Welcoming the Unwelcome

I bought this book shortly after the coronavirus stormed into the United States. Pema is one of my favorite spiritual writers and this is her first book in several years. It was published in October 2019. Before the virus, before one hundred thousand American lives were lost in a few short months, before massive unemployment, before the nationally televised murder of George Lloyd by a police officer, before the peaceful protests that troublemakers turned ugly.

I’m so glad I’ve had it to read, had these words to hold on to, in such dark times. It helps. Just from the title, you’d think “Welcoming the Unwelcome” why would you want to do that? If the unwelcome knocks at your door, or smashes a window to get in, it’s there. The unwelcome is here. It is not only at our door, it’s in our house, it’s standing before us.

In that moment, when the unwelcome stands right in front of us, there is something we can do. We breath it in with a prayer, we take this terrible truth in, hold it in our hearts, ask for it to be transformed and breath out hope, peace, calm. This is the Buddhist practice of tonglen. You do not have to be a Buddhist to use it.

It can be used in any situation, at any moment. Now, after the brutal week we have all had, is a good time to practice this simple way of being wide awake, fully human. It’s like a prayer, but it’s a little more active than a prayer. It’s just you, taking on this terrible time, taking it in, welcoming it, even. Holding it in your heart in the hope that one day all being will be free from suffering.

I finished the book last night and I’ll be starting it over again tonight. It is a book for our times, for people in pain. The last chapter “Mission Impossible” explains that by practicing tonglen, which is really the “longing to help all beings” is something that can “draw us out of ourselves, out and out, until we enter the realm of vast mind and vast heart.”

Vast mind. Vast heart. That sounds better than where I’ve been hanging out this week, watching, over and over, an innocent man be murdered by a cop, while other cops stood around and watched like it was no big deal. Instead of staying there passively watching that endless loop of quietly violent video, we can step outside a little. Instead of seeing the world as brutal and happiness as futile, instead of becoming depressed or anxious, we can, with practice, have hope, become optimistic.

This is the value of meditation and the special form of mediation called tonglen. This is how we welcome the unwelcome. It’s here anyway, we might as well use it to heal our hearts. And when we do this, we plant seeds for a peaceful future.

Secrets & Passions

Scorpio Full Moon this weekend is complicated by several planet retrogrades, some already here, others moving into retrograde within the week. What this means to me, to everyone really, is that it is time to take the passionate engagement, even the fiery argument, inside. We would all do well to take a look at our unconscious motivations and deeper longings, the ones we keep hidden, even from ourselves.

This plays in several areas of my life right now, and of course, yours too. What did you start at the new moon? What ended, and for good? Well, I had one big ending, as I discussed last post. It was pretty public, well, I made it so, as did the rock band next door. Now, with the retrogrades, it’s time to focus that passion and energy inward. So you caused a ruckus with the new moon ending…it’s time to silently contemplate how those endings are helping you with new beginnings.


I made inroads in several areas with the new moon energy. Most dramatically with writing. My creativity burst out in a totally different kind of novel, not something I’ve ever attempted before. I was shockingly pleased with the result. We’ll see what those New York editors think about it. Meanwhile, not just writing got a make over with the new moon. I ended my rigid diet program–it was just not working. Instead, I recommitted to meditation, determined to eat more mindfully, and promised myself I would actually pop that walking video in and even use it a few times a week.

All of that, and more, started out well, but when my inner and outer worlds collided in the most rude way (new moon energy isn’t always nice) everything took a nosedive, including my heath. Nothing serious just ongoing issues with my back–I need to walk!– and migraine–I need to meditate and not stress so much.



I can make this Scorpio Full Moon with mega-retrograde work for me by taking a step inward. Not backward, but inward, recommitting to everything I’ve started with the Aries new moon. For writing that always means it’s a time to revise, and just as important, a time to back up the writing. I’m pulling out my external hard drive for the duration of the retrogrades.

And I’ll be keeping my secrets and passions to myself for a change. The whole world doesn’t need to know every bit of it all the time.

Paint It Black


Not sure when things started going dark. Knew it was the medication for almost daily migraines since the accident. Knew I didn’t have clinical depression, knew I was lucky, knew I had some stuff to sort out but felt up to the task. It was just … I felt sad. Every day. For maybe a week. The routine became familiar. Mornings, if I slept more than a few hours, I’d wake up hopeful. Start the day feeling serene. But, slowly the slide into sadness would begin and then, more often than not, migraine pain would beat its drum on my head. So, medication, then meditation. If I’d only slept a few hours, I’d nap and wake up feeling better.

Same thing next day. According to Hara Estroff Marano, “the human brain has a negativity bias” — it takes five positive experiences to offset one negative experience. I have always been a positive person, maybe too positive. I’m all about bright sides and silver linings. So I didn’t enjoy my descent into hell, but I knew if I could generate some positive experiences and fit them into my days, my mood would lift. Just a day without a migraine is a win for me. A night when I sleep more than four or five hours is a win. If I exercise, yay me. If I eat right, happiness ensues. If I write that day, and I write every day, I’m good. If class goes well, and it has been, although early days yet, I’m thrilled.

