Meditation, running, Yoga

All the good advice you ignore…

I regularly ignore good advice.  We all do.  How many times have you flipped passed an article about how much we need regular sleep, or tuned out a news story on the benefits of stretching? When I make a choice that I know is not the healthiest one, it is usually because I am taking the path of least resistance, sticking with a habit rather than making a change.

There is inertia associated with change, even positive change.  Sometimes, if you have been doing something one way for a long time or developed a habit that doesn’t seem harmful in the short term, you even forget that change is possible.  I was reminded of this last week during a run.  These days I am running every morning on trails near our house that stretch in every direction for miles.  Rather than turning to head back home on the usual trail, I decided to head left on a trail I had never been on before.  I figured that it looped up at some point to a road I would recognize.  It was a beautiful morning, and as I ran farther and farther in this unknown direction I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t lost.  I could turn around and re-trace my steps at any moment.  I had no phone and no water with me.  I never take those things when I run, I like to be as unencumbered as possible during that brief period of my day.

After a long time I realized that if this trail did have an ending point it was not going to be near my house, so I turned around and retraced my steps.  It ended up being a five hour run.  I am not exaggerating when I say that by the end birds of prey were slowly circling the sky overhead.  I was so thirsty when I got home that I felt like I could have stood outside with the garden hose to my mouth for the rest of the day and still want more.

It is not as if carrying water when you run is hard to do, or that hydration being an important component of exercise is a carefully guarded secret.  Every running book and magazine expounds the benefits of proper hydration.  It’s just that I could run without it, and since I could manage fine it didn’t occur to me that hydrating during a run might improve the experience.

After my adventure on the trails I decided that I should run with water and was amazed at the number of devices they have created to make that as easy as possible.  I chose the one that was right for me, a nifty handheld situation which I barely notice at all.  The kicker is that running with water is way better.  I find that I am faster and much less beat up when I come home.  Again, this is not a newsflash; just a small change that vastly improves a good experience I was already having.

Our lives are filled with things like this, things as ordinary as a tree branch that hangs into the driveway or a purse strap that is slightly too long or bigger things like not getting regular exercise or not sleeping enough.  We become accustomed to ignoring changes that we could be making in our habits and simply adapt to the situation. Some adaptations are about survival but many are simply due to inertia.  I have been reminded by this experience that a small change in behavior can yield big rewards.  Instead of ignoring the tree in the driveway, go trim it and you will feel better every time you drive by; instead of staying up to hit “refresh” one more time on the computer at 11 pm, head to bed with a book at 10.  There is plenty of good advice we all ignore, sometimes it is as simple as deep breath or a softening of the jaw.  I think really the best advice is to pay attention to your habits: are they really serving you, and if they aren’t, can you make a small change? As simple and obvious as bringing water on a run. 

Meditation, Parenting, Special Needs, Uncategorized, Yoga

It doesn’t just happen….

Buddha courtesy of
Buddha courtesy of

In her book A Heart as Wide as the World Sharon Salzberg describes “effort” as the “unconstrained willingness to persevere through difficulty.” She goes on to say, “Effort is the willingness to open where we have been closed, to come close to what we have avoided, to be patient with ourselves, to let go of preconceptions.”

I love the phrase “unconstrained willingness to persevere.”  I think for many of us in our lives we are many things to so many people and we have taken on many different kinds of tasks.  Sometimes a kind of automatic pilot can kick in.   We understand how to make our lives work and so we move forward, effortlessly. There is nothing wrong with being good at what you do, or having an established work or parenting pattern.  But when something is effortless, are you connected to it? In yoga when we teach the very first pose, Tadasana, people will almost always say “you mean I just stand here?”  The answer is “sort of.”  If you are really thinking, however, about your balance and engaging the muscles of your legs and the position of your spine and shoulders you will find that it takes effort.  You will even start to build some heat in your body, it is important to figure out the alignment in that first standing pose because it will be relevant to every other pose you do, including even the fanciest of arm balances.

