up creating a new religion that now has as much need for reform as the one it came from.

This is fine. This is human, and it’s not the main point of Jesus’ life, at least it’s not to me. Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law. We all need laws, or sets of beliefs to live by.

No matter what you believe about Jesus, you cannot deny he was not of this world.

By “not of this world,” I am not, at this moment, addressing whether or not his was God. I’m addressing the fact that he knew peace and happiness do not come from pursuing the things of this world: money, possessions, status, empty relationships, competition, revenge, etc.

Jesus knew that we are all worthy of love; that’s why his main message was love one another. Jesus knew we were created to love, and that most of us spend a lot of time doing anything but that. (And yes, loving ourselves is part of this.)

Jesus was divine.

Jesus was very well tapped into the “greater than us” part of whatever it is that caused us to exist in the first place. He was focused solely on divinity, and he wanted to bring all of us to that place with him. He promised that if we set our sights on entering the kingdom of heaven (the dwelling place of our divine nature), we would be set free from the perils of earthly life.

There are many people who, for whatever reason, do not know a lot about Jesus. If you focus on Jesus (not the religion, but the being), it gets harder to become wrapped up in the war over whose religion is best or “fuller” or whatever we need to believe to convince ourselves we’re on the right path.

You’re on the right path if you love.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

The Yoga of Transition: Reflections on Thursdays with Marla

Last week, I took a Thursday morning yoga class for the last time—not the last time I’ll ever attend yoga on a Thursday morning, but the last time I’ll likely take this class with this teacher.

A week ago, Marla (the teacher) announced that her schedule will be changing after the holidays, and she’ll be teaching on a different day—a day I already attend another yoga class at another studio.

This “shift,” as Marla called it, is part of the unfolding of her path as a healer, and she’ll soon be branching out with new offerings for the community.

This is good news for the community.

Of course I was sad about the class, but it’s not the first time my yoga life has shifted. Years ago, I was told (also around the holidays) that the entire studio I’d been practicing at would be closing, and between then and now, several other classes I’ve attended have ended for one reason or another.

Accepting Change

But part of being a yogi is learning to accept change. When one yogic door closes, another opens.

And there is always more! (That line is borrowed from another teacher whose class I miss.)

As often happens when things change, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve grown as a yogini and as a person over the years since I became serious about my practice and especially about what I’ve learned from practicing with Marla that will remain with me.

Marla is unique. She is so filled with inspiration that you almost have to listen to her without attachment to words. This, I believe, is because she transmits wisdom that is bigger than any words she can use to describe it. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. The teaching is bigger than any words I can use as well.

Here are five awesome things that will stick with me from my Thursdays with Marla.

1. Letting go is doable.

Recently, Marla shared a teaching from Kundalini Yoga that suggests we can have negative thoughts and emotions, but we must let them go after nine seconds!

I think about this often. Of course it sounds like a ridiculously short amount of time, but it’s the intention to let go as quickly as possible that matters. To me, the “nine second rule” is an acknowledgement that we don’t practice yoga to become empty and emotionless. We practice so we can be fully human and at the same time connect with our divine nature.

Part of that practice is learning to feel something and then (when necessary) let go as quickly as possible. When you aim for a seemingly impossible nine seconds, chances are good you’ll get the job done more quickly than you would have otherwise, even if it takes longer than nine seconds!

2. Twists are awesome.

When I think of Marla’s classes, I think of twists, in particular prayer twists, but also “twists” on typical poses. Have you ever twisted in downward dog? If not, you need to take a class with Marla!

The cool thing about all the twisting (other than how great it feels) is you learn how versatile and powerful twisting can be. You can “twist out” negative frustration and you can gracefully navigate your way through the twists and turns of life.

3. “Yay!” is a spiritual word.

Marla’s classes can be intense (in a great way), but then all of a sudden, while she’s guiding you into a somewhat complicated pose and you get there, instead of saying “beautiful!” or “good!” or something more typical of yoga teachers, she’ll say “Yay!” It makes me smile every time because it reflects Marla’s approach to the practice is a celebration of life.

4. We can often do more than we expect to do.

I can’t tell you how many times I was surprised to find myself in a challenging pose (or two or three) in one of Marla’s classes. It’s not that being challenged is surprising, it’s just that Marla’s class is billed as “gentle,” which often suggests “easy.”

But through her gentle guidance, Marla can slyly lead you to do something like crow or side plank on one leg. And you do it. Because you can. (Okay, I still can’t do crow, but I’m getting there.)

5. When we have something to offer, we must not be afraid to put it out there.

Marla’s tirelessness about offering so much in her teaching has made me more confident about doing the same with what I feel called to share. In fact, Marla was one of the first people to read a draft of my Yoga Circles book. And while it’s still a leap of faith for me every time I give the book to someone else, Marla has been an example to me that putting it out there is usually the right thing to do.

I’ll miss Thursdays with Marla, but I look forward to whatever comes next on my yoga journey. I know the shift is happening with intention, and the universe has good things in store for all of us.

Thank you, Marla, for sharing your gifts.

In Baseball and In Life: Sometimes the Outcome Just Sucks!

If you happen to be a New York baseball fan like I am (and not who cheers for that team in the Bronx), you probably had a bit of a broken heart recently when the Mets lost the World Series.

I use the term “lost” loosely, because if you know baseball, and if you watched these games, you might consider “gave away” or “blew” more appropriate terms.

It’s Just Baseball, Right?

Anyone who spends the better part of six months cheering on a baseball team with the emotions of a die-hard fan has probably wondered why these emotions are so strong at times. It’s strange, isn’t it? You know it’s just a game. You know that your real life will go on whether your team wins or loses. You know you have nothing to do with whether or not they win or lose, and you know there’s big marketing behind the hype and drama that draws you in.

And yet you can’t help the fact that somehow it matters. When your team loses the big games, it stings.

The Yoga of Baseball

If you’re also a yogi like I am, when things like this happen, you immediately try to be all yogic about it. After all, yoga gives us many tools for dealing with disappointment, frustration, and loss—the most obvious and appropriate being the law of non-attachment.

Well, you know what fellow New York sports fan yogis (and everyone else)? It’s okay. Go ahead and be sad—and angry—and disappointed. Just for a while. (And yes, keep your real life in perspective.)

No, it didn’t happen for reason. No, there is nothing to be learned or gained from watching a pitcher pitch the game of his life for 8 innings only to blow it within minutes in the top of the ninth. There’s no great life lesson in the fact that your team, which was not expected to make the playoffs much less be in the World Series, had a surprising, fun, and amazing season—and then broke your heart, for a moment, in the end.

It just sucks!

So feel that for a while. Mope, brood, yell. Do whatever you need to do. But just for a while.

Then you can come back and be all yogic about it. If you like, you can try to make sense of it all, because as all baseball fans know, baseball is a lot like life. And as you try to make sense of it all—because baseball is a lot like life—don’t forget to be grateful for the fun, and don’t forget to feel the joy.

Opening Day is only five months away!


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