eat, move, think, feel



Taking Time To (Re)Treat

IMG_4834So many things have helped me on my path to health, but one that I have been practicing for over 25 years is the retreat. I love this word. It means to take a step back; it means to take refuge. It also means to re-treat: to treat oneself, again. I first came to Santa Sabina in the mid-eighties, when I was a budding calligrapher (little known fact). I signed up for the Friends of Calligraphy retreat,  not really knowing what I was getting into.

It took my breath away. Silence, and beauty. The scratching of pens on paper in what had been set up as the Scriptorium. Words on paper (or on walls). A great spaciousness. My mind was blown.


Once I started coming to this place, I felt I craved it like one craves chocolate, or oxygen. Once or twice a year (especially when I had babies and small children), I would slip away for twenty-four hours, to step into the quiet corners. I could climb the steps to the straw-bale Hermitage and “be the hermit” for a brief while.

IMG_1617 IMG_1612 IMG_1611Sometimes I came on my own, or with other writer friends. Sometimes I came with groups- calligraphers or poets. I experienced several amazing poetry weekends – one focusing on the work of Rilke, others with Jane Hirshfield and Naomi Shihab Nye. There is poetry everywhere here, and art. The art basement is a generous space filled with art supplies of all kinds – a calligraphers’ nook, a collage room. It invites gentle creativity.

IMG_1633 IMG_1630Several years ago, I began offering group retreats myself at Santa Sabina. It has been one of my greatest joys. Two years ago, I led a retreat called Stories of the Body. Participants came together to share stories through collage, art, writing, movement, and to be with their own bodies’ stories in silence and reflection and silent, mindful meals. It was so moving and beautiful. I have been trying to book a date for a return visit for years, but the center has been undergoing many renovations and there have not been dates open — until now! I am thrilled to be offering Stories of the Body again at the end of March.

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There’s an early-bird discounting until January 28th, and I’m also offering a discount to YOU, blog readers. (you can take advantage of both!) For readers of this blog, just enter the code FOODFOODBODYBODY and you’ll get an additional reduction in price.  I am also offering a deposit option with extended payments for those who cannot pay all at once.

I am hoping to be able to offer a weekend scholarship for one retreat assistant to this retreat this year. The work involved would be minimal but of great help to me (registration, set-up, logistics). If you feel that you would benefit from this special time away (and into yourself), please email me with the following:

  • Why you feel this retreat would benefit you at this time
  • Your commitment to attend if chosen
  • Experience in dealing with groups (ie your “people skills”)
  • DEADLINE: February 1, 2014

Exercise and eating well have been so elemental in my health journey, but this – THIS- has been an invaluable element that I often forget. Being with myself. Taking time for the quiet. I hope you will join us.

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Diary of an Injury

I’ve been dealing with a hurt hip ever since the Oakland Half Marathon over a month ago. I’ve been trying not to freak out about it, but it continues to persist off and on. I have to admit it has slowed me down both physically and emotionally. Trying to remain positive.

For the first week, it was hurting a LOT. So much so that it made me wince to walk even a short distance. I was traveling that week, and the combination of post-race, then a long plane flight, then a bunch of sitting made it really hurt. I didn’t find relief until I located a used softball for $1 at a sporting goods store.

Insert under hip, and ROLL. Ow! Yay!
Insert under hip, and ROLL. Ow! Yay!

After I got home, I finally decided that I needed to seek professional help. I went and found a physical therapist that I really liked.

I enjoyed the massive ice packs.
I enjoyed the massive ice packs.

However, alas, after three treatments I discovered that this particular place was not covered by my insurance plan and would not be reimbursed. Big sad. 😦

I decided to take a different route. I went back to my trainer, who also is very skilled at body work. I went in there limping about a week ago. He mashed on my hip and stretched me for over 90 minutes. After he was done, I was pain free. He’s so good at what he does.


magic hands
magic hands

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was kind of discouraging. But I’ve been trying to focus on other things. I started taking a MSBR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) Class. Which has been amazing and wonderful. I think it has helped me cope with this injury more than anything else. It is a weekly class held at the Writers’ Grotto where I write. It’s been a real opportunity for reflection. Am I doing too much? Not enough? Am I getting lazy, or am I resting it appropriately? It is so hard to know. I’m just trying to be patient.

