Renewing my sitting practice, massage self care, oil pulling, and a 21-day challenge: Byron Katie’s The Work

I got away from my meditation practice. For many months.

It always seemed like a good idea when I thought about it, and I still didn’t actually do it more than occasionally. Committing to 20-30 minutes of doing nothing — well, it seemed like I didn’t have time. I had other things to do.

This is after years of meditating and a full year of daily sitting.

Hmmm. The mind plays tricks, takes itself way too seriously, makes excuses, avoids.

I missed it, and when a friend told me she gets out of bed and sits first thing every day, it inspired me to start again.

I was also inspired by the film The Dhamma Brothers, about a program in an Alabama prison where inmates did vipassana meditation, 10 days of silent sitting. It was profound to see peace on the faces of men who had committed terrible crimes.

One inmate said:

I thought my biggest fear was growing old and dying in prison. In truth, my biggest fear was growing old and not knowing myself.

Meditation has always been about facing my self, from the day I started, so tentatively, having realized that nothing else I had tried was taking my suffering away, so I might at least fully face it.

It didn’t take it away, but I quickly understood that my experience was larger than my suffering.

Aren’t we all in prisons of some kind? Fears, mindless behaviors, disconnections, denial, insane beliefs…

I want to know myself. And that in itself is such a koan, I felt inspired to sit with it.

Getting on the computer first thing in the morning is my worst distraction. I seem to have developed an affinity for my laptop, for Facebook, email, checking my blog stats, reading what interests me. Time can get away from me. It’s like an addiction.

So I realized that I need to sit first thing. Actually, I do a couple of sun salutations first. Otherwise, more of my attention goes to my aches and pains when I sit.

Yoga frees my mind to pay more attention to noticing my thoughts and sensing the subtle energies.

Today I experienced this:

Indeed, the ineffability of the air seems akin to the ineffability of awareness itself, and we should not be surprised that many indigenous peoples construe awareness, or ‘mind,’ not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather as a quality that they themselves are inside of, along with the other animals and the plants, the mountains and the clouds. ~ David Abram

Tom Best would love that quote. Living inside of awareness. Sweet. I miss him.


I’ve been giving 15-20 massages a week, and my body is feeling it. I like the honesty of physical work, and I’m learning about remedies like rosemary oil for achy thumbs, trigger points on the forearm, wrist stretches.

Immersing myself in the cold waters of Barton Springs and snorkeling a lap is very, very good for aches and pains. I sleep well.

I’ve also changed up my mouth care routine. I’m brushing with turmeric (if you try it, be careful because it stains towels and possibly porcelain, but it whitens teeth and reduces inflammation in gum pockets), tongue scraping, flossing, oil pulling with organic coconut oil (sometimes adding a drop of peppermint or clove oil).

I do the oil pulling for 20 minutes most days.

So far, my teeth are whiter, my mouth feels cleaner, and my breath smells good throughout the day.

I’ve done this about a week now. I want to do it for a couple of months and see if it makes a big difference. Some folks claim that oil pulling has huge unexpected health benefits; some say that’s because it reduces inflammation in the mouth and body.

I’ll let you know.


Finally, I am planning to start a new 21-day challenge on Sept. 1, ending on the fall equinox. I will be doing The Work of Byron Katie, starting with her Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

I will do at least one worksheet online so people can see how The Work actually works.

I’m also re-reading her book, Loving What Is (which she autographed for me last time I saw her!), and will add insights from that and the workshops I’ve attended.

If you’d like to do it along with me, here’s a link to the worksheet online.

Travels with friends: stories from Paradise Island and Maui

One of my favorite ways of getting to know people better is to travel with them. I’ve been lucky enough to have taken several trips with people who were friends before we traveled together. Spending travel time together deepened our friendships.

Some of these trips were to other places in the world — the Bahamas, London, Maui (twice) — and some were road trips in Texas, even just to San Antonio, 80 miles down the road from Austin.

An hour and a half with a friend in a car can cover a lot of sharing.

Fanny, Pauline, and I went to the Bahamas together and had a total blast. We stayed in the mega-resort Atlantis, and wandering around Paradise Island and Nassau was hugely fun with them.

I learned how to snorkel for that trip, and one day, Fanny and I took a boat trip to visit a sunken boat used in an old James Bond film and check out a coral garden. We saw the “tongue of the ocean” where the deep Atlantic and the shallow Caribbean meet, where looking down, you see the grassy sea bottom drop off into utter darkness.

At the end of that trip, we snorkeled with sharks. (They were well-fed before we got into the water.) Their skin feels like sandpaper, and I noticed that everyone kept their arms and legs pulled in!

In the marketplace in Nassau, we’d been shopping and my feet were hurting (back in those days — never happens now), and I was tired of kids pestering me, hawking crappy trinkets I didn’t want.

I asked the most aggressive little boy if he would sing a song for me for a quarter. He obliged. Other children gathered, and for a couple of bucks, I heard song after song, many of which were hymns. We drew a crowd.

It was an unexpected tourist adventure, and I’m glad I thought of it — just from thinking that these children must have something else of value to offer besides crappy trinkets.

I still remember one little girl who sang so sweetly and beautifully about Jesus.


Linaka took me to Rice Park on Maui. It’s up the volcano near Kula, and from there, you can see nearly three-quarters of Maui’s coastline and get as close to a bird’s eye view of the amazingly small mountainous island as possible without actually being in the air.

It took my breath away and gave me some navigational bearings I could never have gotten from a map. That map was the territory.

Then she taught me kalani hula, and we laughed.

On another trip to Maui, Glenda drove us on the Hana Highway. I didn’t know her very well before, but we spent over six hours together in the car on that trip, and she’s become a dear friend. She’s blessed my house in a fabulous ritual, and I can request from her a reiki dance for myself and those I care about when needed as well as send love to her when she needs it.

Glenda happens to be one of the most enthusiastic and loving, compassionate people I’ve ever met. She changed me.

There’s something really magical about being on a tropical island with friends.

I camped with Katie and Keith up on the Haleakala volcano on Maui in Hosmer’s Grove. The highlight of that experience was getting up way before dawn to drive to the top of the volcano to watch the sunrise.

When we got there, a crowd had already assembled. It was cold, about 35-40 degrees F. We found vantage points, and at the very moment the sun peeked over the clouds, a native Hawaiian man began chanting in Hawaiian. I have no idea what it meant, but it was obviously a sacred greeting, and he had a beautiful voice.

And then the magic really started…

We could see the tops of two volcanoes on the Big Island above the clouds off to the southeast. As the clouds cleared to the west, we could see the shadow of the volcano falling over west Maui and the smaller islands. Vertiginous… And then there was Nick Goodness, the story teller…

Sometimes when you travel with friends, you have shared experiences that sink in so deeply, your bond deepens.

You feel even more at home in this world. You have arrived in a new, more connected place, an inner, heartfelt place and a worldly, outer place.