The same is true in our lives.  If we construct our lives in such a way that they require very little focused effort, we start to feel disconnected from ourselves and the people and things we care about most. One of the reasons I believe that having a special needs child has been an incredible gift is that her unpredictability and the effort it takes to be her parent mean that I can never really slide towards autopilot.  She is the ultimate reminder to wake up and pay attention because life is happening, and of course if you take your eyes off her for a minute she is hanging from the rafters…..So that is motivation to stay present.

The word “unconstrained” is perfect to describe the effort we should put into our lives and relationships.  It implies that unlimited potential is possible if we let ourselves live fully.  We all have lists of things in our heads that we would like to do. They don’t have to be lofty. They can be as mundane as cleaning the kitchen or as vast as enlightenment for all beings.  They both take effort, attention and mindfulness. It is tempting when we meet people we admire, such as great teachers, writers or artists, to imagine that they were born with skills we were not.  It is true that someone who is destined to be seven feet tall because of their genetics is more likely to play professional basketball than someone who never makes it to six feet.  However, there is enormous effort, and concentration that goes into being an athlete even if one is born with some of the cards stacked in your favor.  When I have met great meditation and yoga teachers, I am always amazed and maybe a little envious of what they know and how easily they seem to convey their knowledge.  What it is important to remember is that this wisdom took effort and discipline. It took focus and perseverance. Wishing for knowledge or clarity but not undertaking the learning is like wishing to be in the NBA and never picking up a basketball.

Right Effort is part of the Buddha’s Eightfold Noble Path.  It is the fundamental belief that it takes effort to wake up to the full awareness available to us all.  In my mind it is the difference between being able to drive a car so spaced out that I don’t even notice that I have been listening to commercials, and driving a car with full attention to what I hear, what I see and what I am doing.  From the outside both experiences are identical, but inside they are completely different  Yoga and meditation are two ways we can practice mindfulness and attention, but any activity can become a mindfulness exercise.  It just takes effort and perseverance and the unconstrained willingness to believe that every moment is an opportunity to practice being awake.  It is this practice, this effort of returning our attention repeatedly to where we are and what we are doing, that will help us realize that we have everything we need for real sustainable, wakeful joy.

Meditation, Yoga

My not on purpose no yoga experiment

photo (1)You know when you read about scientists who set out to do an experiment where the outcome sounds obvious? I recently read about a study where scientists had one group of overweight sedentary men change nothing about their diet, and another add an apple a day.  The expectation was that the apple group’s cholesterol and overall health would be improved with the addition of the fruit.  Instead, the Granny Smith apples that the test group added to their diet had enough sugar to spike their insulin and create further mayhem in their bodies —  really the opposite of what you would imagine.

I have done a not-on-purpose experiment this summer on my body.  I have barely been doing yoga, I have made it to a handful of classes; instead I sat in the car for not one but two drives across the country and carried a gajillion boxes.  My shoulders have certainly suffered as I have used them to hold the tension of all the what-ifs of our move.  I would think to myself almost once a day that I really needed to get to my mat to relieve some of this tightness and tension that was building in my body.  But carving out an hour or an hour and a half to make it to a class just wasn’t happening.

So last week, I finally rolled my mat back out.  I actually was kind of afraid to get on it.  I thought my body would hurt and really resist.  I believed that no yoga for a whole summer was going to wreak havoc on my muscles, which would scream in agony at the first stretch, because that seemed logical, the same way an apple a day would improve health.

It didn’t hurt.  In fact it felt great.  It was my mind that was resistant not my body.  I was really hung up on the time it would take to practice.  I just didn’t feel like sacrificing an hour and a half of my day to go to a class with the result that I wasn’t doing any yoga.  I think we all do this in some form or another.  We create obstacles or resistance instead of scaling down our expectations. There is no reason to practice for an hour and a half.  I can practice for twenty minutes and that is way better than nothing.

I have been practicing consistently for the last week.  Sometimes it is a couple of poses and sometimes it is an hour.  I feel much better.  The hard part was getting back on the mat, not the yoga.  I think that so often I don’t take action because I am convinced that I don’t have time or bandwidth for the outcome.  I often put off reaching out to friends because I think that I will need to be on the phone for hours to catch up when often a simple note saying I am thinking of them will do, and is certainly better than nothing.  If you don’t have time to clean your room, make your bed.  If you don’t have time for yoga class that’s fine, do a pose, or two, or three.

