Your Guide to Healthy Eating this Holiday Season

If visions of sugar plums aren’t dancing in your head yet, just wait. As December encourages us to stuff our stockings and our bellies, it’s hard to resist all the tempting treats arriving on our doorsteps and adorning our dinner plates. While gatherings may be smaller, gift exchanges virtual and shopping lines shorter, many look […]

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Learning to Stand Again

There come times in our lives when we all must learn to stand again. While it’s natural to experience these periods as sudden awakenings or out of the blue disruptions, I believe that they manifest in subtler ways – sometimes for weeks or months, sometimes for years – until we are forced to confront them at loud and often uncomfortable volumes.

For me, one of these times is now. I can say I didn’t see it coming and that would be true. But in looking back, the collective whispers were calling me to a new way of being over the course of my resistance and desire to seek security in the familiar, however fleeting or fantasy-ridden.

I’m learning that my ways of navigating the world – powering through difficulties with an unwavering optimism and rugged determination to keep my chin up no matter the cost – may no longer serve me. While the consequences of this feel both foreign and expected, I am only beginning to uncover their toll, with a hope that the strength that resides within, that shows up when summoned and when we cannot harness it for ourselves, continues to see me through.

I expect there will be others who can relate: who have ignored the whispers and are now grappling with the cacophony; who have silenced their needs and desires at the expense of meeting others or those of their inner child; who are awakening to the possibilities that their future holds while recognizing the long and weary road that must be walked to reach them.


“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou


My journey is far from over. In fact, this new phase is only just beginning, akin to a caterpillar preparing to nestle in its chrysalis. I am learning to find novel ways of supporting myself, to relax into the uncertainty that transition and upheaval brings. I am learning to create space for the parts that long to be heard. I am learning that comfortable is not equivalent to courageous and that fear needn’t be something we’re afraid of.

For those of you who have navigated seemingly insurmountable difficulties, I invite you to join me. I welcome your open hearts and ears, your insights and empathy, your company and community. For those who find themselves in stormy waters, know that you are not alone. In fact, you never have been. I hope that my experience over the days, weeks, and months ahead will lend itself to a greater sense of transparency, trust, and openness. I hope that from our deepest periods of pain and discomfort will emerge newfound manifestations of love and joy.

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You Are a Work in Progress

After navigating some unexpected hurdles this past week, I now find myself contending with a stronger than usual urge to “catch up” – on writing, on reading, on correspondence, on exercising, on movies – simply, on days seemingly lost. The urge is a familiar one that has grown more prominent as our traditional sense of time and boundaries has largely evaporated over the past several months.

This morning I caught myself rushing through a walk with my dog, nudging her along as she examined each patch of grass and square of sidewalk with the precision and attention to detail of a prominent detective. I had to gently remind myself that there wasn’t anything pressing that I was speeding home to. I let her linger, and in turn, loosened my grip on the minutes as they passed by. I realized that the restrictions I was imposing on our time outdoors together weren’t tied to any external variables but were rather the manifestations of an anxious mind.


I caught myself rushing through a walk with my dog, nudging her along as she examined each patch of grass and square of sidewalk with the precision and attention to detail of a prominent detective.


There’s been a tremendous sense of urgency lately toward maintaining detailed timetables, perfecting morning rituals, juggling work, household, and parenting responsibilities, and maximizing our efficiency. While it’s important to create a sense of structure and predictability in the absence of our normal routines, it can be detrimental when we simultaneously hold ourselves to unrealistic standards or are harsh on ourselves and others when things don’t go according to our meticulously sketched plans.

It’s easy to hold our present lives under a magnifying glass and believe that we’re falling short. But in doing so, we fail to account for the immense disruption and sense of imbalance this time has brought about. Perhaps you’re not experiencing largescale shifts and life as you know it hasn’t been dramatically altered. Even if you’re appreciating some of the novel changes, the cumulative stress and strain of the bygone weeks is hard to deny.


You are not the you of yesterday nor the you of tomorrow.


As you move through the emerging unknowns and find comfort in the familiar, I want to remind you that you are a work in progress. You are not the you of yesterday nor the you of tomorrow. If you’ve set out to master a new skill, let yourself derive a sense of accomplishment from your ambition and desire to grow. If you have a stack of books on your nightstand that’s been collecting dust, remove your expectation to finish them and simply enjoy the experience of getting lost in compelling plotlines and falling in love with relatable characters. If you face a dozen interruptions one day and fail to get anything done from your to-do list, be grateful for your ability to work well under pressure and remind yourself that you can’t always control the days’ outcomes. If you find you’re still in your pajamas at noon and can’t muster up the energy for your usual afternoon run, give yourself a break – you’re human after all, imperfect and deserving of your own care and understanding.


Success doesn’t always look like catching up and keeping up. You are a work in progress, today and every day.


Success doesn’t always look like catching up and keeping up. You are a work in progress, today and every day. This is a gift. It means that you can fall and rise again. It means that you can create a masterpiece and then another. It means that you are always growing, even when it feels like you’ve failed. It means you needn’t worry about writing an ending for a story that is continuously unfolding.

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Where Fear Meets Hope: Stories from Here and There

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T.S. Eliot

From where I sit, in a space that has long been a source of both comfort and yearning and now borders on claustrophobic, the reality of my day-to-day experience is one at which I can only marvel. No two days are exactly the same, and yet, the passing weeks seem more indistinguishable from one another than ever before.

There’s a beauty, a sacredness even, to be found in ritual as our sense of time under lockdown becomes increasingly warped. When we feel the steam of our morning coffee or tea greet our face like a welcome dew and savor each sip that follows, we invite a new kind of presence. Even the simplest acts, like rising from bed or taking a shower, can bestow a sense of harmony with the space around us when done with awareness.

As we settle into uneasy rhythms, our once liberally-exercised freedoms are now escapades into the foreign and forbidden. A walk outside reminds us of nature’s resolve to see us through a new season with an utter disregard for the turmoil that we struggle to quantify and for which we were woefully unprepared. The symphony of birds outside my window provides a familiar soundtrack for spring that I find both grounding and at times disarming. “Don’t you know what’s happening?” I ask. They sing on, ignoring my attempts to reconcile the unfathomable with the expected.

The consequences of our actions are no longer limited to our immediate surroundings. The newfound scale of interdependence we are witnessing is at once frightening and profoundly life-shifting. Our togetherness is staring us in the face like a memory that can’t be forgotten, beckoning us not only to acknowledge, but to act.

This time invites us into the heart of multiple paradoxes. Our contributions seem at once valuable and far from enough, significant and inconsequential. We’re feeling energized and depleted, hopeful and uncertain, connected and alone, desperate and grounded, mindful and unaware, angry and compassionate, striving for some degree of normalcy that only a short time ago might have felt mundane, even stifling.

How do we find our footing as the ground continually shifts beneath us? Last month, as part of my own inquiry into this question, I reached out to my community of friends and invited them to share their responses to a simple question. Today I have the joy of being a weaver of stories, of uniting voices from India, Switzerland, New Zealand, France, England, Canada, and every region of the United States.

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The Power of Choice

As someone who seeks joy from simplicity and is no stranger to the rewards of owning less, I often find purchase decisions overwhelming. Take the grocery store for example: it’s not uncommon to spot me agonizing over ice cream flavors, chocolate chip varieties, or tea blends. Do I want pistachio or salted caramel? Mini or semi-sweet? Mint medley or pure peppermint? Don’t get me started on deciphering among toothpaste brands or picking out the perfect greeting card.

It’s not just grocery stores either. It’s clothing stores, communication stores, app stores, and home goods stores. I can barely decide what book to read next, let alone what color socks to buy.

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Share Your Coping Skills

As we navigate this continued period of increased stress, fear, and uncertainty, I’d like to invite you to share some of the coping skills and resources you’re relying on to bring a little extra light, joy, or laughter to your days. How are you taking care of yourself? What have you found most helpful? I hope that sharing your voice will not only provide a positive outlet for self-expression, but offer the chance to make a difference to those who might be struggling.

Please complete the brief survey by using the link below. You are welcome to do so anonymously if that’s most comfortable. I’ll be compiling responses in a future post that I hope will introduce you to some new ideas or simply serve as an avenue for deeper reflection.

This survey is now closed.

For immediate help managing stress and anxiety, please consider the following resources:

Disaster Distress Helpline
Call 1-800-985-5990

NAMI HelpLine
Text NAMI to 741741

United Way Worldwide
Call 211 from your phone or computer

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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What Story Will You Tell?

