The Monster in the Closet


Every December I go to the city to see my oncologist and to get scans done. It is a gruesome process as my cells seem to remember other times when I was not as healthy, or times when I did not have as much faith in my body as I do now. Yet, the whole process makes me feel unhealthy, and most important it shakes my faith. Every December is like opening the door to face my own monster in the closet; the one I thought I would eventually stop fearing when I grew up.

I’m not sure if it’s the memories of being there in that medical center, the smells, the too well-known routine. Or if it’s the whole industry, the forms you have to fill out with the same information again and again. Or the blood work. Or the discourse about diagnosis: “By the way, you have cancer, you still have cancer, and you will always have cancer even if you do not have cancer in this precise moment.” That makes me sick to my stomach. Oh gee, thanks for the reminder, I have honestly forgotten!

In 2011, I was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer, which immediately put me at “stage four.” That was after 10 years of being blissfully in what the establishment calls remission, since my very first diagnosis was in 2001 and I was just “stage one” then. (Was it really blissful?)

Now, I have been tumor free for several years, though as my oncologist likes to remind me, the fact that the scans can’t detect any tumor doesn’t mean cancer cells are not swirling all over the body. Because, according to her, they are. Great! My stage four cancer has become a systemic disease. Her words not mine. And one that I should be treating (with poisonous medications) forever and ever, and ever. Whatever that means.

How do you respond to such a categorical statement? Well, let me remind you, whoever YOU are, that there are cancer cells swirling around our bodies all the time anyhow. And the fact that in my past I had creatively activated them does not mean that it is in my future. That is the faith part. And I have grown to know my body to realize she likes to be healthy, and has always guided me to what is best for us. And this is a fact.

We live in constant fear. We live in a society that is driven by fear, and profits from it. No wonder our liver, our digestive system, and our kidneys are out of sorts. We constantly make decisions based on the unlikely probabilities of the worst. From the insurance we purchase to the medications we take – and I am not only talking about health insurance or Tylenol. I am talking about life, house, and car, and trip insurance, just in case, because we just don’t know. And even the three-year extended guarantee that we purchase for that electronic toy we will give our kids this Christmas. She will eventually break it, so I better get my money’s worth. We assume the worst, we expect the worst, and then we are flabbergasted when we get the worst.

What if we say NO? What if we start to believe that the best is going to happen. What if we believe that everything happens for a reason, and we can make reason of whatever happens for good. What if we start looking at the body as the best part of ourselves, our protector, the perfect organism that it is, and listen to her, and take care of her, and love her, and stop judging her, and treat her respectfully. What if we do not wait until we are in our sixties to start saying “no.” No to the energy-sucking parties of the season. No to the super costly seasonal family trips. No to the consumerism that promises happiness yet delivers misery and bankruptcy. No to the stress of the merry jolly Christmas, or happy Hanukah, or whatever it is that you inherited as celebration. What if we say no and mean it.

What if I keep my faith in my beautiful body, and rest, and smile instead of crying, trust instead of doubting, sleep instead of worrying, relax instead of making lists of unwanted things to do? What if, like nature, I save my energy during winter and darkness, and become strong and flexible like wood, and powerful and malleable like water? What if I keep healing myself and my self, and do not pay attention to the same drag-me-down-kill-me-now discourse my lovely doctor has to tell me? Because it is what she does, and she has to be responsible and follow protocol, yet it is the same words for everybody: despite age, race, religion, creed, conditions, situation, glucose levels, plasma levels, cholesterol, etc., etc….

What if I open the closet door and hug my monster, and love her, and wish her well, and let her go, this time for good?

Change can be paralyzing…

I started this blog with the hope of writing two (ok, one!) entry a month during my sabbatical year. A little bit of writing and a little bit of resting seemed like a good balance. I did not want my inspirational juice to go dry or my readers to forget about me (less than one entry a month would have done that). Yet I also wanted to rest, which is what a sabbatical should be about (after all, the word implies an abstinence from work).

