Category Archives: General


I always slow down in the winter, partly from the lack of light but mostly because of the cold.  I do not do well in the cold; my tendency is to curl up into a ball.   This year I have felt an even greater desire than usual to be dormant.  I didn’t want to do anything more than cook and eat and read and maybe do a little knitting.  But now I can feel my sap rising, creative juices beginning to flow.

In the past I would have labeled this laziness or procrastination or some other pejorative.  Now I am feeling much easier about life.   I feel good about allowing myself to flow with the cycles of nature.  There is no real timetable and all things that we do are part of the wonder of living.   I have also been reminded recently that the people we share our days with are the most important, the most wonderful part of life.  Any task can be enjoyable if shared with congenial company.

At the New Year I did not make any resolutions.  I did choose a word for the year or perhaps it chose me.  The word is delight and I have made it a practice to ask myself during the day, what will make this more delightful?  I highly recommend this practice because it causes you to focus on pleasure and joy rather than on all the things that make your eye twitch.

Today I chose to create delight by baking this bread and making this ricotta.  I also mixed some thyme into honey where it will infuse its heady flavor.  Tomorrow I will combine all three things and that too will be delightful.


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Letting Go of Scarcity

It has become apparent to me that my scarcity consciousness runs very deep.  Here are some examples:

A couple of years ago the television set that I’d had since I was in college finally gave up the ghost.  As it was breathing its last I wandered through Best Buy and B&H Photo looking at TV’s to buy.  I was not in the market for some 60″ plasma,  a 19″ flat screen would do me just fine.  But I couldn’t get myself to do it.  Eventually I happened to mention my TV’s imminent demise to my cousin who told me she had a spare- great, I thought, I get a TV for free and I defer its arrival on the trash/recycle heap.  And so I manifested a used TV, almost as old as the one that was dying.  Now, two years later, this TV is starting to show signs of tube failure.

When I’m cooking I will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid using an extra bowl or utensil, even if it means struggling with something that is just wrong for the job.

Though I really enjoy cooking and trying things out, I only do it when I am cooking for others.  For myself I go the simplest, least effort-ful route – after all, it’s just for me.

When I buy new clothes, particularly pretty or slightly fancy pieces, I am loathe to wear them because if I do, I will wear them out sooner.

I neglect repairs around my apartment because fixing them would entail both money and effort.  I tell myself it doesn’t matter, I’m mostly the only one who sees the place.  When I do have people over, I have discomfort about this but not enough to act.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  It’s not just about financial resources, it’s also about time and effort and what I think I am worth.  This feeling of scarcity is not directly related to my actual resources.  In times when I earn a good bit more than I spend I still feel this way.  Two years ago when the TV died I could easily have afforded a new set in the size I wanted but it didn’t feel that way.

The reasons for my feeling this way are numerous and originate in my childhood.  But the reasons only matter in so far as they can help me release these thoughts and the feelings that go with them.  This is the opposite side of the coin from needing stuff to feel good, and it is just as harmful.

This also seems to be of a piece with opening up more in general, of allowing rather than trying to control of seeing life as play rather than struggle.

What to do?

  • Practice mindfulness (its so good for so many things); notice when I am thinking this way and stop.  Ask myself, why are you making this choice?  Is it really necessary?  What would happen if you made a different choice?
  • Practice self-compassion.  If I can’t quite get myself to spend (money, time, effort) know that that is okay, as long as I make the choice deliberately rather than on auto-pilot.
  • Concentrate on how I feel both emotionally and in the body.  Does a choice make me feel small?  Does it make me curl up or open out?
  • Accept help from others without shame.  Know that my worth as a human being is not dependent on material resources or the success of any venture.

Isn’t it interesting that we can feel very confident about one aspect of ourselves and yet undervalue ourselves in others?  I say to myself, and to you: Life is supposed to be enjoyable.  There are no REAL rules about how life should be lived so do it your own way.  You are enough.  There is no way for you to be anything else.

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Filed under General, Healing, Spirit

Cynics Anonymous

Hi,  my name is Sybil and I am a recovering cynic.  It has been about 2 hours since my last cynical thought.

Here at CA we don’t count our success in days but in hours, sometimes in minutes.  I’ve been practicing cynical and negative thinking for most of my life.  It is only in the last couple of years that I have made a concerted effort to change this pattern.

This came up for me again just recently when I watched this TED talk.  It’s wonderful and I loved learning about these marvelous ancient beings but almost immediately I thought: now that people have heard about these beings they’re going to go see them or worse try to take them to sell to some collector and they will be lost.

Really.  That’s what I thought.  I have had this thought before when I’ve been introduced to some natural marvel.  There are those who would say that I am right to think these thoughts, that humans often disappoint.  Read any newspaper or news magazine and you will find this opinion confirmed.

