If you’ve been a Focus Pocus Follower for a while, you might remember a post from several years ago called Be An Ant. It’s a favorite of mine in that it explains a core philosophy that I learned from my husband, Frank. “Be an Ant” is a powerful approach that I do my best to apply every day: do what’s in front of you, little by little, one step at a time. Be an ant. (If you don’t remember the post, do go check it out!)

In the intervening years, I’ve watched Frank “be an ant” over and over. Most recently, I’ve watched him take on the enormous project of building a house with that “ant-y” perseverance. He has a vision for where the project is going and every step of the way, every single day, he moves in that direction. Whether it was building the foundation, framing the walls, hanging the siding or making 15 hand-papered lanterns to hang in our new dining room, he has plugged along without letting the enormity of it all overwhelm him.

And now we have 13 hand-papered lanterns drying all around the house!


These days, I can find myself quickly overwhelmed by the enormity of the suffering in the world. And yet, I can apply the “be an ant” principle to the state of the world just as we did to making lanterns. When I am talking to a bullied gay teen, or listening to a woman stuck in an abusive marriage, or reading the relentlessly hopeless headlines, I can choose to do whatever little thing I can do to help.

Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg says, “Do the good that’s in front of you even if it feels small.”

Step by step, little by little, we can make a difference. That’s being an ant for a hurting world.

CLASS NOTE: This week, Mary Linn Bergstrom and I will be teaching together for these classes:
Tuesday, Nov 6, 840-940am at acac downtown
Tuesday, Nov 7, 545-645pm at acac Albemarle Square
Wednesday, Nov 8, 11-1215pm at acac Albemarle Square
Please join us!

P.S. I can only aspire to his mastery of it, but I’ve used it, too, for big projects and small. Most recently, I used “ant-ing” to create my book, Buddha Cat: Learning Awareness, Presence & Self-Care from a Teacher who Sometimes Barfs on the Bed. Read about my evolving practice of being an ant, in a recent piece I wrote in Streetlight Magazine. Please do take a look.

For months now, I’ve been noticing the connection between healing and creativity. As I pay deep attention, as I find the willingness to step into whatever is happening (in my body, my heart, my mind, my spirit, the world), creative energy becomes available — energy for expression, for insight, for solutions, for presence.

When Mary Linn and I decided to focus on this connection in our classes this week (we’re teaching together on July 4! Do join us at acac albemarle square 11am-1215pm!), we didn’t really know what we were doing.

She mentioned Elizabeth Gilbert…that’s where I found the quote for the art piece above.

Then I read this genius blog post from Lisa Jakub, called Can You Make Art During a Crisis? (Spoiler Alert: YES. Hell YES you can and must and YES please. But read her post since she says it better than I did.)

And then this from Graeme Seabrook came up on my Facebook feed:

All around me I hear artists, writers, musicians, coaches, healers – all kinds of creators – questioning themselves and their work in the world.
Should they stop writing jokes, or painting, or making t-shirts, or candles, or poetry, or, or, or? Shouldn’t they put away these frivolous things and fight?
At the same time I see people all over social media thirsty for good news, for inspiration, for joy. I see my friends and family in my offline community searching for peace, for some comfort.
To the creators, to the makers, to the healers and the coaches, the writers and all the bringers of light I beg you: PLEASE KEEP CREATING.
We need to be reminded of what life can be.
We need to be shown our highest selves.
We need to remember what we are fighting FOR and not only what we are fighting against.
We need hope.
So please keep creating. We need you now more than ever.

And then Mary Linn and I kept finding music that we wanted to create new choreography for and there it was, flowing through me, the energy that is released when I have the courage to heal.

Step into this with us. Dance in it — however you do. What we create out of our healing is what makes all the difference.

<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-5925″><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-5925 size-medium” src=”; alt=”” width=”300″ height=”295″ /></a>
<h4>Coming Soon! Buddha Cat: my first book!</h4>
<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-5902″><img class=”aligncenter size-thumbnail wp-image-5902″ src=”; alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>

I’ve finalized the pages and the cover mechanical is done (doesn’t that sound official and cool? I have no real idea what it means). Please join me in the adventure of the publication of my first book. Go to and sign up to be a Buddha Cat Backer! You’ll get updates, insights, goodies and discounts! Can’t wait to do this together.

* NOTE: I have many many more allies than these few powerhouses…they were all I could manage to fit in my illustration!

Your human body is designed to be supported and powered from below and behind.
Almost all of the largest muscles are on the back body.
We can think of this design as something we can both relax into and be propelled forward by.
I’ve written about this before and you can find more on this here and here.

In addition to our back-supported-and-powered physical bodies, ask yourself, “Who has my back?”
It’s always great to have people who stand with us through difficult times and circumstances but we can’t always have them there. In any situation, you can choose to bring along an ally of your choosing. It could be a person from your past: a beloved family member, a treasured teacher, or a writer or artist who touched your life. Whenever you are stepping into a situation in which you feel you need support, choose an ally to have your back. Two years ago would have been my grandfather’s 100th year and 25th birthday, he is an ally I take with me always.

