'Tis the season . . . to be mindful

After a rainfilled weekend (our rain catcher measured at 7.5 inches!), I treated myself to a woodsbath yesterday morning and got my much needed dose of balmy wet leaves. I treaded the muddy trail soaked by overflowing lakewater, each foot pressing softly onto the ground trying to avoid my sneaker accidentally sinking. Deep breath, noticing when my left heel followed by my toes touching the earth. Vital exhale, noticing when the right heel of my other foot followed by my toes touching the earth. With every breath, I imagine all my loved ones walking alongside me as we step and admire the almost winter lakeside view -- the trees are bare, and the sopping trails drown in leaves in various shades of toasted ginger strewn all over while patches of flourishing willow moss peek around tree roots. 

As the holidays approach, all kinds of feelings and expectations creep up. Boundaries may need to be set. The greatest gift we can give to ourselves? As many mindful moments as possible. 

So I invite you to go ahead and connect with yourself. Take a breather. Close your eyes or hold a soft gazse. How does your body feel? How's your heart? How's your energy? And breathe again. Scan your body. Start at the top of your head, face, neck, shoulders. Work your way down your arms to your fingers, chest, torso, hips, thighs, legs, feet and down to your toes. Imagine yourself in a favorite place and take a moment to be there. Enjoy your light. 

This gift to ourselves promises to keep giving especially when we are truly present to connect with others. 

Wishing you and yours a winter holiday fillled with mindfulness. 


Let and letting

Life abounds
ever try to catch thunder or a hurricane? 
choke a river & it will find a new groove
resist Life and the ocean surge will swallow us
what can we do but let it all in
the dreams, the fears, failures and triumphs
when sadness and loss grip our hearts
everyday simply becomes being in our truth
choosing to let go of our known ways of being
and letting our inspired Life reveal itself


Always look up

look up -- 
to slowly see the wonder of nature as if for the first time thousands of leaves changing color ever so gingerly slower than a summer's snail greens to golds to pinks to oranges to reds snowflakes will stick to the kitchen window like spring's fallen petals in the rain when we let go of our monkey minds
long enough
to know --
this is the best season of our lives


At the altar

I spent yesterday in an all-day silent retreat with my MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) class. Only one session left. I'd set an intention for the day, not to compare it to my past all-day meditation practices at the Mindfulness Practice Center (Fairfax) and to welcome the day with renewed hope. May we heal this broken world of ours, one sacred breath at a time. 
at the day's altar
i seek the Universe's light
to reflect Life's poetry back to me

at the day's altar 
i offer my conscious breath
grateful to have lived another day

after eight spells
this intimate group of believers
awakens my commitment to
kapwa . . . togetherness

i walk through the window of wonder 
with a deeper practice of sacred breath
and inner connectedness


Tucked in that sweet place

I walked around the lake this morning. As I think of her now, I write by candlelight . . . in her memory.

One year ago, those autumn walks are what got me through my best friend's death. Today, I made sure to let her daughter know that I was thinking of her on her mom's one-year death anniversary. I make sure to share a reflection or two in my monthly letters to her parents. And as I connect with new friends, I am sure to mention her name along with a fond flashback. 

I will look at old photos later and remember our adolescent moments of uproarious laughter, the ones that got us kicked out of Jersey City's Good Times arcade and Pizza Hut at Hudson Mall. The teendom kind that leaves you not embarrassed, but winsome. We didn't know it then, but those were the days . . . when the whole world was warm, and we were blessed and lucky. The loss of one of my dearest friends hurts the most, knowing that her story was not finished. 

Still, I celebrate your wonderfully creative life and most tender strength and know that your story continues through all those who experienced you. 

My dearest Ethel, may you be tucked forever in our hearts. 


Connect to what feels good

Halfway through my MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) course, I've been learning to deepen my mindfulness practice. And I keep trying and trying and trying. On days that my mind doesn't quite settle or clear the way I'd like, I keep trying . . . because it counts. 

Every day is full of pleasant and unpleasant moments as I do a body scan. What is my experience in the moment? Am I aware of the pleasant or unpleasant feelings? How does my body feel as I pay attention to the physical sensations? What moods, feelings and thoughts accompany the moment? What do I think as I write and reflect? 