It’s Monday, a day often dreaded, that many of us would be heading to the office or ushering the kids out the door after a weekend of playdates, errands, and Sunday brunch with friends. Instead, you might find yourself having to adjust your routine and settle into a new normal. As we contend with school closures, social distancing, and quarantines, we’re being called to change our lives in drastic ways, most of which, we never imagined.

Whether you’ve been blessed with more free time or are having to dial back on work responsibilities to home-school your kids, you might be feeling anxious, restless, giddy, relaxed, or all of the above. You might be reading, working out, playing games, and catching up with old friends more. You might be praying, journaling, and going for walks each day, activities that were once merely aspirational. You might be sitting in silence each night and reminding yourself that we’re all in this together, returning to the familiar mantra, “One day at a time.”

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Have Your Cake and Enjoy it Too

You’ve likely heard the familiar phrase, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” It’s often used when faced with two desirable alternatives that cannot coexist. For instance, you can’t go on vacation and be homebound, or you can’t paint the living room sea green and keep the original Victorian wallpaper.

These are simple examples, but the dilemmas we face are often more complex: you can’t get married and retain your single status; you can’t move to a new city and work in the same office; you can’t cut out sugar from your diet and binge on sweets every night.

While we may not always be able to achieve the best of both worlds, I’d like to propose another option: you can have your cake and enjoy it too.

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The Power of a Good Night’s Sleep

Counting Sheep

For many, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by. We toss and turn, count sheep, fall asleep in front of the TV, snooze our alarm clocks, and struggle to rise and shine when morning comes. Some may turn to white noise machines or even sleeping pills in the hopes of catching some sound shuteye. But often, in order to harness the restorative powers of a full night’s sleep, we have to rethink the daily habits that may be interfering with our nightly rhythms.

In this post, we’ll consider what might be robbing you of your hard-earned zzz’s and how you can get your body back on track. So settle in, dim the lights, and get ready to revolutionize your sleep routine.

How Much Sleep Do I Really Need?

The National Sleep Foundation lays out the following guidelines:

School-age children (age 6-13): 9-11 hours

Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours

Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours

Adults (26-54): 7-9 hours

Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

Note: sleep becomes more fragmented after age 60, so people may effectively sleep in two shifts. In that case, napping can be normal and healthy.

What Gets in the Way of Healthy Sleep Patterns?

There are a number of culprits that may be wreaking havoc on your nightly slumber. Here are some of the most common:

Light at night: Too much light in the evening can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Increased nighttime light exposure has also been linked to health concerns including obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, and gastrointestinal ulcers. You can help program your body to produce melatonin for sleep at the right time of day by getting exposure to daylight during the morning and afternoon. Take a walk outside or sit beside a sunny window.

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A Bright Young Year

With the new year in full swing, many of us are thinking about how we can improve our lives. Whether you want to volunteer more, change your diet, or cut back on screen time, January provides fertile soil for forming new habits and ditching the old.

This year I have some exciting goals in store and am eager to see where they lead. These aren’t radical, life-changing, knock your socks off new directions. In fact, they’ve been brewing for some time, long before the clock struck midnight on January 1st.

These are my soul goals, new ways of living out my values day to day. They’re personally meaningful, achievable, fun, challenging, and intimately connected to the person I want and know myself to be.

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The Wisdom of Our Elders

This article originally appeared on Baltimore’s Child.

What do those in their 60s, 70s and beyond know about living a fulfilling life that too often escapes the understanding of younger minds? Hoping to tap into this wealth of wisdom, I surveyed men and women ranging in age from 60 to 83 years.

What follows are insights from their joys and sorrows, mistakes and triumphs, and decades of witnessing the delicacy of each moment and impermanence of each change.

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25 Days of Gratitude

As another year draws to a close, I’m called to reflect on what I’m grateful for. The autumn and winter seasons naturally evoke feelings of contentment and camaraderie as many of us gather with loved ones to celebrate the joys, growth, and milestones of months past.

No matter how your year has unfolded, take a moment to consider the reasons you have to say thank you. They could be as simple as having fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink or as significant as mending an estranged relationship, seeing your child graduate from college, or embarking on a new business venture.

Over the next few weeks, I invite you to join me in noting what you’re thankful for each day. If you already have an established gratitude practice, encourage a friend to follow suit. Check back often as I tally up the bundle of blessings this month has up her sleeve, and as the end of the year approaches, be present to the small graces that surround you.

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An Insider’s Guide to Self-Compassion

Self-compassion gets a lot of buzz, and for good reason. Pioneered by Dr. Kristin Neff, an Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the term refers to showing yourself the same care and kindness you’d show a close friend. If you find you’re often critical of your faults, have difficulty separating yourself from your negative thoughts when they arise, or feel like you’re alone in your struggles, practicing self-compassion can help.

In this post we’ll explore:

What self-compassion is (and what it’s not)

How self-compassion compares to self-esteem

The benefits of self-compassion

Tips for practicing self-compassion in everyday life

I’ll also share some handy online tools and exercises so you can practice what you’ve learned. So get cozy, grab a cup of tea, and let’s unpack these one by one!

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion arrived on the scene over a decade ago and has been growing in popularity and application ever since to be integrated with practices like mindfulness and meditation. To understand self-compassion, it’s helpful to think about compassion in general. The word compassion translates to “suffer with”, meaning that when you see someone in pain, your heart and mind are inclined to respond with sensitivity, caring, and warmth.

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Ask Yourself This Question Each Morning to Help Your Day Go More Smoothly

As the winter holidays approach, our days seem to move at an increasingly frenetic pace. Shopping lists are made, decorations are put out, online orders are placed, tables are set, and our lists are checked twice, hoping that we haven’t forgotten anything amidst the end-of-year hustle and bustle.

Repetition is a hallmark of holiday traditions. In honoring them year after year, we cherish their inception and fondly recall the mark they’ve made on our lives. The anticipation of what’s to come is what makes them both enjoyable and sacred. New traditions are formed as variations of the old and there’s a comfort in bringing together the familiar with the unestablished.

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Remember Who You Are

Life imparts many lessons. Some are loud and urgent while others are soft and more gradual in their unfolding. All are important. How can we learn to tune into the messages they carry?

One way is by bringing our best selves to whatever we’re doing. This is especially important when we’re faced with a task we don’t like. Whether it’s walking the dog in the rain, washing a sink full of dishes, making a difficult phone call, or showing up to a job that saps us of our energy, we can do it with the same spirit we reserve for more enjoyable pursuits.

Of course this is easier said than done, but there’s much to be gained from recognizing that while the conditions of our life aren’t always favorable, we can condition ourselves to approach them with openness and curiosity.

It’s not unusual to be hard on ourselves when things aren’t going our way. We might blame ourselves, second-guess our actions, or wonder what we did wrong to make things turn out the way they did. Unfortunately, doing so not only raises our stress level, but limits our ability to see the big picture.

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The World is Counting on You to Go After Your Calling

I recently read Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, a beautiful meditation on trusting our experience to guide the way to our true calling. Rather than telling your life what you intend to do with it, Palmer suggests, you must “listen for what it intends to do with you.” Reflecting on his own encounters with self-doubt, deep depression, jubilant triumphs, and unrelenting inner inquiry, he paints a portrait of a personal journey that is far from easy but repeatedly rewarding.

Vocation is defined as, “a type of work that you feel you are suited to doing and to which you give much of your time and energy.” For many, this eschews our understanding of a true calling: something that we not only feel suited to doing, but something that is worthy of our talents, values, and greater sense of purpose.

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Pausing for Peace

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” — Saint Francis de Sales

Tomorrow, September 21, is International Peace Day. According to the United Nations, “The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” This year the theme is “Climate Action for Peace”, drawing attention to the importance of combatting climate change as a way to protect and promote peace worldwide.

In our complex, conflict-ridden world, peace can feel like a difficult objective to attain. From our interpersonal relationships to our international politics, division and discord too often characterize our ways of being. We’re quick to recognize our differences – in our skin color, our wealth, our body shapes, our aspirations – at the expense of that which unites us – our desire to connect, to be seen, to be heard, to be valued.

We rely on our external environment to bring us the inner peace we long for, but fill our surroundings with stimuli designed to ignite our senses and make us second-guess our self-worth. When our circumstances disrupt our sense of stability, we fail to recognize that the sense of calm we seek is readily available to us simply by turning inward.

Peace is not a one-time achievement but an ongoing reflection of how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us. It is present in our words and actions from the moment we rise to the moment we lay our head down to sleep. It is not an impossible aim, but a challenge for continued growth, understanding, and engagement.

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Autumn Awakening

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Soon Mother Nature will reveal her spectacular palette of reds, oranges, golds, and browns while we diligently swap out our shorts and tees for cashmeres and cable knits. Restless children will return to school and shortened daylight hours will signal winter’s approach. Many will give thanks around tables of food as brilliant in color as the season herself, celebrating another year of bounty and blessings.