I thought my not-on-purpose no-yoga experiment would leave me with an aching body.  It didn’t really.  It actually showed me that getting on my mat is not actually about my body at all. My body was fine.  It got right back on board.  What I learned from the experiment was that my resistance is all self created.   I don’t always have to do the whole task, project or class, but I can start somewhere and do something…..which is almost always better than nothing.

Family, Meditation, Parenting, Yoga

What are you packing?

photo (15)The house is practically empty as of today.  Which means that when we speak our voices seem unusually loud.  The tone of voice that worked when the house was filled with furniture and art work now sounds like yelling as it bounces off blank walls.  The floors are scratched and the walls all have tons of holes from where the photographs and paintings hung.  The whole house kind of looks like a crumpled party dress.  I keep waiting for the empty rooms to inspire some kind of emotion in me, but so far I just walk from room to room and register what’s left in them and don’t really feel anything.  Mae loves it, every room has plenty of space for jumping and the house is one long runway, she can go from room to room on her fast little feet with no need to steer.


With any move there is a chance to curate your possessions to get rid of things you don’t need or have outgrown.  For the last few weeks I have been giving end tables and lamps as parting gifts to practically anyone who drops by.  The large pieces of furniture we used to store the kids toys in when they were little won’t make the cut for this move, nor will the fire truck shaped bunk bed that was a super big kid thing when it first appeared.  If we weren’t moving we would have been giving away some of these things anyway, I can’t imagine a 16-year-old version of Ben climbing into the bunk beds. The toy storage, though, would have just faded into the background, along with the rocking horse, and 6 old computer monitors in the attic. I keep promising myself that I will never, ever purchase anything ever again, because I cannot believe how much stuff we have acquired.  This is of course ridiculous.  When you are moving you are quite literally going through everything you own, and evaluating whether or not you need it. What you realize is that you have things you don’t use anymore and moving presents an opportunity to get rid of it.


I think that this is true not just for our things, but also for ourselves.  I know that no matter where you go, you are who you are.  I do not expect to wake up that first morning in the new house and be taller, thinner, speak Spanish and have straight teeth.  I will wake up in the new house my regular self, but a move is a chance to leave behind old habits and cultivate new ones.  I would like to have more time to write, cook, garden and do yoga, I would like to learn how to use my sewing machine, and maybe even pick up some Spanish.  While the list of skills that I would like to acquire is long, the list of habits I would like to break is longer: snacking, procrastinating sleep, not leaving clean folded clothes in piles anywhere but drawers, feeling busy when I am not, never listening to voicemail, amazon.  Those things are all habits. There are many more but none of them serve me and I hope to break them in our new house. Just like the bunk bed they don’t serve a purpose anymore.


One of my favorite things to say to students in class, is “let go of what doesn’t serve you” this can mean gritting your teeth because you think it will help you balance, or thinking about lunch while you are on your mat.  I like the idea that if we pay attention to what we actually have, and how we behave, that we can let go of what we don’t need.  Habits, like anything ever purchased from Ikea may have served a purpose when you got them, but if you don’t pay attention to them they may become permanent fixtures long after you don’t need them.  That is my practice for this move, paying attention to what I am bringing with me into the new house not just on the back of the truck but in my head and heart as well, and letting go of anything that doesn’t serve me.


