Tuesday, September 20

are you my mother?

I caught a glimpse of myself the other day.

Nearly 9am, striding across the parking lot across the street from the church where my son attends Mother's Day Out, twice a week. My 7-month old strapped into the Ergo carrier, diaper bag stuffed with the day's necessities slung over my shoulder. Around me, minivans and trucks out of which poured moms and dads and kiddos all ages and sizes, toting bright backpacks and colorful lunchboxes. All of us heading in, the children to stay behind, and us parents to walk back out, get back into our vehicles and scatter across town to take up again the day's business. Along the way, we share hellos, smiles, glances.

Really? This is me? Am I really a part of this tribe, the mothers and fathers of Mother's Day Out? I've been a mother for over 7 months now, but the title is still kinda ill-fitting, like that shirt or skirt we've all bought that we really really like, but that somehow never feels quite right. All the other moms around me appear to be more at ease in their mothering shoes--it may not be the most glamorous pair, but at least it's broken in and comfortable. And here I am, acting the part, but a bit stunned that I've been cast at all.

I guess you could say it's a bit of a surprise to find myself here so early. Seven months seems a tender age to have your name and initials scribbled onto your possessions in Sharpie pen by a bleary-eyed mother in the dark of early morning. Seven months seems early to have teachers greet you by name in the playground, teachers I swear I must've met, but I could not remember their names to save my life. Seven months is quite young to have a life of your own.

But seven months is late in the life of a mother to not yet really feel like a mother. Certainly the word mother means many different things; I have come to think of it as meaning mainly two things. First, there is mother as something I do. Mothering my child is what I do day in, day out, morning noon and night. It is a series of tasks and responsibilities, like beads on a long long string that I cycle through, finger and worry as the day trickles on. That mother is tangible, tactile, tractable. Second, there is mother as identity, as who I am. Or, more accurately, as who I try to be. To the other moms in the parking lot, to the teachers, to my beloved son, there is no doubt that I am Silas' mom. I am not saying otherwise--I would be a fool to try to. But as I catch a glimpse of myself with all the other moms as we take our children to daycare, I realize: it doesn't quite feel that way yet. I guess I still have a lot of growing to do for the word mother to fit just right.

Monday, September 19

Quotable Monday

"Let go into full acceptance of the present moment,
including how you are feeling and what you perceive to be happening.
Don't try to change anything at all; just breathe and let go.
Breathe and let be.

Die to having to have anything be different in this moment;
in your mind and in your heart, 
give yourself permission to let this moment be exactly as it is, 
and allow yourself to be exactly as you are."

-Jon Kabat-Zinn

Sunday, September 18

18 september

the storm brew, growled, but flashed south of us. then, there was the small, old internal storm.

Thursday, September 15

what's in a name?: the art of mindfulness with karen maezen miller

::part two:: (part one here)

In this excellent podcast interview, Karen Maezen Miller explains that she wishes retreat and workshops participants would have their breakdowns firsts, before showing up to an event. I certainly felt like I qualified last Saturday as I was heading into The Art of Mindfulness daylong workshop in Houston. During our entire drive from Austin to Houston the previous day our 7-month old son screamed his little head off, and on my morning drive to the workshop site, I screamed my head off at the Google Maps app on my phone, unfamiliar Houston roads and crazy Houston drivers. My fear of being late combined with my neuroses regarding going to new places nearly did me in; only Maezen's sweet words, "do not worry!", kept me from driving off the road and into the nearest ditch to sob. But as I walked onto the lovely grounds at Great Oaks Manor, and into the workshop space, something magical happened. Maezen saw me, walked over to me with open arms, and said, "Good morning, Fanny. Welcome."

We had never met before. I knew her face from book jackets and her website; she knew my face from Facebook and Twitter, where I number into her followers (you should be one, too.) So many negative things have been said about social media, about how it prevents us from having "real" relationships. How do you define "real"? We'd never met in person, but that morning, because of our social media presence, Maezen was able to call me by my name, and by doing so, she handed me my Self back. I immediately simmered down from my frantic worry, and knew in that instant that I was not only in exactly the right place, but that I'd gotten there exactly at the right time. Such was the power of my own name, spoken by my teacher.