I have three issues with this.  First, the news reports only a tiny fraction of what goes on in the world and they will tend to report that which makes for good copy.  Second, I know for a fact that I feel better when I think positive, kind, and compassionate thoughts – both about others and about myself.  Third, if there is even a tiny possibility that we do really create our own reality with our thoughts then there is also the possibility that constantly thinking nasty thoughts will result in our living in a nasty world and who wants that?

So how do I deal with this.  First and foremost with mindfulness.  I notice when I have this automatic reaction and I stop.  Then I do a little variation of Byron Katie’s Work.  I ask myself, is it true?  Do I know it’s true?  What is the opposite thought?  How am I affected by thinking this thought?  and How would I feel and be if I didn’t think it?

I am also helped by all the wonderful people who spread the word of amazing things that are going on out there.  Here is a sample gleaned in the last couple of days.

A celebration of Bees at Brain Pickings

A community in the UK that is creating an edible landscape.

How you can increase confidence with body posture.

How people from opposite sides of a debate can come together and both listen and speak with respect for each other.

This book.

I love this stuff.  It reminds me that I am not alone in my desire for a world where people act with kindness and compassion and care for all living things.  I believe that we accomplish the most when we keep our eyes on the prize rather than on the obstacles.  So I practice to retrain my brain so it sees that goal more often than it sees the obstacles.  I do believe I am making progress.



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Dream a Little Dream of Me…

I went to a workshop with Robert Moss this past weekend.  He is the Dream man.  That is, he’s written a bunch of books on working with your dreams.  I particularly liked The Secret History of Dreaming.  I had no idea that Harriet Tubman relied on her dreams to guide people safely on the Underground Railroad.  Whether you believe that dreams are messages from your subconscious or messages from the Universe or the Divine it’s worth paying attention.

I’ve been writing down my dreams on and off for several years.  Sometimes I’ll go through a dream drought where I just won’t remember anything for weeks or even months at a time.  But they always come back.

Last night I dreamt that I was giving a party.  The apartment I was in had a roof terrace and people were out there.  However, the weather was turning out hotter than expected.  I went out on the terrace and told everyone they were welcome to take off their shoes and socks and that I had several pairs of shorts people could borrow though I didn’t know how many people would fit in them.

So- just a comment on the hot weather we are having now that it’s deep summer?   Or something else? If it was your dream what would you think it meant?

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Brand Spankin’ New E-Course

I’m so excited I could plotz!  My new e-course, An Herbal Life, launches today!  It’s a 4 week course jam-packed with information on herbs and using them every day for your health and well being.  It starts on July 23 and I can hardly wait.  I love to share what I have learned about herbs and healing and living.  And I love to learn more from everyone I talk to so I’m really looking forward to the discussions we’re going to have as the course goes along.

Why should you take it?  Because you know – down in your bones – that alternative healing practices should not be alternative, they should be the norm.  They used to be.  My grandmother would routinely give me herbal tea when I was feeling sick when I was little.  People have been using plants and other natural means for healing since before we were homo sapiens.

Have you stood in the remedy aisle of the Whole Foods, staring at the rows and rows of bottles, boxes and jars, totally bewildered?  How do you choose?  Where do you start?  It doesn’t have to be that complicated,  not for the every day humps and bumps of life.  In An Herbal Life we are going spend our time in the produce aisle with a little side trip into the spice section.  You will learn about the healing properties of herbs that you’re probably already using – you just haven’t thought of them that way.  Come, get reacquainted with what’s in your kitchen cabinets and crisper drawer.  We’re going to have fun!

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Signs of Summer

As you may know, people did not always think of the equinoxes and solstices and seasonal markers.  That is, the summer solstice was midsummer, not the beginning of summer.  This makes much more sense to me so I have adopted it.  As far as I’m concerned summer began back in the first week of May as many plants come into bloom and the daylight really starts to feel longer.  There are some other markers for the season and this past week one has appeared: strawberries at the farmer’s market.  I am, as some of you certainly know, very particular about my food.  I find that strawberries are often disappointing to me.  I had them in Europe as a child and they were so sweet and so flavorful.  I have not found a strawberry here in the US that compares, even the ones at the farmer’s market.  They are okay, and certainly better than the overgrown watery ones you find at the supermarket but not really great for eating by the handful, the juice dripping down your chin.  So I usually put them in things,  in smoothies or in baked goods.  This weekend I plan to make one of these.  It sounds just right for a summer’s day.  If you are not familiar with the Smitten Kitchen blog I highly recommend browsing through it.  It is a wonderful resource and lots of fun to read.  Then go cook something wonderful.

