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The Trick of Halloween

October 31, 2019

All Hallow’s Eve. The time when the nights are getting longer and there is supposed to be a thinning of the veils between this world and the otherworld.

A time of revelry, celebration, costumes and community.

When guises and masks allow us to taste being other than we are, maybe more of who we really are or as fantasies of who we could be. When the shadow side — the ghastly and ghoulish — find expression.

There is much to appreciate about this holiday, especially because our collective culture has limited ecumenical traditions that bring us together with rituals and opportunities for what social commentator Barbara Ehrenreich calls “Dancing in the Streets”.

Meanwhile, I brace myself as Halloween approaches.
It’s not a popular stance to take issue with this favorite of holidays for so many children — who am I kidding? adults — or rain on their (costume) parade.

As much as it has all of the right ingredients and I want to love it, I have trouble getting behind how it has evolved in mainstream culture – the large scale distribution of candy to children, negative environmental impact and commoditization .

Candy Land. In this age of widespread child-obesity and record levels of diabetes: the addictive qualities of sugar are well-documented to stimulate the same parts of the brain as opiods and the people who profit off this holiday are the hands of the few in giant corporations without conscience like Nestle.

The same people are responsible for more harm than good in this world including infant deaths from contaminated formula. Yes – the candy companies also produce conventional baby formula with extremely high levels of sugar so that it is attractive to the developing palates of babies. Hmm…future customers?

Few of us pay attention or perhaps the pressure to conform is too great but at least some pediatricians and dentists will trade Halloween candy for books or money in order to discourage consumption. While it doesn’t address the sugar epidemic, there’s a movement started by parents for people to display teal pumpkins as a sign that they have allergy-friendly treats, some of which are non-candy.

Plastic, plastic everywhere. How about the plethora of individually wrapped candies and cheap plastic objects given to trick or treaters when daily news articles highlight concerns about climate change and levels of plastic in the ocean?

Celebrations of Halloween ignore the staggering volume of garbage due to single-use packaging and blindness to the fact that when we throw things away, there really is no away — it’s just goes somewhere else until that place runs out of space.

Haunted Houses. This holiday inspires community participation, creativity and great efforts are made to decorations homes, stores and public areas. Unfortunately, the amount of disposable products and waste is troubling. The ubiquitous fake spider webbing is a nightmare for birds and other wildlife who can get trapped in it or choke on it. Other common materials used do not break down and may even have carcinogenic properties.

The Dark Side. Many of the images associated with Halloween themes are quite disturbing and fodder for nightmares. It’s very hard for young people to filter images and they don’t yet have brain development to process them rationally.

Of course there is some appeal to scary Halloween themes. The holiday is a place holder for aspects of our culture that need expression. We might think of it as the shadow side or collective unconscious coming to light.

Unfortunately, some individuals use the holiday as an excuse for mild to extreme bad behavior that compromises safety and to instigate violence, cruelty and fear.

Seeing doubles. It’s become common for costumes to be based on characters from popular television, movies and video games and sold ready-made through brands and companies who are reaping profits off children advertising for them.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a character from a favorite movie but when we’ve seen the millionth spiderman in the same exact costume, we must begin to wonder who ultimately benefits. What values are being modeled by how we observe this holiday?

Nor am I suggesting that every costume needs to be home-made and an original. But it’s interesting how conformity and commercialism can so easily replace creativity. Used only once, many of these ready-made costumes are from materials that tear easily but don’t break down easily .

What’s a conscious, witchy mom to do? 

Because of the internet and cultural pressures, it is getting harder to opt out without our children feeling left out or missing a very real opportunity to be part of something cool. As kids get older, we can risk them feeling judged or rebelling if we try taking it all away.