Autumn has long held pride of place in my heart. I can’t help but anticipate her arrival each year, like that of a close friend who knows you deeply. Her timing impeccable, it’s no accident that she shows up right between summer and winter, a salve for the oppressive heat, a cushion for the cold nights to come.

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The Road to Worthiness is Paved with Imperfection

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” – Brené Brown

Have you ever met someone who exudes confidence, someone who’s so comfortable in their own skin that you can’t help but feel empowered when you’re around them? They don’t always know the right thing to say and you can bet they’ve made errors in judgment before. But their perceived self-worth isn’t diminished by evidence of their imperfections.

Close your eyes and think about what you might say to yourself when you make a mistake. Perhaps you’d degrade yourself for falling short or ruminate on all the things you could have done differently. Maybe you’d convince yourself that you’re worthless, incompetent, or weak. You might even go as far as to say that you don’t deserve love and compassion, at least not from yourself.

In the moments when we most need a little tenderness we quickly become our own worst enemies. Instead of recognizing and acknowledging our inherent goodness, we turn our words into weapons with messages of failure and defeat.

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An Ode to Nature

This article originally appeared on Baltimore STYLE.

As a child, shoes were always optional. I wandered barefoot as often as I could get away with, splashing through welcoming post-rainfall puddles in the driveway and feeling the crisp grass between my toes in the front yard. Covering my feet felt unnaturally restrictive. They longed to be free, exploring the earth beneath them in all its temperatures and textures: cool pavement, warm sand, rough bark, lush moss.

I developed an intimate connection with nature early on, marveling at its tiniest insects and tallest tress. I took comfort in spotting the moon each night and befriended caterpillars each summer as they morphed into butterflies. I was nearly inconsolable when the ant in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” died.

There was no distinction in my mind between play clothes and dress clothes. Whatever I was wearing risked weathering the impact of grass, dirt, wind and rain, sometimes all at once. Nature and I were constant allies, I admiring her handiwork, she replenishing my curiosity.

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Redefining Our Relationship with Technology

The cost of convenience

Our relationship with technology is continuously evolving. How we engage with our smart speakers and our smartphones, our fitness trackers and our thermostats looks different now than it did 10 years ago, and different still from how it will look 10 years from now. An increasing number of Americans own mobile phones and a quarter of adults report they go online “almost constantly.” You don’t have to look hard to find studies on how smartphone use impacts our mental health and well-being, particularly among younger demographics.

With newly advanced capabilities, smartphones bring ease and convenience to our lives. There’s little that can’t be done with a swipe, tap, or click. From navigation and weather reports to camera filters and endless emojis, it can feel as though we’re growing ever more captive to our pocket devices.

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Calling All Bookworms: Summer Edition

Ive always been a voracious reader. From the time I was young, books have been among my steadiest comrades accompanying me through all seasons of life. Nowadays you’ll find my nose buried in a page-turner in checkout lines, waiting rooms, park benches, and comfortable couches. As a writer, I get a rush from finding the perfect word to describe the day’s unfoldings and swoon over syntax. In short, I’m what you might call a word nerd. It should come as no surprise that I start every day with a crossword and have fallen prey to biting off more books than I can chew too many times to count. This summer I’ll be sharing what’s on my reading list, so find a cozy corner, settle in, and stay tuned!

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are — Brené Brown

If you haven’t heard of Brené Brown, it’s time you were acquainted. A self-described “storyteller”, Brown lives up to the name. She’s a leading researcher on shame, authenticity, and belonging, and recently landed her own Netflix special. This is my second time reading this gem and I’m so glad I picked it up again. For the perfectionists and people-pleasers among us, you’ll find yourself relating to Brown’s candid portrayal of her struggle to live authentically while harnessing the courage to see beyond the tales of unworthiness we so often tell ourselves. Drawing on years of research around our desire to fit in, Brown reminds us with her characteristic wit and wisdom what it means to live wholeheartedly and how we can come to better embrace our messy, imperfect selves.

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table — Molly Wizenberg

Meet Molly: food blogger, podcast producer, New York Times bestselling author, and all-around inspiring human. In her first book, Molly seamlessly weaves together memories of her family (her father, affectionately known as “Burg”, and her mother, “Like those impossibly tiny lamps and teacups you find in dollhouses, she inspires a lot of cooing, and though she’s very assertive, people often want to pat her on the head.”) and her journey into adulthood with the recipes that complement each person, period, and place she’s encountered. Another repeat read, this book will leave you simultaneously salivating and wishing the author would invite you to dinner (as much for the delightful conversation as for the famously good food.) At once lyrical and relatable, this is an ideal book to carry along on your commute or curl up with under the shade of a tall tree.

Together Tea — Marjan Kamali

Have you ever finished a book only to wish you could follow along for the next part of the journey? The nostalgia I felt for Marjan Kamali’s colorful characters in the days after I put this book down was strong. More than the story of a mother’s longtime quest to find her daughter the ideal husband, Together Tea centers on an Iranian-American family as they come to better understand their identities while learning to navigate two very different worlds. Kamali masterfully navigates the post-Revolution landscape of Iran, as 25-year-old Mina returns to her roots, reencountering the faces and places that have shaped her life since she was a young girl. A tale of self-discovery, tradition, and belonging, this book pairs perfectly with a cup of tea.

More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) — Elaine Welteroth

Since the release of her first book, Elaine Welteroth has been on fire. And for good reason! As former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, Elaine was the youngest person ever appointed editor-in-chief and in 2012 had been the first African American ever to hold the post of beauty and health director at a Condé Nast publication. In this riveting memoir, Elaine chronicles what it was like finding her identity as a woman of mixed race in predominantly white environments and how she rose through the ranks of media and fashion while challenging the status quo. Imbued with lessons on race, privilege, and relentless determination, this book is a must-read for anyone who’s ever questioned their value or potential.

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The Impersonal and the Intimate: An Unlikely Pairing

There are moments when life feels strangely intimate: when you turn on the radio and your favorite song starts to play; when a newborn curls its tiny fingers around your thumb; when you catch a beautiful sunset on your drive home; when you have just the right amount of change in your purse for a small treat to cure the pangs of hunger; when a stranger compliments your outfit.

And there are moments when life feels unbearably impersonal: when you lose a job you loved; when you sprain your ankle days before the marathon you’ve been training for; when you learn your partner’s been unfaithful; when your computer crashes before you’ve saved your work; when you miss the last train home.

No matter how the events of our lives unfold, the meaning we assign to them and the lessons we derive from them greatly impact how they shape us and ultimately, how we shape the world.

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Lessons in Living and Losing

This article originally appeared on No Sidebar.

This past month I lost a cherished member of my fur family. While the first of its kind, it wasn’t my first encounter with grief and certainly won’t be my last. In some ways, I wish I could shield myself from the pain that accompanies the loss of those we love. Whether sudden or long-anticipated, such absences cut right to the core. We recall our fondest memories in an effort to preserve the life that was and move through our days with a renewed sense of reverence for their simplest moments.

Like a child with an insatiable curiosity, we see the world with fresh eyes. We begin to notice that the things to which we cling most tightly are those we’d be better served by releasing: our insecurity and envy; our failures and regrets; our need for order and control when life continually abides by rules of disorder and entropy.

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The Unclaimed Joy of Waiting

The batter hit the oil-lined pan and I waited, spatula in hand, for tiny bubbles to form. The thought of pancakes had lured me out of bed, tired and hungry. Hoping to hurry the process along, I raised the temperature on the stove eager to kick-start my day.

“When did we become so impatient?” I found myself wondering. There was no real sense of urgency, only my own desire to occupy the seconds as they ticked by rather than lean into the stillness they invited.

How often do we resist the urge to simply be, or fail to notice such opportunities altogether? We grow restless waiting in line, sitting in traffic, or slogging through Thursday with our sights set on Friday.

No matter how much we prioritize, delegate, or simplify, much of our lives will be spent in eager anticipation of what’s next. But the passing days are not defined by the arrival of each new destination or accomplishment they bring, however significant or mundane it may be.

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Starve the Monster, Quench Your Soul

Have you ever mistaken being productive for taking care of yourself? When you should be relaxing with a good read, getting out for a run, catching up with a friend, or hitting the farmers’ market, you find yourself doing anything (and everything) else instead?

The bills need to be paid, dinner needs to be prepped, the dog needs a bath, and that pesky doorknob is loose again. So you hit snooze when your meditation alarm dings and postpone your morning workout, while silently berating yourself for not being in better shape. “I need to sign up for that 10K!” you think, adding it to your mental to-dos.

