Letting Go With Both Hands

Several years ago I dreamed I was outside my house as a giant windstorm approached over the horizon. Like the buildup to a hurricane, the trees swayed, and leaves and debris blew over the lawn and through the air. I knew that it was urgent that I find shelter inside, but I was worried about my son and kept searching for him outside. A part of my mind knew that the dream was echoing reality: it was a truly tumultuous time in our household as our son went through a difficult period, moved out, and struggled to live independently. Back in my dream, reluctant to give up, I stayed outside until the storm was upon me. Hurricane force winds pulled at me as I clung to the house, the rocks, the trees — holding on for all I was worth. Ultimately, as the wind pulled me off my feet, I could fight no longer, and I let go.

In that instant I realized that I was going to be ok, that my son was going to be ok, and that letting go was the answer. Of course, this turned out to be the case in my waking life as well, as I learned to let go of intervening in my son’s life, to stop trying to “save” him. Fast forward to 2018, and I see the winds blowing wildly again, not just for me but for everybody. Unfortunately, most of us will cling to the old, to the familiar, long past the expiration date, senselessly and relentlessly, until the winds of change force us to let go. Still, change is growth, and anything that isn’t growing is dying. Some call it karma, and view their life events as lessons in soul growth; others call it all happenstance.

In the last year, thousands have lost loved ones, or their homes and all of their possessions to hurricanes, floods, forest fires, home fires and more. No amount of clinging could save what they had and now, like modern day Buddhist monks, they have been reduced to trusting the Universe to provide shelter and food for for their rice bowl. Now, faced with enormous changes in my own life, I am grateful that fate, karma, or life, hasn’t been as harsh as all that with me. Older, and just a little bit wiser now, I feel the winds picking up, I see the trees sway and I look for the soul lesson, the old habits, attitudes and patterns that need to go, that which must be blown away. And even though I am afraid, I will not cling to the old. Instead, I lift my palms to the sky in surrender, knowing that it is my salvation, trusting that I will be ok. Finally, as the storm rolls over me, I am letting go with both hands.


The Buddhist Soul in Me

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I am many things, but I am not a Buddhist. Still, every so often the secret Buddhist in my soul demands to be fed: lighting a little incense, placing a flower in a bowl like an offering, sweeping a spider out the door (instead of squishing it), or taking a day trip to the Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, NY.

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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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A Few Thoughts About Thinking

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I recently finished reading “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson, for the second time, (not something I usually do) and I was struck by an offhand observation that the young main character makes about another man who may be hundreds of years old. At one point, the old man is chanting and holds the same note for hours, (clearly some kind of re-breathing technique), and the young man ponders what it’s like to have such a different notion of time that you would want to chant the same note for hours. Then he has the insight that a mind that has done that probably has very different thoughts from a mind that hasn’t.

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If Plants Are Consciousness, What Happens When We Eat Them?

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Last week The New York Times ran an article, Sedate a Plant, and It Seems to Lose Consciousness. Is It Conscious? The new evidence that plants have a type of “conscious,” joins a host of other research indicating that plants are intelligent, understand where they are in space, respond to threats and obstacles, and communicate with each other. We’ve known for years that plants grow faster and lusher when you play the right music or speak nicely to them, but now there is evidence that plants form memories. Does that mean they remember that you were kind to them? And what does it mean now to eat them? What, if any, are the moral or ethical implications?

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Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I just finished reading “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It,” by Kamal Ravikant. I have to say that this slim volume completely jumpstarted a whole new spiritual practice for me. I don’t usually rave (in print, at least)… but this is one of the most accessible, transformative books I have ever read — and at 57 pages, you’d have to be in a coma not to get through it. Actually, if you are in a coma I will come and sit by your side and read it to you, because I want “Love Yourself” to be the earworm that gets stuck in your head. You’ll thank me later.

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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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Zen and the Art of Home Buying

| by Cheryl Shainmark

It used to be that buying a home – a house or condo – was one of the more fraught experiences we had as adults. 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… and a commitment. 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.

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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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