Last week I got this brochure in the mail and damn, I’m tempted to take it just so I can figure out what the heck is going on, and how to fix it. A friend of mine suggested that I look into trying to get some of those black rings inserted. Heh.

Physical therapist, heal thyself.
Physical therapist, heal thyself.

The See Jane Run half marathon is three weeks from today. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do. Part of me is still so reluctant to downgrade to the 5k, but I kind of know that’s what I need to do. I haven’t run more than three miles at a time since the Oakland Half.

My meditation and mindfulness practice has taught me that this, too, shall pass (I hope).

Do I Have to Let Go?

I’m reading a lot of Tweets and blogs today about people saying “Good riddance!” to 2009. 2009 sucked very much for very many people. There were big personal tragedies and losses, and the economy was terrible, and I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW.

But I have to admit that I am feeling kind of… attached to 2009. This is the year that I finally found health. I finally got fit, and finally lost the weight that has plagued me for most of my adult life.

I am just the teeniest bit afraid of 2010, and part of me is not READY to move on. What if 2010 is the year of my downfall? I know, I know, I’m not supposed to think like that. But for me, 2009 was kind of a miracle and part of me would not be surprised if 2010 was sort of back to business as usual.

I feel like I’m the only person out there who isn’t completely ready to step into a new year.

I hope that my New Years’ Eve will help me make this transition gracefully. First I’m going to lead the Very Last WW meeting of the year (filling for another leader) at my center. Then, in the evening I’m going to a lovely, cozy soup party hosted by a dear friend. Then I’m going to meditate in the New Year at the meditation center where I haven’t been in way too long. Hopefully, by the time the clock strikes, I’ll be ready for a new year.

What I Did On My Silent Retreat

IMG_1613Are y’all curious? If not, skip to another post, I won’t take it personally if you don’t want to read about the minutae of my weekend. But if so…

•    Arrived; silent dinner (pasta, pesto veggies, salad)
•    Group gathering. I cried. Lit individual candles and placed in chapel. I put mine at the base of a leafless tree hung with gold origami cranes.
•    Read.
•    Slept for 10 hours, very deeply.

•    Woke up. Went to yoga/meditation.
•    Silent breakfast. (veggie frittata, few spoons of oatmeal, fruit, coffee)
•    Made bed.
•    30 minute walk/run. Injuries bothering me. (shin splint, groin pain)
•    Morning gathering
•    Read poems on various walls, copied many down. Spent time in art room but didn’t do art.
•    Spent one hour in straw bale hermitage. Meditated. Cried.
•    Silent Lunch (turkey, tuna, salad, fruit)
•    Walk/ran one hour. Injuries slightly better but not great.
•    Read.
•    Napped.
•    Showered.
•    Silent dinner: chicken, Israeli couscous, salad. Wrestled with apple crisp with whipped cream. Didn’t eat it.
•    Walk, 30 minutes. Slowly.
•    Evening gathering: meditation, elm dance in courtyard garden: slow, mournful circle dance from Russia, composed to mourn death of forests after Chernobyl
•    Slept, but woke from 2-4am

•    Slept through yoga/meditation. Made bed.
•    Silent breakfast. (hard boiled egg, chicken apple sausage, honeydew, brown rice cereal)
•    Very slow walk
•    Morning gathering – re connection with nature, Wendy Johnson book
•    Silent gardening: planted 3 kinds of lettuce, kale. My first garden experience.
•    Read.
•    Very short nap.
•    Silent lunch: chicken broth with toppings (chicken, green onions, carrot shreds, lime), salad. No cookies 4 me.
•    Another slow walk.
•    Silent art: made ‘treasure boxes’ out of matchboxes, homemade paper, shells, leaves
•    Read.
•    Massage. Melted onto table. Injuries completely gone.
•    Showered.
•    Silent dinner: poached salmon, sugar snap peas, salad. Passed up the potatoes and the wine (only night it was offered). Did not pass up poppyseed cake with whipped cream. Meant to have one bite; ate the whole piece. Delicious.
•    Slow walk, 20 minutes.
•    Tested blood sugar, worried about cake. Ecstatic it was 109. (yay walk!!)
•    Gathering in pillow room. Gave thanks to H & S for 23 years of nurturing us. Cried more. Another elm dance, then meditation in chapel.
•    Wrote.
•    Slept.

