Selfish Mindfulness

I read this article in the Washington Post — “Mindfulness Would be Good for You if it Weren’t So Selfish,” as essay by psychologist Thomas Joiner.

He says:

Although there are various definitions of mindfulness, a workable one, drawn from some of the most respected practitioners, is the nonjudgmental awareness of the richness, subtlety and variety of the present moment — all of the present moment, not just the self.

Joiner goes on to discuss how true mindfulness is not about emptying the mind or savoring the momentary pleasures but a practice of developing a fuller awareness of each moments vastness and minuteness, developing an attitude of nonjudgmental and humility.

Ah, but then he goes on:

But mindfulness has become pernicious, diluted and distorted by the prevailing narcissism of our time. The problem has somewhat less to do with how it’s practiced and more to do with how it’s promoted. People aren’t necessarily learning bad breathing techniques. But in many cases they are counting on those breathing techniques to deliver almost magical benefits. And, all the while, they are tediously, nonjudgmentally and in the most extreme cases monstrously focused entirely on themselves. That is troublesome for mental health practice and for our larger culture.

I have been “into” mindful meditation off and on for some forty years.  Lately, I have become more disciplined about my practice.  Which is to say, I wanted to hate this article based on its title, thinking it was going to bash mindfulness.  I didn’t hate it entirely.  I have in fact been kind of wondering about some of the points Joiner makes.

Truthfully, what I have been questioning is more related to things like The Secret and the law of attraction where you are supposed to convince yourself you are worthy of, deserve, and should have _________ (money, fame, happiness, etc.) and the universe will provide.  I wonder about the selfishness of that thinking.  Why don’t we all get together and ask the universe for world peace and an end to violence, hunger, war, etc.?

I realized that Joiner was making the same point about mindfulness as a popular trend. So many of the books and articles these days are about promising a key to personal happiness, self-gratification, and self-satisfaction.

Since my introduction to mindful meditation has been through the teachings and philosophy of the Buddha, this pop culture stuff does bother me.  The Buddha did, for example, have the difficult concept of “non self.”  The meditation practice group I attend at present always has the time to discuss and share how any insights that might be attained can be used out in the world to make the world a better place.

But I wasn’t entirely happy with this essay either.  Joiner sited a number of scientific studies, some of which he called rigorous (those that did not support the benefits of mindfulness).  My problem with that has to do with the definition used above.  It’s okay as far as it goes but it does not (as the trendy writing he disparages do not either) take into account that mindfulness is a long term practice.  You are not going to prove anything one way or another by instructing subjects in mindfulness for an hour and then having them perform memory tasks.

Both pop culture gurus and scientists need to take a longer view.

In the meantime: om mani padme hum.



A Salad Recipe

I have a new favorite salad.



Red Cabbage and Apple Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Toss together:

  • 1/2 her of red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp. minced chive
  • (Option addition of my own: some sliced fennel root and some shredded carrot)

I don’t like to use bottled salad dressings so I make my own:

  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • pinch of sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt


And my lunch is served for three or four days.

Sewing Project

I am finding all kinds of things to do to avoid writing lately.  Time to sit down and write? Maybe instead I will:

  • flip through a magazine
  • draw
  • watch the news
  • paint
  • watch a YouTube video about painting
  • read
  • cook — or worse, eat

It’s kind of getting out of hand.  I have to add sewing to my list.  Here is my latest avoidance, recently completed:

My nephew and his wife had a baby girl in July.

My step-grandson and his wife had a baby boy in July, so of course I will have to get started on another crib quilt.  It’s only fair.  Maybe I will get back to the writing next week?

Too Bad to be True

I read that on someone’s blog.  I am sorry I don’t recall whose it was.

I am deeply sorry that such an expression is needed to explain the events in Charlottesville, VA, over the past weekend.

I am appalled beyond comprehension that white supremacists and other hate groups are crawling out of the woodwork.  That they are doing so and siting the green light from the President leaves me broken hearted.

Our country has a metastatic cancer.

I am ashamed of the state of my country.



I had the opportunity to see the Peterborough Players present “The Producers,” a musical by Mel Brooks.  It was absolutely wonderful, so well done.  It’s been a while since I have been to a play although it is something I thoroughly enjoy.

“The Producers” was almost three hours long, but it was so fast paced and entertaining one hardly noticed.  The singing was impressive and the dancing was incredible.  If there was a misstep, I certainly didn’t notice.  The costumes were perfect.  It was funny and just slightly risqué.   It was far from politically correct, but I laughed through the whole thing.

The movie came out in 1967 or 68 and then was redone in 2005.  I didn’t see either movie but the immediacy of watching this on stage (we were in the middle of the fifth row) was a treat for me.

Trailer for the 2005 movie is here.

Lyme Disease

From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention site:

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosedbased on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.  Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to preventLyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well.