I keep trying . . . to live mindfully . . . because it feels good. 

For me, the combination of MBSR and at home yoga (yogawithadriene.com) practices, forest bathing, and inspirational messages (from Chara at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9b5uvbYoLsH4T0a4xoP4XA/videos) to live from a place of light and love are the magic medicine I need to recover and be healthful.

I encourage you, dear friend, to give mindfulness a try. Have you had a pleasant or unpleasant experience today? I invite you to scan your body. What happened? Were you aware of the joy or stress in the moment? How did your body physically react? How did you feel in the moment? Can you set an intention for yourself that you may breathe, bless and release in every (relaxed or maddening) moment?

In our journey of modern aging and living, let's make every effort to connect to what feels good and heal this broken world of ours one mindful moment at a time. 


everyday blessed

i breathe
i pray
that i witness
a miracle

i think 
i just want 
to celebrate 
being alive 


Oh, oh, oh it's magic, you know

With the summer as it was, it's been a while since I've taken my last woods bath. So how delicious it was to take my heart for a familiar walk in the woods around the lake and listen to the magic whispers of ancient trees. 

to wander is a gift
to dawdle amidst Eath's wonder is a blessing
i go to my therapist
to be soothed and healed
her poetry enlivens me 
like a glowing honeysuckle white sundress 
that i've never dared to wear before
her name is Nature


Sweet amazing grace

the combination of valium and pre-op anesthetic
is my amazing grace that teaches my heart to fear
and grace my fears relieved

the medical staff asks me 
to place my head on a purple foam rest
cradled i am 
remarkably calm 
as if on my plum yoga blocks
i slide over 
to the operating table
and after that 
i recall nothing -- 

11pm to 2am 

twas supposed to be only an hour-long operation
my mom alone in the waiting room recounts to me -- 
after midnight, all of the lights went out
as she waited and waited and prayed and prayed
for an update

i wake up, i vomit a smidge
the medical staff strips me naked 
and wipes me down thoroughly
warm washcloths along my neck & limbs 
i am aware that this is my second NG tube
and second surgery in a little over a month
june 28th july 31st
oxygen tubes in my nose, catheter 
and other IV tubes in my arms and hands 
(my veins are small) 

post hysterectomy complication
trauma to my body 

21 staples removed
16 pounds lighter
now i'm no longer doubtful, 
of what i'm living for

'tis grace that has brought me safe thus far
i feel so alive and 
feel like a natural woman


Second time around

Our daughter is six years old today. I am one week post-op since my second major abdominal surgery this summer. 

Two major surgeries a month apart. 

I absolutely need a cathartic ugly cry. The kind where I need tissue after tissue to wipe my eyes and blow my nose and takes a long while to stop. It hasn't happened yet. I suspect because I want to be strong for my partner, our daughter and my mom who have all been trooping alongside me since my hysterectomy on June 28th. A. has been doing it all, taking care of N. and home. Mom, who may as well be a saint, slept over and remained with me every night during both of my hospital stays, not to mention the tag teaming cooking and laundry she's done with A. It's so true -- in sickness and in health whether it's my partner or my mother. Despite all the chaos, N. has been self-entertaining and able to roll with every trip back and forth to the hospital. I know it would be absolutely fine to let it all out, but it just hasn't happened yet no matter how many hallmark movies or masterpiece theatre shows I view. I've come close a couple of times only to amount to a tiny well up. 

Admitted to the emergency room on July 31st in the afternoon, I'd not improved at all since I'd been home the first time on the mend -- barely eating, dehydrated and in constant peristaltic pain and gas pressure and unable to sleep. The second surgery lasted longer than expected, but I was out of the operating room by 2am. The chief of trauma surgery had never seen my situation before in her 27 years of experience. More complicated than your typical hernia. My intestines seem to have poked into my layers of stomach wall which were probably already weakened probably by two surgeries given my previous C-section and recent hysterectomy.