However, around February, my rhythm stopped. My world was a bit turned upside down by the possibility of “change,” and I went into “waiting” mode. That is why I have not been posting since. I am back now to fix that, in the midst of changing, which is happening all the time whether we want it or not.

To summarize what kept me away from my blog for around three months: I won’t bore you with details, let me just say that we considered the possibilities of new jobs and a cross-country move from north to south. Yes, the promise of sunny, warmer weather, warm fresh tortillas all year round, and close proximity to family and friends made it very tantalizing. Decisions needed to be made, and that was the hard part.

But what did I really want? Was a great opportunity knocking at my door and I was being too lazy to get up and open it? Or was the shimmering object further down the road just a mirage? I could not decide if “the grass is greener on the other side” was at the root of our temptation to pack and move, or if fear of change was the grounding reason to stay put. Of course, there were all the other more insignificant minor details of money and job security and what not. But at the root of my paralyzing indecision were not the details of the overall package, but the feeling of being out of control and making a mistake.

We all know the things we need to change to be healthier, to have a better day-to-day existence. We all could do with little changes in our lives. But why is it so hard to change our ways of being? Why do we resist it so much, even when we know the benefits it could bring?

Spring is the time of the year when everything in nature is changing. It is a time for regeneration and new beginnings. From my Qigong training I have learned that to be healthy I have to go with the flow and, most important, not go against the natural flow of what’s going on in nature. How was I to renew my spirit if I was feeling immobilized by the possibilities of change during the spring?

I think of myself as someone flexible, easy going, someone who likes to explore ideas, and who can change her mind easily if presented with good arguments. But what I think of myself, and what my nature truly is, are not necessarily in line with each other. My brother-in-law told me (well, told us: a room full of “accomplished” family members–whatever “accomplished” may mean) that we were all type A controlling freaks­: competitive, highly organized, ambitious, impatient . . . you get the idea. And maybe there is some truth to that. Being out of control, in a chaotic environment, not knowing what is going to happen next, is not something I feel comfortable with.

Life is chaotic, unpredictable, and again and again, it shows us that we are NOT in control. Control is just a myth; control is something we like to construct to ease the anxiety of not knowing. I have learned that the hard way. Yet, it is an ongoing lesson, to be learned again and again in my daily practice.

Changes are always happening, and if we go with the flow, we can experience changes as good, positive things. At least we can always, and I mean always, find a silver lining even in the hardest of situations.

While being confronted with my own energies and feelings of uncertainty I asked myself: what does it really mean to go with the flow and to be flexible like the seasonal Qi of Spring?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is the season of the liver. Liver energy rises during the season, and if it does not flow easily, it can get stuck and create all sorts of health problems: from season allergies to menstrual issues for women, from headaches to emotional upheavals. It will also show in the digestive system, as the liver supports the stomach, but only if its energy moves smoothly.

At an emotional level, I know that I need to do something about my stress and anger in a proactive healthy way. For me, kicking and punching in my martial arts classes helps a lot–helps letting that energy move out of my body. Taking breaks from computers and electronics saves my liver energy and relieves a bunch of symptoms. Not trying to control my children (or my husband for that matter) and walking away when I need to, is another way to flow more freely. And practicing Qigong daily is a must; it is like plugging into an electrical outlet in the wall when I am running short of energy.

When I do all of that, accepting that everything is in constant flux, things become easier. And this also means that it becomes more manageable to not hold on to a preconceived idea of how things should be, how my children need to act, or even how things used to be. The Tao teaches us that there is not simply a “good way” and a “bad way,” just different ways…

Everybody needs to find what it is that gets energy flowing for them. And changing accordingly will only come easier once that energy starts flowing.

In the end, we decided to stay put in the north, not because we did not want to change, I am happy to report, but because we decided to listen to our hearts. It just came down to where we felt at home…at least for the time being.


“No pain no gain.” Is that true?

I was recently staying with some friends in a cabin east of Seattle. Beautiful place and surroundings.