Soon the entire afternoon’s escaped you and your self-care’s suffered. When you finally crawl into bed at night, your mind races with all the things that need to get done tomorrow. Your one and only thought before drifting off to dreamland is, “I need a vacation.”

Bonus

Curious to learn about the hidden truths behind productivity? Check out my article featured on DailyGood for some surprising insights.

The Empty Promise of Productivity and the Art of Slowing Down

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If You’re Feeling Stuck, Look Inward

If you’ve ever had a time in your life when you’ve felt like giving up, you’re not alone. I’d venture that many, if not most of us, have reached points when we’ve wanted to close the door on a relationship, a longtime goal, a time-consuming project, a career move, or some other aspect of our life for which we simply no longer have the physical energy or mental stamina.

Whether or not we follow through, reaching this stage can be a wake-up call to our senses and our psyche. It can force us to reexamine what we value and what we’re made of, leaving us exhilarated and newly energized or drained and depleted.

Though such choices can be difficult and even painful, they also shape us and our lives in ways that few other experiences can. If we choose to keep going, we gain all that comes from persevering and seeing our aim through to the end. If we choose the opposite, we risk losing out on all the rewards our endeavor may have yielded.

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Three Minutes and a Pair of Socks

This article originally appeared on No Sidebar.

This past November as I was driving home, I came to a familiar intersection where a homeless woman stood with a sign asking for help. I’d seen her numerous times before, but had always stopped short of giving. On this instance, I reached into my wallet and gave her my spare change, mostly pennies, amounting to no more than 15 cents.

As I handed it to her and double checked my car’s various compartments, I apologized that I didn’t have more to give. Instead of disappointment or agitation, she expressed deepfelt gratitude, and thanked me profusely. It didn’t matter whether it was a few pennies or a few dollars, she said. Every little bit helped.

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Meaningful Moments

Time well-spent

As the first month of the new year nears its end, I find myself thinking about its passage and how I’ve spent it. I think about whom I’ve seen or reached out to and where I’ve been. In some ways, I’ve fallen short of my self-expectations, and in others, I’ve surprised myself with what I’ve been able to accomplish in a few short weeks, sometimes in a single day.

Quality over quantity

I’ve always favored quality over quantity: in my relationships, in what I consume, and in nearly everything I set out to do. But one area that remains a challenge is how I spend my time. Where structure fails, distraction takes root; along with idleness and envy, impatience and anticipation.

If we spent our free time reading a few chapters of a new book or going for a run, instead of being at the mercy of each new notification or an excessive list of to-dos, would we feel like our days belonged to us again?

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25 Days of Gratitude

A couple of years ago, I began the tradition of noting what I’m grateful for each day during the month of December. Since then, I’ve tried to make a more regular habit of my gratitude practice, incorporating it into my daily life and weekly reflections. Numerous studies have documented the benefits of paying closer attention to what we’re thankful for (and not just during the holiday season!) This month, I invite you to join me by tracking what you’re grateful for each day. It needn’t be anything elaborate — in fact, it’s often the simplest moments that can bring us the most joy. When we seek ways to show our appreciation, we find them. Invite your family and friends to join you and use it as an opportunity to share the bounty of blessings you encounter. Perhaps you want to take it a step further and spread the ripples of joy by challenging yourself to do a random act of kindness each day or gift your time and talents to those you love. Whatever fills your heart to the brim this holiday season, find time to soak it in and share it. Here are some more ideas to get your gratitude juices flowing!

Take a snapshot of what you’re grateful for each day.

Write a letter to someone who’s inspired you and tell them how they’ve shaped your life.

Say thank you to someone whose invisible efforts often go unnoticed.

Reflect on 5 things you’re grateful for each day, 4 things you’re grateful for each week, 3 things you’re grateful for each month, 2 things you’re grateful for this past year, and 1 thing you’re grateful for right now.

Start a gratitude jar. Write down something you’re grateful for each day on a small slip of paper, fold it up, and stick it in your jar. When the jar is full, empty it out and remind yourself of all the reasons you have to be thankful. (This is a great project for the New Year!)

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Winter Challenge: Small Changes

Finding balance

As the cooler months approach, I find myself seeking out cozy indulgences more and more: hot baths, warm blankets, fresh soups, new reads, soft scarves. Building my winter nest gives me a greater appreciation for this time of year as I gradually grow accustomed to the shortened daylight hours and bitter cold evenings.

The winter season evokes a sense of non-urgency that strongly contrasts with the frenzy ushered in by the holidays that accompany it. On the one hand, we freely give into the lethargy that has become synonymous with this time of year while on the other, we fight to resist the rushing around and familiar pressures it brings.

Where do we find a balance?

In between cookie exchanges and ugly sweater parties, New Year’s countdowns and flight delays, we have the chance to slow down: to examine our daily routines and start experimenting with the changes we’ve long thought about making but not yet enacted.

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The Gift of Giving

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. – Robert Louis Stevenson

It’s natural to judge our lives by what we gain from them. Many of us rate our level of success on our accomplishments: procuring a stable job, buying a home, or starting a family to name but a few. We may rely on even simpler victories to measure how we’re faring: getting out the door on time, working out each day, and keeping our living space tidy.

Early on we’re taught to pursue a life of fulfillment. For some of us this may be through the cultivation of meaningful relationships or the engagement of a much-loved hobby. For others, fulfillment is sought through elevated social status, material wealth, or workplace promotions.

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The Case Against Doing Things Because You Deserve To

Go ahead, you deserve it

How many times have you heard the phrase, “Go ahead, you deserve it”? Maybe after an especially satisfying workout, you tell yourself that you deserve a milkshake, or after a long day of work, that you deserve to put your feet up. Maybe you’re hard on yourself because you believe you deserve to punish yourself for a mistake you made weeks ago and still regret.

So much of how we treat ourselves and interpret our lives’ events can be caught up in what we think we do and don’t deserve. Unfortunately, our experiences don’t always align with these elementary notions of fairness or worthiness.

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Write a Letter (To Yourself!)

There’s a beautiful practice I want to introduce today: writing yourself a letter. I learned about it a few years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. If it sounds silly or strange, I encourage you to keep reading. You don’t have to be an eloquent wordsmith or an experienced writer. All you need is a little motivation, a blank slate, and an open mind.

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A Minimalist’s Guide to Goal-Setting

This article originally appeared on No Sidebar.

Have you ever tried to form a new habit or set a goal for yourself only to lose motivation and give up midway through? Or you might even try to implement several new habits at once and after a successful first few weeks, gradually begin to wane in your progress.

New habits are hard to form. Even the best intentions can be swept away by busy schedules, exhaustion, and overwhelm. Diet and exercise fads come and go, novel mindfulness trends intrigue us, and fresh challenges excite us; but despite our most valiant efforts, we slowly slip back into our old ways.

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Spilling Over

Unapologetically thriving

Within each and every one of us, there is a place of inner stillness from which our thoughts and dreams arise. It’s hard to pinpoint, easily escaping our limited grasp. How do you find this place within yourself? There are many reasons why we may fail to recognize this dwelling space deep inside: anger or discord, shame or embarrassment, worry or fear.

Yet it exists within all of us, and when we access it, we are free from the constraints of that which weighs us down. You may know it as quiet mind or relaxed awareness. It is a place of possibility and ease, contentment and security.

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12 Ways to Start Being Your Own Best Friend

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. – C.S. Lewis

Think about your closest friends. Your friendships may span months, years, or even decades. You might have a dozen best friends you can call on day or night, or maybe your pack has always been small and mighty. Any way you count them, our friends teach us who we are and help us toward who we want to become.

When our life circumstances change, our friends often change with them. Cross-country moves introduce us to new social groups; coupledom expands our inner circles; and parenthood fosters additional bonds. Gone are the days when our closest confidants were just a short drive away. Now, get-togethers are planned months in advance and frequent flier miles are racked up with regularity.

But what about being a good friend to ourselves? We put heart and soul into our sisterhoods (and brotherhoods!), but can forget that it starts with being kind to the fresh face we greet in the mirror each morning.

Self-compassion, or treating yourself with the same kindness as you would a close friend, can radically change the way you relate to yourself. Check out these 12 tips for doling out some serious self-love. And while you’re at it, pass ’em on to a friend!

Spend time getting to know yourself better

How well do you really know yourself? It’s easy to put your best foot forward and forget about the parts you keep hidden. But when they surface (and they always do), you can recognize and accept whatever arises as pieces of your complete, imperfect self. Learn what makes you tick and what makes you cry. What do you crave after a long day at the office? What brings you joy and fulfillment? Dig in, and let yourself marvel at what you uncover.