I just wanted to be home before my sweet sassy girl's birthday. Before my birthday. And I was -- finally home on August 3rd. 

So here I am sitting for the moment, alone, in a hotel room. We decided to gift N. with an adventuresome local hotel stay complete with Build-A-Bear, pool time, and eat in room service. While my feet and legs are still swollen from all the IV fluids they pumped into me when I was in the hospital, I am deeply grateful to be on a healthful road to recovery this second time around.

Still waiting for my ugly cry. 

And tomorrow morning, I can confidently say . . . I survived 45. 


Body Reset

Two weeks and one day since my scheduled hysterectomy. It's taken me that long to rack up the courage to write about it. Still processing what was supposed to be a two-night stay in the hospital turned into one hellish week that included no sleep (hospital stays are never restful with nursing staff constantly taking around the clock vitals) and a very much undesired nasogastric intubation due to sleeping bowels, otherwise known as ileus, a major post op risk. 

I was supposed to have my surgery end of May, but my original doctor gave birth early, and I had to reschedule with another doctor in the practice. A blessing in disguise, the second doctor, who's much more seasoned, gave it to me straight. His take: Laproscopic hysterectomy was not posisble given the size of my overgrown fibroids and their impact on the positioning of my uterus. Surgery would have to be an abdominal incision. 

The gigantic cross abdominal incision that has erased my c-section scar doesn't bother me so much. It doesn't even hurt much. It's the wavelike peristalsis and enormous gas bubbles in my stomach that give me reason to pause as I make my way through the house gingerly. And my flashbacks to vomitting an entire plastic bowl of bile as the nurses tried to thread through an NG tube (bigger than a straw), which fell out accidentally four hours later. I refused to have it reinserted as it was the most uncomfortable experience I've ever had. It did its job and drained the greenish brown contents of my stomach so that I would stop vomiting.  

Damn post op ileus.

On my last day in the hospital as I hoped to be discharged, Dr. Silas, my surgeon, finally came in. I hadn't seen him since immediately before the surgery. I'd only seen attending residents and others from the practice. I'd been vomiting through the night not from the ileus, but from the exhaustion of not sleeping at all. Looking at the clock every hour from my hospital bed waiting for the sun to come up. I know my body. I grabbed his hand and looked directly into his eyes. "Doc, I absolutely cannot stay in this hospital one more night. I can't sleep here. I need to go home." I was so grateful to be discharged by noon. 

Thankfully Mom was able to carve out and extend her time to support us during and after my hospital stay. In fact, she returns next week when A. returns to work just to keep us company though I should be able to drive N. to music camp by then on my own. I've managed to walk around the bluff a couple of times and accompany N. to our neighborhood playground when the sun's not quite beating down yet. 

I'd looked forward to losing some weight post op. But not like this. As my body resets, I embrace my body's natural healing force to get me to wellness. In this summer's pause, I pray for my spirit's courage and patience in pain, that my body may reset and be retored to its most optimal strength. Among my blessings I count my entire medical team as well as my husband and daughter, who have shown the most graceful and composed vim amidst my recovery. 

Slow and steady wins. I hope.

Dr. Silas showed me a photo of my 16cm+ uterus and overgrown fibroids, one of which was squishy and had to be sent immediately to pathology to be tested for cancer. Thankfully all clear. My uterus was one of the biggest he and his surgical team had ever seen, bigger than originally anticipated pre-op. 

Farewell, Uterus. I look forward to wearing my white summer pants soon. 



Thus far it's been a most passionate June. Between my beloved uncle's unexpected open heart surgery and my daughter's kindergarten wrap-up, what intensity. Because of #familygoals, I shot up on the Amtrak Acela to Stamford (CT) to support my cousins as they, Auntie & Mom waited with baited breath. I am all too familiar with the experience of waiting for your husband to emerge from bypass surgery. Thankfully Uncle was in the best medical care as possible. New heart center with wide crystal windows overlooking Long Island Sound. These are the kinds of like-vacation-luxury hospitals people pay for abroad instead of having their surgeries done stateside. Family members can wait in the peace rooms fully equipped with relaxing massage chairs. Update: Uncle is at home recovering lovely. 