I believe we can reclaim Halloween for our times. Here are some ideas:

  • Make Halloween about celebrating the season, not just trick or treating. Attend harvest festivals, street fairs and the small celebrations and crafting projects available in many communities. Recreation centers often have listings of events online. Some neighborhoods have their own festivities on Halloween and on some commercial streets, stores will collectively welcome people or sponsor entertainment. Going out in the afternoon and early evening works well for families with younger children.
  • Connect with the origins of this holiday and be inspired by other cultures. Coinciding with Halloween, Celtic people had Samhain and there’s the Mexican Dia de los Muertos — an important holiday when people remember and honor their ancestors. Celebrations include rituals like the ofrenda (ancestor altar), special foods and social gatherings. Story-telling is a big part of these traditions and not just ghost stories but those of the other-world, fairy stories and family lore. Another resource for alternative celebrations is Waldorf Schools. The one near us hosts an enchanted evening called the Wanderer’s Way close to Halloween. House parties, school costume parades are other possibilities to make it your own. 
  • The Switch Witch. She takes all or the bulk of candy collected in exchange for a gift. Our tradition is to leave it out on our doorstep for her and a present is left there in the morning. There are several myths about what she does with the candy – like eat it and that’s why all her teeth are rotten or perhaps she places it in her cauldron and does some magic to make it into something useful. This switch with enables us to enjoy walking around our neighborhood and come face to face with members of our community who open their doors and give treats that are part of a good intention.
  • Create your own special Halloween traditions. Though I have been critical about media and sugar, I love the movie Coco and have made a tradition of watching with my child and drinking Mexican cocoa (with rosemary, cinnamon and spice) around this time.
  • Model your values and talk to your children about what you appreciate about this holiday. Kids, even very young ones, are much more influenced by what we do than what we say and if we do say it, we need to back it up with action to be effective. However, it’s helpful to share with them what we appreciate and value. It might be the gift-giving part Halloween because it is an important aspect for building relationships. Or you might love the creativity in decorations and costumes. It might be how dressing up as a favorite superhero lets us sample feeling strong, courageous or popular…

The idea is to sample all the flavors and gifts that Halloween can offer for connection, community, creativity and celebration.

Many of us make this holiday about children, yet the very acts associated with it have a negative impact on their health and that of the planet to which their futures are tied.

However, it’s important to recognize the potential for good and treat of a night when people open their doors, our streets are lively and inhabited at night, when we mingle with our neighbors and appreciate artistry, imagination and innovation.

However you celebrate, happy halloween. I’ll be flying off on my broomstick now.

Wildfire Season for Moms

October 28, 2019

We all need to feel safe. As mothers, the safety and health of our children is priority. This includes mental health. It’s normal to worry.

Some say worry is the work of motherhood.

We might also feel the pressure to keep the worry to ourselves so as not to upset our children. Some moms will feel guilty about possibly worrying their children indirectly or through the felt sense since all know that children (even babies) are great perceivers but poor interpreters.

Current events may even trigger existential concerns about related issues like climate change, clean energy, our dependence on broken systems, the corruption of big business and national politics.

It’s only natural to feel anxious. Events like these cause our survival instincts to kick in.

At least one large wildfire is raging within a couple hours driving distance and as we learned last year containment is a process that can take a couple weeks — despite constant and heroic efforts from firefighters (bless them) and others diligently showing up to help. We know folks personally who have been evacuated from their homes. Large swathes of neighbors in the Bay Area have been without power or may still be. 

The result of unpredictable weather patterns and high winds is ever changing air quality and conditions that help or worsen the situation. It’s been especially difficult to track this year as electricity and cell phone service has been interrupted and the usual response systems are either down or delayed in reporting. 

Local news services have been less helpful with a dearth of quality information and over-abundance of scary, sensationalized headlines rather than proposals of solutions. Social media is running sob stories, disturbing (yet eerily beautiful) footage that we would not want our children to see lest it cause nightmares, angry rants and finger-pointing about who and what is to blame among the updates of how people are doing and where they have relocated to. 

Now, let’s just pause for a moment and take a breath. Then another. 

