Thursday, September 5, 2013

Anatomy of an Upset

Back in the '80s I was very active in Werner Erhard's “est” organization. I know he has received a lot of bad press. Some people like him, others hate him. From my perspective I gained a lot of knowledge and skills from my participation. One of the most valuable, practical, and enduring pieces of knowledge that has helped me is the “Anatomy of an Upset.”

An upset contains one or more of these components:
  1.  An unfulfilled expectation: You were expecting something and that something wasn't deliver
  2.  A thwarted intention: You were going to do something or go somewhere and something,  sometimes unexpected, prevented you from doing so.
  3. An undelivered communication: You wanted to say something to someone but something prevented you from doing so, and now every time you see that person the communication is sitting in your craw. Or someone should have told you something but didn't, and had you had that information your choice of action may have been different producing a different outcome.

The next time you feel upset check to see if the Anatomy helps you identify exactly the source of that upset.

A Personal Example

On Tuesday, June 25th, I had my annual mammogram. On Wednesday, June 26th, they called me back to schedule another mammogram. This was my first callback in 6 years after having been diagnosed and treated for DCIS (ductile carcinoma in-situ), a form of breast cancer.

Anatomy: Unfulfilled expectation of a negative report.

Friday, June 28th, I went in for the mammogram, after which the radiologist recommended an ultrasound. "Uh oh, I don't like the way this is going," I said to the technician. And then the request for an immediate biopsy put me into a full spin; fear and upset.

What has been the most difficult trial is The Wait. Everyone who has had a diagnosis of some importance has gone through The Wait. Waiting for the results from the pathology lab.

The biopsy was done on Friday, June 28th, and from that day to the following Monday seemed like forever. My physician called me with the results: invasive carcinoma, and I felt as if my stomach flipped over.

Dr. Laura Esserman is the surgical oncologist who treated me in 2004 for DCIS, and I called UCSF immediately to set up an appointment. "Sorry, Dr. Esserman is on vacation until July 31st.”

My heart sank. It felt like a blow to my already sensitized body. "May I see her associate, Dr. Ewing?" They replied that I needed to get copies of my mammogram to them and they would review the materials first. I arranged for all of this.

They were sent to the wrong address. Thwarted intention!

Sent out again to right address. No word from UCSF. Follow up phone call, "Have you received the mammogram report?" "Yes, but they didn't send the biopsy pathology report and slides." "You didn't ask for them so I didn't know to ask them to send them to you." Undelivered communication!

"Well, we need them before we can decide if you should see Dr. Ewing, because once you see her, you can never return to Dr. Esserman." I think at that point I didn't care who I saw. My anxiety was building because I had no idea how invasive the carcinoma was. I had no plan of what was to come; I was out of control.  Finally all the pertinent information arrived at UCSF and after the powers that be went over my medical records and deliberated, it was decided that it was best that I wait for Dr. Esserman. More waiting. More anxiety.

I had come to my own conclusion that I did not ever want to go through mammogram anxiety again. You know, it’s a routine thing but there is always a small amount of anxiety attached until you receive the diagnosis. So I had decided on my own that I would tell Dr. Esserman I would have a double mastectomy and be done with it! I would have lovely perky breasts out of this ordeal.

During my consultation with Dr. Esserman she assured me that we had caught the cancer early and she recommended performing a lumpectomy with intraoperative radiation. That by radiating directly into the tumor site that it would most likely not necessitate having a mastectomy. She indicated that a mastectomy would be like using a tank to kill an ant. And although I agreed with her to proceed as she suggested, I was disappointed to not have a mastectomy. Thwarted intention!

We set the date for surgery Tuesday, Sept. 17th at 11 am. If the pathology report from this procedure indicates that further radiation is called for, that I should do a 5 times a week for 3 weeks series of radiation, then I have the option to choose a mastectomy instead.

Somehow having that option available has been comforting.

I know that every woman who has had a diagnosis of breast cancer can relate to my story. And the sad part of this is that it is not unusual. Some staggering statistics can be found at the site

Friday, July 26, 2013

Yoga Journal Announcement for August 6th

I like to think that I am open to life's surprises, and the last several months have been filled with some surprisingly wonderful unexpected experiences.

In March I received an invitation from Yoga Journal to audition for a photo shoot; Reply "yes, I am intrigued," then more information will follow. I was hesitant because in this day of scams, where I have received e-mails supposedly from a dear friend stuck in London under dire circumstances, asking me to wire money to her, I immediately checked out a current edition of the magazine to see if the person contacting me was listed.