During breakfast, the wise father was trying to convince the 11-year old child of going for a 1000 vertical feet hike in the breath-taking surroundings. The kid, being a kid, was not convinced this was such a good idea. She emphatically argued that the hike was painful, as she has done this particular hike before. The father, being a father, came up with all sorts of rationalizations why doing the hike was indeed good for the body and the soul. One of his persuasive arguments, or one that stuck with me, was that as he has aged he has understood how pain can also be pleasurable, that pain could also be enjoyable. Some of us at the table agreed to the necessity of learning how to balance pain and pleasure, and that in order to participate in a somehow painful activity by choice, the pleasure needs to overcome the overall pain. After all, the well-known proverb “no pain no gain” promises reward in exchange for suffering.

Now, let’s think for a minute about what “pain” really is, and how we construct the idea (and reality) of pain in our society. If you look in the dictionary, it will probably give you two interpretations: one is the common idea of the physical suffering caused by illness or injury, and the other relates to the careful effort or trouble that one person puts in attaining something (in line with the proverb).

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pain is just energy, and as energy, it has consciousness and a message. It is a message from your body. How you interpret that message is the most import part. To my surprise, when I looked up definitions of pain in our western medical tradition, it also defines it as a message: “We feel pain when a signal is sent through nerve fibers to the brain for interpretation” (

Whether it is acute pain or chronic, physical or emotional, both traditions agree on the warning aspect of pain as the body asking for some action to be taken. However, the way pain is dealt with in both frameworks is very different. Where western medicine sees differentiation, TCM looks for similarities. They way I was taught was that if you have an ear complication, you go to a otolaryngologist, for anxiety or emotional issues you go to a psychologist, maybe a psychiatrist if medication is needed, and for back problems, chiropractors are a great choice. A western doctor probably would not consider your hearing problems to be related to your lower back pain, much less to any anxiety disorder, while a traditional Chinese doctor will not only see a relation in all of these conditions, but also will ask you whether you feel supported at work or in your family environment.

Where western medicine wants to “kill” the pain literally with painkillers (therefore erasing the message), TCM encourages us to look deeper into our symptoms to get to the root cause of the discomfort with gratitude instead of fear. Where Western medicine sees illness and diseases, TCM looks for health and opportunities. And I think we could all gain from thinking more about health and opportunities and less on the negative elements of disease. Western medicine is great at putting out fires, and it is the best for emergency medicine. However, I want to focus here on prevention, on taking the necessary measures to install “fire alarms” that work so we do not set fire to the house in the first place.

A person’s understanding of pain, and its negative associations, can actually make it worse. According to TCM, fear is the emotion associated with the kidney, and when experienced for a long time on a regular basis, it can disrupt the delicate balance of the kidney’s energy function. Unfortunately, we live in a fear driven society. We live in a constant mindset of “what if…something bad happens?” We spend money and energy protecting ourselves with all sorts of insurance for the worst-case scenarios that we play in our heads again and again every day. Any bone issues, ear problems, lower back problems, and panic attacks, are all related to an imbalance of the kidney energy. But there are a lot of little simple things we could do to counteract these immediate “fight or flight” responses by just exploring other ways to interpret our own realities (and get our kidneys and other organs back into balance and health).

For the most part, we are taught in our culture to take a pill rather than take responsibility for our own bodies. We are too used to the instantaneity of our mediated world, and have forgotten how to take time to really heal and be patient (in both senses of the word).

I want to propose that, when pain arrives, we look at it as an opportunity for change, as an actual message that our body is working very well. Pain may actually be a sign that our body is taking care of us, and that we need to pay attention and be aware of the here and now of our daily lives in order to listen to what the pain is conveying. I urge you to leave behind the automatic response that we have internalized that “something is wrong with me” when pain or illness arrives, and trust that your body can take care of itself, and that healing is in your hands. Don’t just run for medication, but try alternative ways to deal with the message at first.