Family, Meditation, Yoga

Every morning I pretend to lose my shoes……

ShoesI can procrastinate a run like nobody’s business.  This entire blog may exist as a tool to procrastinate leaving for a run.  I am never as productive as I am when I have on a sports bra and shorts but have yet to commit to the socks and shirt.  It is in those moments that I am seized by the need to empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry, return week old emails, maybe even prep dinner.  Eventually I will run out of the kind of five minute chores that are perfect for putting off exercise.  I will move as if through molasses to find socks and a shirt.  This will kick off a new round of procrastinating, I may pay a bill or linger an extra minute or two in the living room wondering if this is the right moment to make sure that all the board games have the correct pieces. Finally, I will find my running shoes, not looking in the obvious places like by the back door or my closet, but I will start with someplace I never go like the upstairs bathroom.  When I have checked under every bed and the linen closet I will run out of reasons not to grab my sneakers from the back door.  I will tie them with the attention of someone who has only just learned to tie shoes.  Sometimes I will even hear in my head, “the bunny goes around the tree.”  When the shoes are tied I will pee for the 6th time in the half hour since I said I am going to get ready to go for a run.  When I am out of excuses, when I have done every chore, when I am dressed and shoes tied, I will briefly consider calling a friend or making the kids dentist appointments for the next five years. But instead I will force myself out the door. The first few steps, from the door to the road are the hardest and most victorious.  My body hurts a little bit; it takes a few minutes for it to catch on to the activity.  But once I am out the door I will run, and as soon as I get past that initial tin man phase I will move into a space that feels like my favorite jeans.  I am not especially fast, nor do I have good form, but when I go for a run I connect with my teenage self, my twenty year old self, my self before motherhood, and partnership.  I connect with a part of myself that doesn’t really engage the world.  Sometimes I daydream, and sometimes I just listen to the sound of my feet and my breath.  Sometimes I think about things on purpose. I have made every major decision of my life on a run. There is the moment at the end of the run, where I kick my shoes off by the door (so that tomorrow I can pretend to look for them) and I know that no matter what else I come up against in the day, for a brief period of time I existed only for myself.  For some small part of every day we all need to engage in an activity, walking, running, sitting, swimming, anything at all where we just enjoy being with ourselves in our bodies with no agenda. Running helps to center me in my day and my life.  No matter how outrageous the procrastination rituals may be I know that without that time every day I would start to feel unmoored. Every day root yourself somehow, even if it is hard to fit it in, even if you feel lazy, even if you have to make deals with God to get out the door.  No one goes to bed at night wishing they had just hit “refresh” one more time, but plenty of nights I have wished I had carved out a little more time in the day for myself.  Whatever it is, make the time, you won’t regret it, and besides, your chores might get done.

Family, Meditation, Parenting, Yoga

It’s not the marquee moments…

photo (11)It seems that I learn more from the truly mundane, vaguely boring but necessary parts of my life than I do from the big marquee moments.  The big marquee moments, weddings, births, even deaths, certainly teach us enormous amounts.  I have never appreciated life more than when I watched my grandmother take her last breath. However, I learn more about marriage on a sleepy, itchy, Monday morning than I would in a month of weddings and celebrations.

We have high expectations for the marquee moments.  We have planned them. We have thought about what it will feel like when we are actually in them.  Most of these milestone moments for me have been like out of body experiences.  I have been so busy having them and wanting not to miss a moment of them that the experience becomes one that is a memory as it unfolds.

Moving is a marquee moment, you remember the dates of various decisions, the day you left one place and arrived in another.  I have always loved saying my new address over and over in my head. Eventually the new address isn’t new anymore and the habit of repeating it falls away.  The day we drive away from our current house is one I will remember, I will be cataloging what it feels like to drive away from our sweet house filled with so many memories. I can picture this experience, it’s a marquee moment.

What I didn’t picture or understand would be how much I am learning as I pack us up.  The literal packing unearths all sorts of treasures. Those kitchen scissors that disappeared years ago had apparently staked out new real estate at the back of the tool closet.  Then there is the figurative packing up, the winding down of my job and volunteer commitments, returning the various rented instruments and sports equipment.  I am saying lots of good-byes in my head to people who I see fairly often but don’t really know.  The nice girl at the UPS store, the people that work at the grocery store.  Every time I see them, I wonder if this will be the last time.  The result is that I smile at them more and make better eye contact.

I am having this sensation at the yoga studio as well.  Each class I teach brings me closer to the very last one.  I am finding myself more awake to the details of the room and the experience, knowing that it is finite; my sense that it is something to cherish has increased.  I am finding myself less likely to see the flaws in things and more likely to accept them as they are.  Knowing that some of these relationships and experiences are ending seems to allow me to just accept them.