If it’s helpful place your hand gently on your heart or your cheek or your belly. As you slow down for a few seconds, bring some compassion to yourself and the situation.

You might also sense what’s happening inside your body, noting any sensations, the shape or form your body is in and where it is making contact with gravity or furniture or the ground.

Letting go of any self-judgments or the need to change anything, just noticing with a kind, loving awareness. 

You can acknowledge that this is hard. And it’s real.

And yet…

If you are reading this, everything is okay in this moment. You are safe and your child is safe/children are safe.

As I type these words, the sky is blue, birds flit around outside the window, a breeze ruffles the leaves of trees, mail is being delivered and my retired librarian neighbor bustles around her back studio cleaning and crafting. Schools are open, people are on their morning commutes and the internet is functioning. Through the bank app, I can see that all the bills are still going through (darn!). Life is happening. Everything around me is functioning. 

The air quality reads green. It’s predicted to change later and may get worse (or not). But read again, right now it’s green. And we get to choose if we want to live in the red while it’s green. When and if it turns yellow, orange or red, we can then choose how to take action.

Of course there are the people who go jogging in the red and others who show up to perform outdoor maintenance despite risk to themselves in all conditions. There are people struggling, who have been evacuated or lost homes, businesses and who are in danger. There are pets who have been left behind and good people trying to reunite them. 

From the people I’ve spoken with lately, there’s an ambivalence between accepting extreme fire season as the new normal that we learn to live with and a strong desire to flee, between wanting to take care of their own and wanting to do more from a deep concern for others, between gratitude for their privilege and good fortune while others are affected and a sense of outrage, injustice and powerlessness.

Overall, few are immune to the stress response that says fight, flight or freeze.

There are things to be done, local and national or global, short-term and long-term, as individuals and communities. There will be people and animals to help, homes and businesses to rebuild, lands to restore, infrastructure to strenthen and systems to change. If we don’t heed these events as a wake up call, we are missing a big opportunity and the results may be devastating.

And yet…

We can recognize all the things that are working right now. We can prepare to be one step ahead. We can have something in place in case things change for the worse, a contingency plan — just enough so we can create some peace of mind. 

For my family, it’s meant packing our to-go bags, communicating with family several hours away about coming to visit if we need to leave and keeping the gas tank full in our car. I leave out the headlamps when we go to sleep and don’t turn my phone off as I usually do.

I’ve signed up for alerts and check the news and apps selectively for updates asking myself each time if I expect to learn anything that would change my actions (ie whether to send my child to school). 

We’re also spending most of our time inside even if the air quality levels say yellow and we run the air filter. We’ve agreed that if the smoke stays in the red and we can’t run the filter due to a power outage, it goes into the maroon or purple zone of if there is even the suggestion of evacuation to nearby fire danger, we will leave. 

These are difficult conversations to have and decisions to make but there’s comfort from the clarification. It allows space to be present with what is here now. Time inside has also meant being more creative and needing to work on patience with my kiddo. I let him stay home from school a little longer than was necessary which meant less time for myself and getting things done. 

On the flip side, the opportunity to slow down, stop business as usual, be together and indulge in watching a few more movies has been quite grounding and sweet. While I would never wish the power being turned off or the consequences it has had for people, in particular the elderly, disabled and children who are dependent on it for well-being, I noticed many more stars in the night sky and a mom that I know felt a sense of peace in the absence of normal distractions and from reading with her family by lantern.

What contingency plan or small steps need to be done today so you can find more ease?  

What are some simple ways to soothe yourself? What can you let go of to avoid triggers?

Can you find the side benefit or opportunity within these unplanned for or uncomfortable events?

What’s working or okay in this moment? What happens when you shift your attention towards all the things that are going well or functioning normally?

The Twenty Pound Wake Up Call

June 2, 2017

I didn’t imagine that I would do it. I joined a gym. A slightly fancy gym with a juice bar, Kiehl’s products and a cleaning crew working around the clock. It was the right choice but something that I did reluctantly like the purchase of my first iPhone because it required a new self-concept.

