This will sound wrong to your modern, capitalist ears, but it’s true. Relaxing the body relaxes the mind far more than the other way around.
School didn’t teach us this. The stories our society tells about success and happiness don’t reflect it.
We’re told that thinking is king. That rational thought is more valuable than emotion. That more information — more data — is always better.
But that just doesn’t line up with the science of how the body works.
Some 80 percent of information that travels between the mind and body goes from the body to the mind.
When was the last time you felt triggered by someone you love? What about the last time you treated someone in a way you now regret?
What did it feel like in your body? What was going through your mind? Can you remember?
Maybe your shoulders pulled up. Maybe the muscles around your eyes scrunched. Maybe your stomach balled up in a knot.
Maybe you can’t remember your body because you were so lost in thought.
What you were experiencing was a deep-rooted pattern that started when you were little. …
My dad comes from a working class area of West Virginia, with German Protestant ancestors who were sent to the American colonies as indentured servants. My mom, from a long line of self-sufficient family farmers in rural Maryland.
No wonder I struggle with anxiety. Particularly, anxiety about never getting enough work done. A voice in my head that whispers, “You better get moving.” A wretched restlessness that won’t quit until I burn out and collapse.
I inherited generations of capitalist ways of being. …
There’s a tragic irony to this life: The only thing we can control is whether we’re willing to stop trying to control things. Whether we’re willing to let go.
The bad news is, letting go is probably the hardest thing to do.
Addiction recovery programs offer 12 steps over months, years, even decades to help people let go of alcohol, heroin, or something else they love. Meetings are available 24/7, in every corner of the world. There’s almost certainly someone spilling their guts out in a meeting somewhere right now about how hard it’s been to let go.
Some years ago, I did a meditation retreat with Natalie Goldberg, the Zen Buddhist teacher and writer of the bestselling Writing Down the Bones.
Goldberg said so many memorable things that week. She even called me “sweetie” when we were shooting the shit in the monastery’s office about the painter Georgia O’Keefe.
But what really has stuck with me — what’s branded on my heart — is her presence.
She was a rock, immovable, unrelenting. And she never let me off the hook.
“Keep coming back,” she would say during meditation. A command, not a suggestion.
In a word, she…
One of my earliest memories is sitting cross-legged in front of the TV and getting some news that rocked my little kid world.
My mom was talking on the cordless phone behind me in the kitchen. A lawnmower blared outside.
I felt free, content, and safe. My family’s quiet, suburban Maryland home oozed 1990s middle-class prosperity. Five types of cereal sat in the pantry. Fifty cable channels awaited my eyes.
My mom came over to talk to me. “They wanted to hold you back from first grade. But I told them no,” she said. “You can handle it.”
I didn’t grow up religious, but I’ve recently fallen in love with saying a little prayer before meals.
Not a prayer, really. Some words of gratitude.
For the food itself. For who picked the blueberries in my oatmeal. For who transported them to the grocery store. For the cows that provided the milk for the yogurt. For the humans who made the first yogurt many years ago. For my friend Andrew who taught me to add honey to oatmeal. …
I don’t consider myself a Buddhist. But I often find myself digging stories about Siddhartha Gautama, the ancient spiritual master known as the Buddha.
One lesser-known story is when Siddhartha almost died from starvation. He’d been wandering the jungle practicing intense forms of meditation and austere living. He tortured his body to try to overcome its desires and needs, eventually limiting his daily diet to a few grains of rice.
“When I touched my belly, I would feel my backbone, and when I went to urinate, I would fall over,” he would later say.
Collapsed near a river at the…
I didn’t need a pandemic to show me how bad I want to be part of something larger than myself. To be part of a real community. To be loved. To belong.
I’ve always felt like that. One of my earliest memories is crying over a broken radio my parents had thrown in the trash. Why can’t it stay with us? I wondered.
Sure, like anyone else I’m often drunk on white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist mythology. Imagining that if I work hard enough, one day I’ll feel like I belong. Pretending I don’t need help. …
I keep forgetting that there’s a pandemic. Not that I need to wear a mask and socially distance. That’s in my bones now. But that I’m starving for human contact. That this isn’t normal.
This forgetting often comes in a familiar form: self-criticism.
I beat myself up inside for feeling lonely during the pandemic. I think things like, I should be handling this better. Or, I should be writing the next great American novel. Or, I shouldn’t be on social media so much.
But tens of millions of years of social connection are wired into my nervous system. So much…