Upon a weekend turnaround, I threw myself into a series of last week kindergarten events -- KinderGames, Camping Under the Stars, Pizza Party, Ice Cream Extravaganza. I took over being Class Mom when one mom had her third baby and the other works full-time outside of the home. What an experience it has been to support N.'s teachers and her class as "Nayla's mom." Here we come, first grade!

Then I have my own upcoming surgery. It was supposed to happen end of May. But my doctor gave birth early, and I had to reschedule, now in 10 days, June 28th. Sometimes the Universe has a strange way of working things out. Had I had my surgery when it was originally scheduled, I would've missed out on N.'s kindergarten wrap-up, and I wouldn't have been able to support my family through the most difficult waiting. 

And I have been waiting the last six months to have a hysterectomy. Relieved no cancer, but necessary. Stay tuned for HysterSister stories. Can't wait to don the white capris with no worries!

To the box turtle who paid us a visit this past Father's Day weekend in our yard:  Grateful for your Spirit in reminding me to walk my path of peace with determination and to stay grounded even in the midst of chaos. 

In the meantime while trying to kick feeling run down and a lingering cough, I have the deepest gratitude for family intimacy, health insurance, my generous and patient Nightingale mom, and incredibly supportive spouse. Thankful everyday for his passionate love, respect and partnership in this wacky adventure called Life. 

Almost 15 years together, happy 13th anniversary, A. 


Tuned in

When I embark on the familiar path from a different entry point, it's as if I'm seeing the woods for the first time. It's the same path, and yet the trees and groundcover seem a bit changed. 

My feet hit the gravel and swelling tree roots, heel then toes, right foot, heel then toes, left foot, one in front of the other, as I try to clear my mind. I notice how the lake grass and woods hug the edge of the water. As I trek around the lake's bend, I bump into alternating scents of honeysuckle, pine, lakewater and tree oil. These are the essences of the woods that embrace me and have become my most treasured grace. 

I make sure to breathe in each tang that contributes to this wondrous bouquet. 

Honeysuckle. Lakewater. Pine. Tree oil. 

Breathe in . . . out. 

Pine. Tree oil. Lakewater. Honeysuckle. 

Breathe in . . . out. 

This natural lush succulence charms me, and I thankfully find myself a little changed too. 


I ❤️ Ethel

You're my Ethel to my Lucy. Have been since we met the summer of 1985. Particular memories continue to pop up on facebook, especially during May, your birthday month. I continue to correspond with your folks as we share our memories of you with each other. So grateful to write letters back and forth just like when we were in college -- you at Euguene Lang, me at Rutgers. 

Our girl, Dev, is just about to start her desert road trip. I believe she's inherited your amazing free and creative spirit. Almost 26 years later (since you've had Dev), I find myself nurturing N.'s free and creative spirit too. When I mention Tita Ethel, N. asks many questions about you and our friendship. 

Happy birthday beyond the stars, my dear brave friend. Feel you everyday on my hikes where the sky touches the lake. You'll always be the Ethel to my Lucy. 


Green 'brellas

During my lakeside hikes, I'd noticed these low to the ground umbrella-like herbs that have been flourishing in the woods. I've imagined the tiniest of creatures darting in and out of these shade plants. Once again these petite parasols caught my attention this morning as the rain settled on their canopies. When I researched these mayapple plants, I learned that they are supposed to bloom with white flowers, and among Native American communities, their medicinal uses include treating stomachaches and warts. 

pullulating groundswell
i see you, mayapples
miniature forest colonies of verdant umbrellas
sending me a mystical message
moment by moment
movement by movement
waiting for your ivory efflorescence to emerge


Shinrin-yoku therapy

I value my daily forest baths along the lake -- abundantly. They save me from daily life's anxieties. The less people on the path, the better. Every morning, I bump into an Asian man who sits on a bench massaging his earlobes and tapping his stress away. He simply perches himself on a bench lakeside, his own personal shinrin-yoku nook. 