I like how it feels to take a little more time to appreciate the details of my life.  I like how it feels to not get super wound up about the outcome of various relationships and projects.  I like how it feels to be aware that I should pay attention and notice because none of this is going to last forever.

The truth is, that even if we never move again, none of this would last forever.  I am hoping that when we arrive in our new house and new life that I am able to maintain this greater appreciation for the smaller moments where life actually lives.  I am hoping that when my new address stops being thrilling that I can maintain wonder and appreciation for the ordinary moments.

Family, Meditation, Yoga

You don’t need incense and a cushion….

Meditation is not a “break glass in case of emergency” kind of practice.  Very often people decide to develop a meditation practice when they are under extreme stress. The impulse is commendable; they are recognizing that they need tools to manage their situation in a healthy way.  The timing is off though.  Deciding to sit for meditation at the height of anxiety or depression when you haven’t cultivated a meditation practice is like being bedridden and deciding to climb Everest.  It is certainly possible to build a practice at any time, but it will be much harder if you are starting from a stressed and strained mind.

Sky is the limitWhen we talk about about meditation it’s important to define what we mean.  The way I define meditation is much less about the posture one assumes when you practice and more about the effort to become familiar with your own mind.  There are many activities that can be meditative: running, walking, swimming, biking, gardening — really any activity when we are not engaged in any kind of external pageantry.

If you are someone for whom walking is a form of meditation, then build on that practice.  As you head out for your daily walk, see if you can use that as a platform to cultivate mindfulness and awareness.  This doesn’t mean that you clear your mind of all thought. It simply means that as you walk or bike, or swim that you keep your attention in the activity, recognizing the sounds and the sensations both inside and outside of your body.  When I run, my thoughts are just as busy as they are at any other time of my day, but I don’t engage them in quite the same way.  I feel like my mind is a giant train station and each thought is a train, but rather than jump on every passing train I keep my attention rooted in the act of the run itself.

Seated meditation is an important practice, but it isn’t the only practice.  If you have the sense that you need a meditation practice in your life start with something that already works for you.  If washing the dishes is an experience that grounds you, start there.  The work is to keep your attention with your breath and body and not get carried off in a million different fantastic directions by your mind.  That work can happen on a meditation cushion, a familiar hiking path or as you rake leaves.

Don’t wait until your heart is racing and your hands are sweating to practice mindfulness.  Pick a familiar activity and bring to it new curiosity. From there, see if you can keep returning your attention to where your body and mind actually are.  I encourage people to start by just watching their thoughts; don’t judge them, don’t categorize them, just watch them.  What we start to recognize is that our thoughts are very often completely separate from where our body happens to be. By working to engage your mind and body together in an activity you are predisposed to enjoy, you are more likely to find that sense of being grounded that can be an antidote to stress.

Stress is the experience of constantly living in an adversarial relationship.  Meditation is not a magic bullet, it is a process by which we turn that imaginary adversary into an old friend. Meditation is developing an intimate awareness and appreciation for reality, not about crossed knees and incense so start with your reality and work from there.

Family, Marriage, Parenting, Yoga

There are very few yoga emergencies…

photo (5)The first time I saw a beeper I was probably 8 or 9.  It was on the belt of a family friend who was a doctor.  It was mind blowing at the time to think that no matter where he was, the hospital could reach him and he would get up, find the nearest phone and in minutes be updated on a patient or called into action.

At the time it seemed like an amazing innovation.  Eventually all sorts of people started to carry beepers.  It was no longer just doctors on call who may be needed urgently by their office.  It was the police, business people of all varieties, even drug dealers. Those little black beepers eventually gave way to the cell phone and now we are all “on call” all the time.