Focus on your positive traits

You are an abundance. Of good, bad, weak, strong, tender, and tenacious. We all have bad habits and things we’d like to change: about ourselves, our past, even our future. But that doesn’t mean we have to consistently dwell on the negative. Use your faults and weaknesses as stepping stones to create something positive. When your mind wanders back to the negative, remind yourself of what grew from it.

Show yourself compassion

We are naturally compassionate beings, but can be unmoved by, even insensitive to our own suffering. Be patient and gentle with yourself, especially when you’re struggling. This is when we most need a little tenderness and shouldn’t have to look any farther than ourselves to find it.

Do a random act of kindness for yourself

Leave yourself a cheerful Post-it. Eat your lunch outside. Let yourself sleep in. Cook your favorite meal. Take a new route home that intrigues you. Have an impromptu visit with someone you love. No act is too big or too small. Soak up your own thoughtfulness and reap the rewards.

Honor your needs

We often rush to fulfill our wants without focusing on what we’re really needing. If you’re unsatisfied in a particular area of your life, think about what your inner needs are. You may need work that brings you fulfillment, a relationship that lets you feel heard, or a space that reflects your taste and values. No one’s needs are all the same, so don’t let others steer you away from what’s most important to you. By honoring your own needs, you make room to honor all of your talents and strengths that manifest as a result.

Be honest with yourself

Sometimes we have a harder time being honest with ourselves than we do with others. The truths we tell ourselves are the ones we live by, so we better be sure they’re on point. This means knowing when we’ve messed up and when we’ve succeeded. It means trusting our inner voice, but not being afraid to question it from time to time. It means finding room to forgive ourselves when we stray, reflect on our values when they’re challenged, and stand by our convictions when we know they’re worth fighting for.

Learn how to have fun by yourself

Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, it’s important to be comfortable in your own company. Learn to enjoy it! Go sightseeing and travel at your own pace. See a movie with a friend and then see it again by yourself. Take a book to your favorite coffee shop and soak in the sights, sounds, and smells. Experiment and see what else you can come up with.

Realize that you are fundamentally worthy

This one might look easy on the surface, but how often do we live with this in mind? Our self-perceived worth can rise and fall a dozen times a day because we evaluate it based on unstable criteria: a conversation with our partner, an ad on television, a performance review. The truth is, you are as worthy on your best days as you are on your worst. Your worth comes from within, so start owning it because it’s not going anywhere.

Say attentive and affectionate things to yourself (Yes, out loud!)

You say these things to others, so why not to yourself? I’m not suggesting you start having regular conversations aloud with yourself — that’s sure to warrant a few questions! But make a habit of lifting yourself up each day with a compliment or a few words in the morning to boost your spirits before you get out of bed. You’ll be surprised at how natural it feels and how much it can improve the course of your day.

Listen to your body

There will always be pressure to look a certain way as beauty standards are constantly changing. We often forget that societal trends are much less important than our own body’s signals. Make friends with your insecurities and embrace them as part of what makes you whole. When it comes to eating habits and exercise, tune in to what works best for you.

Accept rather than punish yourself

If you’re tempted to punish yourself, you’ve likely already suffered: from an argument, a disappointment, a personal failure, or maybe just a plain rotten day. Think about how you’d treat a friend in the same situation. Maybe you’d encourage them to see their strengths, draw their attention to what’s within their control, or remind them that their pain isn’t permanent. Start doing this for yourself. Recognize when you’re being hard on yourself and change course. It’s easy to accept ourselves when we’re feeling on top of the world, but it’s just as important when we’re feeling run down by it.

Treat yourself

I’ll end with an easy-peasy: treat yourself! Don’t wait until it’s your birthday or until you snag that big promotion. Celebrate you! I love getting gifts for others. Giving is my nature. But I’m reminding myself that in order to give to others, I first have to give to myself. So whether you crave a milkshake or a glass of wine, a day out shopping or a walk in the woods, treat yourself just because. (A pedicure and a pint of ice cream have been known to work wonders for this writer.)

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Letting Go

Silent sit

During a recent silent meditation, I found myself feeling distracted. As the minutes wore on, I wondered how much time was left and felt restless at the thought of sitting in quiet solitude any longer. To my relief, the familiar bell soon rang signaling the end of the practice.

I’ve had this experience during meditation before: just when it starts to feel that I can’t hold my focus any longer, I’m snapped back to attention with a welcome bell tone. Afterward I find myself wishing that I could have stayed focused for the entire duration, without the thought of “This has to be almost finished” entering my mind. Nonetheless, this nagging voice of impatience surfaces again and again.

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A Season to Savor

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings. – Victor Hugo

Summer can bring about a carefree ease like no other season can: the days are longer, work hours are shorter, vacations are frequent, and time outdoors is cherished. By September, as we squeeze out final pool days and picnics, we wonder where the months have gone.

While our minds are free to flit and flutter, they’re far from stress-free. Even the most enticing escapes can bring out our worries and anxieties. Our toes are in the sand, but our minds are often elsewhere.

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When Life Gives You Lemons

No matter how much we plan, prepare, practice, or procrastinate, life can get messy. As Anne Lamott so beautifully captures, All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it is filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.”

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4 Lessons in Living from Man’s Best Friend

This article originally appeared on No Sidebar.

Two years ago, my family expanded.

It started innocently enough: browsing profiles on Petfinder, swooning over portraits of 4-legged playmates that dared me to say no. Nothing softens the heart so much as being met with an expression of wide-eyed wonderment and a wagging tail.

I’d wanted a puppy for a long time, but circumstances had always prevented it: my apartment wasn’t dog-friendly or I was worried about the accompanying expenses. I volunteered at the local animal shelter, took care of family and friends’ companions like they were my own, and patiently waited for my turn to come.

A few years, and several homes and jobs later, I found her: 5 pounds, perky ears, amber eyes, and a soft gaze that made all my troubles disappear.

The runt of the litter, she was described as sweet and affectionate, and well-versed in defending herself against siblings twice her size. Having viewed dozens of profiles in recent weeks, I knew my search was over. I’d always had a soft spot for the most vulnerable, seeing something of myself in their perseverance. Determined to bring her home, I applied right away, made a deposit, and held my breath until I was approved.

My sister, a fellow dog owner and long-time proponent of my expanding my fur family, surprised me with a welcome kit in the mail: a leash and collar, a bed, a sock monkey that squeaked, and a bag of food that far outweighed my soon-to-be companion. Each time I walked past the once-empty coat hook that now held her new accessories, I could barely contain my excitement.

I counted down the weeks to her homecoming and prepared my solo cat of 14 years as best I could. I pored over plushies, chew toys, and tennis balls, and researched the highest-rated. Like I do most new endeavors, I approached this one with unwavering commitment and great devotion.

Nothing could have prepared me for the joy I felt upon first meeting Lyla, nor the immeasurable light and laughter she’s brought to my life since. It’s hard to remember my days before her as she’s become such an integral part of them.

I wake up to her playful pounces and come home to her eager face perched upon the windowsill. I’ve learned more from her about what it means to be present, resilient, and appreciative than I could have imagined, and continue to grow from her gentle way of moving through the world. In a sense, she’s taught me what it means to be human.

We can learn so much from our pets simply by observing them and allowing ourselves to be open to what they have to show us. Here are a few takeaways my time with Lyla has afforded:

1. Find contentment with what you have.

Before Lyla came home, I filled her bed with toys, many of which she took months to grow into. They’ve since all been retired, victims of hours of chewing, and hundreds of squeaks, throws, and tug-of-war episodes. I now keep one or two toys for Lyla at a time and don’t rush out to replace them. She reminds me that the sense of fulfillment brought about by material goods is fleeting and that their value does not compare with that derived from our relationships and leisure time.

2. Dwell in the present.

Our pets don’t think in yesterdays or tomorrows, ruminating on the past, or fretting about the future. They are supreme models of what it means to live in the here and now. I love watching Lyla roll in the grass and chase fireflies, greet other dogs and new humans. Her curiosity drives her and her senses guide her. Witnessing her playful spirit is a reminder of the joy to be sought simply from tuning into each moment as it unfolds.

3. Practice patience.

When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to become discouraged or give up hope altogether. But being around Lyla reminds me that our troubles are only temporary and that we have the freedom to choose how we respond to them. Her good-naturedness is contagious and helps me recognize that our struggles need not define us.

4. Embrace the unknown.

Like most dogs, Lyla loves exploring different routes and chasing new scents. The unfamiliar intrigues her, and she’s not afraid to get a closer look. Though far from fearless, she shows an openness to explore that I admire. The unknown can be frightening, particularly when it threatens our sense of safety and security. But it can also be exciting and rewarding, if we allow ourselves to welcome it in, instead of running from it.

