A Disturbing Truth

“Disturbing truth: Risks can’t always be lowered-and trying creates risks of its own.”*

There is a very disturbing truth that each parent must face up to or run the risk of making potentially harmful choices for their children. That truth being: We cannot always protect our children. This is a horrible and terrifying thought and I get why you may not want to hear what I have to say. But, without facing up to one of the harshest realities we as parents will ever face, we risk deluding ourselves and our children. And more to the point, we risk making choices that not only do not work, but that may cause harm.

So, here we go. Oftentimes, parents cite safety as the number one reason to give their children a cell phone. This is especially the case with teens and driving. Driving is an inherently risky proposition, more so for new drivers.The research says that the number one way our teens die an accidental death is in a car crash. And that the number one cause of these accidental deaths is distracted driving. Guess what the number one distraction is? Cell phones. Really, really take that in. This is where, in our attempt to believe we can minimize or eradicate risk, we have created not only more risks, but potentially the very scenario we are trying desperately to avoid.

If you feel that for safety reasons a cell phone is something you would like your child to have, here are a couple of things to consider. One, remember that this is a choice, a preference, something you would “like”, but not an absolute requirement, and more to the point, never a guarantee of safety. This is a luxury and as such it should be kept in its place. Two, if it truly is about safety, why then do our children need smart phones? Why encourage the distraction? Why purchase something with all the bells and whistles which in reality encourages them to be distracted while driving? How does this help insure your child’s safety? It does not. If you feel they need something, make it utilitarian.** They will hate it, but you will have established yourself in the position of the one who understands the risks better than they and as the one who is willing to act on behalf of that knowing.


*From Less Medicine, More Health by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch. Interestingly he is looking at what drives too much medical care. I find many parallels between the over emphasis on technology in healthcare and its rampant presence in our children’s lives.

**I am told that a cell phone without a plan is still able to dial 911. I have also seen phones, usually marketed towards seniors (they will really love you for this one!!) that are only phones. That’s it. No Internet. No texting.

Digging Deeply Enough

A number of years ago I wound up with a crazy rash that covered about 3/4 of my body. The fact that it was unsightly was the least of it. The real problem was that it itched, intensely. Especially at night. After weeks of this I would wake frazzled and insane. I searched under every rock I could find trying to account for this condition. I saw every manner of healer; from an acupuncturist to a well-known dermatologist. From a medicine man to a primary care physician. From energy healers to…you name it. I looked at my diet, my emotions, my past lives, and on and on it went. Nothing seemed to help. It came and went as if it had a mind of its own; a sick, twisted, unexplainable mind.

After several years of this, I came to some basic truths; the fact that healing requires patience, the necessity of meeting the body’s most basic biological needs and the non-negotiable need for self-care born from self-love. For years my acupuncturist had been telling me that in any healing journey you had to dig your well deep enough to find what you were looking for. He explained that most conditions will resolve themselves with the assistance of any approach, and that what mattered most was your willingness to stay with something long enough for it to be helpful. In other words, patience. He equated the journey to digging a well looking for water and that if you kept digging a little and then changing spots, you were going to miss what you were looking for and wind up with a bunch of half dug wells and no water. Which ironically brings me to the other thing he kept telling me; that I needed more water. And for some crazy reason it took years for this truth to kick in. I thought it had to be more complicated than that. Didn’t it? Water just seemed so…anticlimactic somehow. Far too simple, common and obvious to ever be of use. I mean, really, what was happening to me was monumental! It just had to require some very intense, complicated and maybe even expensive and difficult to come by cure or procedure. Right? No, not right. Until the body’s most basic needs for oxygen, water, whole food, sleep, movement, ease and connection are met, you do not know what you are looking at. Period.

And so, during the times when I was “patiently” digging my well, and before I had dug my well deep enough to find the simple solution of water, I learned how to take care of myself. When the rash would flair, I would drop all ideas of cure, all expectations of what should and should not be and would just be with myself. Like being with a baby that would not soothe, I tried to hold myself as well and lovingly as I could. I would place no conditions on me or my skin. Radical self-care was how I thought about it. I would take baths which soothed my raw flesh and I would work to soften the intensities of my mind. I gave up on miracle cures and the idea that healing had to be complicated and external. I gave in. I surrendered. And I got better. In fits and starts at first. And then in whole wonderful clumps.


Each Day We Decide

My yoga teacher once said that each day we choose how we want to feel based on what we eat. Truer words I had never heard. I watch the way this plays out in my own life; whether it be using sugar to knock down feelings that are more than I can bear or the choice to fast from sugar for a month before going on retreat because I want change more than I want to numb out. I see the way my life rises and falls daily based on what I put into my mouth. It is that simple.

Food was my very first consciousness practice. And while initially I began for reasons like losing weight, that slowly but surely evolved into a desire for greater personal and planetary health. And quite unexpectedly, another tremendous change began showing up in my life; I began to think differently. I began to feel differently. Like some invisible force working on me, I began to see myself in a different light, and with that came a very, very different life. Without the food changes I made I would never have had the courage to get out of a lifeless marriage. I would never have had the nerve to let go of a PhD in the 11th hour, after 10 years of work, when I discovered that I was on the wrong path. And I would never have had the energy to make significant changes in our home around how we live. This is the short list.

