Frank Jude Boccio, whose Zen dharma name is Poep Sa, is a yoga teacher and a teacher of Zen Buddhism ordained by Korean Zen Master Samu Sunim. He is also an interfaith minister and long-time student of Thich Nhat Hanh. Here he shares a few simple yet powerful ways to integrate mindfulness practices into your daily life—when driving, working, or even drinking your morning coffee.
A cancer survivor explores bold new directions
When I plopped into the Radiance program’s opening night welcome circle, I was exhausted. That morning, I had attended the memorial service for my dear friend, Dara, who had passed a week before. A couple hundred people gathered to share stories, laughter, tears, and outrage that this beautiful, lively, loving soul had left at age 40, from cancer.
And now, a train ride and time warp later, here I was in the branch-filled Berkshires, sitting in a back jack, meeting eight cancer survivors and our co-leader Maria Sirois. In that moment, “life after cancer” looked to me like throwing a rose on my friend’s coffin and hearing it thud. It looked like crying myself to sleep every night for the last two weeks.
But as I settled in and heard tales of diagnosis and survival, I remembered: Oh. We’re all still here. In my fellow workshoppers—eight people from their 30s through 50s—I saw stress and fear and bravery and resilience and resistance. I saw myself. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma seven years ago at age 31, I had almost been forgetting that I was a survivor, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one-quarter of Americans report having occasional sleeplessness, and 10 percent of us struggles with chronic insomnia. In late July, SleepBetter.org released an analysis of the CDC data to help us determine if we are well rested or sleep deprived.
By any measure, challenges to a restful night’s sleep are on the rise, and it’s of concern since sleeping well supports our positive energy, cognitive health, and better moods, as well as our physical health. And most of us have had the experience of how poor sleep can lead to less-than-stellar eating habits. Several recent studies, covered in depth by Michal Breus PhD in the Huffington Post, illustrate the mechanisms by which we are more likely to reach for sweeter, saltier foods when we’re overtired.
Terri Young, guest blogger
One morning each month, from October through May, about 10 students arrive at Poland Spring Yoga, the small yoga studio in Poland Spring, Maine, that I own with my husband, Steve. Their ages range from 65 to 85 years old. During the next hour, we sit in chairs in a circle and explore cultivating awareness through stillness, poetry reading, breathing techniques, and a range of gentle movements and stretches. After class, we move to the living room for chatting, laughter, and fellowship.
This is my favorite class to teach. The openness, joy, and deep sense of community that we all receive from this experience are nothing short of miraculous.
“I never realized yoga was for me—I always thought it was for the younger generation,” one student told me after the first class. Another student confided, with complete amazement, “I never knew I could feel this way!”
“The highest religious principle is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: the whole world is one family. No matter what religion we are following, if we cannot love others then we are not following religion but the illusion of religion. Where there is no unity, no love, no harmony among each other, how can there be religion?”
Ashley Winseck, guest blogger For Kripalu Yoga teacher Gregg Day, community involvement is a big deal. “It makes sense to me to be well connected to where you are,” he says. “I’m always looking for the opportunity to do something local—wherever that may be.” And for Gregg, “local” is in the heart of the Berkshires. [...]
I’m sure it goes without saying, but I love having dinner with friends. One of my favorite parts of going to a friend’s home to share a meal is that I get to experience flavors and flavor combinations that I may not include in my own cooking. I also get infusedwith a new energy that serves to wake me up in a way. I love experiencing how each person’s own energy becomes steepedin the food, from what they choose to make to how they make it and how they serve it. Each element becomes part of the meal’s flavor profile, creating an energythat I get to incorporateinto my own being.
I’ve always said that you can’t be truly healthy unless you cook for yourself. Cooking for ourselves is akin to all the other self-care practices we do, from brushing our teeth to getting a good night’s sleep. When we cook for ourselves, we are saying at the deepest levels, “I want to be alive.” When we cook and serve ourselves food filled with prana (life energy) we are declaring, “I really want to be alive and vital!”
How to clear your head—and your life—of all that stuff.
For their book, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, a team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles visited the homes of 32 typical middle-class, dual-income families in Los Angeles and recorded what they saw. The book was intended to provide, as they wrote, “an unflinching examination of actual homes amid all the joys and messiness of real life.” And messy it was:In the first house they went to, researchers logged more than 2,000 possessions—in the first three rooms alone.
Our well-documented obsession with stuff has spawned a backlash, naturally, including a movement of people who aspire to pare down to no more than 100 items—and utensils and underwear count. Many claim that among reducing the wastefulness associated with over-acquiring, a less cluttered home will lead to a less cluttered mind. But does it really work that way? Not necessarily, says Coby Kozlowski, MA, E-RYT, a professional life coach, inspirational speaker, and yoga teacher at Kripalu. “I don’t think it’s so black and white, though I do think having less stuff creates space in your life that can be supportive to reducing stress,” she says. “Stuff requires maintenance, which can eat up time and energy.”
The heart beats in a faithful and constant rhythm throughout a lifetime. To keep the heart nourished and happy, heart-opening backbends can work wonders. Backbends create space for energy to move more freely to and from the heart, connecting one to the qualities of love, security, and compassion. Backbends also enhance circulation, nourish the spine, increase lung capacity, and regulate the endocrine system.
Try a simple, seated backbend to help you open your heart this winter. Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your spine tall.
Lisa Pletzer, guest blogger
It was the first day of my junior year of high school, and my English teacher had just handed each of us a blank notebook.
“You’re all going to keep journals this year,” she said. “I’ll periodically collect them to count pages—not to read—so I want you to feel like you can be totally open and honest.” She told us that our final exam would be writing a paper about our observations of how we’d grown through our journal writings from the entire school year.
I’d always loved to write and had kept a diary in the past. But after a bad experience a couple of years before involving my mother reading my diary (“I thought you were writing a book!”) and discovering my growing interest in having sex with my boyfriend, I’d basically sworn off putting anything in writing. But this, I thought, might be different. It was a school notebook, after all. No reason for anyone to go snooping there!