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9 Steps to Soothe a Troubled Mind

One of the hardest things about having a busy mind is knowing how to quiet it. Sometimes it feels like rather than being able to control our thoughts, they in fact, control us: our emotions, our actions, our responses, our motivations, our self-confidence, and what makes us feel whole.

Negative thoughts in particular can be some of the most difficult to contend with, as we quickly find ourselves becoming wrapped up in self-criticism and self-doubt, believing the often-fictitious mental dialogue we perceive as fact. We are incredible thinking machines, capable of generating hundreds of negative thoughts each day, that come to define the way we think about and relate to ourselves.

The more we try to stifle such thoughts, the louder they become. It’s easy to believe that resistance is the easiest path to a quiet mind, but more often than not, the opposite is true. By learning how to acknowledge our negative thoughts, and approach them with compassionate awareness, we can reduce the hold they have on us and find a path toward inner stillness.

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Fresh-Baked Bread & Hand-Picked Flowers

Where do you derive your value from? Is it from the things that fill your living space? Furniture, photos, books, toys. Your job title? Teacher, accountant, freelancer, dog-walker. Maybe it’s from your relationships: parent, brother, godmother, aunt. Or perhaps you arrive at your value simply from how you feel when you wake up in the morning: the better you feel, the higher your worth.

These value markers are like empty seats at the table. We leave them open and put out place settings, hoping they’ll be filled by those we love, familiar faces who make us feel good; but the longer they go unused, the deeper we feel a sense of vacancy that only leaves us wanting more.

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Second Chance Minimalism: Relearning to Live with Less

This article originally appeared on No Sidebar.

I never imagined my journey with minimalism would lead me here:

To living off the bare essentials, to wrestling with a deep craving to share not only my material belongings, but the intricate moments that make up each of my days, to learning that saying no in the short-run can lead to a lot more saying yes in the long-run. I never imagined it, and yet, it’s been one of my greatest teachers and steadiest motivators over the past several years.

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Reflections from an Old Soul

New perspective

Every week, my pup and I go to visit residents at an assisted living facility. Many of them are hard of hearing and few remember our names. Some recall having had pets of their own, but have trouble filling in the details. Yet their joy is apparent, as Lyla patiently sits in their laps, and they gently stroke her.

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The Love You Seek

This article originally appeared on DailyGood.

The love you bear for yourself is never unrequited. You are the generous giver and the sole receiver. You do not have to wonder if your sentiments will be echoed or your kind gestures returned. You need only love yourself fully.

The love we bear for ourselves is guaranteed, each return exceeding its investment. Perhaps you’re longing to experience this kind of love from someone you care about, or maybe your heart aches from loving someone who cannot fully love you back.

The more we seek love like this, the harder we struggle, and the less we come to love ourselves. But who is more worthy of the careful attention and thoughtful affection we so readily dole out on others than the gentle soul that carries us through each day?

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Snapshots

When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises. – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

My pup is about to turn 2. Having adopted her when she was a mere 6 weeks old and no more than 5 pounds, it’s hard to believe. She still has the same wide-eyed curiosity, which I hope she never loses, and the same perky ears, which she still hasn’t grown into, and I expect never will. I like it that way. If I could keep her young forever, I probably would.

Have you ever reached an age, and wished you could stop the hands of time, and celebrate life as a perennial year after year, without adding any extra candles to your cake?

Like with so many of life’s significant moments, we try to remember what things were like before: before we met the person we’d settle down with, before diaper changes and school dances, before we lost someone close to us, before we landed the job we always wanted.

As we get older, it becomes harder to view events of our lives in isolation. We create categories: graduated, moved cross-country, started a new job; got married, bought a new house, had our first child; ran my first 5k, ran my first half-marathon, ran my first marathon. The early, most formative years of our life simply become summed up as “childhood”.

I encountered an article recently that found part of the reason time seems to move so much faster as we get older is because we begin grouping the separate pieces of our experience into a concrete whole. Our minds no longer distinguish a trip to the park as walking around the pond, feeding the ducks, and picnicking in the grass. For a child, each of these components can feel new and different each time. For an adult, they simply become compressed into a familiar outing.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact age at which this starts to happen. For some of us, it might be quite early; for others, not until much later. Or perhaps, if we become better at differentiating the unique parts of our experience, and welcoming how they vary from one time to the next, we can delay this feeling for some time.

I sometimes struggle to remember what it was like before I adopted Lyla. In my mind, she had already been a long time coming. Once I got her, my days were separated into “before” and “after”.

Like with so many of life’s significant moments, we try to remember what things were like before: before we met the person we’d settle down with, before diaper changes and school dances, before we lost someone close to us, before we landed the job we always wanted.

If you ask a child what he did yesterday, he might tell you about something that happened 3 weeks ago. If you ask what he’s doing this weekend, he might look at you as if you’ve asked him to solve a complex math problem. Young children have such a simplistic notion of time, with dozens of moments making up the before and after of each of their days.

They don’t define their lives by the order of its occurrences, but merely by the occurrences themselves. What upset them before naptime may be forgotten by the time they wake up, and what happens this week loses much of its significance by the time the next rolls around.

If you’re longing to remember what life was like before, focus on today. Take a mental snapshot of this moment and hold on to it for now. Before is only the present as defined by the future. So slow down, and savor it.

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Daily Graces

I do not understand the mystery of grace– only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. – Anne Lamott

I was reminded recently of bringing more awareness to the subtle and often overlooked moments of our days, the small graces that can bring us joy or a sense of calm in the midst of chaos, with 2 simple questions: What are the small graces that you are awake to in your life? What practices help you tune into them? Having a daily gratitude practice helps tremendously. I no longer neglect to notice the warmth of the morning sunlight beaming in through the windows or the effortless ease that comes from sipping a hot cup of tea at the end of the day. Rather, I’ve become better able to pause and take these moments in with deep gratitude and a greater feeling of presence.

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Lessons in Resilience: The Stories We Tell and Why They Matter

This article originally appeared on DailyGood.

Have you ever wondered what makes it easier for some to bounce back after a tragedy than others? Or why hundreds facing the same life-changing event wind up on drastically different paths? Imagine a young woman whose childhood was rife with trauma: perhaps she grew up in impoverished conditions, where she experienced chronic abuse, and lacked a proper support system. Now imagine this same young woman went on to earn an advanced degree and developed a nonprofit organization to help youth living in poverty.

Though not often so cut and dried, stories like this are not uncommon. But unfortunately, neither are their counterparts. Imagine this woman had a sister, who began using drugs at an early age, and struggled with addiction and homelessness throughout her life. What about these two women led them to have such strongly contrasting outcomes?

The answer lies not only in the development of resilience in its many forms, but in our personal narratives, or the stories we tell ourselves. Each of these concepts has tremendous impact on the shape our lives take, and what differentiates those who bounce back from those who never fully recover. Let’s unpack them, one by one.

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All of This

Seattle has a reputation for rain. When I first traveled there two years ago, I was lucky enough to be squeezed between two locals on the flight over, full of tips and must-sees for my inaugural visit. When I (inevitably) asked about the weather, the woman to my right confessed that although yes, it did rain most days, it was usually only briefly in the morning or afternoon, preceded or followed by sun. Then, just as the lush green mountaintops and forest firs were coming into view below, she went on to say something I’ll never forget:

Besides, if we didn’t get so much rain, we wouldn’t have all of this.

All of this.

No explanation was needed. I was surrounded by dense woods, trees whose lifespan far surpassed my own, and a mountain backdrop that was a refreshing change of scenery from the industrial landscape I’d left behind. All made possible by year-round rainfall, for which the city is so famous.

The Emerald City is named so for a reason. Wildflowers adorn nearly every sidewalk, highway, and hillside, thriving in every season.

Yet we forget that year-round greenery requires year-round rain. Without it, the Emerald City would cease to be what it is today.

Perhaps too, our lives’ green patches need a steady rainfall to flourish year and year again.

It’s difficult to bear witness to the good that unfolds without acknowledging the storms that came before. If we didn’t get so much rain, we wouldn’t have all of this.

Our days can bring a steady drizzle, or a sudden downpour. And often, before we see new blooms, a seed has already been planted, our roots already strengthened.

We’re not always good at piecing together the weather of our lives. Our fondest memories can quickly disappear when tragedy strikes, just as our rough patches can readily fade when we’re met with good news. Yet the changing seasons of our surroundings are deeply intertwined, each gradually giving way to the next. Long winters prelude mild springs, and cherished summers come to pass.

Like the gardens that catch our eye, we need sun and rain in order to thrive, to enrich our soil.