The cell phone has changed everything.  We had this babysitter when I was a little kid who was out of central casting.  She was a thousand years old and wore those pantyhose socks rolled down at her ankles.  She would arrive, (an experience that was always accompanied by my mother wearing Aliage perfume), my parents would greet her with the relief in their voices that I recognize in my own at the arrival of the sitter.  They would kiss us goodbye, and leave the number of the restaurant on a notepad in the kitchen should anything go wrong.  As soon as they drove away Mrs. Carter would fall so deeply asleep on the couch that we would put tissues over her nose just to watch them shoot up into the air with each massive snore.  She was not overly concerned about emergencies.

Now of course many of my friends have apps where they can tune into their children’s baby monitors from wherever they are.  Not only are they reachable via cell, but at the slightest blush of anxiety over the wellbeing of their child, the first pang of missing them, they can log in to their bedroom. It doesn’t just relate to children, I often find myself feeling vaguely rejected because I emailed someone a non urgent request and have not heard back within hours.

Our sense of urgency is off balance.  We text to say “on way” as we are leaving the house to whoever is at our destination.  We carry our phones from place to place like Linus and his ever present blanket.  We have feeds of information pouring in from all over the world, our childrens’ bedrooms, CNN, Twitter, Instagram; all of it keeps us up to date on our universes big and small.

I think that all this “on call” doesn’t always bring with it a sense of connection but instead allows our anxieties to rule the day.  We are all always slightly on alert should we be needed, a level of edge that I am quite sure my parents did not feel when they left us in the care of the world’s oldest babysitter.  In some ways, feeling constantly plugged in means we are never actually anywhere.  A friend of mine with a teenage daughter told me that if nine of her daughter’s friends are together, they are all texting the tenth friend who isn’t there.  Locked in constant communication with each other regardless of location.

I am not sure we all have more to say, or more to worry about.  We just have more access.  Recently, I have taken to keeping my phone on silent all the time and, for the most part, buried in my purse.  I am not a doctor, and yoga emergencies are rare.  Should one of my children be in trouble their schools have enough numbers that they would reach me.  I did not consciously break the habit of treating my phone like my woobie.  It happened slowly.  I just kind of stopped answering it, and eventually people stopped calling or expecting to hear back right away.  Amazingly, the world has continued to turn.  When something urgent has come up, the message has made its way to me in plenty of time.  I also feel liberated from my feeds. I engage them rather than the other way around.  If I want updates they aren’t hard to find.

I don’t know if I can stop being “on call” altogether, but I do know it feels way better to live on my own non-urgent terms.  Sometimes less is more, even for those of us who work on the fly we need to learn how to stop treating everything as if it were urgent and re-learn how to be unavailable. If you are telling someone you love more than once a day to “wait a minute” or “one last thing” you might be teaching a lesson you don’t want them to learn.  When we are constantly plugged in somewhere else we send a pretty clear message to the people we are with: someone somewhere is more important than you are.  I know in my case the people I am with are usually the ones I care about most. I am going to stop asking them to wait while I multi-task the universe.  The universe won’t notice but those people that I care about certainly will.

Meditation, Yoga

If I let you off the hook, where does that leave me?

photo (1)A few months ago I was in Colorado and took a yoga class with a teacher who had enormous fake boobs.  I have nothing against breast implants, and genuinely believe that everyone has the right to feel great about their body. Making people feel good about their bodies is part of my life’s work.

The teacher was thin and attractive and had the toned physique that comes from a blend of constant dedicated movement and genetics.  But the breasts were huge; cartoonish in fact.  I found myself spending much of this very hot, sweaty class wondering about her and her boobs.  Not wondering actually. Judging.  I was sneering internally and wondering, “Can she do chatuaranga? Can she ride a bike? Don’t her shoulders hurt? Why would she do that to herself?”  Eventually, I realized that I was spending an entire class obsessing about this woman’s body, so I stopped myself, and almost immediately started judging my own body. “Why  are my hips so damn tight? Is that a roll of fat at the top of my pants? Why do my hands look so old?”….Clearly, it was her or me and one of us was going down.

Almost always when we rush to judgment about someone it’s because it’s easier than facing a fear or reality of our own.  Some days, I have that itchy, judge-y nasty energy that I can’t shake.  Intellectually I understand that this feeling of judgment doesn’t serve me in any way, whether I aim my criticisms at myself or silently at a yoga teacher in the Rockies. She, mercifully, couldn’t hear me and I was hardly present in the class at all.  The steady stream of subconscious gossip was drowning out any chance I had of actually enjoying the experience.