Pain can be an opportunity to check on your own self-discrimination; those negative ideas that you may have about yourself, and the way you view your own reality – your cultural beliefs, your thoughts, desires, frustrations. They are all energy, and they all can affect your body and your overall health in positive or negative ways. Pain can bring change, can make us grow, and it can show us the way to our better selves…

Don’t get me wrong. Pain is real, and pain is, well, painful. And sometimes medication is indeed a good option. But, for example, one way I have changed with practice (my daily Qigong, my meditation, and my martial arts practice) is the way I react to pain. My first automatic response used to be fear – when my knees hurt I thought, “crap” the cancer may have come back, and I worried, and worried some more. And then I would feel sorry for my “poor” knees, and felt victimized that “this” happened to me. I would eventually talk myself out of it. Eventually.

Now, when my knees hurt, and they do hurt sometimes going up and down stairs of my house, my first response is to be thankful. Second, I take care of my kidney by conserving more energy, doing more Qigong, eating more salty food. I massage my ears once a day, and give myself some acupressure in some of the points of the kidney meridians. I also imagine myself without pain, and I know from my heart, that the pain is just energy stuck, and that eventually it will flow. I talk to myself with love and respect, and I talk to my knees with kindness. They are not broken, they have been through a lot, and they are still standing, taking me places. They are awesome!

Fear and worry are just emotions, are just energy, and we will all feel it one way or another, one time or other. It is part of who we are as humans. Accepting the fear, seeing where it is coming from and letting it go is a healthy way to deal with those emotions. Pain is also energy, with a message. Exploring what your body is telling you can be life changing.

I highly recommend practicing the simple Qigong routine of the Four Energy Gates that I learned with my Qigong master (Dr. Nan Lu). It is really simple but effective. You can find it at

Needless to say, we did not go for the hike that day. The kids (old souls in smaller bodies) convinced us that sitting in front of the fire on a cold winter day was a better option than weathering the storm, literally.

Remember that, according to Yin and Yang, there is no light without darkness, no summer without winter, no morning without night, and certainly, no pleasure without a little of pain.

After all, the rainbow only shows when there is rain…




Connected to the power of the full moon


Did you know this January we had two full moons? What an amazing way to start the New Year. The cosmic energy is shining upon us. Yes, that sounds like something a crazy astrologer would say. Have I become that crazy myself? I surely hope so.

Women are connected to the moon on a monthly basis. Our patriarchal society disregards our periods as something of which to be ashamed. They have created special medications to counteract the communication (and yes, power, especially power) that our female bodies offer us women on a monthly basis. Sadly, we have bought into the system. Just look at some of the names by which we call our menses and you will agree with me how derogatory we all have made it look.

But what if we turn the stories we tell ourselves around, and start embracing our bodies and its power with every full moon?

I clearly remember the day I got my period.

The year was 1978, the month was March, and the day was Sunday the 26th. It was Easter, and my grandparents were visiting my house as we were having a big feast for the day. That was 40 years ago. Exactly.

At some point I felt something in my pants, and I excused myself and got up to go to the bathroom. I found some blood on my undies, and immediately called my mom. It was not a total surprise as I was 13 and some of my friends already had their periods. But it was a surprise to me. I felt confused, and did not know what to do. I also felt a bit embarrassed, and did not want my mom to tell anybody.

When I came out of the bathroom and back to the table, everyone looked at me different. Not because I had changed, which I had. I just knew they knew. My mom had betrayed my secret. With time I understood that she was proud of her youngest daughter becoming a young adult woman and very eager to share the news. But at the time I was angry with her.

Everyone congratulated me like something awesome had happened. I was not able to grasp the wonderful miracle of the moment. It took some time to understand the awesomeness of having a period, and like an unripe green fruit, I needed some sunshine, warmth, and time to become ripe and ready.

My relationship with my period changed over the years. At the beginning it was a bother. Later, in my teen years, it became an excuse. During my adulthood it converted into a secret power.

My blood always told me things. My body has always communicated with me. We are all born with the ability to listen to its sublime messages. Although I lost the innate ability to listen to it as the years went on, and I became more trained to listen to my head and less to my body, my intuition has always been really strong. So my body kept speaking to me loud and clear when I needed it the most, so I would pay attention again.