I like to think of myself as a yoga studio kind of person. As someone in resistance to forces that say look a certain way or workout for the sake of vanity. As someone self-sufficient and knowledgable about how to exercise at home or include movement as a way of life without making hefty investments in the (kettle) bells, whistles and gadgets (remember the thigh master – As Seen on TV?). It was not always this way.

Few people know that I started out in the gym as a fitness instructor and personal trainer. By age twenty, I was certified through several organizations and attended fitness conferences around the country.

I worked at elite gyms and trained Fortune 500 company managers whom I could tell to “drop and give me 20”. Actually, it was never my style to talk to people that way, though I may have joked with them.

Instead, I learned a lot about how to motivate different kinds of personalities and got a kick out being able to tell successful executives twice my age what to do. It was in the gym that I first discovered yoga when an optional training was offered for continuing education credits towards certification.

As my identity and interests shifted (and let’s face it, after my fitness level waned following the birth of my child), I shied away from sharing my background due to the embarrassment of not living up to it. Can you relate? 

In so many arenas, I see women selling themselves short because they don’t believe they have enough experience, knowledge or look the part. Or there is fear that sharing about themselves (especially regarding accomplishments) will open them up to judgment.


It doesn’t come naturally to write about this. However, after years of practice there is space for increased consciousness and tolerance for vulnerability. I recognize how I have let beliefs about what a personal trainer or yoga instructor should be like limit my expression.

A narrative about  what it means to be a gym vs. yoga person dominated my perspective and controlled my choices.

Self-judgments and high expectations about how I should be got in the way of accepting how really I am, revealing myself and finding what works for me now.

Like a rebellious teenager, the fear of being seen (by myself as well as others) as out of shape was exactly what prevented me from attending to it. The irony is not lost on me. It’s like being too tired to sleep.

The wake up call came when I weighed myself for the first time in six months and shockingly saw that I had gained almost twenty pounds. I have been spending an increased amount of time writing at a desk and in the car shuttling my child around. I also picked up some bad habits working from home, in addition to an almost nightly glass of wine before dinner and sometimes one with dinner.

I realized that I was replacing the stress relief that I got from yoga, hiking and dance with  what the Buddhist tradition calls False Refuges, thus trying to feed my soul with things that are temporarily satisfying but inferior and even harmful in the long run.

Sometimes, false refuges are the best that we can do in the moment and work as coping strategies. They may provide the short-term relief that we need to get something done or through an overwhelming experience.


Often, these strategies outlast their usefulness and can cause problems when they are used chronically. The obvious extremes are drug addiction and alcoholism but they show up in more subtle ways (such as numbing out with television, spending too much time on social media, obsessing over things…) that we can catch when we stay awake and pay attention. We might notice triggers or patterns that lead to these behaviors.

The narrative that I had around myself and fitness was created prior to having a child. In the last few years, I tried some studio classes but they were often difficult to match with my schedule and because of my background, I was picky about instructors. I tried to set aside time and space at home except it was easily interrupted by piles of laundry, the kid, the dog, the phone…

I saw that since I work a lot from home, I needed a space that I could go to, that is appealing enough that I would want to go there (sorry 24-hour Fitness) and that was conveniently located. I finally let my choice be defined by my current needs instead of the choice defining me.

My energy and how I feel in my body has already improved. I feel stronger and have broken through something mental as well as physical. There is a sense of greater freedom.

Previously, I might have waited to write about this until I lost that 20lbs. My idea of fitness is evolving and less about fitting an identity that has been constructed.

I am much more interested in brining forth aliveness (my brand of joy), vitality, self-love (metta), freedom and the rush I get from feeling strong in my body.

Instead of being guided by self-judgment, my core desired feelings lead me. If I start to compare myself to how used to be or someone else, I return to those desired feelings or the question: How can I be my best current self in this moment?