Feel the physical support of your own amazing, beautifully-designed body.
Feel the mental, emotional and spiritual support of the allies you choose to bring with you.
They all have your back.

Civil Rights Confrontation
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

My life is ridiculously comfortable and convenient. The extraordinary good fortune that has been heaped upon my head would be enough to up the quality of life of an entire island nation. It’s incredible, really.

And yet, that’s not enough to stop me from behaving badly when iTunes crashes or I spill a quart of coconut water on the kitchen floor or my new password manager is wonky.

Yep, that’s all it took: a wonky password manager.

After a security breach on my husband’s computer, the two of us agreed to put all our passwords into a password manager. An excellent idea since I am more than a little lax in the computer security department and the scrap of paper with all my passwords on it (that I’ve had since 2002) was getting a difficult to read.

Only I’m impatient when learning new computer stuff and when the program wasn’t working the way I thought it would and I got locked out of my Twitter account, I got irritated (irkitated, even). I went on a rant about how dishonest and malicious people require us to invest time, money and energy into these stupid programs and the only person it really keeps out of my accounts is me and then I slammed a couple of doors.

A ridiculously first-world problem, up to my armpits in comfort and convenience, and I’m acting like a four-year-old.

Which brings me to hot yoga.

Wonky computer programs notwithstanding, choosing to spend time in a challenging and uncomfortable environment helps me build resources to draw on when challenge and controversy show up uninvited.

When I started hot yoga in December 2012, I thought it would be a physical challenge and a new way to keep my body healthy. It is that, for sure, but the biggest benefit I’ve gotten from yoga is its effect on my mind. After 467 90-minute classes in a humid, 100+ degree studio, more and more I’m able to stay calm in times of challenge and controversy.

My teachers often talk about breathing calmly and steadily even when the body is under stress or concentrated effort. By focusing on the steady, even flow of breath, my nervous system is less anxious and startled by the discomfort.  I’m able to literally and figuratively stay in the room.

After practicing hot yoga, I have higher tolerance for other uncomfortable situations.

In the past couple of years, I’ve had unpleasant and alarming experiences, I’ve had friends upset with and disappointed in me, and I’ve taught classes under emotional and stressful circumstances. In all those situations, I’ve shown up more relaxed, more present, calmer than I used to.

Obviously, it doesn’t work all the time. Sometimes, I still get twisted up over things and stomp around. But spending time in the hot room or sitting in meditation even when my back hurts or staying low in sumo stance until my legs shake, gives me confidence that translates into my life. My mind learns I can do this. Choosing challenge helps me stay calm or regain my calm quicker when things go awry.

When I think about the challenge and controversy endured by brave people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who participated in the civil rights movement (and people today who are fighting diligently for civil and human rights, environmental protection, and social equality), I wonder how they managed to behave so well when under such duress. I wonder how they built their resources to be steady and calm in the face of so much hatred.

Given my track record, I suspect I wouldn’t have had the strength or courage for it. I think I would have slammed a lot of doors in Alabama. But perhaps, in some small way, by choosing to challenge myself, I can rise to some of the challenging occasions in my life … and maybe even be a force for love.

secret to youth 92_year_old_woman doing yoga

The secret to youth. I just may have figured it out. Seriously: The Secret to Youth. And this is not just The Secret to Physical Youth (although that, too) but The Secret to Holistic Youth ~ body, mind, emotions and spirit.

The Secret to Youth is range of motion.

It’s easy to find lots of information about how eating more plant foods and exercising and doing crossword puzzles will help you stay young. I have no real quarrel with them but these kind of recommendations are missing an important magic ingredient: range of motion

Increasing youthfulness is about expanding range of motion in all realms. Spend a day with a kid and you will observe range of motion by the truck load: up and down off the floor, moving fast and slow and big and small, curiosity, learning and investigation, laughter and frustration and tears. Kids are all over the place.

Now think of an elderly person you know – not necessarily someone who has lived the most years, but someone who is acutely feeling their years. As people age, they tend to stop getting on the floor and they keep their movements close to the body. They may become less interested in learning new things and less open-minded about change or new ideas. Often expressiveness is reigned in so they don’t laugh too loud or cry in front of anybody or get too excited about anything.

Aging embodies contraction. Youth embodies expansiveness. No matter your age or your health situation, you can always endeavor to expand your range of motion. Find the edge between challenge and healing, and you’ll find the place that increases your range of motion and by extension, your youthfulness.

(see “Helpful Info” to the right for more on “100 Words”)

Watch Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk.

Boost four essential resiliencies!  Extend your life (or at least add more aliveness to life)!

  1. Physical Resilience – Move your body!  Sit still no more than an hour at a time.
  2. Mental Resilience – Use your willpower; face a tiny challenge without giving up.
  3. Emotional Resilience – Experience three positive emotions — pleasure, curiosity, love, compassion – for every one negative emotion.
  4. Social Resilience – Make connections of gratitude and encouragement with others.

Enhance all four resiliencies in one Nia class or find other ways!

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