I was away on retreat recently. And even though there were many, many things to choose from at each meal; a way to satisfy any food craving you were having or food experience that you sought, it tempted me not. Why? Because before I had even left my house, I had already chosen how it was that I wanted to feel. I had already committed to feeling all of my feelings, whatever they might be; joy, grief, connection to All That Is, rage, you name it. And because of this I was very, very systematic, intuitive and thoughtful about what and how much I put into my body. In that sacred time that I had created for myself, I wanted the chance to feel what I was feeling without distortion. Why? Because when it is all said and done, I am better for it. Always.  It has been said that feeling a feeling has never killed anybody, but not feeling what is there, well, we all have our examples.

If this makes sense to you, I encourage you to begin by getting clear about what it is that you want from your life. Then, begin to watch all the ways you sabotage your energy, your self-esteem, your health, your relationships, and your potential with what and how much you put into your mouth. The only way that this does not reduce down to an exercise in self-abuse is to be very, very kind to yourself as you look as clearly and closely as you can at what you are choosing to feel based on how and what you are eating. And while this is not easy, it is that simple.


Home is where it all begins. At its best, home is what nourishes, protects and sustains. Without home, we are lost. That includes all of us; kids and grown-ups alike. The most important question we can ask of our home life is, “How can we create a place that nurtures and protects the real needs of our families?” This is a strenuous and at times confusing question to live into. Maybe that is why so few of us do it. To be sure there are obstacles. We live far from our families of origin and the neighbors we grew up with, leaving us without a sense of continuity and support. We are so busy that often the details of home life and our children’s needs feels like too much of a burden. We are brainwashed 24/7 by marketing efforts that tell us what we need in order to belong, be OK, successful and happy, and that in all actuality often run counter to the truth. And then there are the “experts”. They list out what our children need, which at times can be helpful, but more often than not leave us feeling as though we are constantly trying to catch up and measure up; all the while robbing us of our own internal guidance and common sense. In the meantime, we are forgetting that every child needs an environment that sustains  them. One that transcends the latest advice with its 10 easy steps to a healthy home. A place where their real needs are being met; like an important conversation, a hug, a reminder, a wholesome snack, a limit.

Home is where it all begins. Without this, everything that comes after will be built on shaky and false ground. This is not about being Supermom or a helicopter parent. It is not about being CEO of your kids. Nor is it about turning your child into a project or an extension of yourself. What it is about is turning our homes into sanctuaries; places where our children’s real needs are honored. In our efforts to be part of the Ultimate Rat Race, who is keeping an eye out for the real needs of our children? So many of us are so caught up in the doing and the keeping up with it all that our children are the forgotten causalities. This has dire consequences for them. And for us. In our absences, both literal and emotional, our children have turned to technology to give them what they need in terms of guidance and connection. When this happens, we are putting the life and well-being of our children into the hands of something that does not, cannot, and will never, ever truly care about them. EVER. We are taking a tremendous risk when we ignore the unrecognized and invisible costs associated with allowing technology to be the most important thing in our children’s lives.

Home is where it all begins. At its best, whatever we allow into our homes and therefore  into our children’s lives should be a powerful and congruent reflection of what they truly need and what we value most. Everything else is a distraction at best and a violation at worst. And so I ask you, when was it that we traded the developmental needs of our children and the values of family first for flat screens, Ipods, and X-boxes, all the while deluding ourselves into believing that these are the makings of a good home? Why have we made the technologies a priority over the people we live with and the true needs of our growing children?

Even A Little Bit

I teach from the Kripalu Yoga tradition. Swami Kripalu was a dedicated yogi who came to the United States to visit the ashram one of his students had founded in his honor. It was there that Swami Kripalu gave many talks and stayed far longer than he had anticipated due to the love and dedication of his American students. During these talks he would find ways to take deep yogic practices and philosophies and make them relevant to the day to day.

One of his teachings was from a main text of the tradition which spoke to the idea that even a little bit of practice brings great good and that on this path, no effort is wasted. Imagine that. Deeply. What it is saying is that what you do matters. It is saying that even your attempts matter. It is saying that it does not need to be grand, “liked” or even finished.  This stands in sharp contrast to the world we live in where it seems that the running mantras are: “What I am doing is never enough” and therefore, “I am not enough.” Too many of us feel less than in our attempts to keep up with demands, expectations and schedules that far exceed any human being’s capacities. To look at what we are doing versus what we have not or are not doing is a radical perspective shift; one that requires that we release the harmful striving, let up on the self-criticism and begin to notice the value in our efforts.

It is a wise person who learns to see the truth of who they are; to see not just their shortcomings but also their strengths and contributions. Central to a personal medicine is the capacity to see ourselves fully, taking in our accomplishments in a way that nourishes us and by extension the world. And the paths that get us there are many. It does not matter what you choose, only that you commit to recognizing your efforts in life. It is a literal and metaphorical slight turn of the head.

Try this: As you are drifting towards sleep each night, look over your day. Find one thing that you feel proud of and hover over that. It does not matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Drink it in. Over time this orientation begins to shift the balance away from the perception that you are not enough and that what you do is not enough to a clearer and brighter sense of yourself.

P.S. When I remember to do this, I fall asleep easily and immediately. This is far more empowering than any sleep pill you could ever take; truly effective with no nasty side effects!