Where might you be limited by beliefs about yourself, shame or old modes of being? 

How do judgments and shoulds show up for you? 

Where are you locked into how you were in the past? 

Ever meet someone who stays focused on how strong (or successful or whatever) he or she was at 25 instead of working to be their best at 35, 45 or 65?

Few women in our culture are immune to body image issues but limiting self-concepts may can be about anything, such as how you are as a mom, employee or friend…

If you let go of how you should be, what else would be possible? 

What wakeup calls have you received? What are they telling you?

Even when you know exactly what to do, have experience doing it or believe you should be able to do it on your own, it does not mean that you always need to muscle through this alone.


Finding support and trying new ways, falling down or forgetting to get back up and needing help are part of the process. I do this for people. I’ve been doing it in different ways for two decades.

If you are ready to let go of beliefs that no longer serve you, find true refuge and rise to the best version of you, I am here to help. We can leave the shoulds, shame and judgments behind.

What Your Shoes Say About You

May 26, 2017

I used to have a theory that you could learn a lot about a person and what is important to them by their shoes and their collection of books.

My library is diverse and extensive with sections organized around art, interior design, cultural history, travel guides, yoga, Buddhism and meditation, Jewish studies and spirituality, personal growth, women’s studies, collections of mythology and folk tales, parenting and child development, birth, sexuality, cooking and poetry.

Many women have equally extensive shoes collections but mine is less exciting. I can usually be found in Merrell boots or Dansko clogs. While I have always had a thing for the retro platform, you will not find me in high heels.

Why I don’t wear high heels and how we can stop being like Cinderella’s step-sisters.

I remember taking a women’s studies class and reading about the connection between the old Chinese tradition of foot-binding and high-heel shoes.

Both can cripple women and increase their dependency on a [male] protector. In contrast the protector seems strong and solid.

They take away her power to stand firm, grounded and centered in her body and inhibit the ability to run away. They create a sense that she can easily fall over or get blown away by a strong wind. Of course there are other interpretations but this description struck a chord for me.
Teaching yoga in my twenties, I observed many young women barefoot in my classes with deformed feet. One of my bosses had to have surgeries on both feet to correct the damage from wearing narrow pointy heels that conformed to the fashion for a woman in business at the time.

I, too, had spent nights dancing in shoes that pinched and created blisters just because they looked good. One day, I went to a podiatrist for the first time and was shocked to discover that I had the beginnings of bunions. This is when the bone starts to point interiorly as the foot changes shape from shoes that squeeze the toes.
It was subtle but that was all it took. I made a vow then and there to take care of my feet. Despite more limited shoe choices, I never turned back. I am happy to report that I have had no further issues with my feet.

Through our feet, we make contact with the earth. It is our foundation and literally, what we stand on. This contact affects so many other structure in the body. 

High heels shorten the calf muscles, tilt the pelvis, contribute to a displaced uterus which may be at the root of menstrual and fertility issues and can cause lower back pain, not to mention increased chances of a sprained ankle.

So, why are so many women acting like Cinderella’s stepsisters?

We force our feet into shoes that don’t fit.
We stuff ourselves into Spanx and push up bras.
We contort and conform to other people’s ideas of ourselves, measurements of success and idealized versions of how we should be.

Where in your life are you foot binding? In what ways are you living a life that doesn’t fit becayse it is too small?

Here are a some ideas for standing on your own two feet, filling your own shoes and finding alignment, vitality and flow.

1) Try Earthing – Spend time barefoot in nature for a variety of health benefits.
2) Learn Walking Meditation here with legendary Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hahn who describes massaging the earth with every step.
3) Let Katy Bowman explain why high heels are like cigarettes here.
4) Get an Arvigo Maya Abdominal Massage to help balance your pelvis and guide your womb to optional position and function.
5) Coach with me and stop living a life that is too small, made for or by someone else.
6) Read Playing Big by Tara Mohr.

I would love to hear what resonates for you.