Here is a list of the early signs of Lyme disease (Again, from CDC):

Early Signs and Symptoms (3 to 30 days after tick bite)

  • Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
  • Erythema migrans (EM) rash:
    • Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons
    • Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)
    • Expands gradually over a period of days reaching up to 12 inches or more (30 cm) across
    • May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
    • Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance
    • May appear on any area of the body

These are the symptoms I had.  I thought I had the flu until I noticed the rash.  I am glad I did get that rash because I had no memory of being bitten,  The rash got me to the urgent care  — in truth, not because I was so worried about Lyme disease so much as I imagined the tick having burrowed under my skin, which freaked me out.  My symptoms and the rash were enough to prompt the doctor to put me right on a course of doxycycline hyclate.

I am grateful that I did get prompt treatment.

These are symptoms I did not have and don’t expect to have (but I won’t be complacent about it) due to prompt treatment:

Later Signs and Symptoms (days to months after tick bite)

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
  • Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
  • Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme carditis)
  • Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Nerve pain
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Problems with short-term memory

It’s nasty and a growing problem here in Vermont.

Thanks Global Warming. (That’s one theory as to why the tick population has exploded here.)


Lessons on Being Unwell, 2

I finally made the decision to seek out a naturopathic physician in the area to help me deal with GERD.  But the day I made that appointment, oops.  I cam down with the “flu.”

Lesson #2: Never take your health and wellness for granted.

Oh, yes.  I do all the right things.  I exercise, I eat right, I have a social network.  I can be energetic but I can also relax.  I attend to my spiritual needs.  I meditate! I am, let’s face it, freaking invincible!  Until all of a sudden I am body slammed into bed with a fatigue so crushing I really don’t understand what hit me.  I was feverish and then chilled to the core.  I ached.  It felt like the flu,  What can you do about that but drink water and rest, wait it out?  Except after four days, I happened to notice what at first looked like a bad bruise, although it didn’t hurt, on my back.  It grew throughout the day.

I’ll skip all the details and get to the point.  I have Lyme disease from a tick bite I don’t remember getting.  But there have been warnings about the number of ticks and the incidence of Lyme disease having exploded in this area all summer long.

Ironic note: I lived for years next to a several acres field of tall grasses where deer often passed through.  I am sure it was loaded with ticks.  I had a garden where I spent lots of time all summers.  I move into a condo in town where I have no garden to tend and my walks are on paved sidewalks and wham!  Really, take nothing for granted.

to be continued . . .


Lessons of Being Unwell

I have not been feeling well.

Lesson 1: Listen to your body.  

I am notoriously bad at this.  I may not be able to control much in life, but by gosh, I control my body and tell it what to do, not the other way round.  And I am stubborn about not running to doctors “for every little thing.”

So I go along in my pious self-righteous mode until my body has no option but to start clanging warning bells and sending out flashing red warning lights and imposing an audio “Danger! Danger! Crash ahead!” That gets my attention, but too late to avoid the crash.

I have probably mentioned that I have been suffering from GERD, reflux. I had it when I was working in a stressful job, but retirement had been a good cure until last November when it started up again.  The last election was a very bitter pill for me to swallow.  Well, stubbornness made me determined not to let someone else affect my well-being!  Are you kidding me? No, I reject that.  I will push it away!  (Yes, the wisdom of meditation comes slowly to some of us.)

The message my body was sending me was not about control.  (That’s my head dictating to the body.)  It was more along the lines of “Your solar plexus chakra!  Completely shut down! All protective barriers breached!  Taking on waves of negativity! Are you listening yet? Because we can bring out the bells and lights and audio.” The body is so metaphorical, the mind can’t help but roll its eyes.

Pushing against the undesirable or clinging to the desired — the two paths to suffering.

to be continued…



I noticed that the movie Lion had been added to the Netflix line up.  I added it to my list and watched it Friday night.

I remember hearing about it. I knew it was about a boy who was adopted by a couple in Australia and who tries to find his birth family as an adult, but I had forgotten it was based on a true story.

I really enjoyed the movie.  It made me cry.  But while the tears were not in my eyes, Dev Patel is not at all hard to watch and the little boy who played the main character, Saroo, as a five year old was adorable.

A trailer can be seen here.

Poetry in the Garden

I contribute each year to Sundog Poetry because a.) I love to read and to write poetry,  b.) I am a nurturer by nature, and c.) this is an organization that is spearheaded by two women I treasure as friends.

Every summer there is a garden party/reception for those who support the efforts of this organization to bring poetry and poets to Vermont and beyond.  It is hosted at the home of Mary Jane Dickerson, whom I consider my mentor in poetry writing.

She is a poet and also gardener.  Hers gardens are actually a kind of poetry to my eye.

There are a number of people from my old town, where I had a large yard and where I was able to do some gardening, who have complimented my attentions to yard work.  I was neat, but I was not a gardener.  Not like this.