I was gratified when I found the name listed among the contributing editors. Although it could have been someone using an identity that wasn't their own, I decided to reply to the invitation anyway. If there was a request for money from me, I would decline and get myself out of the exchange. Much to my relief the invitation was legitimate. I was flabbergasted when, after fulfilling all the requirements of the audition and what seemed like an interminable wait, I received news that I had been chosen to model 6 poses plus a lifestyle shot for Yoga Journals’ upcoming September 2013 issue, whichwill be released for sale on August 6.  Look for it in the magazine racks or go online to
The photo shoot was a wonderful experience. Back in the day, (as they say) I was a hair model,  and although I am short, I had the opportunity to do a runway show for a friend who was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC); so one of my guilty pleasures has been watching America's Next Top Model. Although I can live without all the drama the producers think is essential, I do like to watch each participant's transformation and what they go through for each photo shoot challenge. And so I felt somewhat prepared when I came to the job.

I arrived with no expectations, open to however these people worked. Make-up/hair stylist, clothing stylist, Art Director, Managing Editor, Photographer and his assistant, all working together easily. I was thrilled they had clothes that fit and did not need altering, Modeling is work, no doubt about it, but it is fun work, and if ever invited again, without hesitation I would say yes immediately.

Please do me the honor of checking out the September issue of Yoga Journal. I’ll even autograph your copy (wink, wink).


Monday, July 8, 2013

Metta* from Maha**

*Metta is unconditional love. Kindness. A powerful feeling of wishing well towards yourself and others.

**Maha: In Indian, Maha can refer to "great."

My friend and I went to our favorite Thai vegetarian restaurant the other day. It's located in a strip mall with the bay right across the road. When you walk into the space it feels tranquil; the understated decorations support the vibration of peace.

We have eaten there several times now and are recognized by the people who work there; we feel pampered by them. The food served there is not only flavorful to the palate but also beautifully presented, a gift for the eyes. One of my favorite desserts is the Mango Sticky Rice which is presented in the form of a fish (as shown in the image for this blog post.) There is care to detail and taste, and I feel nurtured after eating this food.

On this particular visit, as we were served our food the waiter told us the chef gave us large portions because he overheard me say how hungry I was, having just come in from teaching a yoga class. We were finishing our lunch when the chef came out from the kitchen to see how we liked what we ordered, which we found to be delicious. He looked much younger than his stated age, which is somewhere in his forties as I recall.

He introduced himself as Maha, and as we began conversing I was surprised to learn he had been a Buddhist monk for 17 years starting at the age of 7. When he disrobed (the terminology for leaving the monastery) he had no skills to earn a living, so he learned how to cook. He knew he wanted to see the United States and has travelled around, even living in Florida for several years. He told us how while in the kitchen he sometimes meditates as he is preparing and cooking to help keep himself calm and centered.

It occurred to me that perhaps his meditations infused the food with unconditional love, kindness; that it contained feelings of well wishes that nurtured my soul as well as my belly; that the food we were served was filled with metta and that is why we found it so satisfying.

Since that meal, I have consciously tried to fill my classes with metta; to create an environment in which my students experience unconditional love and kindness; a powerful feeling of wishing well towards myself and others.

May I have the privilege of your presence as we practice yoga together.

Aumn Shanti,


How to Do Metta Meditation

You can do this easy meditation technique as you read the instructions below. It should take no more than 15 minutes.

Sit comfortably upright but not rigid in your chair- away from the backrest if you can. You need to be close enough to the computer screen so you can easily read.

Now place your attention on your breathing. Follow the air flowing through your nostrils right into your lungs. Do this for a few breaths....

Next place your attention in the center of your chest -around your heart. Rest here for a few minutes...

Now recall a time when you felt loved. Unconditionally. Recall how this felt and rest with this feeling. If you can't remember such an experience then just imagine receiving unconditional love. It works just as well. Rest with this feeling for a few minutes....

Next say these words in your mind...

May I be happy
May I be well
May I be at peace

Next think of someone you love. Someone very close to you. Then say to yourself...

May he/she be happy
May he/she be well
May he/she be at peace

Next picture someone you feel neutral about.

May he/she be happy
May he/she be well
May he she be at peace

Now someone you dislike. But not too much!

May he/she be happy
May he/she be well
May he/she be at peace

Then allow this feeling to radiate out further

To anyone in the room with you....

May they be happy
May they be well
May they be at peace

To everyone in your building, suburb, county or state...

May they be happy
May they be well
May they be at peace

... and finally to everyone and everything in the world

May they be happy
May they be well
May they be at peace

Now just sit and be still for a few minutes. Rest in any feelings of loving-kindness that you feel.