As I continue on the path, I consciously take deep breaths . . . in . . . and . . . out. I hike at a reasonable pace as I make my way around the lake. Every so often, I run into patches of fallen pine, and the smell of trees' oil soothes my soul as I gratefully wake up to another day of improving myself and trying to make the world a better place. 

That's all we can do . . . keep trying. As I take notice of how the lake shimmers in the sun or get a glimpse of a bluejay flitting through the branches, for a while I can forget the ugliness in the world and pray that as I heal a little in nature's energy, the world heals a little too. My abundant value of shinrin-yoku supports my hope to contribute eagerly to my community, to keep going.

May you explore your own nature therapy and carve out a time and space for yourself to realize your abundant value in the world. 


Strong shadows

Sweatered, hat & gloves, and winter coated up, I stepped out for my hike around the lake this morning in crisp 30+ degree March wind and caught myself in a moment as I saw the Japanese maple in our front yard and its shadow on our home . . . 

their shadows follow me
in silent pauses 
through memories' years
oh, Dad
oh, Dearest Friend
oh, Lolas & Lolos
oh, Manangs & Manongs
oh, Wanted Children
your steps alongside mine
each stride supports me
as i lean into my breathing space
breathing in love
breathing out hope


Prayer of revolutionary love

may overwhelming feelings of tenderness
transcend paralyzing fears of gun violence
let the true revolution be guided by
amazing feelings of love
let's keep breathing
let's keep hoping
let's keep going
may we demand action and rise up in love


Taking refuge

This past weekend, I attended my monthly day of mindfulness with my sangha. It is always a time for me to reboot from the month's madness. I used to fret that I could only make it to the Mindfulness Practice Center once a month and not on a weekly basis. The stillness itself carries an energy, and I take refuge in the sangha which reminds me that even the most challenging moments help me to refocus and reconnect to myself. 

The truth is, my sangha is the community of people who engage and support me in practicing mindfulness to bring about and maintain awareness. My sangha is also the lake and the woods, whose silence speak to me when I take my daily hikes and ground me in taking root. 
we are the leaves on the tree
we are the waves in the sea
we are the rays in the sun
we are the stars in the sky
we are one

Wishing you all kinds of love today and everyday. May you take refuge in wherever your community of the heart lies. 


Through the rain

Today is day 30. I did it. I have just completed my personal 30-day TRUE challenge Yoga with Adriene, my at home yoga practice. I actually made it to the mat not a couple of times a week as I've been doing for so many years, but every day for the past month. There were days or evenings when I thought, Oh, I'll just skip today and catch up tomorrow. But my partner would urge me, Go now. Get yourself to your mat. That's what discipline is. 

Some days, I struggled. Just like my hikes through the rain. But when finally on the path, I was fine, finding what felt good -- even if it didn't feel immediately great. Same goes with my at home yoga practice. Except it's not just doing poses in the privacy of my own space, unable to compare my body or ability to others positioned around me. It's about struggling through whatever storm's brewing in our community, in the world, in our personal lives. Some days, what has become commonplace news about school gun violence overwhelms me. Another day, it's about my ornery kindergartener . . . or how a few numbers are off on a blood test, and that health concern from a routine physical sends me spiraling into complete worry. And I have to tell myself, Absolutely do not read anything online. Yes, the struggle is real. 

But we have to find what feels good. Like a walk in the rain. Or 20 minutes on the mat. Breathing in love and breathing out hope.  

While I may not have an in-person yogi correcting my every alignment, there's something to be said for a friendly guiding voice that encourages me to find my own grace on and off the mat. Especially when it means venturing out of my comfort zone and being fearless. Because sometimes we just need to engage in a new experience and get to the heart of who we truly are.


Blessed fog

60 plus degrees today. I was thankful to go on a short hike at the melting lake this morning. As I walked through the woods, warm layers met cool ones as if I were breathing in menthol through Nature's pipe. Deep inhale . . . long exhale. My trek through the fog was spiritual, especially when fog is a sort of force reserved for angels beyond. Couldn't help but think of my dear sister*friend who now hangs with the angels. 

where there is no beginning where there is no end
her cold limbs embraced in Her warm Spirit
she fiercely floats
into the mist wherein lies plucky passion