All posts filed under: Blog

Ease in the Difficulty: Finding Opportunity in Autumn’s Transition

Photo by Bruno Ramos Lara on Unsplash It finally feels like autumn in Pennsylvania. The wind is caressing the edges of our home, making the warmth inside seem like a cozy little pod in which to hunker down. Our flannels and chunky socks are out, the coffee pot is warm, and our noses are filled with spicy scents of our last meal. The fall is coming to me with messages of rest. For some reason, the weeks leading out of summer were hectic, strained, and defined by busyness – all of which I will readily give up. In order to combat the anxious spirits, I made a decision to wake up each morning at 5:45 A.M. (!!!) and settle deeply into a morning yoga and meditation practice. When this thought first flashed through my brain, I will admit that I (internally) shouted to my inner voice, “Are you kidding me? This will never work! I am not disciplined enough.” To my surprise, after a few weeks, I find myself eager to take the time to …

“Women, Food, and God” and Start of Real Transformation

Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash Months and months ago I placed a compelling little book in my Amazon shopping cart. It caught my eye after purchasing Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I was on an empowerment book-buying kick. Yet, this other text sat on my shelf for a very long time before I had a window of opportunity to pry it open to see why I felt so drawn to it. Titled, Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything (Scribner, 2011), I found myself trying to conceptually connect the three subjects as I leafed through its pages. I thought to myself, “I am a woman. I like food. I am interested in God…” I simultaneously felt pulled into this text and repelled. “Repelled” because of an aversion to diets and anything that resembles a diet. (I hoped so much that it was not a “diet book.”) I thought, the way I think about (obsess over, mourn over, stress over) food dictates my life and I want …

The People’s Meditation, A Series: Ed On Running as Mindfulness

Photo by Jennifer Birdie Shawker on Unsplash When I first sought volunteers for this series, my friend Ed came to me about his experience of running as mindfulness practice. And I said, “Hey! That is perfect!” I am so glad he offered his thoughts to this series. While I practice yoga as my entry into mindfulness, I want to stress in this series that there are numerous ways for one to find a meditative center. As I shared in the previous entry of this series, the Radiance Sutras propose 112 different practices! There are many modes of entry into a meditative state. All of the world religions – at least the ones with which I am familiar – utilize meditation as a way to clear the proverbial mental, spiritual, and emotional (even physical) road in order to experience truth. Simply through their cultural difference, variety in meditation emerged. I  was thrilled when Ed said he wanted to talk about running! A lot of Americans might not realize that running is a wonderful entry point for …

Locating Truth in a Time of Darkness: Rilke’s “Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower”

I have a lot of work to do before the start of the fall semester. I teach a new course this year: American art to Penn State juniors and seniors. I am thrilled at the opportunity, but I am also in deep contemplation this week as the nation discusses the relationship between patriotism, free speech, racism, and public images. It is the latter that is most on my mind as I prepare to spend the next four months talking with young adults about the meaning of images in American society. I argue images have incredible impact upon the way we function in our world. So, my thoughts are on images. Most of us were not in Charlottesville this weekend, but we are affected by what happened there in very deep ways. We see film footage and photographs on social media. We hear the arguments and calls for justice on the news. We make personal cries of despair in our own homes as our heart breaks – a festering national wound has opened once again. The …

Reality vs. Radical Kindness: How to Get What You Really Want

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash It is safe to assume that you, reader, try to be a good person. You may consider these actions as a part of your “do good list:” – Eat healthy foods and exercise your body – Read books to stimulate your mind – Call your parents/grandparents on a regular basis – Teach your children to be kind – Maintain a job, pay taxes, and support the local economy – Volunteer for local community organizations – Go to church/synagogue/prayer and serve as an active member of a religious community – Donate money – Smile at others on the street …and the list, of course, goes on. What would you add to this list? What sets the foundation to be a “good person?” Lately, I do not feel like I meet my own standard of goodness that I set for myself. I find that I get pulled into the orbit of others who gossip or rip others apart, even with the most diaphanous of veils placed over the conversation with a …