Around the time I was trying to get pregnant, I started bleeding a bit between periods. It was more of a spot that the doctors said was normal. I knew my body and knew it was not normal. The problem became not that I was bleeding between periods, but that as the years went by, I could not get pregnant. They tested me for a lot of problems, and all the tests came back negative and normal. Nobody could explain why I was not getting pregnant, let alone my in-between-periods bleeding.

When I found a tumor in my breast, and eventually was diagnosed with breast cancer, the spotting between periods stopped. I never bled between periods again, for the next 10 years. Then, in the fall of 2010 I started bleeding between periods again. I got scared as I knew what my body was communicating with me again. My knee hurt as well. All signs of changes that needed to happen. But I was scared of changes. Eventually, I went to have some tests, and indeed my cancer had returned and spread to my bones, and they found other tumors related to the breast cancer. As soon as I was diagnosed I stopped bleeding between periods. I finally listened to the message, so the bleeding stopped.

The main point of this is not to be scared when your body sends messages. On the contrary, the key element is that, if you pay attention, your body will communicate with you what it needs and indicate what direction to take. Every cell in your body wants to be well, healthy, and for you to thrive. We have many talents we were born with, and our bodies will always point us into the right direction, so we can be the best possible version of ourselves.

In 2011, my ovaries were removed from my body. This removal was a collateral damage to treating the cancer. I mourned my ovaries with great grief. First, I was angry at them. Eventually, I let them go with sadness and thankfulness. This meant the end of my period and the beginning of my menopause. This is the time in a woman’s life when the period ends, and her body goes into a great deal of hormonal changes and soul transformation. It results in great wisdom and power. Unfortunately, most people do not see it that way.

I am so thankful to my body for all the work it has done to carry my soul, my being, and the person I am. I am especially thankful to my period, which through the years helped me connect to the moon, and remind me that I am part of this earth and this universe, and that I have extraordinary powers within me.

Do you remember the first time you got your period? Do you remember when your daughter had her first period? Or do you know the story of when your partner had her first period? I invite you to celebrate these stories under the full moon this week. Feel the power!

Learning to let go


There is no a better time to make resolutions than the New Year. Celebrations all around–which as far as we know date back four millennia–acknowledge the end of the year as a circle coming to a full close, while infinite possibilities lay in front of us. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes signal the wishes for good fortune for the twelve months to come.

The inevitable end of the calendar year is the perfect time to start a new practice of “letting go.” Letting go starts with making a choice. Whether you want to let go of weight, material stuff, feelings, or that box of old sentimental stuff taking space in your basement, letting go has to be a conscious decision based on the belief that you will feel better and lighter, healthier and happier, without all that baggage.

What do we want to let go of? Well, I have few ideas for myself. What about you?

My first step in letting go is simply to pay attention.

I have to pay attention to the way sometimes my breathing is very shallow. This happens to many of us through the day. In fact, take a moment right now to breathe really deep. Come on, close your eyes and take at least three deep breaths through your nose! Let the air circle around your chest, your stomach, your back, and let go of the air through your mouth. Remind yourself to do this several times a day. Letting go consciously of the carbon dioxide is a good reminder to also let go of all of the toxins in our lives.

Second, I have to let go of the nagging voice in my head that pushes me down constantly; voices that say I ate too much yesterday, or that I did not finish that project this week, or that I did not call my aunt to wish her happy holidays, or that I am not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or young enough or skillful enough, or the best mother or lover or daughter. Anything that we constantly tell ourselves but that we would never tell our best friend… has to go. Every time you start thinking about something that will push you down, press an imaginary CANCEL button, and stop right there. This takes awareness, and sometimes we are not even conscious of the way we limit ourselves with our own beliefs. So pay attention, and start talking to yourself with kindness and compassion.