Judging and criticism are often so habitual that we don’t even notice they are happening.  We constantly move through our days cataloging everything we see and putting them in three categories.  We either like them, don’t like them or don’t care.  One of the reasons to develop a meditation practice is to become familiar with this habit of mind which rarely serves us. If you categorize something or someone on sight, you actually don’t see them at all.  That is why I can have an experience like taking a yoga class and remember nothing about the class itself but my own internal monologue.

We judge each other’s choices all the time.  How often have you leaned in to a friend when she started a sentence, “She’s a nice girl but….”  The thing about these kinds of judgments is that they are like junk food.  It feels good in the beginning but always leaves you feeling unsatisfied and kind of icky when it’s over.  I hope that teacher in Colorado is happy with her boobs.  I hope that she looks at herself in the mirror and thinks she looks awesome.  I hope that the next time I get caught up in judging another woman’s body or lifestyle choices I remember that I am only doing it so I don’t do it to myself.  And then maybe I can let us both off the hook.

Family, Meditation, Parenting, Yoga

Breaking up with FOMO

Yesterday I realized that Anne Lamott, who is one of my favorite authors, lives near our new house and regularly gives workshops in the area.  My first thought was that we would be best friends.  Then almost immediately I started worrying that now that I was moving there, she would never give a workshop again and I would have missed the opportunity to actually learn from her.  There is nothing about her schedule that suggests that this is true.  In fact, she seems to speak and work fairly regularly with no intention of stopping, but for a moment I was overcome by fear of missing out.

I had never really thought about “fear of missing out,” or FOMO as it is often referred to, as a condition.  The first time I heard someone refer to it, I laughed, recognizing an all-too-familiar trait of mine.  My mother says that even as a child I hated naps because I was afraid I was going to miss something.  I still find myself resisting bed time because there is always more to do, even if it is just hitting the refresh button one more time.

Whenever I think I might be missing out I respond by ignoring my intuition and speeding towards an emotion or decision I probably don’t need.  Fear of missing out is what sends people deeper into yoga poses than they should go. It’s what makes you say yes to a dinner invitation when you know you would rather be at home. It’s even what makes you buy pants that don’t fit just because it’s a sample sale.  Fear of missing out comes from the idea that we think that everyone is having more fun than we are, or more interesting conversations…  They aren’t.

The Buddhists call it “poverty mind,” the idea that you are always missing something.  In our current age when we have instant access to a world of goods and information this idea of poverty mind can be easily reinforced.  It is true, we are always missing something, every minute of every day, all around us are stories that we are not a part of.  We develop a habit of putting our body somewhere and then letting our mind go a million different places.  We reinforce this habit throughout our days.  However, the only place where you can make real change and have real experiences is where your body is.  We limit our ability to enjoy our present moment if we are worried about what we may be missing out on. We create a sense that there is never enough, by not noticing or appreciating what we already have.

We have to train ourselves to stay present, that doesn’t mean we only do one thing at a time or we never daydream.  Staying present means noticing that we are daydreaming, or procrastinating, or multi-tasking, or worrying that we may be missing out on something amazing happening somewhere else.  If we start to become familiar with our own patterns we start to realize that we aren’t really missing anything, it’s all right in front of us.  We just have to learn how to look at our own complicated, messy lives with generosity not judgment.  We have to take time every day to be quiet, to sit, to go for a walk, or any activity that roots you in some way.  It is only then that we can start to recognize that we aren’t missing anything.

I am working to let go of FOMO.  The next time I catch myself wondering if I should sign my kids up for two activities because we might be missing something, or I say yes to a dinner in Midtown on a Tuesday when I don’t have a babysitter, I am going to stop myself and ask myself whether I am doing this because I want to or because I am afraid of missing out.  If it’s the latter I will stay home, and enjoy the peace and quiet that comes from knowing you aren’t missing a thing.