Zen and the Art of Home Buying

It used to be that buying a home – a house or condo – was one of the more fraught experiences we had as adults, and something many of us did only once or twice in a lifetime. People seem to move more frequently now, but I think for many of us it can still be stressful. It’s still one of the most expensive purchases many of us will ever make and, no matter how well researched, represents both a gamble (that you’ve picked the right place, that you’ll still have a job in a few years, that it’s a good investment) and a huge commitment (that you’ll stay in one place for a length of time, perhaps with the same person if there are two incomes involved; that you’ll take good care of your investment, or pay someone else to). Most of us would be immobilized and still living in our first home if we really thought about it too much — so we do our due diligence and then take a deep breath, cross our fingers, and jump.

That moment of the deep breath, to me, is the beginning of Zen home buying. So why not arrive at it faster, with almost no worrying and stress? When I first started looking at condos a couple of years ago, I decided to do exactly that. A little smarter and a lot older, I set about the whole process in a different way, and from a different mind-set than I had in my twenties and thirties. For example, I told the realtor (as we all do) that I didn’t want to see anything too pricey for my budget and then stress over how to cut corners and make it fit – but this time I really enforced it. Having been firm about that, I found I no longer needed to “drive a hard bargain” and nickel and dime the price down — I didn’t want to overpay, but I was content to pay my fair share, have it fit within my budget and let both parties walk away satisfied.

My list of “must haves” changed as well: instead of a top notch school district, I wanted light — preferably a corner unit with lots of windows. “Close to shopping” became “Where’s the nearest farmer’s market?” I found that easy access to the train was less important than being on a remote cul-de-sac where the cats were safe going outside. Mindful of warnings about future water shortages, it became a critical feature of my research. Just as important as quantity was that the water taste good — having spent a lot of time visiting desert cities where you can’t drink the tap water, I refused to live in a place where I must buy it in bottles. Lower on the list, but moving up with a bullet after the last winter we had, was a garage. Higher on the list was a good sense of community and proximity to like minded people.

I learned to be sensitive, if not out-and-out psychic about the houses and properties I visited. I think it’s a talent we all have, it’s just a question of paying attention and honoring it. Sometimes it’s overt: while house hunting several years ago I was shown a property that was lovely and suited my family’s needs perfectly. Except that during the entire showing this little girl, the daughter of the owner, followed us around radiating anger toward me and the realtor. It was like being stared at by one of the creepy kids from Children of the Corn. I didn’t need to be Carnac to pick up the message that she didn’t want to move. Fine, little girl, there are plenty of other houses out there, you can have this place. Most of the time it’s more subtle: an owner who is ambivalent about selling and sending mixed messages or bad energy; or, as I recently experienced, a darkness, like the cloud that hangs over Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen, that makes you want to leave a place. The message to me is usually to move on and look elsewhere.

On the upside, when you find the place that feels good, with the quiet cul-de-sac and the beautifully landscaped grounds — you know it right away. When you can feel the warmth of a community where people smile and greet you and answer questions (like where there are three different farmer’s markets!), then you begin to relax. And when you know, with utter certainty, that you are going to come in under budget (because the psychic in you knows exactly what the price will be) and that you can imagine years of flourishing in this space — when in your mind you have already moved in and decorated the place, that is when you have found a home. The rest is just paperwork.


Tell Me A Story: Stirring Up Cellular Memories with Meditation

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I have been meditating for over fifteen years now and find it an essential part of my life. Many have written about the substantial physical and emotional benefits, and while I’ve certainly found that to be the case, too, I’ve also noticed that there is a component of releasing “cellular memories” that is rarely addressed. People shy away from phenomena that are not so easily explained, but whether you call it “cellular memories,” “past lives,” or releasing “old patterns,” I have found that there is something extraordinary happening that also brings welcome relief to the body and the spirit.

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Take A Walk on the Wild Side: Encounters With Animals in Nature

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Most of us have had the experience — wonderful, heart-stopping, sometimes terrifying — of unexpectedly encountering an animal in the wild. It may be the tranquil sight of deer off in the woods, or a hawk circling in the canyons of Manhattan. It can be scary, as in some of the recent bear sightings on the East Coast, or inspire reverence for the raw beauty of the creature sighted.

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Have You Seen the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas in Montana?

| by Cheryl Shainmark

This video has lighted up our imaginations! Can you say road trip? Dateline NBC has captured the peaceful and sacred feeling of this wonderful site, called The Garden of a Thousand Buddhas. Located just north of Arlee, Montana, the multi-acre garden is nestled on a beautiful valley that is part of an Indian reservation for the Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Created through the visionary guidance of Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, the Garden aligns positive properties of the physical world…

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Anchoring the Reality That We Want

| by Cheryl Shainmark

We’ve all experienced this phenomenon before: you’ve never heard of a particular item, idea, or person and then once you do you find it popping up all over the place. It’s as if the whole world (or at least everybody you know on Facebook), all got the same buzz at the same time. Of course, we all know that someone had to be “the first” — the first to think that thought, invent that item, do the research, say or do or discover something new — and that everybody else caught on later….

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To March or Not to March: When Science Gets Political

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Data is data, science is objective, and the facts should speak for themselves, right? The answer is… complicated. The choice of what to study can be very subjective, constrained by preconceived ideas, and driven by special interest groups, or funding, (often the same thing). Data has always been open to interpretation, and – even before Kellyanne Conway coined the phrase – “the facts” were sometimes ignored in favor of “alternative facts.” But what’s scaring some scientists now is the anti-science, climate change denying stance of the Trump administration, and the fact that data is disappearing.

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Moved By Mountains

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Moved By Mountains – Several years ago I dreamed I flew as a hawk, high above seared mountains, gazing down on granite soil marked only by occasional stunted evergreens. In my dream I soared and twisted, riding the air currents until I actually felt dizzy and then, as soon as I thought, “This is too much!” I woke up in my bed. I remembered the details vividly, though I had never seen those vistas in real life. Last week I saw the mountains of my dreams, that is, the dry stretch of the Rockies where the rain does not fall.

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Everything’s Coming Up Qi Gong

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Several weeks ago I went through a spate of night sweats and hormone induced tossing and turning that left me wide awake at 2:30 or 3:00 every morning, heart pounding from the surge of adrenaline and completely unable to fall back asleep…. Each wee hour I’d grab a fresh dry night shirt and plod downstairs, resigned to Law & Order reruns and arguing with the cats for four hours about why they couldn’t go outside right then. After several nights of this I decided that I really had to do something better with my time.

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Feeding Body & Soul

| by Cheryl Shainmark

If you’d asked me a few years ago whether I’d be following a virtually wheat free, 90% vegetarian — hell, 90% vegan diet, I’d have said, “That’s nuts.” Now I’m likely to say, “That’s raw cashews to you, and by the way, do you know how many recipes you can make with them?” It’s safe to say that I’m not alone in making a big diet and lifestyle change, either. Based on the latest bestsellers, opinion pages in the New York Times , increase in vegetarian and vegan websites and buzz on the Internet, it seems we have reached some kind of “tipping point” toward a radical change in the way we eat and what we will accept from the food industry.

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Visions of the Future

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Several years ago I had a vision of the future that transformed my life and helped me to determine what new career path to pursue. Leading into that moment was the fact that, at the age of 40, after years of working in computers, I was back at school. I was an adult returnee in my “senior” year at college and my three most favorite professors had each approached me about entering into their field of expertise: Asian Studies, the School of Journalism, and Psychology. What a wonderful compliment! — each thought that I would excel in their profession and offered me mentoring, contacts and references for further graduate work. I was both flattered and immobilized with indecision

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