The People’s Meditation, A Series: Sarah J. Reed, Lifestyle Coach

On this blog I write musings about meditation and mindfulness that are inspired by my personal practice. My goals are to connect with others who have similar experiences and also inspire those who do not have a regular practice. I completely understand, though, that adding one more thing to the growing list of to-do’s might be a daunting task for some. In fact, I felt this exact same way for years! One might feel that if she begins meditating on a regular basis she will need to confront difficult memories or give up certain aspects of her life that she enjoys. Possibly, the reader believes that he is not “cut out” to be a meditator, that it requires a particular personality or he believes that one must naturally have a calm mind. Perhaps there are, like in my community, those who associate meditation with eastern religion and do not see it merging with their own Judeo-Christian belief system. These, my friends, are falsehoods. I wish desperately to share with you the truth of a regular …

Awake! Say ‘Goodbye’ to the Half-Developed Life

How does one claim power? She goes through the fire like it was meant for her, not to defeat her. She explores the routes to get out of that fire and she does not recoil. After finding her way, she does not look back at the fire like it was a disaster, though its real-life events may be emotionally draining and full of loss. She claims the fire as hers. It is now a source of strength. One thing that is on my mind lately is the lip service we give to the concept of healing, without personally believing we are a part of the promise. I can only speak to western tradition, but I am sure that this self-denial of spiritual gains is common across the spectrum. In the Christian tradition, many talk about the healing power of Jesus, of the love that God bestows upon “his” children, and of the continual support and communion we have with the Holy Spirit. However, over and over again, and certainly in my own life, I see …

The Well: Cultivating Personal Strength and Creativity

How do you know if your internal well is full? Many of us live perpetually empty lives and it is revealed in anxiety, poor eating and exercise habits, anger, or a foggy brain. Sometimes it is a more nuanced symptom specific to the individual, but she knows she runs on an empty emotional tank. This is so common in our modern lives that, for some, it is difficult to even imagine what it is like to have a full creative or emotional internal well. They do not know the well is even empty! Feelings of disconnection or constant striving are just always there. There is no one culprit, but a myriad of things that keep us from a full well: stress at work, family life, past traumas, and etcetera. *Yes. I used the word “creative.” Before you stop reading here and start to whine “But I’m not creative! Only people with _______ (insert character trait) are creative,” please continue to read. I believe the definition of “creative” has been narrowed so much it has been …

Spiritual Practice: SLEEP

“Sleep is a spiritual practice.” – Gabrielle Bernstein I prayed as I shuffled the deck of cards in my hands that I would be guided through the day. Soft morning light streamed through the windows to my office as I sat in the first few moments at my desk. I pulled a card away from the others and read Sleep is a spiritual practice. Wait. What? I sleep just fine these days, thank you very much. After perusing the affirmation/meditation cards I purchased a few months ago, this was the one that I thought I did not need. I have this sleep thing down and I am super proud of that accomplishment, since it was such a lonely struggle for a long time. Throughout graduate school, particularly when I took courses and taught undergraduates at the same time, I had a fraught relationship with sleep. This problem is now long gone and I am a sleep champ – I go to bed every night by 10:00 PM and wake up at 6:00 AM! Super healthy! …

How to Cultivate Gratitude Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

I recently came across the idea: “Gratitude is the greatest gift you can experience.” Often these phrases pass like a bee whizzing by my ear, as I am sure they do with others. Though containing little grains of truth, clichés – or statements sounding very much like them – garner less attention than odd-sounding, infrequent bombshell quotes. However, the one above landed squarely on my heart and I continued to ponder it throughout my yoga practice this morning. I suppose this is what they call “setting an intention,” though I did not ask for it. What came to mind is that the statement does not make “gratitude” into a directive specifically to the “you” in the sentence. In other words, the end point for our gratitude can be outside of ourselves. Let me give an example. Gratitude journals are very popular right now. Personally, when I think of things for which I am thankful, I usually write: my family, my developing career, my house, my health… my… my… MY. Of course I am grateful for …