•    Woke.
•    Breakfast: scrambled egg, toast, peanut butter, grapefruit.
•    Changed bed linens. Packed.
•    Morning gathering
•    Went to art room and hand-copied several pages from Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings
•    Event closing
•    NONsilent lunch! Made some new friends. Beautiful cheeses, salad, lentil soup, crackers.
•    Drove home. Stopped at Spirit Rock bookstore on the way to buy One Bowl and Mindful Eating.


Last night I went to the second session of my meditation class. I love this class so much. I have gone to several meditation classes and retreats before, and always ended up feeling like it wasn’t for me, or I wasn’t doing it right, or something. It didn’t fully click somehow. But this class, and this teacher, clicked from the moment I walked in the door.  I love this place in downtown Oakland. The teacher fills me with a sense of calm. Her voice is just amazingly soothing, reassuring, peaceful. The sound of the bell at the end of the meditation is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.

Last week, when I went for the first time, it was a Monday night, the night before I went to my first diabetes class and started using my blood glucometer. I was wound up tighter than a spring. I was anxious, distraught, grieving the loss of my innocent health, and just a wreck. But I knew that I needed this. I knew that stress is one thing that has a definite affect on blood glucose levels.  It also has an effect on weight loss – if you’re stressed out, your cortisol levels rise, and that makes  you gain weight, or unable to lose it. So I felt like coming to this meditation class and learning how to de-stress was as important as taking my medication or exercising.

I loved it pretty much immediately.  Sitting there, I felt like my heart was breaking and I was just opening up in all directions. I felt like I had found an absolutely essential little sanctuary in time and place.  I needed it.

Last night the teacher opened with this poem by the poet Kabir, and that was it – I started tearing up right away.

You know the sprout is hidden inside the seed

We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.

Let your arrogance go, and look around inside

The blue sky opens out farther and farther

The daily sense of failure goes away

The damage I have done to myself fades

A million suns come forward with light

When I sit firmly in that world.

Whoo. Right? That line – the damage I have done to myself fades – just made my heart start pounding. The damage I have done. I really feel that now, the years that I overate and didn’t take care of myself.  The tendency to want to blame and punish myself for getting to the point of having diabetes.  It makes me want to howl sometimes. But then that other word – fades – is also true. It’s fading. With every thing I do to be good to myself, it fades. But wow, it is there.

The thing that I love about this meditation class is that it is all about love and compassion. Because I think truly that that is the key for me, it is the ONLY WAY out. Because when I was eating more than I needed, for so many years, it was because I was chasing love (in all the wrong places), I was hurt and rejected-feeling and all the food in the world couldn’t make that go away (although believe me I tried). And so while counting calories and points and exercising is all good and important, I don’t think there’s a shadow of a chance it can work unless I find a way to live with more love and compassion, for myself and for others.

The Zen of Eating

After reading this article, I was inspired to buy the book The Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznik. I am really liking it a lot. I’ve been very attracted to Buddhism for a long time and this book just calmed me down and made me feel hopeful. I think that this is going to be very useful for me. A few passages from the book have already made me a little tearful, they resonate so much.

The Buddha defined suffering as a ravenous appetite to find peace and security in places where it can’t be found.

The nourishment that comes from being kind to yourself and to others is the kind of food that stays with you.

Some suffering is inevitable, and some is optional. This is an important distinction. A certain amount of sadness, loss and frustration are built into the framework of being alive. This is inevitable suffering. Optional suffering is within your control: it comes from your reaction to situations, inevitable or otherwise. Optional suffering is what you add on to whatever happens.

It’s good food for thought. (no pun intended) I also just decided to sign up for a beginning meditation class nearby, starting in April. I can’t help but believe that it will help me in this journey.

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