Third, I need to let go of the preconceived expectations I have based on the results of previous experiences. Yes, the past teaches us, if we are paying attention, not to trip on the same bump in the sidewalk that twisted my ankle the last time. Instead, I’ll walk just a little to the right of it or step clearly over it. However, those past experiences sometimes prevent us from going out again altogether. Let go of those worries. Approach every situation anew. Follow your intuition and your heart, and trust that the outcomes are going to be beneficial, even if they are not what you wanted at the moment. Remember that for the flowers to bloom they need dirt and compost first. Who knows, you may be surprised that the bump in the sidewalk has been fixed.

Fourth, forgive and forget. We have to start with ourselves, because when we are at peace with who we are, and how awesome and unique we all are, whatever others do to us become really their problem and not ours. But to be able to pull that off one needs a lot of self-love and self-esteem, and time, which heals, if you cooperate with it.

To truly forgive and forget we need to be able to accept that we only have one part of the story, our own perspective. It really helps if we can change our perspective, our limited point of view, and put ourselves compassionately in the shoes of the other person. It just feels good to let go of resentment, because we are really only hurting ourselves. Some tactics that may help with that are: smashing eggs against a fence or in your own shower (so the mess is easier to clean), breaking bottles in the recycling bin, or writing what we feel on a piece of paper and then burning the words together with our resentment. I also do martial arts. Kicking, punching and screaming are very therapeutic. These physical activities help us to overcome painful strong feelings and the stress caused by them.

I have always had a nostalgic dimension to my persona (it is part cultural), and oftentimes I have found myself feeling a wistful yearning for the happiness that could have been but was not. These feelings assault me with more intensity when I see my two daughters growing up. Now one is a teenager, and the other is getting there faster than I can hold her hand. I often miss their childhood and wish that I could have been in a better place to enjoy it more fully. Struggling with cancer diagnoses, surgeries, fear, and the shame, insecurities, and powerless feelings of living with an alcoholic in the family, at times makes me hold on too tight to guilty feelings about their childhood.

My daily Qigong practice, deep breathing, talking to myself with respect, and feeling powerful and adequate, are a few of the things that help me overcome my own nostalgic, delirious feelings on a daily basis. I have to remind myself of the cancel button when my mind goes off to negative places. I have learned to enjoy my family for who we are today without much worrying about where we will be tomorrow. It is a very freeing way of living. Whatever the situation, we have power to do something for ourselves.

Little changes are much more doable than a long wishful list of impossibilities. Start small, but start today. Happy New Year!



Happy Winter Solstice!


Winter is here. Depending on where you live, you may have put your mittens out to dry, and are enjoying a cup of something hot while watching the snow fall through the window. Sounds good, right? If you have already slowed down, sipped some hot ginger tea (or hot cocoa, why not?), and sat down to savor the quietness of winter, congratulations to you.

Many people suffer from winter blues. The lack of light and the intense cold in the northern hemisphere during this time can be wearing. This is a natural process, and your awesome body is just telling you it is time to take it easier, pay attention, and rest. Are you game?

If we look at nature, we will see that everything slows down during winter. The animals retreat after a busy autumn gathering food and preparing for a long cold season. The trees are also in peace, many after having let go of all their leaves. Underground, beautiful processes of new life are in the making. In the meantime, we should sit and wait . . .

Unfortunately, that is not what our modern society has taught us to do during winter, especially the holidays. On the contrary, December has become a very busy time of the year, not only in the United States, but many parts of the world. And there is a reason why. If we look into a bit of history, we will find that our ancestors recognized the importance of winter and revered it.

Many cultures around the world have celebrated the winter solstice since time immemorial. From ancient Rome (the Festival of Saturnalia) to the Chinese celebration of Dongzhi, just to mention two, older cultures recognized the winter solstice as an important astronomical occurrence. Even festivities like Saint Lucia, Hanukah, and Christmas, with their importance on the use of lights, has been influenced by the longest night of the year.

In many of these festivities, gifts were exchanged, but surely our predecessors were not frantically shopping in malls, and driving while texting. These celebrations were understood more as a freedom from the necessity to work. Resting was imperative. However, today even our “holidays” have lost their “holy” meaning, and have become an excuse to do more instead of less.

