Tears at the Table

In a world that wants you to act relentlessly positive, even in the face of your own or others’ suffering, how can you make space for the authentic experience of your own feelings, sensations, and thoughts?

Can you make room for all of it? Can you give yourself permission to have the experience you are having RIGHT NOW – the thoughts, feelings and sensations that are part of your human experience, without trying to change anything or push it away?

I’m writing this post at the end of my birthday weekend – in which I have felt so blessed and loved and unbelievably lucky. I’m delighted to be STILL HERE, enjoying the moment with my daughter and husband and friends and family and all of you.

But I have to tell you, having a birthday, especially a big one, can be a mixed bag!

My daughter, husband and I traveled for one night to San Antonio to celebrate. There were moments of genuine pleasure on our short trip, but I also felt overwhelmed several times by feelings of irritability, nostalgia, and even grief. I was surprised to be missing my grandparents, who lived in San Antonio and whom I used to visit regularly. I felt their absence sharply, like I haven’t in many years.

Then there was annoyance at mixed up dinner and brunch plans, poignancy in realizing I’ve been with my husband for exactly half my life (we met when I was 25 and now I’m 50), love and joy with my daughter’s delight in the history and beauty of the old hotel where we were staying, irritation at her loud complaining about the food not being exactly what she expected.

I felt gratitude for making it to 50 and shame at feeling having tears over minor annoyances, upsetting my sweet family who were trying really hard to be on their best behavior and make the time nice for me.

The more I tried to push away the sadness and irritability to just be grateful, the more it showed in the form of impatience or tears.

Can you relate?

That’s when I remembered what I tell people in class: Make room for this. Make room for the full experience, the sadness and irritability, the love and the appreciation, the anger and the grief.

Why is it important to make room for the feelings instead of shutting them down or pretending nothing’s wrong? Because shutting feelings down doesn’t make them go away. You end up acting them out even more OR you continue to experience the effects of the suppressed anger and sadness – your immune system and nervous system work overtime, because instead of allowing the feelings to come up for a few uncomfortable (even embarrassing moments) and then moving on out, they take up residence inside you.

I tried to give myself space for the feelings, even though to be honest it didn’t make me look very graceful. Luckily my family can be very forgiving, especially when I assure them it’s not their fault I’m crying at the table on my birthday!

And then the feelings moved through..












Thank You for this Breath

Thanksgiving 2007. We had a month old baby girl and were over the moon in love with her. But I wasn’t sleeping at all which made me a little psychotic and I had mastistis, a breast infection, which made breastfeeding excruciating. Looking back, I probably also had post partum depression. Or was it intuition about what was coming?

Still, our baby was healthy and happy and we were trying to adjust to new life rhythms.

Following Thanksgiving, I underwent a series of scans that led to a biopsy, that led to being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer on December 13. My daughter was 2 months old.


This moment. This breath.


I went for chemo at MD Anderson throughout 2008, and often asked my friend GG to accompany me. I looked forward to being with her because she was relaxed and neutral and present. She didn’t try to cheer me up. She was just available and gave her time generously. Each time I called her up to see if she could come, the answer was always yes, without checking her schedule.

I found it natural to be grateful for many blessings-health insurance, the support of family and friends, the ability to take time off work, my daughter’s health and the love she received from community. But it was hard to be grateful for the rest-the impact on my body of grueling procedures, life interruptions, the pain, the fear of leaving my daughter, the insomnia, the emotional ups and downs that felt terrible when everyone was trying to be kind.

When GG was there, she helped me stay in the present moment, expressing gratitude for things exactly as they were. Often, that was the opposite of what I was feeling, which was scared and exhausted.

After the nurses set up infusion bags, while waiting to begin the chemo, we set a healing intention.  We prayed the chemo would reach the cancer cells and spare the rest.

And each time, GG made this simple statement: “Thank You for this moment. Thank You for this breath.”

So simple. I couldn’t have come up with those words, but her prayer shifted me into being present with everything just as it was: the boredom of the moment, how slow it all went, the physical discomfort, my connection to a loving friend, and the profound lack of certainty.

Ten years later, I’m still learning to be thankful for each moment and each breath.

Releasing Tension

This is the 8th exercise from Kriya for Immune Fitness, an excellent kundalini yoga set for the lymphatic and nervous systems. In this exercise, breathe in and out though circled lips. Inhale as you squeeze the elbows close to the ribcage, exhale punching out to the sides. The thumb is placed inside fists. Add the mental mantra, thinking to yourself Sat (truth) on the inhale, Nam (identity) on the exhale.