So it was much to my surprise that when I chose a new car, I picked black. Just returning to the dealer only a few months after picking up the Jeepster felt–not good. Telling the salesman what happened was hard. Explaining why I didn’t want to just go ahead and get another Cashmere Pearl Jeepster made me a little defensive. “I feel safe in a smaller car. One that fits my body.” But sitting there, I wavered. It would be easy to say, order me another one, just like the other one.

But I’d thought about it and after ten days of driving a car more my size I still felt, deep inside, more comfortable in something like the 200M my guy showed me. It doesn’t come in Cashmere Pearl, which at first bummed me out as I loved that color. I loved the NAME of that color more than the actual color. So I set about looking for a color that said YES to me. And it was not Red Velvet. It was not Bright Eye Blue. It was not Blinding White. It was Glossy, Shiny, Sinful Black. With buttery leather interior in a light linen color. The car had everything my Jeepster did, plus a panoramic sunroof. Something new!

It might be black on the outside, but there is plenty of light inside. And that’s sort of how I feel about my life right now. Yes, I’m having some dark and shiny issues. But inside I’m filled with light and I know I’m gonna be okay.

Stay Present, Let Go

kuan yinStill working on that relationship with myself. One practice I continue daily is the loving-kindness meditation. It differs only a little from my normal breath meditation in that when I realize my mind is “thinking” I bring it back to compassionate thoughts about myself. I send myself love. That’s pretty much it.

Judging myself, blaming myself, feeling shame … these were all normal states of mind for me for a very long time. I didn’t even know I was doing it and, at various stages of my life, I blocked them from full realization with the usual suspects: food, sex, drugs, alcohol, denial.

I used to hide from pain, suffering and fear. I figured life is short, let’s take our pleasures while we can. It seemed the obvious way to go. And I still don’t like unpleasant emotions, but I finally recognize that they lie in wait, just under the surface of my skin, and will only grow stronger if they are not acknowledged and allowed to move through my body in the present moment.

Spiritual maturity, says Jack Kornfeild, allows us to “rest in the wonder of life.” And spiritual maturity is what I’m working on now that I have that age maturity thing happening. I want to leave this planet gently with awareness, not in fear and dis-ease.

Ever notice that disease kinda has a second meaning?

Most of my health problems (all minor, thank stars) can be traced directly back to things like anxiety and fear. You get older, you start to see patterns. So now I’m learning to treat myself with kindness instead of guilt, shame, blame, fear, or judgment. Life is just too short not to know myself fully in all my perfect imperfection. “Touch with mercy the parts of ourselves we have denied, cut off, or isolated,” Kornfeild advises.

His method includes patience, a thing I have long been short on. Meditation helps me learn patience, so does listening, so does yoga. Mindfulness to each task at the moment it is undertaken brings patience. This is a tough one for me, but I want the harmony patience brings. I want “a loving, patient unfolding into the mystery just now.” Living this way stretches time, too, because there’s less distraction.

Not to get all serious. In present-moment mindfulness, in spiritual maturity, in practicing compassion (that’s Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion in the frame up top) there is fun, there is humor, there is play. Wherever I am, I want to respond and relate with deeper joy. At least that’s the plan. I’ll let you know how it goes:)

Spring Cleaning Inside

Still working on the site. Molly has a set of instructions for linking inside images I printed out for tomorrow, because, while working on the website is fun, today Linda is on the front burner.  If you’re a Michigan writer (or, hey, come on up from Chicago or Toledo) and want to get published, sign up here for our free team talk.

So much happening and this is my “go slow” month. There are signs in the stars that say I need to do things more mindfully this month, and things inside my own body and brain tell me that, too.

For example: I mistakenly double-dosed myself with hormones for a couple of weeks and my mind has been jumping around like a wild monkey through constantly moving hoops. My body, the body I love but mindlessly abused for so long, has been feeling the pain as I age and continue to carry extra belly fat.

Feeling desperate, I decided to spring clean from the inside out. I’m reading “How to Live for Life: The End of Dieting” by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. and beginning to change the way I eat. I had no trouble becoming a vegetarian, and I’m hoping this next step will come naturally, too, scooping out those stubborn pounds.

Also I’m making a point of getting more exercise, including my beloved yoga. But I need cardio, need to get the blood pumping, and that means walking. I walked outside today, it’s sunny and warm, hooray! but yesterday I was so into other things I took a short break to run up and down my stairs until I was panting.

Exercise helps brain chemistry, as does daily meditation despite the monkeys, also focusing on positive feelings and letting the sad things go. Eating the right foods help clean up brain chemistry as well.  It’s a two-for-one. That mind/body connection.

I’ve needed to make some changes in my diet, permanent changes, for a very long time. My strong, sweet body took me a long way without complaint even as I filled it with toxins. But now it complains. Regularly. So I have to do this. I want to do this. And for the first time in a very long time, I feel like I CAN do this, with a bit of mindful attention.

And now I must sweep the front porch before Linda arrives.