We barely acknowledge any longer the dark side of winter. Our modern world just focuses on the cheerful side of the jolly, the “Hallmark” picture-perfect side of the season, leaving a great number of the people on the outskirts feeling isolated, and lonely.

Why not take a moment in your busy holiday schedule to rest and be mindful of the season without spending so much of your energy? Go back to the root of the celebrations and take some time to energize your kidney, which reigns in winter, by doing nothing.

There are a few simple things that we can do to take care of ourselves during the winter months. First, stay warm and dress appropriately when going out. Even inside of the house, wear proper slippers, always keeping your hands and feet warm. If the temperature rises, don’t be tempted to go out in lightweight clothing just as a wishful attempt for the spring to come earlier. You will pay the price with a cold in the spring. Instead, take hot baths, light candles, make it pretty . . . and nourish your soul.

Even if you live in a warmer area of the planet, it is still important that you nourish yourself during the holidays and save some good energy. Have an invitation to yet another party but feel too tired to go? Listen to your body and stay put!

To support your kidneys during the winter, you can eat salty food, especially fish or seafood. You can also rub your ears with the palm of your hands for a quick energy pick-up, especially during the late afternoon hours, when we feel more tired.

Take care of your stomach as well, which supports the kidney, by consuming lots of warm foods (think soups, coffee, tea). Also important, stay away from foods with a cold and damp essence, for example, dairy, cold or iced drinks, and salads. Yes, you heard it right, salads! All these foods will unbalance your stomach’s ability to function well and support your kidneys.

If all of this sounds like something your grandmother would have said, yes, she was right all along! Maybe she did not know about the salads, but now you have a good excuse to stay away from lettuce.

Last but not least, “Don’t worry be happy!” (And by “happy” I really mean content). It still sounds cliché. It is. So very cheesy. Yet, it is one of the hardest things to accomplish in life, and one piece of advice that will keep you healthy for years to come. Your kidney and stomach will appreciate it. This one may take a little bit of faith, and a lot of awareness. It is a daily practice. More on that in posts to come!

For now, my wish for you is to carve out some time this winter solstice and enjoy some work-free moments by truly relaxing. You won’t regret it!


Another point of view


Lately, I have had several conversations with friends who are in despair. The reason for their despair varies: broken hearts due to unrequited love (one of the worst feelings in the entire world!), the death of family members, sick family members, empty nests, and hardships at work. Some of the more altruistic are in pain for what is going on politically and how it affects others. And I am not talking in general, these are conversations that I have had in the last 30 days with people I love and admire. 

 Through my own ups and downs (divorce, cancer, my awesome relationship with my now-recovered-alcoholic husband), I have found ways to understand my own feelings and emotions, and take a step away (sometimes many, many steps away) to find another point of view. My Qigong Master says we create our own reality. That was a hard one to bite. But I think I am actually getting it. We are what we think, and we can choose our own perceptions. We just need to be open to the possibilities.

 By that I don’t want to be callus and suggest that people who suffer are doing so out of choice. Pain, fear, sadness, grief . . . they are all part of our human condition. What I want to offer is a respite, to suggest that even in the worst of moments, there is the potential for growth. With perseverance I have been determined to see the good. Easier said than done, you must be thinking. Yes, I agree. It’s a daily practice; it’s a moment-to-moment practice. 

 Opting to see the good is not like shopping in the supermarket, but it can happen while shopping in the supermarket.  I need to pay attention to what is going on inside me, and around me, because seeing the good is about understanding what is my daily default setting and trying to be mindful about the way I think about any particular situation.

 I have learned that if I approach every moment with playfulness I get more out of it. Even a broken heart can laugh a bit about itself. We are all too serious too often. Yes, the world seems to be upside down with so many shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes, political upheavals, and bullying across nations, within nations. So we can sit and worry like mad, or we can choose to look at it all from another point of view. There is always another point of view. 