How to Make Friends With Your Anger – Part 1

May 19, 2017

This needs to be said: Your anger is not negative or bad or destructive. Your anger does not need to be justified or defended. You don’t have to earn the right to be angry or receive approval about it from someone else. Your anger simply is.


There are a lot of reasons to be angry these days. From the way politics are playing out in our country to the increased number of people texting while driving on our shared highways, the injustices against Muslims, immigrants and the vulnerable in our society, the assault on our environment and its protections being chipped away, street violence and refugee conditions across the world…

Our anger may also be triggered by something a spouse does (or doesn’t) do, a child acting out, a colleague’s behavior towards us or social media interaction.


Our culture stereotypes and ridicules angry women. They are seen as bitches, irrational and unfeminine. A great example is what the media and political opponents did to shape perception about Hillary Clinton (whatever you think of her).

Additionally, there may have been someone in your life when you were young who was scary when angry. It is only natural to make adaptations in order to feel safe and believe that anger is dangerous, something to be controlled or suppressed.


Feeling angry does not have to mean anything about who you are. It is not a life sentence, a character distinction or anything permanent.


Another myth is that we can make someone angry. We can be responsive and take responsibility for our parts but nobody makes someone angry. You are not responsible for causing their feelings or what they do with them.


Personally, I have a hard time witnessing adults inappropriately blame their own anger on little children or threaten them with it (even when I have great compassion for the adult).

“Little Johnny, you made momma so angry by throwing your toys on the floor! It’s all your fault that I am so furious.”

“If you do that one more time, Lila, I am going to get so pissed at you!”

“If you don’t stop, I am going to tell your daddy and he will be so mad.”

No wonder we have anger issues in our culture when it is used to blame, shame, punish, coerce and control.
A reason that others may feel threatened by our anger is that it’s a call for change which can be uncomfortable or in direct opposition to what that person wants.


Anger is an emotion with a message. It tells us that a boundary has been crossed or needs to be protected, that something needs to be restored or that the status quo is harmful.


The next time you feel angry, ask yourself:
Where has there been a violation or a boundary crossed?
What needs to be protected or restored?


Anger may be a secondary emotion. Some psychologists and researchers categorize anger as one of the emotions that is likely layered like a protective cover over another emotion.

Most often, anger covers the more vulnerable feelings of hurt or sadness. Sadness is connected with letting go and we may need to use our anger to protect ourselves before doing the work of sadness.


Tears can accompany sadness. We know that they help carry away stress hormones for a cathartic effect. Anger seeks to use those stress hormones for action and change.


When you feel angry, especially if you notice an attachment to being right or justification of your perspective, try sensing if there is a deeper hurt or sadness beneath it or something more vulnerable that seeks being felt.


Beware of displaced anger. Common discomfort with anger has resulted in a lot of displaced anger. Not only is it not your job to carry someone else’s anger or take the blame for it (or likewise), but the inability to recognize what we are really angry about and feelings of helplessness can result in taking it out elsewhere as impatience, hypersensitivity, reactivity and in extreme circumstances as violence. This can be completely unconscious.


In situations where someone may not feel comfortable or safe expressing their needs, say to a boss, client or authority figure, they might over-react at home to a child running around or making a mess, snap at a partner or friend for being unsupportive or demonstrate aggression in the form of road rage.
Anger is rooted in love and care. While it’s true that reactivity and anger can be activated by stress, vulnerability and unmet needs in the form of neglect, the pure feeling is in relation to what we hold dear. Anger arises out of what we love or care about, our deepest needs and desires.


Either when you begin to feel angry or when you are not angry, identify what you love and care most about, what is important or at stake, your big why, what you hold sacred and defensible. This is your righteous anger from which healing and wholeness can be restored.


Consider this equation:
Righteous Anger + Fierce Love = Radical Action/Social Change/Transformation


In Part II of this series, I will share practical tools for becoming friends with your anger and techniques for damage control.