Then just allow yourself to feel little gratitude. No need to force it. Allow that feeling of gratitude to expand...... to slowly fill up your whole body....the whole room....the county.....the world...the universe.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Psoas Solution (Workshop at PJCC - Foster City)

There's a lot of buzz about the psoas muscle, and yet most of us don't know what it is, where it is, or what it does.  Join me for this informative, experiential, relaxing, (and fun!) workshop this Saturday, June 22nd at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC) in Foster City. 

Here's a bit of background information.  Don't worry -- you won't be quizzed.

Anatomy of the "Muscle of The Soul"

The psoas is approximately 16-inches long and links your spine to your legs.

There are two psoas muscles, the psoas major and the psoas minor. For the sake of clarity and brevity and without giving too detailed of an anatomy lesson here, I'll address the psoas major.  Let's start with where it is in your body and why it such an important part of you.

This mighty muscle attaches at your Thoracic 12 (think of your bottom most ribs) and out of your Lumbar 1.  According to Liz Koch, author of The Psoas Book and with whom I have studied, the psoas major traverses from the spine, through the pelvic basin, over the ball and socket hip joints, into the lesser trochanter of the femur bones and that's how it links the spine to the legs.

You will learn how to locate and sense this muscle for yourself.

Find Your REAL "Core"

While we may not think about these parts of the body very often, one part that we do hear referenced often is our core. While we tend to picture this as a rigid "6-pack" of muscles in the abdominal area, our REAL core is something much more.  A true strong core actually stems from the spinal vertebra's weight-bearing ability, and this this is reflected in a healthy, powerful, and resilient core.

The function of the psoas in a strong core is not to muscularly support, but to provide information and feedback. Part of it is located in the belly area near the solar plexus, and it is often called the muscle of the soul by the Taoist.

Why Awareness of The Psoas Is Important To Your Well-Being

Our modern society's current style of work, transport, and recreation, most often involves a great deal of sitting which leads to a contracted psoas muscle. After a while the body thinks this is a normal position, but this abnormal posture ends up resulting in lower back pain, sciatica, hip dysfunction, and even the common ailment of tight shoulders.

Awareness and attention to the role of this important muscle and it's interaction with the pelvis, hips, and legs and how it affects the whole body can help bring about more ease and less pain.

Don't Miss Out! 

All of my psoas workshops this month have been fully attended, but you have the opportunity to secure a space in the last of these workshops for this quarter. I encourage you to book soon.  Pre-registration by phone is required. Here are the details:


Join us as we unravel
the mystery of the Muscle of the Soul

Saturday, June 22, 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Peninsula Jewish Community Center
800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City
Members:  $35     Public: $40
Registration required: 650-212-7522

See you there!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Good For You Green Soup by Serena

Many times in class, I've mentioned the green soup that I make each morning and enjoy before I start my day.  I'm finally sharing my recipe here with my students and anyone else who may come across this post.

So, why Green Soup? 
  • It's loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber -- all of those great things that we are all trying to integrate more of into our daily lives.
  • Quick way to easily get your 2-3 daily servings of vegetables.
  • Pure unprocessed source of vital energy in the morning.
  • A lot easier and more convenient to make than you may imagine

The plan: Make a large pot. Keep what you need for the week, and freeze the rest.

What you need to get started:
  • A 4-gallon stock pot 
  • A Blender
  • Your choice of a variety of leafy green vegetables such as kale, chard, spinach, mustard greens, cabbage, collard greens, and bok choy, and a handful of parsley, along with carrots, onions, and celery. Also have a lemon peel nearby to zest for flavor and as a preservative.
  • Better Than Bouillon vegetarian base
  • About 4 quarts of water
Time to Make the Soup:

  1. Slice or break up into pieces, just enough to make it easy on your blender, each of your selected veggies.
  2. Place the vegetables into the pot with the water and bouillon base to taste (I use about 3-4 tablespoons).  Turn the heat up to high, bringing it just to a boil, then turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Cook covered with lid slightly askew to allow steam to escape, until vegetables are soft, about two hours.
  3. Let it cool to handle.
  4. Start ladling into your blender* (or use an immersion blender). Purée.  This is now your base soup, which can be enhanced by adding variety with nuts, yogurt (I added a dollop of Greek yogurt in the photo shown above), Indian sprinkles, curry, Italian herbs and seasonings, sautéed garlic, or whatever you heart desires. 
  5. Enjoy. Freeze any portion that you won't use over the next few days.

* if you leave it a little bit chunky, you'll have more of a sauce that you can ladle on top of poached chicken or noodles, for example.

Thanks for stopping by. Let me know how this recipe goes for you, and please feel free to share it.  Here's to your health!

Stop in again soon for more interesting topics supporting your pursuit of well-being.

Sunday, April 7, 2013