 In this same world of so much devastation there is also love, compassion, friendship, laughter, hugs, and so many caring people working hard at making a better world one day at time. It is yin and yang.  The bad and the good are always entangled in the same rope. What are you going to focus on today?

 When three months ago Hurricane Maria was hitting the Caribbean, I was trying to find footage on the Internet about what was happening on the islands…I could not be with my part of the family there, but I was trying to stay connected with their reality so I could feel closer to them. I found a few YouTube videos showing the winds, so loud and scary, and some of the videos showed things flying around in parts of Puerto Rico, and other islands. But then I also found a NASA view of the Hurricane from a satellite. This video showed another point of view of the same reality: quiet, serene, even beautiful. You could see two sides of nature at its best, beautiful and peaceful but also scary and devastating, depending on which one you clicked. 

 There are always many sides to a story, many different ways to perceive our reality. In the middle of the storm, it is a good idea to breathe deep and to separate oneself from the raging winds, find some peace, and then (like Dori, the fish–see my previous post) keep swimming. I can say that I am a pretty content human being who takes good care of herself, but it was not always like that. I had to break with my automatic unconscious beliefs, and give myself choices by paying attention. It takes effort, a lot of discipline, and constant awareness. The more I have been able to do that, the better my story has become.

Just keep swimming…


So I will start my very first blog talking about how Dory and Marlin (yes, they are fictional fish characters of a Disney movie!) became sources of inspiration in my life. I know Disney pictures have a bad rap sometimes, but Finding Nemo and Finding Dory are two good movies to watch, if you like animation. Or just read along, and I will tell you why I am using these characters for today’s message.

Marlin is a single father with some scary experiences in his past (he lost his wife and other children due to sharks–let’s say they were murdered). So Marlin is stuck in that past and in his own fears. Raising a child (which is not an easy task for anybody, let alone single parents) and trying to keep his son (Nemo) safe, is what makes him so uptight about life in general and being safe all the time. It is only when his son disappears and he has to swim through an ocean of problems to find him that he is able to overcome parts of his past, his deepest fears, and move forward.

In the film’s sequel, you can see how he’s still true to his own worrying nature, and his inability to let go (which, by the way, will knock your stomach and liver energy out of balance, but more of that on another post). He always comes on strong at the end, conquering his own shortcomings. Don’t get me wrong, I do like him. He is a very nice and carrying father and friend. It just shows that it’s not easy to change. We all have a lot of Marlin in us. Well, I should speak for myself; I do have a lot of Marlin in me. I am also a caring mother, or try to be, whose children’s safety is very important, and for that I am a lot of times uptight and unable to relax around my kids. But that has been changing, as I practice Qigong and apply it to my daily life. Practice is an every moment, daily life commitment, not an hour a day exercise routine.

Dory, on the other hand, is playful and wise in what looks like a careless way. She is not careless. Her problem is that she has short-term memory, but that is also her bliss. Not remembering bad experiences saves her a lot of trouble about worrying all the time about what is going to happen. She is forced to constantly let go (something we should all practice on a regular basis); she is forced to live in the present moment, and her decisions about the immediate future are not based in her past experiences, but she approaches every situation as new, with wonder eyes and a little bit of innocence. However, there is a lot of wisdom in her.  Her head is faulty, so she listens to her heart. She is very brave despite having suffered a lot of trauma due to her condition. She is aware of that, but that does not stop her. Ever. I strive to be more like Dory every day, and although my nature is to be more like Marlin, I have learned that I need to keep swimming no matter what. 

So even if you have not watched these films, and even if you do not like Disney and Pixar animation, the message here is simple but hard to put into practice: daily life has to be faced with new eyes. We do not know the future, we only know the past. But the past is gone, so today is what matters. Like Master Oogway says, rephrasing what the Buddha taught, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” That’s from Kung Fu Panda, yes, another animation film that has taught me so much. (I also highly recommend it.  It was my first assignment when I became a Qigong student.)

When I am overwhelmed I think: what do I have to do NOW. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not next month, but NOW. One day at a time, one thing at this moment is my mantra. It has kept me safe and sound.