If you’re in a monsoon season, let in some light. If the sun is shining, be deliberate in your appreciation of all the goodness and beauty that surrounds you.

Whatever your current landscape, find comfort in all the forces that came together to make it so.

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Green Goodness

Around this time last year, I became a vegetarian. I’d always been a big animal lover, and decided it was time that what was on my plate aligned with my personal values. In the years leading up to my choice, I’d told myself that my not eating meat wouldn’t make a difference in the big picture. What impact could it really have? But last year, I felt that regardless of the larger societal benefits, it was important to me, and would make a difference to my own life, and what felt right.

It was an easy transition to make, since meat hadn’t been a significant part of my diet to begin with. After giving it up for Lent, part of what made it so easy for me to continue was how little I missed having meat as part of my meals.

I love fruits and veggies, fresh-baked bread and flavorful cheeses, and my affinity for sweets is greater than that of most humans I know. Being a vegetarian forces me to be a little more creative in the kitchen, which I love. And which brings me to one of the questions I’m most commonly asked: What do you eat?

The same things as you! Mostly. I’ve never been a picky eater, so few things are off limits. I like to switch things up with what I add to my pastas, stir-fries, and sandwiches. I’m still learning how to tailor my grocery trips to my meals, and want to start going to the farmers’ markets more to reap all the rewards of the colorful, local produce.

One of the hardest parts of my switch initially was eating out. I remember going to a pub and being limited to one or two mains and a handful of appetizers. Granted, an English-style pub isn’t the most vegetarian friendly choice!

Another question I often get asked is do you eat dairy? Yep! Eggs, yogurt, cheese… and all the other goodies you’ll find in that aisle. Even more than cooking, I love baking, so haven’t quite warmed up to the idea of cakes and brownies void of butter and eggs. There are plenty of substitutes, and vegan baking has really come into its own, but I don’t plan on making this transition any time soon.

One of the hardest parts of my switch initially was eating out. I remember going to a pub and being limited to one or two mains and a handful of appetizers. Granted, an English-style pub isn’t the most vegetarian friendly choice! But I’ve come to accept that not all restaurants can cater to my diet entirely, and that’s ok.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite staples, and featured recipes to try!

Tempeh: I’ve never liked tofu, but I boarded the tempeh train pretty quickly. This soybean-based protein is having a serious moment, and it’s easy to see why. It crisps up on the outside when you pan-fry it, but stays soft on the inside and has a nice nutty texture. I love using it in stir-fries, but you can also add it to salads, soups, and sandwiches. It’s incredibly easy to work with, which makes it a seamless addition to any meal. Try this Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh for a tasty weeknight dinner.

Beets: Loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients, beets are a must in my fridge. I’ve recently started adding them to my grilled cheese with spinach (try it!), and they also make for a great snack or salad topper. I’ve loved beets since I was little, and it’s a love affair to last a lifetime. Check out this awesome list of 45 beet recipes sure to please your palette!

Mangoes: One of my go-to fruits, the uses for mangoes are endless. I love adding them to my morning oatmeal, or just eating them raw as a snack. Mangoes pack a mega nutrient punch, and make the perfect summer smoothie. I was recently tipped off to Trader Joe’s Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls, and let’s just say, they lived up to the hype. Try this Quinoa Salad with Mango, Lime, & Ginger for a warm weather treat.

Cashews: Cashews are a perfect source of protein, and can bring an extra crunch to salads and grain dishes. Fill up on this Cashew Rice Pilaf that will have you clearing your plate for seconds. (I substitute the chicken broth for veggie broth.)

Apricots: Another childhood favorite, I can’t get enough of these goodies. My all-time favorites are Trader Joe’s Organic Turkish Apricots that I eat by the handful. I usually eat the dried fruit by itself, but it can just as easily be tossed into a salad or dessert. Try these irresistible Apricot Coconut Scones, preferably with a cup of tea.

Zucchini: This versatile vegetable is great year-round, perfect for soups and stews in the cooler months, and salads in the summer. Steamed, baked, grilled, boiled, or fried, there’s little you can’t conquer with it in the kitchen! Try these Healthy Zucchini, Corn, and Tomato Muffins or this Corn and Zucchini Salad with Feta, one of my all-time summer faves.

Mushrooms: I never leave the grocery store without stocking up on mushrooms. My recent favorite item is a blend of crimini, shiitake, and oyster. This powerhouse veggie can go in just about anything, from breakfast to dinner. I love adding them to omelets, sandwiches, stir-fries, pizza, you name it. Try these seriously delicious Baked Eggs with Creamy Greens, Mushrooms, and Cheese.

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A Case for Mondays

Monday blues

Mondays seem to get a bad rap. After weekend lie-ins and quality time with loved ones, it’s easy to see why we’re not exactly eager to rise and shine before the sun’s even up, by the time this dreaded first day of the week rolls around. And roll around it does, often all too quickly.

But I’m here to tell you, Monday-dreaders, how to leave your blues behind and start your week on the right foot.

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Shine On: A Guide to Spring Cleaning

Spring is just around the corner. As the birds sing and flowers bloom, closets will be cleaned out, shelves dusted, and belongings donated, all in the name of a fresh start. I love a good spring clean. Nothing puts me in the mood for warmer days like opening all the windows, turning on some good tunes, and hunkering down for a day of scrubbing, polishing, and perfecting.

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Dream a Little Dream

Whose dream are you living? It’s a question that’s been tossing around my mind recently, and an important one to ask.

Our dreams can take different shape throughout our lives. When we’re young, our minds are filled with the impossible: flying, invisibility, time travel. We soon reel in our active imaginations and set our sights on more realistic aspirations: owning a home, starting a family, traveling to faraway places.

Some of us dream of having more free time, and let our minds linger on how we would spend it. While others dream of a bigger home, a better paying job, or an easier commute.

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Untapped Potential

Quality over quantity

I recently encountered an article about not buying anything new for a whole year. It’s actually a practice that became familiar to me, not out of inspiration or thirst for a challenge, but out of sheer necessity. Over the past year, I brought very few new items into my home, other than replacing my essentials. It’s not that I wasn’t tempted by tech products and kitchen gadgets and the latest fashion trends; I simply couldn’t afford the price tags.

Bonus

Looking to learn more about minimalism? Becoming Minimalist is a great place to start.

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From Values to Volition

What are your goals for 2018? Maybe you want to develop a new exercise routine, meditation practice, or volunteer more. Maybe your goals are more abstract: listen deeply, connect authentically, show yourself compassion. Whatever your aspirations may be as we embark upon a new year, it’s important that you first get to know your values.

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A Year’s Learnings

It’s been another full year, one of growth, gratitude, transformation, and resiliency. 2018 is just a few days away, and I’m looking forward to seeing what it has in store. It feels good to enter the New Year with confidence and anticipation. As it approaches, allow yourself to reflect on your successes of the past year, big and small, and all the ways you continue to grow into the self you desire to be. Think of all the lives you touched, risks you took, goals you achieved, and setbacks you learned from. What stands out to you? Here are some of my most powerful learnings of the past 12 months.

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Early Bird

It can be hard to develop a morning routine. I’ve read a lot about people who devote the early morning hours to meditating, writing, exercising, reading, or merely embracing the rare peace and quiet that prevails before sunrise.

I’ve never been one of these people.

As much as I’d like to harness the power of the early bird, waking before dawn is not something that comes naturally.

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25 Days of Gratitude

In keeping with tradition, I’m reflecting on what I’m grateful for this month. It can be so easy to lose sight of the simple blessings that surround us each day: warmth, kind words, good health, a home-cooked meal. Set an intention to notice the things that you often take for granted, and be open to the small ways gratitude can dramatically transform your days.

Bonus

Learn more about one of my favorite practices, keeping a gratitude journal!

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Calling All Bookworms

If you’re like me, then you know nothing beats curling up with a good book on a cool weather day, preferably with a warm drink in hand. In the eternal words of C.S. Lewis, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” So grab your favorite mug and stay tuned to see what’s on my reading list this winter!

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are — Brené Brown

A leading researcher on shame, authenticity, and belonging, Brown seamlessly weaves in tales of her own struggles with perfectionism and people-pleasing, with years of research around our struggle to fit in without compromising our unique, “wholehearted” selves. Brown is a natural storyteller, and will make you say “Aha!” and “I’m not the only one?” in this thoughtfully candid page-turner. I just finished it and like a good conversation, am already looking forward to starting it again.