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No Comparison

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to compare… and then despair.  Terrible.  I know I shouldn’t do it.   I’ve got no idea what that apparently successful and happy person’s life is really like.  Or what they went through to get there or where they might be going.  I’m comparing their outsides to my insides.  Apples and oranges.  And really, so what if they are happy and successful (and younger) than I am?  It has absolutely nothing to do with me or what my life is.  I know this is true but I still do it.  So I’m grateful to Therese Borchard of the Beyond Blue blog for something she posted the other day.  I am re-posting it here.  If it speaks to you, maybe makes you cry just a little, pass it on.


The Fern and the Bamboo

One day I decided to quit…I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality…. I wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God.

“God”, I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”

His answer surprised me.

“Look around”, He said. “Do you see the fern and the bamboo?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

“In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

“In year three there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit. The same in year four.

“Then in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.

Compared to the fern, it was seemingly small and insignificant.

But just six months later, the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.

It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle.

“Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you.

“Don’t compare yourself to others.” He said. “The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful.

“Your time will come”, God said to me. “You will rise high.”

“How high should I rise?” I asked.

“How high will the bamboo rise?” He asked in return.

“As high as it can?” I questioned.

“Yes.” He said, “Give me glory by rising as high as you can.”

I left the forest, realizing that God will never give up on me. And He will never give up on you.

Never regret a day in your life.

Good days give you happiness; bad days give you experiences; both are essential to life.

–Author Unknown

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Happiness First

I may be addicted to TED.  I do not consider this a bad thing.  On the contrary.   I go to the site and sort in various ways until I find something I haven’t heard before that sounds interesting.  Invariably it is just what I need to hear at that moment.  Today I listened to two talks.  They occurred at two different TED events but they are related.

First is this one.  And then I listened to this one.  Now I feel great.  It’s not that I haven’t heard these ideas before but sometimes I need to hear the same thing several times, said in different ways by different people, before it really sinks in to my mind.  As for applying the information, that is often an effort of will.  Repeatedly.  And again. But each time I do it, it becomes just a smidgen easier than the time before.  One day, it might even be completely automatic (I can’t wait for that moment.  Just thinking of it makes me feel beatific.)  Listening to TED talks or reading books or getting out into the park helps a lot.  My advice to you, seek out the positive.  Actively look for good in events and people.  Fill your perception with goodness and beauty every beech leaves

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For the Birders

I usually talk about plants and trees here but I also love to watch birds.  Last spring I receive a wonderful gift in the form of a robin’s nest in the tree right outside my window.  I got to watch the parents build a nest and sit on the eggs.  Once they hatched I got to watch them get fed and grow.  I did not get to see them take flight though.  I could not sit and watch the nest all day.  This year no one has built a nest in that tree but I still get to watch birds up close thanks to the people at the Cornell Ornithology Lab.  They have a number of cameras set up in nests so you can observe the birds up close as they hatch and raise their young.  It is invasive, I know, and I hope the birds do not mind being observed so closely by so many.  It is a great privilege to have this intimate view of life.  Go and watch for a bit then see how you feel.  More relaxed?  Less stressed?  Benevolent toward the world?  This is the power of getting back in touch with nature.

Blue Heron

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Introverts of the World Unite

Kind of an oxymoron.  We introverts do not join up so easily.  But it seems we are finally getting our 15 minutes.  There’s a whole bunch of books out there now that focus on introverts, including Quiet by Susan Cain.  She’s also got a talk on TED.  It turns out there are more of us out there than we knew.  My hope is that all this attention and discussion will lead to greater understanding and greater tolerance for our differences.

I don’t know about you, but I have always felt a little bad that I am not good at small talk, that I can’t start up conversations and make friends easily.  I find it all soooo draining.  I avoid my building’s Holiday Party like the plague and duck out of various other events as soon as I possibly can.  When someone addresses me on the subway I respond in mono-syllables.  Can’t they see I’m trying to read my book?

But they don’t see.  It’s rather like a slightly crooked picture on the wall or a typo in a page of text.  To some of us it is just glaring.  We must go over there and straighten it.  Then there are others who don’t even see it.  Really don’t see it.  I do have a hard time imagining what that is like just as I have a hard time imagining what it must be like to adore chit chat and large crowds.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some wars in the past were started by an introvert and an extrovert being inadvertently insulted by each other.  Seeing things from another’s point of view is an effort and a practice but one that I think is well worth doing.  If we are to create a sustainable future for ourselves we are going to have to be creative and active. We will need all the different skills that are out there.  We must value ourselves and each other, value our differences as much as our commonalities.  My practice is to pay attention, try to determine how someone else sees things, how that person would like to be treated.  Does she want me to talk to her, inquire into her day?  Or does he want me to just say a quick hello and then leave him be?  I’m not trying to change who I am, to become an extrovert around other extroverts, but I am trying to honor their needs.  I have confidence that if we approach others in this way it will spread.  Be the change that you want to see.


Quiet little signs of spring

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