Maezen went right along talking about names. She broke down her own: Karen, the name her mother gave her; Maezen, the name her teacher gave her; and Miller, the name Mr Miller gave her. From these three names, three spheres of practice, three spheres of influence: that of her family of origin, of her family of Zen practice, or sangha; that of her very own family, where she is wife and mother. This was a very striking thought to me. Names are things I've always thought much about, and here was another thought: how our names are a mark of belonging, and as such, a reminder of the arenas in which we are called to practice. I thought about my son's own name, the hopes and aspirations his father and I put into it.

Much later, an unrelated comment brought back this idea of names to me with the full force of a fierce wake-up call. Maezen was talking about moving from the workshop, from its cozy environment and ideas, back out into our everyday lives. "How are we supposed to practice when there are no Zen priests around?" To which her response was, "There better be one." WHAMMO. Priest. That is my last name, given to my by Mr Priest. I'd always rather liked the fact that I married it, but never before had I seen my last name so clearly as a function, as a calling. I am a Priest in my own home, devoted and dedicated to being awake and aware, not just for my own sake, but for the sake of my family, of the people I share a home, a life with. I may not be ordained as a Zen priest, but I can put on my apron with all the portent and reverence with which Maezen donned her rakusu, and set about doing the same work a Zen priest does: that is, to attend to what is in front of me, with the fullness of my attention, without judgement.

Thank you, Maezen, for calling me by name, and with it, for calling me to my purpose.

Tuesday, September 13

a day to do things differently: the art of mindfulness with karen maezen miller

::part one::

Karen Maezen Miller began to teach me well before I walked into her workshop this past Saturday morning.

I have been reading and underlining her books devotedly for years, but that's not what I am referring to. I am referring to an email exchange we had a few days prior to the workshop. I contacted her to ask whether she would mind if I recorded her talks, very unobtrusively, with my iPhone. I have sat through hundreds and hundreds of hours of workshops of yoga teacher training and if there is one thing I know about them it's that I like to take notes. Copious notes. But Maezen had invited us attendees not to write anything down. This had me worried. Here is what she wrote back:

... It's interesting that this point brings up such panic in so many of us. I have to say that I would prefer you not record my talks. They are meaningful only in the moment we occupy together. And I have the utmost faith in you. There is nothing I say that you don't already know in your own heart. That's why we call it wisdom! We recognize it on sight and sound. All I'm doing is reminding you.

This is a day to do things differently. This is a day to trust yourself - all of yourself.


Never have I had a request denied so beautifully and satisfyingly before. Her "no" was a greater gift than a "yes" would have been. I was stunned that she'd seen right to the uncertain, shaky core of my request, and quelled my fear with her love and trust. Did I mention we hadn't even met yet? I'd been excited about the workshop before; now I was really, really excited. Her email bore the mark of a true teacher.

She did not disappoint. And she was right. Just as the most instructive part of a yoga workshop for me has always been to watch a new teacher's bearing and countenance, the way they move, the quality of their presence, so too it was with Maezen. What struck me most what the deep quality of attention that she brought to the day, that she gave each of us attendees in turn. When she looks at you, she looks at you with all of her attention. When she listens, she does so with all of her being. Which is fitting, because that is essentially the core of her message: attention is the most concrete form of love. In order to have a life worth loving, all we need to do is attend to the one we have. I knew this already--I'd read it, numerous times, in her books. Heck, I have entire passages practically memorized. I didn't need to write anything down (although I did, a few phrases--I couldn't help it!) All I needed to do was sit, observe the kind of attention my teacher wants me to bring to my own life and relationships, and bask into the warmth of it. Which I did, gratefully.

ETA Many thanks to Erica at The Art of Workshops! Without your giveaway, I wouldn't have been able to attend.

Monday, September 12

12 september


I had been wanting to make it for months. It was so freaking good.

Quotable Monday

"Attention is the most concrete expression of love. What we pay attention to thrives. What we do not pay attention to withers and dies. What will you pay attention to today?"

                                                                                         -Karen Maezen Miller

Thursday, September 8

8 september


fewer good moments would have suited me just fine. such a full, full day.

Tuesday, September 6

Monday, September 5

5 september


delight at the return of cool weather mitigated by the destruction the winds have wrought. now the pines will truly be lost. heartbreak & thick black smoke.

Thursday, September 1

1 september


"to affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." -Thoreau
I was able to do that today, with the help of SATC, brown rice & egg curry bowl, a nice practice, and lots of chocolate. and a good thing it was indeed.