In the eternal words of C.S. Lewis, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

The Best Buddhist Writing 2011 — Melvin McLeod and Editors of the Shambhala Sun

I first encountered this book in a meditation yoga class a few years ago, and didn’t pick it up again until last month. A collection of writings by leaders in the tradition, it’s enlightening, informative, and thought-provoking. A must-read for meditators, or anyone looking to bring a little more calm into their lives. Like all short story collections, some chapters may speak to you more than others. Read at your leisure, and don’t be afraid to skip around.

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun — Gretchen Rubin

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. Rubin’s practical wisdom, humorous anecdotes, and gleanings from some of her greatest teachers, invite readers to challenge their preconceived notions of happiness, and cultivate practices to achieve the all-too-fleeting state of being. Lighthearted and engaging, Rubin’s style pairs well with the research she includes. Reflections that initially seem intuitive are explored to reveal deeper meaning, and will leave you happily engrossed page after page.

Unaccustomed Earth — Jhumpa Lahiri

Author of The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri has a way with words, easing the reader into the worlds of her characters with descriptive flair. In this short story collection, Lahiri brilliantly reveals the troubles and insecurities we hide beneath polished exteriors, and the unique, often unseen ways in which our close relationships create room to grow, retreat, and find comfort in the familiar. I loved not knowing where each story would lead, and while not always feel-good, the endings were never disappointing.

The Rosie Project — Graeme Simpson

If you’re looking to get lost in a lighthearted, laugh-out-loud, memorable read, you’re in luck. This one’s been on my list for some time, and I finally got around to listening to it (thanks, OverDrive!), finishing it in a record 3 days. Hilarity ensues when altogether socially inept Don Tillman embarks on the Wife Project to find the perfect partner. Enter, Rosie, an imperfect rule-bender who enlists Don’s help on a not-so-small project of her own. Thoroughly funny, heartwarming, and refreshingly insightful, this book quickly draws you in and doesn’t slow down. If you like it as much as I do, you’ll be pleased to hear, there’s a sequel.

How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life — Melissa Hellstern

A timeless icon, Audrey Hepburn lived with grace, style, poise, and elegance. This book has been part of my collection for some time, and it was worth a refresher to go back and read about the way she moved through the world with a rare kindness, sense of humor, and considerable thoughtfulness. One of the features I love about this book is the inclusion of quotes from Audrey herself, and from those with whom she was closely acquainted. To know Audrey, was to love her. If you’re looking for an intimate portrait of a woman whose beauty was surpassed only by her genuine spirit, this one’s for you.

Small Great Things — Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult bravely tackles prejudice, race, and privilege, in this gripping novel that will leave you replaying its plot in your mind long after you’ve put it down. Told from the perspectives of three lead characters, Picoult gives an intimate and eye-opening glimpse into the ways our attitudes about race shape our identities, and the advantages, disadvantages, and pressures we face. Provocative and raw, this book kept me up into the wee hours of the night, and is one that belongs on your nightstand. (I highly recommend the audio version, which brings this masterpiece to life.)

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No Guarantees

The only thing that is constant is change. – Heraclitus

I don’t remember where or when I first encountered this phrase. I likely brushed it off, not giving full thought to its meaning or relevance. It felt like an oversimplification, a philosopher’s attempt at making sense of life’s persistent ebb and flow. Now, it’s an invitation to make my stomach churn, unsettled by a notion that’s constantly reaffirming itself.

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Rabbit, Rabbit

Rabbit, rabbit. Make these your first words upon waking the first of each month, and tradition says good luck will follow. Naturally, when I learned this, I said the phrase aloud once, then again, and again, hoping to squeeze out all the good karma I could.

In case you missed it

We can all use a reminder to be more mindful, especially when it comes to our digital devices. Check out my latest article featured on DailyGood on how we can approach our media use with greater awareness.

Mind the Stream: Where Mindfulness and Technology Meet

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Waiting Game

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. – T.S. Eliot

Worth the wait. It’s an expression I’ve heard frequently lately, and have been thinking a lot about: what does it mean? Can it provide needed solace? What, exactly, are we waiting for?

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Seeking Beauty

Grounding

I’ve always felt a strong connection to nature. To this day, my heart sings at the sound of rushing water or raindrops trickling down window panes. A simple morning sun ray as the earth awakens from her slumber can put a smile on my face before my eyes open to its warmth.

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Second Chance Strawberries

This morning I had a cake flop. Maybe it was the recipe, maybe it was a few harmless substitutions. I can’t say for sure. 350 degrees and 45 minutes later, I poured the batter out and tried to get on with my day, not wanting to think about the time I had spent that left me with an empty cake pan and a sink full of dishes.

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The Unhurried Alternative

La vie est faite de petits bonheurs. – French proverb

These days, busyness is often worn as a badge of honor. Products that promise efficiency and encourage multitasking depend on it. As does the ladder toward contemporary notions of success and achievement. But there’s something to be said for the unhurried life, that leaves hours unfilled and minutes unstructured.

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A to B

It’s tempting to go through life believing that we have control over the way things turn out, that we can repeatedly stack the odds in our favor. Sometimes we can. If you train hard, you’re likely to achieve a strong finish time in a race. If you save your earnings, you can afford small indulgences.


But what about the times when an injury forces you to sit out, or an emergency requires you to spend your hard-earned savings in a way other than you intended?

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Finding Joy

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. – Marianne Williamson

It’s easy to mistake the things that bring us happiness with the things that we think will. You can fill your home with modern conveniences and upgrade your gadgets, but the temporary sense of fulfillment this brings is often short-lived.

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5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Unless you hail from somewhere that’s warm year-round (in which case, let’s be friends), the winter months can bring about a longing for sunnier days and a restlessness that even a Netflix marathon can’t easily cure. Here are 5 ways to keep the winter blues at bay, without breaking the bank or moving to the tropics.

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More Than Miles

The best part of a new year is its onset. Like an unworn item that hangs in our closet or the start of a job we worked so hard to obtain, we appreciate it most in its early stages. Maybe you’ve made resolutions or maybe you haven’t. Maybe this is going to be the year that you finally start exercising more or take up a hobby that’s always intrigued you.

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25 Days of Gratitude

As Christmas approaches this year, I’m reflecting on what I’m grateful for. What brings you joy each day? Think about what gifts you can give to yourself as you prepare to give to others. More time to do what you love, rest, good company, laughter? Stay tuned, and take a moment during the hustle and bustle to remember what you’re most thankful for.

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To Live

May you live every day of your life. – Jonathan Swift

I love after-breakfast time, when 3 hungry mouths have been fed, and I can crawl back into bed, tea in hand, sunlight beaming through the open blinds. For these quiet moments, I’m just living. My mind, free of wandering thoughts and worries, is consumed only by the day’s potential. Sometimes, it’s quiet enough to lull me back to sleep, a temptation few of us are immune to. Others, morning peace is fleeting, here one minute, gone the next.

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Imprints

Her joy is immeasurable. Curiosity drives her, and her senses guide her. She pounces on leaves, chews a stick, scratches an itch. A few steps more and she rolls down the hill, swept up in dirt and grass. Her playful spirit is contagious. Ants go by. She watches intently.

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Why Letting Go Isn’t Enough

We hear a lot about letting go: of bad habits, unhealthy relationships, high expectations, forgotten yesterdays. Everything from our bookshelves to our doctors’ offices fills our minds with the untapped benefits of such release. There’s a steady stream of thought on that which we should repel like insects, but where’s the dialogue surrounding what our lives attract?

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Like it Matters

On our best days, we live like it matters. We give our bodies the attention and care they need and deserve. We nurture our relationships. We focus on what we have, instead of what we lack. To do so takes discipline and present moment awareness. Most of all, it takes willingness to believe that each of our days makes a difference, even when it feels like they may not.

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Toward Impermenance

Many, if not most things as we know them fail to maintain their present form. In some ways, this is a gift: relationships blossom, work becomes more meaningful, and we come to know ourselves in deeper ways. But change, for better or worse, can bring about a sense of nostalgia for what was and resistance to what is.

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Departures

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. – Miriam Beard

Like raindrops

The measurement of time rarely seems to correspond to the way in which it moves. Minutes can trickle down like raindrops, while weeks can begin and end with the speed of revolving doors. Having traveled among three time zones in nine days, a trip I spent months anticipating has come to a close, its passage failing to take on a logical sequence in my mind.

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Morning Groceries

Extra zzz’s

Don’t ask me when I became someone who goes grocery shopping before 8 a.m. On a Sunday. I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was the extra hour, bestowed upon me by the heavenly sleep gods (or the end of daylight saving time), that filled me with a spark of ambition to conquer the world. Or at least the first half of my day.

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Another Year Older, Another Year Wiser

Lewis Carroll wrote, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” On this birthday, for that I am grateful: for all the yesterdays that have carried me to where I am today, and for all the questions that remain to be asked.

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